The Black Sheep

October 2nd, 2005 at 3:01 pm by Masamune

If you’ve ever been to a Zelda forum, one topic you’ll often see is “Your favorite Zelda games”. For those thorough folks who list all their games, quite often one game is always at the bottom. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. It is quite often considered the ‘worst’ of the series. Is this an unfair assessment? Let’s take a look.

In Legend of Zelda we were introduced a bird’s eye perspective of the game, similar to games like Pac-Man before the NES. The game had a wide over world to explore and maze-like dungeons to explore. But on top of that you had to travel through these mazes using keys or tools you had collected. It was an experience like no other.

Enter The Adventure of Link. We are faced with a more familiar side scrolling feel similar to Super Mario Bros. and Metroid. While it’s true you can jump and walk around, the similarities end there. Rather than jump on a enemy or shoot it from a distance, you have to go straight to the enemy and attack. It was not simply a matter of slicing and dicing however. Often an enemy would defend itself or could only be hurt in a different manner altogether. It was not like the original Zelda in that you simply slashed the enemy from its weak point or kill it with your various tools. You were there, actually fighting the enemy.

The concept of the over world was changed in only a few ways. Instead of walking onto a screen with a group of monsters, you would instead walk around and find yourself attacked randomly. Not random like Final Fantasy, but random enough that you didn’t waste too much time off the safe dirt road where enemies would leave you alone. But battling enemies was not a complete waste. By collecting experience points, you could upgrade the power of your sword or decrease the damage you take or the amount of magic each spell uses.

It is worth noting that the magic system debuted in The Adventure of Link. In every town Link visited, there was a wise man somewhere to learn a spell from. Whether it gave him superhuman jumping abilities, the ability to throw fireballs, or turn into a fairy; there was always something new to learn. Although the game did have (extremely situational) tools, spells effectively took their place for the game.

As mentioned above, there were towns. In Legend of Zelda you could occasionally find a person in a cave who would offer cryptic advice or sell you something. The Adventure of Link established the tradition of having towns. Every village you entered had something going on, whether it be a lost child, a swordsman hiding inside a locked house, or a bridge that only people who knew a certain hermit could cross. While not nearly sophisticated as towns in later games, the towns would serve as a ‘returning point’ if you found yourself overwhelmed by the local enemies.

As great as all this was, it was not without flaws. Rather than the concept of infinite lives, you had three lives before ‘Game Over’. It was not all bad, since you could continue after the Game Over and not have to start the game over. But as much of a blessing as the three lives would have otherwise been, Game Over meant you lost all your accumulated experience that you had not spent on upgrades. Even this might not have been so bad for gamers, except it was far more difficult a game than Legend of Zelda or the games that followed.

Personally, I would hardly call those flaws. Effectively it makes the game harder in much the same way the saving system in Fire Emblem does. Sure, it can be extremely irritating, but it also forces on you to ‘perfect’ the way you explore the dungeons and how you fight. With enough work into it, the game is not impossible. Well, at least until the Great Palace at the end. Anybody who can beat the Great Palace without a map or tutorial either has a great memory or is just that awesome.

Some quotes from Miyamato about the game…

“It was my idea, but the actual game was developed by another team, different people to those that made the first game. Compared to Legend of Zelda, Zelda II went exactly what we expected… All games I make usually gets better in the development process, since good ideas keep coming, but Zelda II was sort of a failure… ”
April 23rd 2003, Superplay Magazine

“Even among our staff, they love Link’s Adventure [Adventure of Link]. They’re always saying, “Let’s do it on GameCube!” [laughs] But I don’t know. Not yet.”
September 14th 2003, Nintendo Official Magazine (UK)

It may have been a failure, in terms of popularity, but it was not a failure as a game. Mr. Miyamoto doesn’t have to worry about doing it on Gamecube. He already did on the N64. He called it Ocarina of Time. When you fight creatures like Stalfos or Lizalfos, it’s like playing The Adventure of Link again. But even though The Adventure of Link had an awesome impact on the future of the Zelda series, I’m still hoping that the day will come when I finally get a 2D Sidescrolling Zelda game again.

What would it be like? You need look no further than Super Smash Bros. Melee. Here we see Link back in 2D form. What’s more, techniques like Upper Cut and Down Thurst return, just as we remembered them. There’s an even an Event level where you face Dark Link again. With a little modification there and some actual levels and enemies, you’d have a sequel to The Adventure of Link right there. I’m looking forward to when that day comes. Only this time I’ll show those blue Iron Knuckles what for.

Filed under Games, Editorials, Adventure of Link

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28 Messages from the Gossip Stones about “The Black Sheep”

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The Black Sheep


I’ve always loved Adventure of Link, if only for the features that made it different from the other ones (like the RPG/experience system). Also, the sheer difficulty of the game made it that much more satisfying to conquer in the end.

I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. Long have you asserted that Adventures of Link is your favorite and that you hailed it as “the” greatest, but you never actually explained what it was that you liked about it. I always wondered what you thought of the game, and in this entry you did not disappoint. Masamune, I salute you. =)

Ah great article! Yes in my opinion Adventure of Link was a good game. What I did miss in the article was the storyline of it.
We all know Adventure of Link has one of the coolest storyline ever.

True enough, but I was focusing the article on gameplay. But the game has a cool story, the palace music is the best ever, and Link stabbing people with a giant finger is wonderful. ;)

I loved The Adventure of Link. It’s one of my favorite Zelda games in the whole series. Just cause its a different gameplay, doesn’t mean it sucks. Great article Masamune. :D

Adventure of Link was the only Zelda game I didn’t like.
A quick way to get to level 8 is too do the first dungeon, beat the boss then run past the crystal and do the dungeon again. My brother did this and was level 8 before the 3rd dungeon.

Umm…OK, people, continue giving me reassuring thoughts about AoL. I just bought it a few weeks ago, for the GBA (but it will be played on my Game Boy Player *wubbles*), and I would like to get around to playing it, as it is such a unique game. Hopefully I will enjoy it…And, even if I don’t, at least I can say that I have it! ^_^;;
So, yah…Akira, out! >.>

Adventure of Link is one of my personal favorites, even though I didnt beat it. Actually, its the only Zelda game that I havent beaten not includeing the CD-i games. I always get killed on the path to the Great Temple. I always fall into the stupid pits.

  • 9. JC says:

I like Adventure of Link. Sure it’s RPG-ish and side-scrolling. But no one should have beef with it. Miyamoto said that Adventure Of Link’s gameplay technology was supposed to be the Legend of Zelda’s gameplay technology (2D-side scrolling RPG, like AoL).

I found it fun, but ridicuously hard. The text was deviously slow when being drawn to the screen. But it was sped up in some of the re-released versions. I really can’t see AoL in any other form than it already is in.

I thought some of the magic spells were pretty cool. Added a cool twist, y’know? But sometimes, it got tiresome and boring to level up Link. Also, it was a pain to protect Link in battle. You’d have to keep using the Shield Spell. This costs magic (just like everything in life costs money :-p).

Some of the enemies were deviously hard, though. Especially the Iron Knuckles and Sopranos. But, the more times they kill you, the more pride you feel when you finally kill them. :-D

Overall, it’s a good game if you’re willing to invest lots of time in it. It’ll be a goldmine of fun for any hardcore Zelda fan.

  • 10. jrz says:

I like Zelda 2 alot.I can’t get through the grave-yard area to the tunnels in the Great palace.Also isn’t Masamune the name of Aurons secret blade weapon from Final Fantasy X

Whilst I suck at the game, I can’t see why people don’t like it. Actually, in my opinion, its better than OoT, but not too many people agree with me (ie. I think the worst three games in the series, in order with the worst first, are Majora’s Mask, Wind Waker, then Ocarina of Time.).

Thank you for writing that article. Zelda 2 was the first Zelda game I ever played and I loathed it. I preferred Battle of Olympus and kept telling my sister to turn it off. However, I was 9 years old and it was too hard for me - that’s why I didn’t like it. Playing through it years later with my sister was awesome. Killing Link’s Shadow was the best boss fight of my life. As others mentioned, you feel a sense of achievement because it takes skill to defeat your foes. When I got the ZC for the GC, I played it through again on my own. And it’s still fun. Hard yes, you have to level up at times if you want to get anywhere, but that’s part of the challenge. AoL introduced so many of the ‘good’ concepts to the Zelda series, I’m still kinda sad they dropped the experience system.

Great article Masamune!

Funny how much positive feedback this article is getting…are the AoL haters merely a vocal minority? Not that I’m disagreeing, I liked it too. The only other Zelda game that’s even come close to its level of sword-fighting challenge is Wind Waker. Personally I think it would’ve been better off without the experience system, but then, I’m an action buff.

I agree there, I would’ve been just as fine looking for (more) Heart Containers, (more) Magic Containers, and better swords.

AoL introduced an interesting new perspective to Zelda, which I actually wouldn’t mind seeing in a newer game, just as an experiment. The only thing I really hold against AoL is the fact that the difficulty level is too high. I am NOT a n00b to gaming - I’ve even been told that I have a natural talent for them - and I still can’t beat more than one dungeon in AoL. I guess it’s just the frustration that game creates that turns most people off.

Never played it.

I know, I’m a sinner. I’ve ordered it a week ago, still waiting for the NES that was supposed to come along with it….

Zelda 2 is a great game. Yes it takes some getting used to, especially coming from Zelda 1, but give it some time and you’ll really grow to enjoy it. I have to admit the first time I played it I thought it was strange after having played so much of Zelda 1. But as soon as I got the hang of how the game works, I really started enjoying it. I’ve only beaten it once in my life, but it was one of the most satisfying feelings I have ever had.

A new 2-d Zelda game-similer to Smash Bros? It may yet have potencial! Who doesn’t love Smash Bros? I only bought it cuz the zelda cast was in it. (i also bought soul caliber 2 for gamecube for links awsome appearance) They should make a similer one to that!!! But just with the zelda cast!!!

I have just recently begun playing it again (giving myself something to do while waiting for Twilight Princess). The game is really hard to beat, with or without a walkthrough. I am trying to go through without a map of any kind, which makes it all the more harder, even though I have beaten it twice. (once having to commit suicide against Thunderbird just to get magic, resulting in one life left) {tip: vow to get revenge, it will surely be yours!} {tip: Shadow Link is remarkably easy if you just use the Shield spell and crouch in the lower left-hand corner and stab wildly}

I really liked this game as well. I’d always heard people complaining about it, but when I got the Zelda Collector’s Edition and I finally experienced the game for myself, I feel in love with it.

Sure it’s different from the other games, but that hardly makes it bad. I really enjoyed the high level of difficulty because it gave me a real sense of accomplishment when I finally battled my way to the end.

Question for Aubrey the Bard, you thought that Wind Waker’s sword fighting style was difficult? …..Sorry, but I violently disagree. All you had to do was target and press A. There was no height and depth problem like there is in AoL. The fighting style in WW is the most beautiful, I’ll admit, but I fail to find the challenge in button mashing. Occasionally (actually only once that I can remember) you had to perry (wait until the A button went fuzzy), but for most of the game…..button mashing

Masamune, you are my hero.

When it comes to choosing my fave Zelda games I have two options 2d and 3d, my fave 2d Zelda game is a Link to the past which is also the first Zelda game I ever played and my fave 3d Zelda game is Ocarina of Time which will hopefully be replaced by Twilight Princess.

My worst Zelda game was the original, but that’s only becuase you need to fight near constantly. I never got to the second dungeon on Zelda II so I can’t really judge it, but I don’t think it’s that bad a game. A ‘black sheep’? Perhaps, it is vastly different from the other titles. But that doesn’t make it bad.

beating dark link was uber cool!

Did the first and second games even have a plot? A plotless game is a bad game in my opinion.

Oh come on Punk Princess Tetra, all games have to start somewhere and the technology was rather limited back then, imagine if you got a Revolution and then went back in time to the 1980s the Revolution would blow their minds, lol