History of Zelda: Part 2 – The Adventure of Link

The Legend of Zelda. Indeed, this name is as recognisable in Video Game fame as Mario, and even Final Fantasy. Close to thirty years ago, Nintendo hired a man who would, of all things, design concepts for toys. Little did anybody know that this man would write history, influence hundreds of games, oversee the development of even more and define an entirely new genre. Shigeru Miyamoto devised the first iteration of The Legend of Zelda in the mid 1980s, and since then, The Legend of Zelda has become one of Nintendo’s very best properties.

This series of articles will look at each Zelda title in chronological order of release, describe the groundbreaking achievements and show the essence of the Action Adventure RPG.

Chapter II – The Adventure of Link (NES)

Nintendo followed up with the tremendous success of The Legend of Zelda in 1987 with a new adventure, a new perspective, and perhaps one of the darker styled Zelda adventures. The Adventure of Link was released in 1988, and with it came a brand new story. Once again set in the Land of Hyrule, with the vast mountains, rivers, forests and a new addition; – the ocean, dividing West Hyrule from East. A new adventure was to be had.

The setting for this story is just where The Legend of Zelda left off. The death of Ganon had emplaced a curse, a sleeping spell on Princess Zelda. Impa, in an attempt to save the princess, asked our hero Link to once again rise to the challenge, replace the six crystals in the six palaces and dispel the curse on Zelda. A new levelling system was put in place, dealing away with the heart pieces. Another new addition was the magic meter, as well as a spell list including the ability to restore life, turn into a fairy and cast a lightning spell that killed all the enemies on the screen at that time.

The onslaught of enemies continued in this adventure with the return of fiends such as Octoroks, Stalfos and Tektites, and introducing new enemies such as Horse Head, Deeler and Lizalfos. Also featured are the boomerang tossing Goryia, the Iron Knuckle, spear throwing Moblins and Bits and Bots. Each enemy had their own traits, and each had their more difficult version, just as before, but this time, experience points were awarded dependant on the beast you slay.

You had to keep your wits about you, as it was Link’s blood that was required by the dark forces, and if you died, that was it. But luckily, Link’s weaponry was highly effective when used strategically, and along Link’s journey scattered throughout the land were very Mario-like free lives, conveniently set for Link on his quest. This feature was unique to this game and this game only. They provided a second chance, and with the difficulty bar raised considerably by The Adventure of Link, highly valuable.

Perhaps the most influential change was the incorporation of the side scrolling action screens. The Mario-styled action screen only offered Link two directions of travel, which provided new opportunities for new attacks, including his famous down stab and jump stab, both used in Super Smash Bros. Melee today. It was also the new ability of Link’s to cast spells on screen that in some way aided him on his quest. Whether it had been a bolt of lightning, to become a fairy to reach new heights or extend Link’s jumping ability to gain passage. It paved the way for spells and a magic system, and fortunately, continues through to today.

There is also a brand new focus on NPC interaction. A big shift from The Legend of Zelda was the people that Link had to converse with in order to progress. Whether it be him seeking the down stab technique, or the information required to uncover the locale of a valuable inventory item to give light to new paths. Village Elders played invaluable roles in the teaching of techniques, while common villagers healed and dropped hints of ‘fountains and caves’. This interaction was a sustaining element, and added to the value of the story within Link’s quest.

The palaces, although were the replacements for the underworld dungeons, also had facelifts. All action took place in the action screens, with each palace containing a key item for our hero, just as before, but the reward for the defeating of the bosses was quite different. Instead of a heart or addition to your health meter, after placing the crystal in the pedestal, Link was awarded unlimited experience points that would level him up once. You then selected the upgrade you required, whether it have been health, or magic, or attack. Although a very different system, it is pure representation of the freedom of The Legend of Zelda, and is also a unique quality of The Adventure of Link.

The overworld no longer witnessed the battles waged by Link, but when enemies were roaming, they were represented by shadows, which altered in shape, depending on the enemies in that group. However, to say that the overworld was insignificant is far from the truth. Dotted throughout the world were hidden passages, caves and wells that lead to hidden and discrete locations. It was a lengthy adventure on its own just to locate each and every one.

There were also road blocks, rivers, and places of interest that caused an action screen. Golden Sun borrows from this heavily, as does the early Final Fantasy titles, with towns and mountain passes linked by an otherwise inactive overworld. In order to progress, Link had to acquire weapons such as the hammer and raft. The technique was a trail blazer for today’s boulder bashing, horse jumping, hookshotting styles. Sense of adventure was stimulated by the curiosity factor with boulders blocking the way, or an endless ocean to cross. The new action/adventure style embraced the human sense to conquer.

The Adventure of Link ends in a very different way. Do you fight Ganon once more? Play it for yourself to see. The re-release of the NES classics of Zelda II is a fine chance. But it is without doubt that The Adventure of Link is a solidification of Nintendo’s commitment to create new and challenging adventures that anyone can play. This game is a huge change in direction from its predecessor, providing a unique and different styled Zelda that has never been repeated. To not play this game is to miss out on a defining point of history. This is the original experimental alteration seen by a more recent title in the series, but none the less, is a defining chapter in the history of Zelda.