Sunday, May 6, 2012

Game B2 : The Adventure of Link - Introduction

Trying to figure out what to do in sequels was difficult for Nintendo during NES lifetime. They eventually understood that taking the basic same template and make the more polished game (with occasional jumps in technology) was more than enough for their major franchises. I think a umpteenth New Super Mario Bros will be boring one of those days, but it usually works.

However, in these early years, they were wondering how to make sequels for their hugely successful games. The most well-known example is "the case of the two Super Mario Bros 2" : The sequel to SMB in Japan was exactly the same game with (much) harder levels and sadistic traps to surprise the veteran players (including the particularly twisted idea of a reversed shortcut that took you back three worlds behind). Nintendo then realized (maybe rightfully) that their game was "too difficult" for America (and Japan, in my opinion) and took another game, did a palette swap, and released what we western players know as Super Mario Bros 2 (later rereleased in Japan as Super Mario Bros USA). Konami had the same problem with Castlevania, releasing the horrible Castlevania 2 and trying to turn a perfect formula into a RPG/Action hybrid (with an emphasis on cryptic puzzles and the most frustrating day/night cycle ever). Both companies came back to their senses with SMB3 and Castlevania 3, both going back to their roots, and both excellent games.

But I digress. The subject as hand is as well known as the others, and it concerns the sequel to The Legend of Zelda. Nintendo took a bold risk with this one, turning the whole concept on its head. The overhead view was now only for map exploration while all battles took place on a side-view perspective (similar to Metroid or Castlevania). Experience points were also implemented, probably because of the huge success enjoyed by Dragon Quest (in Japan) a year before. There was many more NPCs to talk with, a magic system and whole towns to explore. Like we'll see later, all these changes weren't for the better and Nintendo would eventually come back to the first game template for their third (and all subsequent) Zelda outing.

But they kept the golden cartridge. Coolest thing ever.

All these changes didn't hinder The Adventure of Link to become a huge commercial success, but nowadays, it's considered the black sheep of the series (of course we don't talk about the CD-I games, but we'll get there eventually). In my memory, the game is still cool, but it's widely different from your classic (and loved) Zelda experience. And it's the hardest game in the series, making a few parts a nightmare to go through. I'm not even sure I already finished this one... Well we'll see about that, won't we? It's interesting too to note that it's the last Zelda entry to receive a number in its name. All the later games will only have titles, adding to the overall feeling that The Legend of Zelda is one huge story being written, instead of a following of numbered games. 

And the flashing lights of the death screen causes seizures. Probably a way to teach kids about the value of life.

So I'll play the game on my 3DS, where I got the game for free (I was one of the dudes who paid 100$ more for buying their console before everybody else, and was rewarded with a few games... yeepee). I won't be playing on my NES, sorry about that, but I have painful memories of losing my saves on this particular game. I managed to find a manual online, which was written in an english so bad it could make mine look like Shakespeare's.

So the backstory of the game is that Link defeated Ganon in the precedent game and is now 16. However, princess Zelda was touched by a curse that put her in a neverending sleep. The only way to wake her up is to secure the Triforce of Courage (nicely named No3 Triforce in the introduction screen). However, the Triforce has been sealed in a palace and you have to defeat 6 guardians in 6 palaces in order to open the last one. It's interesting to note that all the difficulties in the two first Zelda games have come from the securities installed by the Royal Family to protect the Triforce, and have almost nothing to do with Ganon, but whatever. Ganon's minions are at stake too because they need Link's blood to resurrect their master. Would I be Link, the sensible approach to this problem would be to lock myself in a secret bunker someplace in order to prevent that, but, hey, it's not his style, better to take risk to doom millions of people for saving the princess...

Another thing to note from the manual is that it already introduces the idea that all the princesses of the Royal Family are called Zelda, paving the way for the demented storyline Nintendo released not so long ago. I really thought this whole idea came much later, so it's really interesting to discover tidbits like this in a series I thought I knew like the back of my hand.

I hope this time I'll be able to beat this game, and settle a 25-years old grudge against the last boss. To Hyrule we go!

1 comment:

  1. The last boss didn't bug me as much as that stupid dragon as I recall. Good comments though - I liked the parallels on how some of the games tried to be radically different on their sequels and generally were not as well received back on the NES (though there were notable exceptions, like Mega Man 2 - which I always found so much more fun than the original).

    I liked Simon's Quest at the time, though I had that big old Nintendo Power sitting there with me so the obscure puzzles didn't bug me as much, and I liked Mario 2 though I don't think I ever bothered to beat it twice.

    The Adventures of Link was an absolute favorite of mine - I still have the cartridge and I must have beaten that one three or four times back then.

    Looking forward to your articles on it.