|Ending screens are as verbose as ever...|
Wow. This game was HARD. I mean hard hard. The game is enjoyably hard until the last palace, but it becomes nightmarishly hard around there. But first things first, how did I manage to get out of my stuck situation?
Well, out of sheer luck, really. I went back to exploring most of Hyrule, hoping I would have missed something obvious. I went through Death Mountain labyrinth again, I explored all the marshes and forests I could find, and I even returned to most of the caves I ran into, hoping that I would find the elusive last magic container. Finally, I went back to the Island Labyrinth (where I found the missing child) and fell down a hole I managed to avoid the first time, once again in a tile that looks like all the other ones.
|Somewhere around here...|
Turns out the last magic container was down this hole, allowing me to gain access to the old woman's house in New Kasuto, then to the old sage's magic, and to the remaining of the game. Let me get this straight : I love exploring games and I think finding the elusive hidden heart piece or item is really part of the Zelda charm, but the problem here is that it's mandatory. There is no way to finish the game if you don't find this hidden item! Or if you don't find the tree to break with the hammer. Or if you miss the mirror under the table. Zelda II has a few places like this where you can lose two hours searching for an item needed to go on with your adventure. I didn't remember losing that much time with this magic container in my last playthroughs, so I think it means I fell down this hole every time until then. I'm all for viciously hidden items, but not if you HAVE to find them in order to complete the game. Granted, games nowadays have the opposite tendency to hold your hand too much, but I think there is a middle ground to be found here...
So the old woman in New Kasuto gave me the very last magic container, and the sage gave me the "Spell" magic. They told me there was a secret at the edge of town. I noticed earlier that the far right of New Kasuto was a seemingly empty space, bound to hide a secret of some sort, so I went back there and cast the "Spell" spell. A house appeared out of nowhere and I found the Magic key in it. I think it's the only place in the game where this spell is useful, but I may be wrong. With the Magic key in hand, I could then finally make progress in the sixth palace. This one is a little more interesting to explore, considering you have to find a few hidden ways to progress. There is a endless pit in the middle of the place, giving you access to a few floors, and you even have to turn into a fairy during your fall to be able to enter in the right tunnel.
|Suits well the pink color of the place...|
The battles are harsh too around here, and you can find two places where you have to battle once again the horse-riding iron knuckle, going back to the Zelda tradition of mini-bosses (which was in the first game, but absent from this one until now). The treasure of the palace is the Cross, which allows you to see invisible enemies (so it means we'll finally be able to enter the western path without getting our arses kicked in a few seconds). The boss is a dragon and is a tough one too (as Chalgyr told in his first comment about this game). The difficulty of this battle comes from the fact that you have to avoid falling down the lava pits every time you get hit, and it can prove tricky doing so while trying to hit the reptile's head.
|Hey, it's Hydra from Kid Icarus! Where are my angel minions?|
With the beast down, I now have access to the last palace. I first made a stop at Old Kasuto in order to gain the last magic, "Thunder", which kills everyone on screen, but is really expensive (around 2/3 of your fully-upgraded magic meter). Then it's time to tackle the path to the Great Palace. The path is tough as nails as every enemy encounter takes place in areas full of lava pits and it's all too easy to lose lives around here (as you've seen at the beginning of the post, I did lose a few times...). Don't forget that when you lose your three lives, it's back to Hyrule castle for you, so this path can be really bothersome if you're not overly cautious, because losing your three lives can mean easily ten minutes of play in order to come back where you lost.
|Ok guys, think! How will you get my blood to resurrect your boss if you throw me in a lava pit?|
I finally was able to get in the Great Palace, which is a HUGE place. It's easily two or three times bigger than the sixth one. Once again, you need to keep track of your progress on paper, and the layout is pretty confusing as well. Here too you need to search for hidden paths every now and then, and I have to admit it's a pretty interesting place, with a great sense of accomplishment when you find a new way to explore. Thankfully, Nintendo's sadism was a bit reduced here, because when you die, you only come back at the beginning of the Palace (and it's a good thing too, because I think it would really have killed the game not to). A lot of new enemies are here to ensure you'll die a lot too, the worse being the Deathhawks, who combine the jump of the skeletons with the attack pattern of Iron Knuckles, making them really difficult foes.
|Even the slimes are harder to kill around here!|
After spending a long time in this place, I finally found my way to the last guardian. It's a huge Inca-bird lookalike, called Thunderbird. At first, he seems impervious to all your attacks. The only way to beat him is to first cast the "Thunder" spell (hoping you still have enough magic to cast it once you arrive here), then go for the head (harder than usual considering this one flies) while avoiding the fire rain he throws at you. This boss is really hard, but it's all about figuring out the pattern and exploiting it. Nothing compared to the next boss. Yeah. Because there is a next boss. Once you've beaten Thunderbird, you enter the last room of the Palace, where some kind of weird gnome guy is waiting, holding the Triforce (Zelda Wiki refers to him as the Triforce Keeper, so it seems he's just been waiting here for years for the hero to come).
Once Link enters the chamber, the creepy guy withdraws in the darkness and Link's shadow jumps out of Link's body for the last battle. And this one is hard. Really. In my opinion, it's Ninja Gaiden's hard (just between Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Battletoads on the NES difficulty scale). I fought this guy four or five times before being able to just hit him. Maybe there is a clever way to beat him, but I just found myself mashing the attack button while trying desperately to block his lightning-fast attacks. But I did it! I think it's the first time ever I'm able to best him and it's really a huge accomplishment for me! It made me remember the battle against the shadow in Prince of Persia, except this one was cleverer in the fact that in order to beat him, you were supposed to sheathe your sword and connect with your shadow (I guess as a final showdown, it would have been anticlimactic).
|I think the worst thing about this guy is the color of the background during the battle.|
Once Dark Link is (finally) down, the Triforce Keeper comes back and gives Link the No3 Triforce (ok, we'll call it Triforce of Courage), which he uses to awaken Zelda from her slumber and... what? Did he kiss her? Link... and Zelda? Wow. Ok, it happens behind the almost closed curtain, but the move of their feet can only means that they kiss. My god. It would be like witnessing Mario humping Peach. All my childhood innocence has just gone down the drain.
|And considering Zelda's been asleep for a hundred years and Link is 16, this seems kinda wrong.|
This is the end! I vanquished Zelda II! I'm quite proud of myself for this one! This is definitely one hard game and it's great to be able to move on in the Zelda history with a spotless record for once! So it's time to put on a Final Rating for this one and go for another game I've never played before!
|What did you expect? Another quest? You thought it was Zelda I?|