Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is the second entry in the ground-breaking Zelda franchise. This controversial follow-up ditches the original's top-down perspective for 2D side-scrolling exploration and combat. The 2D towns, dungeons and combat arenas are tied together by a top-down overworld.


Like the original game, Zelda II's first NES release used special gold-colored cartridges.
Like the original game, Zelda II's first NES release used special gold-colored cartridges.

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is the second game in Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda franchise, as well as the second and final Zelda title on the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was released in the United States on December 1, 1988. Originally, the game was only released on the Famicom Disk System in Japan, and was converted in format to an NES cartridge game for American and European audiences.

As was the case for the original release of the first Legend of Zelda, Zelda II's original North American release used special gold-colored catridges. Across all territories, the game sold 4.8 million copies. Zelda II has since been rereleased on a variety of platforms in both physical and digital format, including the Game Boy Advance, Wii, 3DS, and Wii U.

Franchise Influence

Though many specifics of the game's format have not been used in the franchise since, it has had a strong influence on the franchise with elements it introduced. It was the first game in the series to feature towns houses that can be explored, and NPCs also have a much more expanded role and play a pivotal role in Link's journey. Zelda II is also the first game in the series to feature a proper magic system with a separate gauge used to measure Link's magical reserves.

Perhaps the most unique element of Zelda II is its side-scrolling action perspective. Sides-scrolling gameplay has not played a major role in the franchise since its use in this title, save for two of the three Philips CD-i Zelda titles produced without Nintendo's involvement. However, sidescrolling elements would later be reused in a minor way in some of the handheld Zelda adventures.



The overworld.
The overworld.

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link eschews the gameplay format of the original Legend of Zelda, and no entry in the series has played like it since. While it keeps a top-down perspective for the overworld, combat does not directly take place from this viewpoint. Like many RPGs, the overworld perspective is used for travel throughout Hyrule, from town to town and dungeon to dungeon.

The overworld is broken down into segments which initially cannot be traversed until Link is able to acquire the appropriate item. For example, some routes are blocked by impassable boulders that cannot be circumvented in the early portions of the game. However, after Link acquires the hammer, he gains the ability to smash boulders, clearing these paths. In this way, the game keeps a sense of linearity where most dungeons need to be completed in a certain order so that the appropriate item can be obtained.

Sidescrolling and Combat

Link takes on a dungeon boss.
Link takes on a dungeon boss.

When in the overworld, the player will find towns and caves to enter and explore, as well as roving icons representing monster encounters. When entering a town, dungeon, or a monster battle, the perspective shifts from overhead to a 2-D sidescrolling viewpoint in which Link is able to move left and right, jump, crouch, swing his sword, and guard using his shield. The majority of the game's primary action takes place in this viewpoint.

Character Progression

Link visiting a town.
Link visiting a town.

Link earns experience points as he defeats enemies. Zelda II remains the only game in the franchise that features a proper experience point-based leveling mechanic. Each time Link levels up, he is able to spend experience points to upgrade one of three stats; his attack power, his magic gauge, or his health gauge. While exploring, the player can also acquire hearts or magic bottles that extend the maximum length of his health and magic gauges, respectively.

Limited Lives

The Game Over screen seen when Link loses all of his lives.
The Game Over screen seen when Link loses all of his lives.

Unlike the other games in the series, the player has three lives when starting a game. When Link dies, either by running out of health or falling into a pit, he will restart at the entrance to the current screen. However, when Link has lost all of his lives, the game is over and the player has to restart from the North Castle; the starting point of the game. Extra lives in the form of small Link dolls can be found in secret locations around the world.

Magic Spells

The Adventure of Link was the first game in the series to feature a magic system. It is also the first game that provides Link with a list of spells, as well as a magic gauge that governs their usage. Similar to other role-playing games, any time Link uses a magic spell, it drains energy from the magic gauge. Link learns new spells as he travels, acquiring them from the wise men in each of the towns he visits on his quest. These spells don't come easy, however, as Link often has to complete side quests that involve such tasks as retrieving items and killing monsters before the wise men will teach him their spells. Many of the spells in the game are integral to the game's progress, such as the Jump spell that temporarily boosts Link's maximum jump height, or the Fairy spell that transforms Link into a small, flying fairy capable of crossing long gaps and chasms.


Set after the original Legend of Zelda, The Adventure of Link revolves around Link's quest to remove a curse placed upon Princess Zelda. When her father the king passed away, the Triforce was supposed to go to Zelda’s brother, the prince. However, the king, unsure of his son's true nature, had instead told Zelda the location of the final piece of the Triforce, the Triforce of Courage. The prince, eventually learning of this from a wizard, goes to Zelda, demanding to know the location of the Triforce of Courage, but Zelda refuses to tell him. The wizard casts a spell on the princess, causing her to sleep forever unless the full Triforce is recovered, but passes away before the prince can convince him to undo the spell. Realizing his error, the grief-stricken prince keeps Princess Zelda in the North Castle, where she is to sleep until her curse can be lifted. He also decreed that henceforth all princesses in Hyrule would be named Zelda.

Link must face his own shadow at the end of the game.
Link must face his own shadow at the end of the game.

Following Link's triumph over Ganon in the original game, Ganon’s minions are in a state of unrest, as his spirit still remains, but needs Link’s blood in order to come back to life. After Link learns of the curse placed upon Princess Zelda, he sets out to recover the Triforce of Courage. By doing so, he can destroy Ganon once and for all, bring peace back to Hyrule, and rouse Princess Zelda from her eternal sleep.

Link's quest takes him across Hyrule and into six different palaces, acquiring items and spells to help him along the way. Upon entering the final dungeon, Link is forced to once again fight the spirit of Ganon. However, even with Ganon defeated and the Triforce of Courage in sight, Link has one more trial he must overcome. He must fight his own shadow. After proving his worth, Link receives the Triforce of Courage and uses the power of the completed Triforce to awaken Zelda.


The completed Triforce.
The completed Triforce.
  • Most of the town names in the game, specifically Rauru, Ruto, Saria, Nabooru, Mido, and Darunia, were reused as the names of characters that appear in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Of those characters, all save Mido are sages of Hyrule.
  • According to the book Hyrule Historia, Zelda II is currently the final game in the "Decline of Hyrule" timeline, which branches off from Ocarina of Time in the event that Ganondorf is victorious and is not stopped by Link.
  • Zelda II is the first game in the series that does not feature rupees or any other form of collectable currency, and there are no shops in the game.
  • Zelda II is the first game in the series to depict the complete Triforce, with its distinct three-triangle appearance.

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