The Adventure of Link

adventure of link title screen

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is the direct sequel to The Legend of Zelda, both being originally released on the Famicom Disk System and then the Nintenedo Entertainment System in the US and PAL locations. While retaining many features of its predecessor, there were certain elements of gameplay altered as well, the most notable being movement and combat.


Following the defeat of Ganon and the rescue of Princess Zelda, the land of Hyrule is recovering from the evils brought upon it by Ganon. Link is aiding with the restoration effort when he one day sees a mark of three triangles appear on the back on his hand. Upon seeing this mark, Impa, Zelda’s nursemaid, told the story of how the King of Hyrule had hidden a third part of the Triforce in ages past – it was the Triforce of Courage, hidden in the Great Palace to safeguard it from evil.

The story goes that upon the death of the king, his son desperately searches for the missing Triforce, to no avail; its location had been imparted only to the king’s daughter, Princess Zelda. Upon learning this from a magician who was close to their father, the Prince begins questioning her, trying to learn the location of the missing Triforce. She refuses to tell him and the magician becomes angry, threatening to put her into eternal sleep if she doesn’t disclose its location. Princess Zelda refuses and the magician casts the spell despite the Prince’s attempts to stop him, and dies thereafter, with the princess locked into eternal slumber. Only by uniting the Triforce of Courage with its partner pieces could the sleeping Zelda be awoken. Link receives from Impa six gems that will serve as keys to open the seal placed on the Great Palace.

Even as Link learns this and is tasked with saving her, the minions of Ganon are stirring again. They believed that their master could be revived by pouring the blood of his conqueror over his ashes, and spread across the land in an attempt to find him. Traveling the land and working with the people of its many towns, Link is able to discover and the six palaces and overcome the trials within, designed to stop those who would seek the Triforce of Courage. In the end, Link makes his way into the depths of the Great Palace and finds the Triforce being guarded by a wizened old sage, who is willing to relinquish it to the hero after one final test: he must conquer his own shadow. After defeating the dark copy of himself, Link is able to unite the three Triforce pieces, and he returns to the Northern Palace and wakes the princess.


The Adventure of Link was the sequel to the highly acclaimed The Legend of Zelda, and the second game in the series that was released. Like its predecessor, it features dungeon that must be located in the overworld; within these is a boss that Link must defeat, as well as a treasure that will prove useful on his journey. However, the game features many and significantly different changes from the previous installment, the quest progression is more complex, and the difficulty level is significantly higher.

Screen Interface

The first mechanic to be taken note of is the side-scrolling perspective, which works alongside the top-down perspective. The former is used while Link is exploring a town, a cavern, a secret area with a reward, a bridge or midway track, or a dungeon. The latter is just to move across the overworld so that Link can get to any of the aforementioned areas. In addition to this, when an enemy group (represented in the overworld as black creatures) manages to make contact with Link after pursuing him, the screen will change to side-scroll as well; Link must then defeat the foes or flee.

Magic Use and Experience

The second mechanic is for attack, defense, and action. When in an area that has the side-scroll perspective, Link is able to use magic. Each magic has a specific purpose, and defending on the effect, it’s used either for attack, defense, or solving a puzzle; each ability consumed a certain amount of magic points on Link’s Magic Meter, and the effect is unlimited until Link leaves the area. If Link needs the spell again, he must perform it again, draining his reserves of power. Certain enemies drop Magic Jars, useful for replenishing that reserve; there are eight spells in total:
• Shield: Gives Link extra defense, only taking half the normal damage amount.
• Jump: Enables Link to jump twice as high as before.
• Life: Makes Link recover three segments of the life bar – this is one of three ways to recover life, the other two being collecting fairies or being healed in a town.
• Fairy: Turns Link into a fairy, useful for reaching high places, escaping enemies, and passing through locked doors.
• Fire: Link is able to shoot two fireballs from his sword at a time.
• Reflect: Enhances Link’s shield, enabling him to fend off stronger projectiles.
• Spell: Turns enemies into weak Bots.
• Thunder: Eliminates every foe on the screen.

The third new mechanic is the Experience system, one essential for survival. As Link defeats enemies, he gains experience points, and when a certain number of points is reached, the player can make Link improve by an increment of one level in one of the following attributes: Health (attacks inflict less damage), Attack (greater attack damage), and Magic (spells cost less). Each attribute can be improved up to the eighth level, and the maximum amount of experience to be gained is 8,000 points. After all stats have reached their maximum level, every 9,000 points earned grants an extra life.

Lives and Items

The fourth mechanic of note is the life system; the player starts with Link having three lives, unlike any other title in the series, and there is no way to instantly revive after the health meter is depleted. This means that when Link dies, a life is lost, but he resumes from the same location. He is able to increase his life stock by collecting dolls that portray his likeness, generally hidden in secret spots or even in the last dungeon. When he loses all lives, the game is over and while the player is unable to save their progress at this moment, Link will resume his quest at the Northern Palace. Unlike most games of the time, this game does not reset the entirety of your progress when you die; Link retains items collected, and losing all lives simply brings Link back to the starting point. There is a downside to this: the progress includes the collected dolls that give Link additional lives; once they have been collected once, they cannot be collected again, and therefore are permanently gone if you die.

The final mechanic that is new is a modified system of item usage. Besides the spells, traditional items can be collected, but not all of them are used by assigning them to a button and using them directly. For example, the boots and rafts are passive items that allow Link to cross otherwise unbridgeable gaps, like a lake or an ocean; they cannot be assigned to a button and used in that regard. Other items that are collected change the side-scroll mode; the candle illuminates caves, the gold key opens infinite doors, etc. These are also items that cannot be equipped and serve a passive effect.

This game also cancels out the usage of a map and a compass. Finding one’s way around can be difficult, especially when there is a risk of a Game Over.

Second Quest

The game also offers a Second Quest, though the only changes seen after ending the game are that the stats, techniques, and spells from the first playthrough are retained.

Graphics and Audio

The overworld map shares a similar style with its predecessor, but more polished and incorporating new elements that reflect the variety of the ecosystem; there is also a clear distinction between a path that is enemy free and the rest of the territory, like ground, trees, sand, etc. The side-scrolling visuals are more reminiscent of the platform games for the NES, such as Super Mario Bros. Also, each dungeon has a different texture and architecture, unlike the original game.

Unlike most other games in the series, none of the music within this game was composed by Koji Kondo, with the exception of the overworld theme, which was based partially off of the original title’s theme. Perhaps it is because of this that almost none of the music was brought back for other games. The Temple music, however, has been remixed several times, being heard in Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl, and returned to the Zelda series as the “Streetpass Battle Theme” in A Link Between Worlds. An alternate, slower version of the temple music also serves as the Victory theme. The only other Zelda title to include music from The Adventure of Link is The Minish Cap; both games contain scenes of Zelda awakening, allowing the music to be reused from The Adventure of Link. The miniboss music is also a remix of The Adventure of Link; the Famicom version of the battle theme. The composer of this game is Akito Nakatsuka, who was composer for Ice Climbers.

For sound effects, there are many differences in the Japanese version. A few examples include different music for the title screen, and for when Link encounters an enemy. In the Famicom version of the game, the bosses roar, and the sound effects are harsher sounding than in the NES version.


The Adventure of Link features the largest incarnation of Hyrule seen in the entire franchise; the only game that can compare to the scale of Hyrule in this title is Twilight Princess. Covering two continents and two islands, Hyrule features eight towns, which the names of were later taken for the Sages in Ocarina of Time; the first four towns are located in Western Hyrule, and the last four are located in Eastern Hyrule.

Like the game’s first incarnation of the land, and differing from most others, this Hyrule is not landlocked, meaning that Link will have to travel overseas to move from one side of Hyrule to the other. Death Mountain, which used to be north, is now in the southwestern zone, and it’s been further explored as it is now a rocky labyrinth.


The game was a success, selling 4.38 million copies and becoming the fifth best-selling NES game of all time. The game’s reception by critics and consumers was generally positive; the sound, gameplay, length and presentation of the game were all praised, however it was generally agreed upon that the game didn’t age very well. It has been cited as one of the black sheep in series, much like Majora’s Mask is commonly called.

Ports and Remakes

In 2003, Nintendo released a bundle for the Nintendo GameCube which included Collector’s Edition, a disk that features The Adventure of Link amongst a few other titles in the series. A port for the GameBoy Advance for the “Classic NES Series” was also released. The game has also been made available through the Wii’s Virtual Console. It became available in 2011 as one of the games eligible for free download as part of the Nintendo 3DS Ambassador Program, a service available to those who had purchased the 3DS before its initial price drop in that same year. It was officially released in the US in 2013.


1. This game was the first to feature Dark Link.

2. This game introduced the ability of Ganon to be revived or return after his defeat.

3. The Adventure of Link marks one of the few times Link speaks in a canon game, by saying “I found a mirror under the table” while in Saria Town.

4. The Adventure of Link is the only game where bosses do not drop Heart Containers upon their defeat; it’s also the only game where Link does not receive key quest items for completing dungeons, and he instead goes through to place his key items within them.

5. The Famicom version of this game uses the infamous “Gannon” spelling in the intro, as well as other typos such as “Tryforce”; these were largely re-written in the American release of the game.

6. Ganon’s laugh when getting a game over is actually Soda Popinski’s laugh from the NES game Punch Out!!

7. The Adventure of Link is the only game within the series to not feature “The Legend of Zelda” as a part of the title.