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If you ask me, The Legend of Zelda is a stone-cold classic, and fully deserves its own playthrough thread. But the second-largest game in the ambassador giveaway also has its own share of fans. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, despite being the black sheep of the series, has gotten pretty popular over the past few years and its gameplay has generally held up pretty well.
The title is notorious for its difficulty, but personally, I feel that the game is rather fair until the very final areas. While you lose your "unspent" EXP with a game over (and are returned to the starting location), you keep your levels, items, spells, and progress otherwise. And even then, you could always grind a bit to face Zelda II's challenges with greater ease.
So join us, won't you? I'd suggest finishing Zelda 1 first if you've started that, or you can do what I'm doing and run through both games more or less simultaneously--they're different enough that you shouldn't get Zelda fatigue. The appeal of Zelda II is in its challenging combat mixed with rewarding exploration, and it's not nearly as obtuse as some people feel the first title is. Instead, the additional challenge is placed on battling the enemies and surviving long enough to finish each dungeon.
A few hints before you go:
-To start, you'll notice all the caves are rather dark (until you get a special item). You don't have to go through any before you get that item except one in the northeast, above the town of Rauru. But be sure to stop by the town before you head through there, though.
-Make sure you spend your EXP on level-ups when you're getting close to a game over. It stinks losing your last life and subsequently your "loose" EXP. Level-ups, on the other hand, are permanent.
-"LIFE" level-ups increase your defense (not really your life). "MAGIC" level-ups decrease the amount of magic you spend per spell ("16" is one "block" of magic). "SWORD" level-ups increase your attack, and are probably the most valuable.
-Beating a dungeon and putting the crystal in the statue makes your EXP shoot up to the next level, regardless of where it currently is. With clever timing and strategy, you can get a ton of free EXP this way. If you want to wait, you can always jump over the statue area and come back when you want a bigger EXP boost (like if you're getting the last couple levels).
-You can choose to "cancel" level-ups if you're holding out for a different stat, so they don't have to be linear. For instance, if you get 50 EXP and want to save it for the FIGHT level-up at 200 EXP, just hit select to cancel out of the level-up window and bank the excess EXP.
-Some "tiles" on the world map lead to secret areas. Walk all over, especially on tiles that stick out or look suspicious.
I guess I'll spoil text this, but there's a great place to get a lot of EXP in the Swamp Palace. At least I think that's where it is. There's a place where tiles fall from the air. If you bash the blocks on the right row, you can just stand there and shoot fireballs at the flying fireball eyeball guys. They drop a lot of EXP bags and spawn over and over again. At that point, you can basically just get level 8 in all of your stats, and really helps out the last few dungeons.
Make absolutely sure you get the item from a palace before you put the crystal in the statue at the end. Once you put the crystal in and leave, the palace turns to stone and you can't go back in, so you might end up unable to progress. I'd suggest that TriforceBun edit this into the OP because I'd hate for anyone to accidentally do that. Even though I've played this game dozens of times, I just did this for the first time in the fifth dungeon, so I can't pass the River Devil in the overworld. In short, my playthrough is fucked. Don't let this happen to you.
If you get to a tile that automatically sends you into a battle area, you can skip it by encountering an enemy as you step onto it. This is helpful when they're especially difficult and you can't avoid them (in particular, there are several of these on the way to the last palace). You'll still have to battle obviously, but usually a regular battle is easier than the ones you're automatically sent into.
If you're unsure of where to go, talk to villagers. They'll give you hints that are often much more helpful than the obtuse BS in Zelda 1. Believe it or not, even the infamous Error gives you advice (provided you find the guy who tells you to talk to Error).
EDIT: Dammit Bun, you've made me want to start replaying Zelda II even though I just replayed 2/3s of the game this weekend. I guess I know what I'm doing tonight...
Started my second playthrough of this when I beat my most recent LoZ playthrough (so just a few (read: 2-3) days ago). I'm a little surprised at how fast I seem to be leveling up this time around as opposed to my first playthrough. I'm already up to Level 4 Attack, Level 5 Magic, and Level 6 Life. I've even been using the "take the item and leave" strategy this time around (I never used it on my first playthrough). Now I've gotten the items from the first five palaces already, but even back at the Death Mountain Trail, my levels were much higher than they were when I first got there on my first playthrough.
I hate losing EXP when you game over though. More times than I care to remember I've snagged a one-time-only P Bag (i.e., the ones that are just sitting out in the overworld or somewhere in a palace, not dropped by an enemy), only to game over shortly afterward before managing to level up.
I'm almost certain the Palaces only turn to stone after you both get the item and put the crystal in...I remember missing the item from the first Palace, beating it, then going back for it. This just happened in your 3DS playthrough?? Crazy...
Nooo, join us! We need more Guillaume everywhere. I will continue to post in both threads for quite awhile, but I wanted them both to be active for the people who've finished Zelda 1 (or just wanted to jump into Zelda 2 instead).
Sorry ploot! I get too eager!
On that note, if you guys would rather start this later, I can always lock this thread for another few weeks.
@TriforceBun I'll double check when I get home, but I'm fairly certain. Also, I believe this was changed in subsequent releases (GC and/or GBA), so maybe it happened to you there.
But so far these 3DS VC releases have been 100% faithful to the NES versions, including having the "hold down the reset button" message (removed from some ported versions), not having the word PAUSE on the screen when you pause the game on the overworld (when you could think it's frozen), and saving with controller 2 (pause, press L+R to switch to controller 2, press A and Up, which was changed in the GC and GBA release because it's stupid).
@rebonack - Yeah, I know that on my first GBA playthrough, I missed one of the items but beat the dungeon, and it let me go back in for the item (only turning to stone once I had left with the item in hand), so if it was ever screwed up in the past, it was definitely fixed for the GBA version.
Well, now I feel like an idiot. Apparently you guys are right, the palace will not turn to stone when you finish it unless you have the item. I'm glad this is the case. I know I've never done this before, but I'm certain I read this on the internet somewhere. I'm glad it turned out to be false!
And here I pride myself on being a Zelda II expert...
EDIT: Dammit, now I'm all discombobulated going back into the dungeon that I already finished, going to dead ends where I already retrieved keys...
EDIT 2: Okay, I finished the fifth palace. Life and Magic are level 7, Attack is level 6. Only two spells, one heart and one magic container left.
I dunno that I'd say it's shorter. I've put in around 2.5 hours so far, and I've only got two dungeons left -- but Zelda 1 took me a little over three hours (for a reverse order playthrough, which I'd not only never done before, but also requires a bit of backtracking), so I'd say they're pretty comparable in length. I've played them both before, but if it's your first time playing Zelda II you're sure to die a lot and have to trek back to palaces and whatnot, and it can be somewhat obtuse at times, so it probably is longer than the first (if not by much).