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‘The Adventure of Link’ – a brilliant, radical and refreshing departure from its predecessor

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Zelda II: The Adventure of Link Review

The second installment in The Legend of Zelda series titled The Adventure of Link is often considered the black sheep of the family. Despite being one of the best-selling games in the entire series, many fans hate it and with good reason. The game is tough and I do mean tough. Very few gamers have the patience to sit through it and very few players have the skills to climb to the top of Death Valley, not to mention finishing the game. Anyone who has played Zelda II can tell you how difficult beating the simplest of enemies can be, nevermind the boss battles. Enemies like Fokka, Iron Knuckle, and Moblin might as well be final bosses because it takes a lot of fast reflexes to defeat each of these swashbuckling foes. Not only will you encounter them multiple times in each dungeon, but if you lose all of your lives (which you will), the game sends you all the way back to the start. And by that, I don’t mean the start of the dungeon that you were exploring, but the start of the entire game. Players must be prepared for repeated failure when sitting down to play Zelda II, but that is sort of what makes the game so great. The sense of accomplishment a player feels when finishing Zelda II is unmatched by any other game in the Zelda series. The Adventure of Link was a bold and radical departure for the series, but a brilliant one at that, and one of the greatest games ever made!

Zelda 2 Aventure of Link

The Adventure of Link is not only one of the five best games released on the Nintendo Entertainment System but the most punishing game of the 8-bit generation. It offers players one of the most engrossing gaming experiences available on the console and features some of the best boss battles the series has to offer. Be it Horsehead, Rebonack, Gooma, Carock, or Shadow Link (making his first appearance), each boss presents a unique style of battle and each has a specific weakness. If you like extremely challenging combat that requires a high level of skill to complete, you will like Zelda II. It’s not just about swinging Link’s sword, it’s about precision, and counter-attacks. And for those of you who were told Shadow Link is the toughest of the bunch, you were lied to. He’s actually the easiest of all the enemies to defeat (the trick is to simply stand at the edge of the screen and keep swinging your sword). It’s not Shadow Link you need to worry about, but rather everything else especially when trekking up Death Valley, and finding your way through the labyrinth called the Great Palace where you must defeat the penultimate boss, a giant, winged creature named Thunderbird, who can’t be beaten unless you first find the “most powerful magic spell”, Thunder. The boss fights here provide some of the best the series has to offer and set a standard for the series moving forward. There is not one skill set that goes unused in Zelda II, whereas most other games in the series allow you to beat enemies by simply pressing one button repeatedly. There’s even a bit of a platforming aspect to the game, and you’ll find massive dungeons filled to the brim with tough enemies and lava pits that will instantly kill you if you fall into them. Most Zelda fans who claim to hate this series, hate it because they just can’t beat it, and it’s a shame that not everyone has the time or temperament to play through Zelda II because it really is a great game. Gamers with a high threshold for unpleasantness will get a contact high from Zelda II but no matter how much you struggle to complete the adventure when you do, you will appreciate everything the game has to offer.

Zelda II is unique but frustrating – flawed but brilliant

The Adventure of Link was an incredibly assured attempt to rewrite the rules of the entire series back in 1988. Unfortunately, most people just don’t like change and so because it was different, and harder than the original, many fans of the series unfairly ridicule it. Around the time of its release, there were several sequels of popular franchises that took a radically different approach from the first. Much like Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest and Super Mario Bros. 2, Zelda II is derided for its shift in direction. The game introduced elements such as Link’s “magic meter” and the Shadow Link character that would become commonplace in future Zelda games while role-playing elements such as experience points and the platform-style side-scrolling along with multiple lives were never used again in canonical games.

Thunderbird Zelda II

Zelda II has more in common with the RPG genre, and earning experience points in three different areas (attack, defense, and magic) is one of the things that I love about the game. Link begins the game with four Heart Containers and four Magic Containers and can acquire up to four more of each, but unlike other Zelda games, every single form of attack Link usually enjoys is missing in this installment including the use of the bow, bombs, and the boomerang. In place of these, The Adventure of Link features eight spells for Link to use. Each spell is learned from a different wise man in one of the eight towns within Hyrule. Link must complete side-quests before they will teach him their spells. The casting spells mechanic is yet another innovation only seen in Zelda II and they play quite a big role, as several of them are needed to advance. In Zelda II our hero can use these spells to leap to great heights, throw fireballs, reflect magic, and yes, he can transform into one of the series’ signature little flying pixies. Fairy form even allows Link to fly through the keyholes of locked doors, bypassing the need to find keys in the game’s many dungeons.

The Adventure of Link is a nerve-jangling, pixel wasteland populated with images of beauty and horror

In terms of graphics and music, Zelda II is about on the same level as its predecessor but Zelda II also features a massive overworld map and most of the scholars in Ocarina of Time bear the same names as towns from The Adventure of Link (Rauru, Ruto, Saria, Nabooru, and Darunia). Beyond the towns, there are several secrets to discover and even a few scattered huts. In fact, this world is much larger than that of the first Zelda game and Koji Kondo’s soundtrack is just as good. And despite its quirks, Zelda II introduced a number of Zelda standards including a larger focus on storytelling, as well as sidequests. Yes it is difficult and yes it is different, but for better or for worse, that is what makes it stand out from all the other entries in the series. Zelda II is unique but frustrating – flawed but brilliant – and without question, an important game that helped define what the Zelda games would ultimately be.

Dark Link Zelda IIZelda II might just be my favorite game in the NES library if only for its poetic ending, which makes the journey well worth your time. The Adventure of Link takes place at the very end of the timeline, long after The Skyward Sword, and it culminates by introducing us to Shadow Link (not to be confused with Dark Link), one of the most mysterious characters in the series. Shadow Link is the embodiment of fear within Link and here he replaces Ganon as the final test before the old wise man allows Link to use the Triforce of courage to awaken the sleeping princess. The Adventure of Link has real passion, real emotion, real terror, and a tactile sense of evil. I’ve beaten this game twice, and both times I left physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted; but I also left happy and intoxicated. The Adventure of Link is a nerve-jangling, pixel wasteland populated with images of beauty and horror, waylaid only by its one true flaw – forcing you to start at the very beginning should you die. Still, Zelda II has stood the test of time astonishingly well. An unqualified triumph, Zelda II deserves far more respect.

Ricky D

 

Some people take my heart, others take my shoes, and some take me home. I write, I blog, I podcast, I edit, and I design websites. Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Goomba Stomp and the NXpress Nintendo Podcast. Former Editor-In-Chief of Sound On Sight, and host of several podcasts including the Game of Thrones and Walking Dead podcasts, as well as the Sound On Sight and Sordid Cinema shows. There is nothing I like more than basketball, travelling, and animals. You can find me online writing about anime, TV, movies, games and so much more.

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Game Reviews

‘Coffee Talk’ Review: The Best Brew in Town

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

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It’s 9:00pm. The rain just started coming down softly a few minutes ago, and the street outside is reflecting the lights above it. Neon signs shine brightly in the distance, although it’s hard to make out the words. You unlock the doors to the coffee shop and wipe down the counters in order to get them clean for the customers. The rain makes a soft sound as it hits the glass and passerby speed up their walking pace to avoid it. The bells chime as a tall, green orc walks in and sits down at your table in silence. You wonder what their story is…

I wanted to set the tone for this review because of how important atmosphere and audio/visual design is in the world of Coffee Talk. While it’s easy to boil the game down as a visual novel-type experience, it’s honestly so much more than that. A unique cast of characters, incredible user interface, and a mysterious protagonist combine to form the most enjoyable experience I’ve had this year on Switch.

Coffee Talk
Some of the subject matter can be pretty serious in nature…

Coffee Talk is beautiful because of how simple it is. The entire game takes place within a single coffee shop. As the barista, you’re tasked with making drinks for the patrons of the shop as well as making conversations with them. The twist is that earth is populated with creatures like orcs, werewolves, and succubi. The relationship between the various races is handled very well throughout the story, and some interesting parallels are made to the real world.

Making drinks is as simple as putting together a combination of three ingredients and hitting the ‘Serve’ button. If a unique drink is made, it will be added to a recipe list that can be referenced on the barista’s cell phone. This is where the awesome user interface comes in, as the phone has a series of apps that can be accessed at any moment in the game. One app houses your recipe list, another acts as a facebook for the characters in the game, one allows you to switch between songs, and the other houses a series of short stories that one of the characters in the game writes as it progresses. It’s one of the coolest parts of the whole experience and helps it stand out from other games in the genre.

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

Coffee Talk cycles between talking with customers and making drinks for them. In the beginning, they will ask for basic beverages that can be brewed on the fly. Later on however, they may ask for a specific type of drink that has a unique title. These drinks often have certain descriptive features that hint at other possibilities in terms of unique dialogue. If the wrong drink is made, you’ll have five chances to trash it and make a new one. If the wrong drink is made, don’t expect the customer to be pleased about it.

The gameplay really is not the focus here though; it’s the characters and their stories that take center stage. An elf with relationship issues, a writer that can’t seem to pin down her next story, and an alien whose sole goal is to mate with an earthling are just a few of the examples of the characters you’ll meet during the story. There are tons of memorable moments throughout Coffee Talk, with every character bringing something unique to the table. The barista develops an interesting relationship with many of these characters as well.

Coffee Talk
Appearances can often be deceiving in this game.

Even though serving the wrong drinks can change some of the dialogue, don’t expect any sort of options or branching paths in terms of the story. It’s not that kind of experience; the story should simply be enjoyed for what it is. I found myself glued to the screen at the end of each of the in-game days, waiting to see what would happen in the morning. The first playthrough also doesn’t answer all of the game’s questions, as the second one is filled with all kinds of surprises that I won’t spoil here.


Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen. It’s an easy recommendation for anyone who loves video games, not just visual novel fans. There are characters in the game that I’ll certainly be thinking about for a long time, especially when the setting brings out the best in them. Don’t pass this one up.

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The Magic of Nintendo: How Mario and Zelda Connect us to Our Inner Child

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Magic of Nintendo

Nintendo is special. Many excellent developers depend upon story or progression systems to entice engagement, but not Nintendo. Nintendo games captivate because of their immediate charm. There is no need for a payoff. The games, themselves, are enough: they elicit feelings, hard to find in adulthood. Through intrepid discovery, playful presentation, and unfiltered whimsy, the best of Nintendo connects gamers to their childlike selves.

The heart of any great Nintendo game is discovery and no encounter encapsulates this better than Breath of the Wild’s Eventide Island. First, finding the island requires genuine gumption. Found far from Hyrule’s shore, the island is only clearly visible from other islands, and even then, it’s only a speck in the distance. Reaching the island requires players to brave the open ocean and head towards something … that could be nothing. Then, upon arriving on the beach, a spirit takes all the player’s gear, including clothes and food. Link, literally, is left in his underwear. From there, players must make clever use of Link’s base skills in order to steal enemy weapons and make traps. The scenario creates a marvelous sense of self-sufficiency brought on by one’s own desire to discover. The player comes to the island purely of their own choosing, tackles the sea, and then overcomes obstacles without the aid of their strongest tools. The game turns players into plucky children who are discovering they can take care of themselves.

The intrepidity of Breath of the Wild and other Nintendo greats mirrors the feelings Shigeru Miyamoto, the father of many Nintendo franchises, experienced as a child. “I can still recall the kind of sensation I had when I was in a small river, and I was searching with my hands beneath a rock, and something hit my finger, and I noticed it was a fish,” Miyamoto told the New Yorker. “That’s something that I just can’t express in words. It’s such an unusual situation.” In sequences like Eventide Island, players don’t just understand what Miyamoto describes, they feel it: Apprehension gives way to exhilaration as the unknown becomes a place of play.

 Nintendo’s intrepid gameplay is often amplified by playful presentation with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island being the quintessential example. The game’s visuals, defined by pastel colors and simple hand-drawings, appear crayoned by a child while the celestial chimes that punctuate the jubilant soundtrack evoke shooting stars. The overall effect cannot be understated. It takes the surreal and turns it real, allowing players to interact, tangibly, with imagination.

Super Mario Odyssey Wooden Kingdom

Even if one removes the presentation and gameplay from Nintendo’s masterpieces, an unabashed creativity remains that bucks norm and convention. The arbiter is fun; reason and logic have no say. For instance, Super Mario Odyssey’s Wooded Kingdom, takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting akin to Nier Automata. Players explore the metal remnants of a civilization that has become a lush home to robotic beings. However, unlike Nier, the dark undertones of the past have no bearing on the game or those who inhabit its universe. The post-apocalyptic setting is just a fun backdrop. It’s as though a bunch of children got together, began playing with toys, and one of the kids brought along his sibling’s adult action figures. There is no attention paid to the context, only unfiltered imagination.

When they’re at their best the creators at Nintendo invite gamers to come and play, like a parent arranging a play date. Pulled along by joyful gameplay that expands in unforeseen ways, players desire to play for the sake of play. It’s a halcyon state of being: No messy thoughts or contradiction, just joy.

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Games

‘Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind’: An Utterly Shameless Cash Grab

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some other trash.

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Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

In the 15 year long history of DLC, we have seen some really shameless displays. The notorious horse armor incident of 2006 and a notable day one DLC for the ending game of a trilogy notwithstanding, few companies have had the utter audacity to offer so little content for such a high price point. Enter Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind.

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some social media nonsense for people who really hate themselves. That’s really it, that’s what you get. Honestly, Square-Enix should be utterly embarrassed by this DLC.

It’s been one year: 365 days, 8760 hours, 525600 minutes, or 31556952 seconds, since the release of Kingdom Hearts III. Let that sink in as you begin the meat of Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind. Think of it as the extended version of a movie you really like… you know, the kind where they add 4 minutes to the 120 minute runtime.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind, really is that cynical. I’m not kidding when I tell you that the game literally starts with an exact cut scene from the base game, and a cut scene that happens to be available from the theater mode of the main game that you’ve already bought if you’re playing this DLC. Yes, the introduction to this new content is… content you’ve already seen.

In fact, that’s kind of the sticking point here: most of what you get for your hard-earned cash is footage you’ve already seen, and battles you’ve already fought, and story you’ve already experienced, just with slight alterations for context. Remember back in the 2000s, when we were super obsessed with prequels? This is like that, except even more egregious.

Generally I’m not so unforgiving as to call a company out for a forthright cash grab, but that’s absolutely what Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is. There’s just no other way to put it. You might find someone in the marketing department for Square-Enix who would disagree, but being a company that has faced just these sort of allegations for their last two major releases, Square-Enix either doesn’t read the news, or doesn’t care what people think of their products.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Square-Enix was roundly accused of shipping unfinished products in the case of both Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III — their two most high profile releases of the last decade. I personally gave mostly positive reviews of both games for this very website but if you want ammo to suggest that this company is deliberately trading on the nostalgia and passion of its fan base in order to make financial headway, there are few examples you could draw from that are as obvious as this DLC.

Look, maybe you’re a really big Kingdom Hearts fan. Maybe you just really wanted to know what the context was for that cliffhanger ending in Kingdom Hearts III. Maybe you just don’t do much research before you buy something. Or maybe… you just really trust this company for some reason.

Hey, I’m not judging… hell, I bought this DLC for $40 same as anyone else. I oughta be honest that I’m not reviewing Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind as some holier than thou critic, talking down to you from my position of privilege. No, I’m an angry consumer in this particular case. I’m a person who spent enough to replace a flat tire on my car, or buy my family dinner, on a game that is clearly playing off of my love for a franchise, and using it to bilk me out of money in a method that is so clear, and so concise, that those involved in the entire endeavor should be totally embarrassed for their part in the creation, marketing, pricing, and distribution of this expansion.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, fans had their complaints about Kingdom Hearts III. “Where are the hardcore boss battles? Where are the Final Fantasy characters? Where are the secret areas? Where are the hidden plot developments?” Still, to address these particular complaints by hammering a few minutes or seconds here and there into already existing content is truly like spitting in the faces of the people who have built the house you’re living in.

I haven’t sat in the board rooms at Square-Enix and I haven’t been in email chains about the planning of projects at their company but what I can say is that there is something rotten in Denmark if this is what passes for a satisfying piece of content for the wildly devoted fans of a hugely popular franchise in 2020. Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is literally, truthfully, and succinctly, the worst piece of DLC I’ve ever purchased.

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