As the name implies, this is the second game to be released in the The Legend of Zelda franchise, and the second Zelda title on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link was released in the United States only one year after the original game, coming to American homes on August 22, 1987. Originally, the game was only released on the Famicom Disk System in Japan, and over the course of two years, was converted in format to a NES cartridge game for American and European audiences. Although The Adventure of Link is the least popular entry in the critically acclaimed series today, it was an extremely popular and highly successful title in its day, selling 4.8 million copies.
Despite the "black sheep" status, it still proved an influential part of the series. The town dynamics and overworld concept would be major parts of later iterations. Link's ability to interact with people and enter houses, among other things, would be seen in later Zelda titles. Although NPCs were present in the original, it was not until Zelda II that they played pivotal roles in Link's journey, helping him in a variety of ways on his adventure. The magic system first introduced in Zelda II would also show up in many later games in the franchise. The most unique aspect of Zelda II, the side-scrolling segments, would later be reused in a minor way in some of the handheld Zelda adventures, despite their more traditional nature.
By eschewing many of the conventions established in the first game while adding new elements, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is commonly referred to as the "black sheep" of the series. While it keeps a top-down perspective for the overworld, dungeons and enemy encounters take place in a 2-D side-scrolling view. Even though the game retains the top-down overworld perspective, relatively little action takes place there, aside from the enemies that will appear to take you into the battle screen. The overworld is also used for travel throughout Hyrule, from town to town and dungeon to dungeon. Unlike the original, no combat or events occur there.
While in the side-scrolling battle view, Link can stand, crouch, defend with his shield, and engage the enemy with his sword. He can improve his sword skills over time, and after unlocking the ability, can even attack with his sword straight up into the air, or straight down below him while jumping.
Link earns experience points in this game -- the only game in the Zelda franchise to do so. This is also the first instance of Link actually having spells to use and a magic meter. Link still attains heart pieces which will make his health meter longer but he does not retain the actual heart pieces in the meter on the top of the screen. Instead, the use of red filled boxes is used to display the health, while magic uses white boxes. Link gains experience points by defeating enemies and can level up to increase certain benefits such as spells and life. Unlike the other games in the series, the player have three lives when starting a game. When the health meter reach zero, Link dies but can restart from the last screen entrance. When the last life is ended, the game is over and the player have to restart from the White Castle. Extra lives in form of small Link dolls can be found in secret locations around the world.
The overworld is broken down into segments which initially cannot be traversed until Link is able to acquire the appropriate item. An example of this is early in the game when there is a giant boulder which blocks the main road. When Link acquires the hammer, he is then able to smash the boulder and continue forward to new areas to explore. 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.
The Adventure of Link was the first game in the series to have a magic system. Rather than equippable items, Link has magic spells that he can use during battles. Link learns 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 will often have to complete side quests, doing such tasks as retrieving items and killing monsters before the wise men will teach him their spell. Many of the magical spells are integral for the game's progress, like the jump spell.
This game takes place directly after the first in the series, and revolves around breaking 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, but the King had told Zelda the location of the Triforce, as he was unsure of his son’s nature. The prince, eventually learning of this from a wizard, went to Zelda, demanding to have the final pieces of the Triforce, which Zelda refused. The wizard cast a spell on the Princess, causing her to sleep forever unless the Triforce had been recovered. After completing the spell, the wizard died. The grief-stricken Prince realized his error and put Princess Zelda in the castle to sleep until one day she would be lifted from her curse. He also decreed that henceforth all Princesses in Hyrule would be named Zelda.
After the defeat of Ganon in the first game by Link, Ganon’s minions are eventually compelled to unrest as Ganon’s spirit still remains, but needs Link’s blood in order to come back to life. After Link discovers what has subsequently happened to Zelda, Link decides to set out to recover the final missing pieces of the Triforce, destroy Ganon once and for all, and bring peace back to Hyrule, as well as awakening the sleeping Princess.
Link sets out to six different palaces and acquires items and medallions which help in progressing forward in his quest. Upon entering the final dungeon, Link is forced to defeat the spirit of Ganon once and for all. Upon accomplishing his goals and in sight of the Triforce, he realizes he must fight his ultimate challenge for the Triforce of Courage: his own shadow. After conquering every challenge that he meets, he is worthy of taking the Triforce, which he brings back to Hyrule castle and finally releases Princess Zelda from her curse.