Zelda II is arguably the most difficult of all Zelda games. I could never complete it as a child, and I only completed it at age 18 with the help of a cheat codes while using an emulator. If people playing it on the first Nintendo in the 1980s beat the game, many kudos to you.
One thing about Zelda 2 versus the original Legend of Zelda is that the world is absolutely enormous with numerous towns and areas to explore. The fact that the world is populated with so many towns is the first selling point to me.
Second, the mythos of the game builds on the mythos of first game. In the Legend of Zelda, we saw Link quest to find the pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom. Ganon had stolen the Triforce of Power and kidnapped Princess Zelda. Now Link is on a quest to find the third Triforce, the Triforce of Courage.
I’m not sure how many of the Zelda games directly deal with the Triforce-as-distinct-pieces and how many deal with the Triforce as simply “the Triforce.” Either way, this part of the story is fun.
The difficulty of this game lies almost primarily in that it’s a game on the original NES- the mechanics are slow and stiff, not something most modern players want to deal with. Many of the puzzles offer no clues on how to solve them; one must rely on outside guides.
Zelda II features an RPG mechanism of gaining experience points and Link gaining Levels- something not seen in other Zelda games. He can also learn sword techniques and magic. There’s some kind of sword technique in other games where Link swirls the sword around, but not quite like the different techniques learned in Zelda II.
Zelda II also features some amazing enemies- the Moas, a burning, flying ghost eye, left an impression on me and my brother as young children.
So if the game was different than other Zelda games, and if it’s generally reviled, and if it’s so difficult, why bother remaking it?
The answer is that I played A Link Between Worlds recently (I got it for my birthday), and it included aspects from the Zelda mythos built up in Ocarina of Time. From what I can tell, A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time are the two Zelda games that have influenced the original mythos the most, and so those traits have been carried over.
Zelda II already has an interesting mythos, and I think by adding the elements of A Link to the Past (many of the interesting weapons, like the Hook Shot) and Ocarina of Time (the music used in the houses and towns and characters like the Zora and Gorons), the game could be mostly “fixed” from what it was.
The towns could easily be given more distinctive characters instead of the same few generic people- the different wizards and swordsmen could have names and personalities that somehow tie into the overall narrative.
There’s so much potential in the idea of a Zelda II remake. Nintendo, can’t you hear the game begging you to remake it into something we will love for all time?
Maybe one day we’ll get it.