What a game. A challenge from beginning to end, Adventure of Link never gave me a breather. I couldn’t have done it without the Switch rewind feature (thanks Nintendo). This game might always be my least favorite in the Zelda series, but I like to think that if I spent enough time practicing combat, I could actually come to enjoy playing it. So here are my thoughts. We’ll start with what I didn’t like.
Adventure of Link is difficult. It’s not the hardest game I’ve ever played – that title probably goes to Celeste. But Adventure of Link is much less forgiving than Celeste. Although it happens much more frequently, the consequences of dying in Celeste are much less severe. It only takes one wrong move to die, but you respawn on the the same screen. In Adventure of Link, you can increase your health and attack, and you have three lives, but getting a game over just sucks. Unless you’re in the Great Palace, a game over results in you starting all the way at the start screen, which can be quite far from where you were. It also takes away all those hard-earned experience points, which can be a huge downer if you’re getting to the higher levels and you’re not far from leveling up. I think the Switch rewind feature and saves states go a long way in making this game more forgiving (but not less difficult), which is just enough to make the game more inviting to newcomers.
Adventure of Link‘s also got some pretty cryptic secrets, which is something it brings forward from The Legend of Zelda. But it doesn’t bring forward quite as many hints. And the game doesn’t really teach you anything to help you find these secrets. There are several secrets hidden behind actions you only do once, just for one secret. I do really like all of these hidden things, I just wish I had a little something more nudging me in the right direction (maybe I’m just dumb haha).
Now let’s get to the positives. Adventure of Link introduces towns to The Legend of Zelda series, something I don’t think will ever be missing from another Zelda game. And I love that one town is hidden in a forest, which you find with the use of your hammer. It’s one of those cryptic things, but the concept is really amazing. Each town has something that allows you to progress in the game, in the form of new spells or abilities. There’s some sort of quest in between each dungeon that often involves finding some item and bringing it to a specific town, after which you’ll be able to see the wise man who teaches you these spells and abilities. It does make for a much more linear game, which is not a bad thing – I think some people say “linear” like it’s a bad word, but it’s nice to have features that build on each other. It often makes for some fun progression. And I think Adventure of Link has some really great progression. The dungeons get more consistently challenging than in The Legend of Zelda, and each seems to be more interesting than the last. I’ll save the rest of my thoughts on the dungeons for my Adventure of Link dungeon ranking post next week.
I had fun with the spells and I was particularly delighted by the fairy spell, which of course allows you to transform into a fairy to navigate rooms with no floor, reach higher heights, and sneak through locked doors. The spell spell, which lets you find a building that houses a very important item is neat, and humorously named, although I don’t think that’s official. And the powerful thunder spell that allows you to defeat Thunderbird almost reminds me of Urbosa’s fury. In fact, several of the spells remind me of the champion abilities: jump or fairy for Revali’s Gale, shield for Daruk’s Protection, life for Mipha’s Grace. They’re not exactly the same, but it feels like a little callback, and it supports my opinion that Breath of the Wild is most like early Zelda.
I think it’s cool that Ganon is not really the villain of the game – it’s just his minions trying to kill you so they can resurrect him. Link’s mission in the game is not to defeat some great enemy, but to take a crystal to each of the palaces in Hyrule, find the triforce of courage, and awaken Princess Zelda. It’s another concept that make Adventure of Link a pretty unique entry in the series, only really matched by Link’s Awakening‘s plot. Just on a little side note, I do think Ganon’s resurrection upon a game over is a more interesting point for a downfall timeline split than Ocarina of Time. There’s an actual allusion to what happens when Link is defeated. Not that I’m asking for another timeline split. I just have a sick headcanon for what would happen.
One thing that really stuck out to me in this game was how the more challenging enemies of a specific type not only had stronger defense, but also behaved in different ways, using more complex attack strategies. Blue stalfos jump, and blue darknuts throw swords at you. It’s a more interesting difficulty rise than ‘oh I just had to stab you a few more times,’ something I find I dislike in a lot of games. Though there were some enemies that really frustrated me, I always wanted to figure out the right strategy for defeating them. One day I hope I can become skilled enough to play the game without the Switch rewind feature (maybe still save states though).
And now for my favorite and least favorite things about Adventure of Link.
Least Favorite: I really dislike how game overs work. Losing all your experience points sucks, especially in the later parts of the game where the number of points needed to level up gets much higher. And restarting at North Palace is a pain, especially at the beginning of the game when you’re still brand new to combat, and traversing from one area to the next may have been extremely difficult. However, if Adventure of Link ever gets a remake, I think these things could very easily be fixed and make for a much better Zelda experience.
Favorite: The introduction of towns and villagers make the world so much more lively – they’re a feature I love throughout all video games. Adding them to the Zelda series definitely increased my enjoyment of games. I love when games have something to do more than just combat, and I think towns and villagers add a lot of character to the games.
Thanks a million for reading; next week I’ll have the Adventure of Link dungeon rankings!