NES Works 1988 ends with a game that (probably) actually shipped before December 1988 in scarce quantities. Aw, it’s Nintendo’s very first high-demand holiday rarity! They certainly would return to that well over the years.

It’s hard to say where to place this release in the ’88 timeline, because Nintendo originally announced Zelda II for a release early in the year but ended up kicking this particular ball down the road over and over again, and games media reporting didn’t have much to offer back then. This episode deals with the whys and wherefores of its delays and the tantalizing nature of this long-promised Zelda sequel.

Did Zelda II turn out to be worth the wait? Well… feelings are mixed on that one. Zelda II stands alone in the Zelda franchise for many reasons—its side-scrolling perspective, role-playing elements, limited lives, and the fact that it’s the one entry in the series to demand genuine skill and dexterity—but you can’t deny the influence it exerted on later entries in the series and on games as a whole. Despite some questionable design choices and a slight reliance on nebulous clues from NPCs for progression, Zelda II pretty much defined how the action-RPG would work.

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