In 1987 a pair of NES games had noteworthy sequels: The Legend of Zelda, and Castlevania. Both games were successful and popular, yet as the years went by they came to be regarded as flawed games that aged, let us say, less well than nostalgia would have wished.
More than 35 years later, two fan-made projects to remake and pay homage to these classics have been released.
Zelda II Enhanced Edition: Link is Adventuresome
Hoverbat has created an incredibly faithful homage to the Legend of Zelda franchise’s sophomore entry, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. A remake and expansion of the original, Zelda II Enhanced: Link is Adventuresome is available (for now) at itch.io. I’m not going to link directly to it, but it is not difficult to find. Created in GameMaker Studio 1.4, it runs on Windows. It’s one of the most impressive projects made with GMS 1.4 that I’ve seen — right up there with the Mega Man Maker project and Hyper Light Drifter.
The game boldly reimagines the original, taking license to fix a number of “quality of life” issues and add new content and challenges while looking, sounding, and feeling exactly like the original did on the NES. I’m blown away at just how well the Zelda II engine has been reimplemented in GaneMaker. This game is a must play for anyone who enjoyed the original version in the late 80s.
Zelda II is remembered these days as being the (so-called) “worst” of the Zelda games on Nintendo hardware. (No one counts the Philips CD-i games,which were truly awful, as official anymore). While many LOZ fans defend Zelda II, it’s not unreasonable to call it the least-best Zelda game in the mainline series. But to call it a “bad” game is really unfair. At the time of its release, it was the most highly anticipated a video game, a sequel to what was probably the best video game ever made to that point in time.
As a sequel, it daringly changed up the formula and offered a completely different experience to the player. Featuring side-scrolling action, and introducing a new magic system and RPG-like elements like leveling up, it was an ambitious and innovative game. It was extremely challenging, and it was imperfect, to be sure, but it was extremely popular and well received by gamers at the time.
Famously, a chip shortage made it very hard to come by during the Christmas season that year, amplifying the demand. It wasn’t a perfect game, the main complaint being that some of the secrets and solutions to puzzles were too cryptic and made buying a guide book necessary to win the game. And while these criticisms are certainly valid, they don’t stop Zelda II from being one of the top releases in the storied history of the NES.
This fan remake addresses much of these issues, and improves the quest design in ways that surpasses the original. It’s essentially a re-telling of the original game, which looks in most ways exactly like the original, but with embellishments. That’s all I really want to give away about it; there’s a lot of new things to discover, and some things have been changed, but pretty much all for the better.
There’s no chip shortage this time, but we all know how protective Nintendo has always been with their IP, so probably don’t expect the game to be available indefinitely. Get it while you can.
Transylvania Adventure of Simon Quest
Originally it was intended to be a faithful remake that addressed numerous problems with the original, which suffered from a poor translation, cryptic puzzles, numerous programming glitches and errors and weak boss fights. Despite all these shortcomings, the core game concept was strong: a non-linear adventure quest with a day/night cycle, towns full of shops and people to talk to, hidden secrets and puzzles. Exploration, a sense of narrative progression, building your power, and finding secrets/solving puzzles were given emphasis roughly equal to the action-based elements of fighting undead monsters.
The remake project ended up evolving into its own thing, rather than trying to remake Castlevania II, it’s become a completely new game, albeit one which owes much inspiration to the original, and is a wholly new game built with the same engine. It feels just like the original, with a look, sound and feel so much like the original, you’d think that they brought the original development team back.
You definitely will want to get this one, too.
Is it too much to hope that someone will do this for Metal Gear? A properly done remake of Metal Gear, which was a hit on NES despite being ridden with numerous bugs and glitches, has been on my wish list for quite some time.