With the advent of "HD remakes" in the games industry, divisive titles that lay half-dormant in our memories are regularly resurrected to take another shot at winning our hearts (and take another shot at earning some sweet coin. Nostalgia is big business).
The Legend of Zelda series benefits big-time from the industry's push to drive old titles up to 1080p. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker for the GameCube suffered some pushback when it first launched, but its waterlogged version of Hyrule is breathtaking in high definition. The HD re-release of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess makes us remember some of the series' best dungeons are waiting for us after we work through the game's sluggish opening hours. And it looks like The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, one of the more maligned games in the series, just might be getting a second crack on the Nintendo Switch.
Watching these buried Zelda games lift themselves up from their grave-soil kindles a controversial idea inside me: It'd be really cool to see a remake of 1987's Zelda II: The Adventure of Link that utilizes the same engine for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
I know that'd be a crazy project for Nintendo, which understandably wants its HD remakes to remain a quick, easy way to bring in some cash and placate Zelda fans waiting for the next mainline entry in the series. Go ahead and chalk it up as a crazy Christmas wish if you want. Either way, I won't relent. Zelda II's iteration of Hyrule is fascinating and woefully under-explored. I want to trek north of Death Mountain one more time, and I want to do it on horseback a la Breath of the Wild.
I might be a little fonder of Zelda II than most civilized human beings because it was my first Zelda game. I'm still capable of recognizing the flawed elements of Link's action-heavy quest while celebrating what it does right, though. And remakes (theoretically) exist to fix the mistakes of previous releases, right?
I love how Breath of the Wild allows Link to explore familiar Hyrule landmarks on a truly epic scale, including Death Mountain, Lake Hylia, and the Lost Woods. Even the sad, burnt ruins of Ocarina of Time's Hyrule Castle Town and Lon Lon Ranch are in the epicenter of Calamity Ganon's ruin. As affectionate as I about Hyrule, however, I also enjoy taking occasional vacations from the realm. I visited Koholint Island in Link's Awakening for the Game Boy, and I visited Hyrule's weird, warped twin, Termina, in Majora's Mask for the N64. Both trips are the basis for two of the best Zelda games in the series.
But it was Zelda II that first took us by the hand and said, "Let's go somewhere new." We didn't even leave Hyrule like we did in Link's Awakening or Majora's Mask. Instead, we put our backs to the north side of Death Mountain and travelled to the northern reaches of Hyrule. Then we boarded a raft and sailed east across the ocean to explore an even wilder province. Why don't we do that again?
Though it's a pie-in-the-sky fantasy, a Zelda II remake done with Breath of the Wild's engine is a winning idea for a few reasons. First, Nintendo gets to make another game from Breath of the Wild's beautiful blood and bones (much like how Majora's Mask re-uses Ocarina of Time's engine). A 3D Zelda II remake isn't a cheap idea but re-using Breath of the Wild's assets still lets Nintendo save money. Second, hiking north and taking in the strange new landmarks will remind us we don't know the Kingdom of Hyrule as well as we think we do. It'll be an all-new experience that feels eerily familiar. Third, the presence of Zelda II's Palaces, which stand in for the first game's dungeons, can help solve one of Breath of the Wild's bigger faults: A notable lack of variety between the latter game's Shrines and Divine Beast challenges. It should be noted Zelda II's Palaces are more action-heavy than the cerebral dungeons that still define the series. That might make for a nice change, though, and fighting enemies in 3D is more fun than jabbing them with Link's toothpick-sized sword in the original game. We just need to find a way to make Zelda II's legendary Downward Thrust move easy to perform on the third dimension.
I understand converting Zelda II from 2D to 3D would be a big task, which is why I'd still be satisfied with a Zelda II remake that takes liberties with the source material. Is it the end of the world if the Maze Palace at Three-Eye Rock isn't completely faithful to the original Zelda II experience? Of course not. Gut the whole thing and build it back up if need be. Just give me an enemy-filled Palace to explore and let me face off against its serpentine boss at the end of it all.
My story about The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword possibly getting a second chance refers to Skyward Sword as "black Ordon sheep of the series." If Skyward Sword is the black sheep, Zelda II is the troubled kid Nintendo dropped off at boarding school and "forgot." Yeah, Zelda II is a bit of a punk, a bit of a misfit, but I think it's ripe for reform. Give it another chance so we can vault over Death Mountain and explore Hyrule's wild north one more time.