I didn't think I'd be so happy to see the word 'Finale' in the title of any post on this blog, but frankly it couldn't come fast enough for this game. However, before I get to the reason why, I have to catch you up with what happened leading up to my frustration and eventual happiness to start this post. :)
Upon returning to Hyrule, I took the advice of Sam, one of the commenters, who indicated that I should make a return trip to the labyrinth that surrounded one of the palaces. Apparently I hadn't fully explored that area, and of course he was correct. Not long after starting to traipse up and down the corridors of the labyrinth, I fell into a pit and discovered a magic container. Thank you Sam, because as another commenter (JohnH) mentioned, this game is geared around needing magic more and more as you progress, and without it, things might have been a bit more difficult.
After my little backtracking excursion, I made the long journey back to the area of the 6th palace and started exploring around. North of the desert area and above a small body of water, there was a cave through the mountain. On the other side of the mountain, there was a small desert area and a curious grove of trees, but nothing else. Following JohnH's advice yet again, who hinted that I should 'perhaps use a tool that I'd found a few times before', I tried the Flute, but nothing happened. Logically, the next thing I did was swing the hammer, and...Oooh! A square of trees disappeared. Hmm...I swung the hammer a few more times, all the while being harassed by pesky monsters. Finally, I swung the hammer in the right place, and Poof! A town appeared from under the forest. Being the stalwart adventurer I am (at least as stalwart as a 16-year old elf boy wearing all green can be), I entered the town.
It turned out to be the hidden town of Kasuto. Apparently monsters had attacked the original town of Kasuto (where I died in another play session, attacked by invisible monsters), and the inhabitants had fled to this location. All but one, it seems. A nice lady on the street indicated that one person remained in the old town, and this person had magic for me. I made a note in my day planner (every self-respecting world savior has a day planner!) and continued exploring the town. One kind lady said that I deserved her help, and said to follow her. Wait a minute, didn't I see something like this on the news once? Nevertheless, I followed her into her home. To my pleasant surprise I found a magic container, the last one available, in the basement of the house.
After leaving this home, I continued on my merry way, checking the houses as I went. In another house, there was no entrance to the basement, but a conspicuous hole in the chimney. I pressed up in front of the chimney and found the basement where the resident wise man waited patiently for me. He taught me the spell Spell. Wait, what? That's the best name they could come up with? I'd really like to talk to the localization team that came up with that brilliant stroke of originality. All kidding aside, it wasn't long before I had the opportunity to use the spell, as the woman who let me into her house to get the magic container had said there was a secret at the edge of town. Using instincts honed sharp on the field of battle (OK, maybe it was years of playing video games, but it's all the same), I traveled to the end of the town, where an empty screen and a large wall blocked my path. Casting the spell Spell, a large doorway rose out of the ground, which led me to the Magic Key. A nice find at this point, meaning I'd never have to backtrack in palaces again looking for keys.
After one last quick look around the town, I decided it was high time to tackle the palace in the desert, the one that only shows itself when I play the flute. This palace wasn't too difficult, although I did have to deal with 2 blue Ironknuckles mounted on horseback, and they weren't even the main boss. One of the Ironknuckles relinquished access to a room that held a Cross. It was mentioned in a comment that the Cross made invisible things visible, so this would be extremely helpful when I got out of this palace and visited the town of Old Kasuto. A bit more exploration brought me to the real boss room, which turned out to be some sort of lava worm or dragon. The eel-like beast kept popping out of one of three lava pits in the room, fired a mouthful of fireballs at me, and then disappeared back into the lava. The tough part about this boss was not him particularly, but more finding a way to strike him without bouncing off the platforms into the lava. I'm sad to report that I made the walk of shame back to the dungeon once, because I wasn't careful and jumped off the platforms too many times, but I finally learned my lesson and stayed on solid ground long enough to kill the worm. The standard key dropped from the ceiling, and I triumphantly passed to the next room to put the final gem into the statue. The trip through this palace netted me the final two levels I needed to max out my advancement (attack and magic).
Armed with the cross, I made a return visit to Old Kasuto, where I discovered that it's much easier to fight creatures when you can see them. Amazing revelation, huh? I searched all through the town, but the only thing I found of note was an old wise man who taught me the Thunder spell. Something tells me that it's going to come in handy later on...
Now it was time to make the trek to the Grand Palace. Information from a commenter indicated that this wasn't the easiest of journeys, and boy they weren't kidding. No road to keep enemies from attacking, multiple fixed-point battle locations, and very tough enemies made this a perilous walk. The only thing that gave me hope was the knowledge that once I made it to the Grand Palace, I wouldn't have to leave if I didn't want to, because the game restarted from there instead of the beginning. Believe you me, I was going to put that little feature to good use coming up. After a long and aggravating trip, I finally made it to the Grand Palace, and happily stepped onto its grounds. Maybe if I had known what was ahead, I wouldn't have been so happy.
Well, no matter what, I was here. The focal point of my adventure since the beginning. All I had to do was make it to the boss and I will have succeeded in my quest. Of course, all of that is easier said than done in most cases, and this was no exception. As I hinted at in my post from earlier today, the creatures here were (for the most part) different from any of those than I had seen in the rest of the game. There were bird-men, who jumped around wildly and threw swords. There were blue slimes that were superpowered enough to knock almost an entire block of health out of me when I was dumb enough to run into them. There were scores of the annoying dragon head things that swoop across the screen and suck out experience when they hit you. There were these bird things that jumped around and threw little fireballs, and touching either the bird or the fire cost you a full block of health. This was not a dungeon for the faint of heart.
Plus, adding to the aggravation factor was the fact that you could easily make a wrong turn and have to walk all the way back around, not to mention that the actual direction you had to go was cleverly hidden (or at least I thought it was pretty clever, maybe everyone else found it right off the bat). All told, I made probably 3 or 4 round trips around this godforsaken place before I finally wised up and drew a makeshift map (what a beauty that was, done with one hand while holding a controller and scribbling), which revealed to me exactly what I knew: I was going in freakin' circles!
At least the level designer in this palace gave you a carrot every once in a while. There were screens were the elevator shaft would travel straight down through what looked like two blank walls, but if I pushed against the left well about 3/4 of the way down, I would find a secret passage that led to a room. Most of the time this room contained only a birdman statue that could only be reached with the Jump spell. Just like the Ironknuckle statues outside the other palaces, if I struck these statues in the face, I would get either a red birdman or a red bottle. Take a wild guess which one I was hoping for...One of these rooms also contained a fairy, and yet another one had a very large Bubble that stole magic when it touched me. (By the way, I'm sorry for not having more screenshots of the Grand Palace. I got so wrapped up in figuring out where the heck I had to go and dealing with the new enemies and such, it completely slipped my mind to act like a tourist and snap some pictures for posterity.)
All in all, I probably spent the better part of two hours figuring out that I didn't have a clue where to go, or even what I was looking for. It took quite a while for it to dawn on me, but I finally realized that there was a room that had a floor with breakable blocks over what appeared to be a solid floor. After passing through this room for the 3rd or 4th time, my mind finally registered, "Hey, what are those doing there?" Look, I never professed to being the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I usually get the point eventually. Shockingly enough, after breaking the blocks, I found a hidden pit that led me to the final showdown with...well, I'll let you decide what it is. Regardless of what it is, it needed the Thunder spell to change from red to the blue you see in the screenshot. To defeat this thing, I cast Shield, Fire and Jump (along with Thunder), which allowed me enough time and firepower to finally take it down. Fortunately for me, I was able to beat it eventually, which allowed me to pass into the final chamber.
In this final chamber, there was a ledge where the evil wizard stood with the Triforce. He gestured a few times, then disappeared. The screen went dark, and my shadow jumped out from behind me, and started beating me from one side of the screen to the other. This battle was, by far, the most frustrating thing I've done in video gaming in some time. There seemed to be no rhyme nor reason to hitting shadow Link, other than I just kept swinging at him, trying to block his blows, and making sure to reposition when he jumped over me. I must have had to walk back to this place two or three times, thanks to this turkey. Finally, everything seemed to fall into place: I got lucky enough to hit him a couple of times before he really took a toll on me, I was able to use the Life spell twice, and then, lo and behold, I beat him! I literally threw my hands up over my head and shouted a little bit, because I was happy A) that I had completed this game, and B) I didn't have to make the long walk back to that stupid room again! I took a whole bunch of screenshots of the final scenes, and I'll put them in now.
I can truly say that I'm happy to be finished with Zelda II. I don't think I have the dislike that I started the game with, but I still don't think it had the Zelda 'feel'. My judgment could also be clouded by the fact that the last boss really, and I mean really, aggravated the heck out of me, and it's those leftover feelings which are causing my less-than-favorable impression of the game at this moment.
My plan tomorrow is to address your comments that I received today from my morning post, wrap up some loose ends, and start right into A Link to the Past. As always, thank you for visiting and reading this blog. Your comments continue to be great, and I hope to see you all again as I start the game that many of you (myself included) have been waiting for. Until tomorrow, take care and be safe!