To begin a game of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, choose an empty slot, then choose Register Your Name, then input a name, and the game will start.
Link starts with three lives. If he runs out of lives, the game is over, but your progress is saved, and your levels, items, and spells are also saved.
Link always starts the game in the North Palace. This is where Zelda has been sleeping after an evil wizard cast a spell on her. To break the spell, Link must take six crystals to six palaces around the world. Doing so will open the Great Palace, where Link can obtain the Triforce of Courage. With the Triforce, Link can awaken Zelda.
Read below for information about leveling up, and magic. When you are ready to start the game, read the page about Rauru Town.
In Zelda II, Link has three attributes that can be improved through leveling up. These attributes are attack, magic, and life.
To level up, you need to earn experience points. Most monsters, when defeated, will give Link experience points. When you defeat an enemy, sometimes a number will float up from it. This is the number of experience points that Link earned from defeating that monster. (Note: You don't have to touch the number to get the points.) Very weak monsters might not give Link any experience points.
In side-scrolling screens, at the upper-right corner of the screen it says "Next" with some numbers below it. The number to the left of the slash is the number of experience points that Link has earned so far. The number to the right is the number that Link must earn to be able to level up one of his attributes.
When Link's experience points reach or surpass the required number, a screen will pop up asking you to choose an attribute to level up. You can only choose one. Use the control pad to choose the attribute, then press start to level it up. Or, if you want to save your experience points so that you can level up an attribute that requires more points, just choose cancel. You will be able to increase an attribute the next time that you reach the required number of points.
Leveling up your attack will make Link be able to defeat enemies with fewer hits. Leveling up your magic will increase the number of spells Link can cast before running out of magic. Leveling up your life will make Link be able to get hit more times before he dies.
If you are having a lot of difficulty in the game, you need to level up your life or attack! This is really important. Zelda II is too hard if Link's levels are too low, so go level up if the game seems nearly impossible.
Link's attributes can go up to a maximum of level 8. If he levels up after that, he gets an extra life.
As the game progresses, Link will learn magic spells that will help him get through the game. In some cases, these spells are required for Link to progress.
To use magic, press start in a side-scrolling screen, then use the control pad to choose the magic spell that you want to cast.
NOTE: You have to press start and choose a spell before Link can use magic in a given screen. The game doesn't remember the magic that Link might have used in a previous screen.
Once you have chosen a spell, press start to return to the action screen, and press select to cast the spell. If Link does not have enough magic, he won't cast the spell.
The spell will only be in effect in the current screen. Once Link goes to a different screen, the spell will wear off.
Link can refill his magic meter using magic bottles. These are blue or red bottles that enemies sometimes drop. Blue bottles replenish only a small amount of magic, but red bottles refill Link's magic meter completely.
How to Save the Game
Saving the game on an NES
If you are playing this on an actual NES, then to save the game, first you must pause the game by pressing Start. Then you need to press Up and A on controller 2 to get to the save screen. Then on controller 1, use the Select button to choose Continue (which puts you at the North Palace with your experience set to 0 but with your items and spells and levels saved) or you can choose Save, which returns you to the title screen and saves your progress.
Don't turn your NES off until you are either back in the North Palace after choosing Continue, or you are back at the Title screen after choosing Save. When you turn your NES off, BE SURE TO HOLD DOWN THE RESET BUTTON WHILE YOU TURN THE POWER OFF. This is because when you hold the reset button, it makes the NES stop writing and reading from memory. If you were to turn off the NES before it finishes reading from memory or writing to memory, you could unwittingly interrupt the system while it is doing a memory read or write, causing you to lose the saved game data on your cartridge! Holding the Reset button down stops the reads and writes, making it safe to turn off the console.
Saving the game on a Nintendo 3DS
If you are playing Zelda II on the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console, then to save the game, first you must pause the game by pressing Start. Then hold L and R. This makes an icon of the NES controllers appear in the bottom-right corner of the top screen. Then, while still holding L and R, press Y to switch to controller 2. Then you can press Up and A to bring up the save screen. Return to controller 1 by holding L and R and then pressing Y. Then press Select to choose Continue or Save.
Don't worry about holding a Reset button when you close the Virtual Console game. There is no need for this type of precaution, because the hardware has improved a lot since the NES, and it is unlikely to lose your saved games the way that the NES sometimes did.