Just for the hell of it, I watched a 20 minute video detailing all the lava caves and the Great Palace.
1)The lava caves do indeed look very annoying and I'd forgotten about the pelting you take from those lizard guys behind the fence. I'd forgotten the caves, too.
2)Imagine poor gamers back in 1988 getting all the way to the Great Palace without doing everything else first and having to go back the way they came when the electro-barrier doesn't open!! I'd have killed myself.
3)Okay, so if you know where you're going, the Great Palace only takes 11 minutes to get through. That's nice. Takes the edge off. Those bird-knight guys that can jump all the way across the screen look like real bastards and I freaked a bit at the giant blue Bot blob dropping out of the ceiling in that one room. Obviously I remembered the drop through the bridge to get to Thunderbird but I did not know there was a drop very shortly before it. I guess finding that drop cuts a pretty large chunk out of the dungeon.
4)There's a secret room walking left through an invisible passage through a wall while you're going down those elevators where you can restore all your magic with a red jar. Huh. How about that. I wonder if I would have found that one (the use of screens where there are just elevators might have tipped me off.)
5)He beats Thunderbird by glomming on to the right side of the screen and then up-thrusting. Hah. Barely gets hit. Didn't know about that. Then he beats Dark Link the way you said, though he doesn't even duck, he just hugs the left side of the screen and stabs repeatedly and doesn't even get hit! Oh, that's stupid!! Both of these boss fights and the way they were handled in the video have me curiously reminded of Super Castlevania IV where I have never once fought the Grim Reaper without being a chickens*** and hiding behind the big block on the left side of the screen.
Thunderbird seems a curiously forgotten villain. Link's Shadow reappeared in future games but Thunderbird gets little reference that I know of. His design also seems to be Native American or like some Indian (dots not feathers) god. Many names and places in the Zelda games seem to be drawing from a weird hybrid Indian/Japanese language too. Not sure what the origin of this is.
Here's a bad drawing of Thunderbird from the Link To The Past NP Players' Guide. The look on his face as he tries to lure Link into a Faustian bargain is very funny to me.
What this thread has taught me is two things:
1)You're a far better gamer/Zelda II player than I am
2)Nobody gives a s*** about the movies I watch or the albums I listen to anymore