Thirteen years ago, Nintendo brought their green-clad elven hero to the Nintendo 64 for what is considered to be his finest journey yet: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Since its release, there have been a lot of times where the game’s title has been mentioned alongside the term ‘best game of all-time,’ which is a deserving nod. That recognition and popularity were two of the major factors in Nintendo’s decision to remake the lengthy action role-playing game for their powerful new Nintendo 3DS hand-held gaming device. A decision that has created a lot of buzz around the system, as many have finally made the decision to buy one just for this game.
With this release, one of Nintendo’s goals is to bring the game back in remastered form for all of those fans who’ve played it countless times over the many years since its original release, whether on the N64, GameCube or Wii Virtual Console. Though they have another primary goal in mind. That is to try to bring their ageless epic to a new generation of young gamers who maybe haven’t played it before, or perhaps weren’t even alive back in 1998 when the gaming gods blessed us with its release. I’m pleased to say that not only will both camps be pleased with this remake; they will actually be falling over themselves based on how great it is.
I still remember the first time I got my hands on a copy of Ocarina of Time and actually sat down with a controller to play through its inaugural tutorial section. I was amazed by it then and felt the same way the first time I got a chance to play the 3DS version of the game that I personally consider to be my favourite of all-time. It’s almost as if the game captured something from my youth, because I feel almost the same way as I did back then, whenever I play the game: giddy, happy and always smiling based on how amazing the experience is. This game never seems to become dated, old or uninteresting. It’s like fine wine, which gets better with age – an anomaly in the gaming world.
For the uninitiated who luckily get to experience this game for the first time, the epic series of The Legend of Zelda has always been based in some form, around a young hero’s quest to save the princess from evil. It might sound like really basic cookie-cutter stuff, but Nintendo has built such a large magical world and a ton of mythology around this premise. The series tells a tale of a battle between good and evil or light and darkness, over a mysterious artifact known as the triforce – a golden relic made out of three triangles formed by the powers of the gods.
Our story here begins when young Link awakens in his treehouse to find that there’s a fairy hovering beside his bed. You see, Link isn’t like the other kids in the Deku Forest, who all have had fairy companions since they were born, but this is about to change. Our blonde and green hero has been selected by the great Deku tree to save the world from impending doom at the hand of great evil (a sniveling green-skinned man known as Ganondorf), who wants nothing more than to get his hands on the aforementioned golden artifact.
The great tree expels his dying words to tell our young hero a story about the creation of the world, by the three goddesses of power, courage and wisdom, who eventually combined their spirits to create the triangular relic. It is said that whoever possesses the triforce will be granted a wish through the use of at least one of its three parts/values. These wishes can do great good for the world or cause it great harm, which is why it must never fall into the wrong hands.
This news sets Link out on a grand quest that sees him travel throughout the land of Hyrule, through various towns, quarries, caves and dungeons. Along the way, he meets new and old acquaintances who assist the player in different ways and also help the young elf discover his destiny. Each new area presents a differing challenge, new mechanics and additional abilities/items (such as a grappling hook, bow, boomerang and a fishing rod). These new items make traversing the world and completing its puzzles easier, also allowing Link to revisit some of his previously traveled areas to find new secrets.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is one of the greatest stories you’ll ever find in gaming – nay; in popular culture as a whole. It’s well-crafted, interesting, features tons of surprises and has lots of unique characters. You’re immersed from beginning to end as you take part in an adventure that can last anywhere from fifteen to forty hours (give or take a few) depending on how much you explore the rich world around you. There’s a wealth of content that has something for everyone, whether you’re a casual gamer or an enthusiast who loves to explore games to their fullest.
Since its inaugural release day on the Nintendo 64, the game has become available for three other systems, as mentioned before. This is the third iteration available, but it’s the first time that the adventure has been remastered and, essentially remade. Its developer, Grezzo did their best to take advantage of the 3DS’ powerful hardware by re-doing the game’s visuals, with much nicer and cleaner looking texture work that is very impressive. Link’s character model is stunning, looking much more shiny, detailed and colourful than he did previously, and he really pops off of the screen (literally at times, when the camera is close to his face/upper body).
The development team also went to great lengths to try to streamline the experience by doing away with the need to navigate through clumsy menus in order to complete a simple task such as putting on your metallic boots. To alleviate this issue, they moved the game’s HUD to the bottom screen, allowing for four hot-keys to place items in. When selected and added to one of these quadrants, you can use an item with the touch of a finger (or stylus) with the resulting change happening almost instantaneously as opposed to thirty plus seconds later. It makes a huge difference and keeps you invested into the experience without unnecessary diversion. You’ll also find a touch-sensitive indicator for Navi’s guidance comments there.
Its core campaign mechanics were left alone, which was the right choice in my opinion, because it still feels as timeless as always. The game is easy to play for casual gamers, but has a great amount of depth and exploration for us more seasoned fanatics. The experience you may have fallen in love with all of those years ago is intact here, without any major changes, apart from the aforementioned ones and a couple of minor (hint) alterations.
Those minor changes include things like a glow around the door in the water temple where you can raise and lower the H20, as well as new hint stones that will give you tips during your second playthrough, if you’ve forgotten something. If so, crawl inside the conveniently located stones (the first of which is by your treehouse) and watch hint videos that will help you get a bit of a refresher. They’re nice subtle changes that will streamline (there’s that word again) the experience a lot and may help the odd forgetful adventurer out. If you don’t want to use the remembrance stones, there’s nothing stopping you from avoiding them.
Your musical ocarina has also been moved to the lower screen, to allow for touch-sensitive musical commands. When someone teaches you an in-game medley, the necessary keys will light up to give players a better indication of exactly what they need to press. It’s a small change that makes it easier to use, especially since the musical arrangements can be viewed by diving deeper inside that menu, eliminating the need for memorization (or writing them down).
The Master Quest returns, though it’s been altered to add an extra layer of difficulty. Hardcore Zelda fans will be happy to know that the development team decided to mirror flip absolutely everything in the second version of the campaign, which is unlocked after you beat the game once. If you’ve memorized a pattern for a dungeon, you’ll have to flip it in your mind because it’ll be different this time around. Go left instead of right and vice-versa. Adding onto that new challenge is the fact that enemies now dish out double the damage, forcing you to be more strategic and methodical in combat.
Other than the lengthy campaign, Grezzo has given us two new boss battle modes for play once you’ve seen the end credits roll. These modes are similar to each other, but differ in minor ways. They allow you to replay your favourite boss battles to see how fast you can slay the beast, with times posted after completion. At least, one of them works that way. The other (boss gauntlet mode) reverses that and gives you a set time limit to try to defeat all of your dastardly beast foes. If you can do it then you can definitely call yourself a master.
Since Nintendo’s new device offers full 3D visuals without the need for glasses, so does Ocarina of Time 3D. It utilizes the hand-held’s visual capabilities to add a ton of depth to its worlds, making the odd thing pop off the screen at you. It looks beautiful in 3D, though there is a bit of difficulty in finding the perfect viewpoint that will eliminate ghosting. Since the tilt and movement sensors are used to let you move the device around while aiming and/or looking in first-person (which works quite well), you’ll certainly see ghosting during those sequences, unless you turn the slider off for a moment or two. That’s because the system’s 3D effects only work perfectly if you’re looking directly at the screen, with a decent-sized gap.
The game looks great in both 2D and 3D, so which ever way you choose to play it will be a visual treat. Its frame rate is smooth, combat and exploration both run seamlessly and the world is even more lush and vibrant. Everything has been given a new coat of paint and polish, which is very noticeable from the moment you start your expedition. Of course, it still features the same art style that you know and love (unless you’re one of the few who haven’t played it before). It’s the same beautiful game you’re familiar with, given a boost with a new device’s graphical power, which shows off well when you go into stores and now see stocked shelves.
Audio is another incredibly strong part of this package. In fact, the game possibly sounds even better than it looks, though they’re both way up there on the proverbial scale. The 3DS’ simulated surround sound speakers allow the game to really engulf you with high-quality sound. I promise you that, the first time you hear one of the game’s iconic tunes, you’ll be speechless as to how great it sounds. It’s amazing to hear the new polish and refinement they’ve added to its score and sound effects, both of which were great to begin with. This game’s score has always been one of the absolute best.
For a game from two generations ago, it’s actually quite impressive to experience the wealth of sound effects offered here. Whenever Link walks on a new surface, his footstep sounds change. It’s something you may not notice right away, but make a point to listen for it when you switch from grass to metal or make a similar transition. Even today, more than a decade later, most games don’t have those types of footstep sound effect changes. It’s really remarkable, even though it may be a minor thing in the overall grand scale of things.
If you’ve been holding off on purchasing a 3DS, waiting for a triple-A must-own title to appear, this is what you’ve been waiting for. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D is in fact the definitive version of what is arguably the greatest gaming experience thus far. Hardcore fanatics who’ve played the game obsessively for the last decade plus will be blown away by how much of a difference Grezzo’s small menu upgrades and visual polish have made. However, the real treat will go to the new generation who will get a chance to play this family friendly masterpiece for the first time.
You cannot miss this one. In fact, you owe it to yourself to pick this game up, even if you have the original cartridge. It’s just that good. The game’s mechanics have translated to the hand-held 3D Dual-Screen incredibly well, with some great enhancements that make the game even easier (and more fun) to play. Let’s hope Nintendo will remake Majora’s Mask or even, A Link to the Past, next.