The Greatest Game Ever™ returns in 3D. Does is still hold up? Um, yes…
Before we begin, I should stress that if you’ve never played ‘Ocarina’ before, you won’t find much here in terms of plot and level difficulty, or longevity. This review is focusing on the updates of the current version, as the original game has been available since 1998, we’re pretty sure if you’re reading this you may have played it already. TC
It’s all about the little things. ‘The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’, a game so acclaimed, so distinguished in gaming history. An absolute masterpiece beyond anything we could have imagined in 1998, is back and once again, after an admittedly dodgy E3, Nintendo reminds us why they are the greatest. If you loved this game the first time round, you’re going to be very happy as everything is here. Literally, everything. Nothing has been removed, it’s still the original ‘Ocarina’ we all adore. From desperately running around for Deku Nuts, looking for them in pots and finding nothing but green rupees to chickens being stuck in infuriatingly annoying places across Kakariko Village. This is ‘Ocarina’, and it’s here to make your jaw drop all over again. And it starts before the game even begins…
With the infamous ‘Ocarina’ introduction sequence, Nintendo and GREZZO aren’t holding anything back. The split second you’re reintroduced to Hyrule, it’s a truly jaw dropping spectacle in three dimensions. I’m not lying when I say this is without doubt the finest use of the technology so far for the 3DS. The sound of Epona galloping across Hyrule Field, the beautiful piano and strings music. Within minutes your breath is truly taken away. It’s a swift reminder of why this game is so important and why it has the status it truly deserves. I wish I could throw up these pictures in 3D, unfortunately like anything with the 3DS, you truly have to see it on the system itself to believe it. To leave you utterly speechless before you’ve even pressed anything is a sign that the brilliance of this title is well and truly alive and kicking, and I couldn’t be happier about that.
Here’s ‘Ocarina’ Link 2011. Like most of the game, Link himself has had a complete visual makeover and looks closer to the modern day Link we know from ‘Twilight Princess’ and the upcoming ‘Skyward Sword’. The first thing I noticed about Link was the hair, and how it’s almost three different colours compared to the original version and it made me smile a little uncontrollably. Like I said, it’s the little things.
Link has been painstakingly dragged into the 21st Century along with Hyrule itself. Visually, the game is an enormous step up from its predecessor as these images prove..
The game really does look like it belongs in this generation, and it’s a testament to GREZZO’s team that the game looks as good as it does.
Well, nearly. More on that later on.
Focusing on the updates, the biggest change in terms of gameplay is the DS Touch Screen. As you can see from the screenshots the main screen is nearly completely empty of your standard HUD items, save a map of your current location and your all important A button command display. Everything else is – brilliantly – moved down.
Everything you’ll need throughout the game is placed here. Your health and magic levels (the hearts and the green line below, respectively..if you didn’t know), the entire game map, your items (configured to each button, plus two extras which are touch screen only), your rupee count, your Ocarina and more, including the gear section where all your swords, shields and clothing is kept, all there right in front of you and incredibly easy to navigate (considering the horrendous Water Temple is forthcoming, being able to switch to your Iron Boots and painlessly as possible is complete blessing. Good to know Nintendo were listening). Navi also has her own button too (to replace the C-Up button she had from the original) on the top left of the screen. If she pipes up, press this button to see what she has to say.
One of the most fundamental aspects of ‘Ocarina’ is the music, and it doesn’t disappoint here. Depending on your preference, it would have been nice for Nintendo to orchestrate the score this time round, in the same way they did with the ‘Super Mario Galaxy’ series. Hearing the stunning, soaring, spine tingling themes from this game coming through my 3DS speakers performed with a full symphony would have been an absolute joy. As such, what we’ve got we shoudn’t really complain about, all the music is here, unchanged and untouched. The Ocarina songs also remain the same, with two options to play them now, being the A, X, Y, L and R buttons or the touch screen. When selecting your Ocarina on your main HUD you are taken to a screen which has your instrument placed slap bang in the middle of the bottom screen, and the buttons are layed out according to the notes. You can use your stylus to play the songs (my personal choice as it makes me feel like I’m genuinely playing an instrument) or follow just use the buttons. It’s all very familiar, as an example ‘Zelda’s Lullaby’, which was C-Left, C-Up and C-Right in the original game is now X, A and Y. They still sound fantastic, and I’ll admit to getting chills when I heard ‘Epona’s Song’ played on the Ocarina for the first time in years. You just can’t forget them, these small melodies and how they become so utterly timeless.
What else is new? Well, I’m glad you asked.
Thrown in as a wonderful extra is the ‘Master Quest’, originally bundled with Limited Edition copies of ‘Wind Waker’ on the Gamecube. This is simply a rock hard version of ‘Ocarina’, with all the dungeons rearranged and remixed. The entire game is mirrored so you’ll need to keep your wits about you and focus because everything is not where you would originally think it to be. Great fun and will challenge you, even if you’re a classic player of ‘Ocarina’.
Another new addition is the ‘Boss Rush’ mode. Essentially, this is more or less about how much ass you can kick one after the over, giving you the bosses from all the dungeons you have already passed in sequential order. Master Quest has its own version of the “Boss Rush” mode, where the boss arenas are mirrored and enemies will do twice the usual amount of damage.
Finally, the Stone of Agony is replaced with the Shard of Agony, replaced due to the lack of a rumble function on the 3DS, serving the same purpose, only with a sound signal to inform the players of secrets instead.
One major addition (and very typically ‘modern’ Nintendo) are instruction videos, found in the Sheik Stones. Watch them glow neon green and bounce around, head up to one and find the part you’re stuck in, a video will play to show you what to do. If you’re new to ‘Ocarina’, this is a good ‘hand-holding’ device. If you have played it before, you’re not going to go anywhere near it.
Aside from the 3D, ‘Ocarina’ doesn’t use a huge amount of the 3DS’ unique features, but then again, it doesn’t really have too. The main one is the gyroscope, used to look around and aim when in first person mode (so for slingshot, bow and arrow use etc..). I’ll say now I was quite sceptical about this, I am a massive fan of the Zelda series and I really didn’t think it needed motion control, ‘Twilight Princess’ proved me wrong on that one, but ‘Ocarina’?? Wasn’t so sure, fool me twice Nintendo. It absolutely works and it’s absolutely brilliant. Once you’re in first person mode (activated automatically when selecting a first person weapon), you can move your 3DS around to focus on your target, and it’s seamless. Every little nudge you make is recognised on screen, and it’s a fantastic way of aiming and being completely precise. I’ve been playing the game with this the entire way through and I’m still not bored of it. After iPhones and iPads, gyro sensing seemed tacked on to the 3DS, but in ‘Zelda’ is really represents its purpose. Of course, if you’re not a fan you can just use the slider pad and it works just as well, it’s just not the same.
For a game as historic as this, maybe the imperfections make it what it is, but as you make your way through the game, you have to wonder if the visual enhancements could have done with a bit of spit and polish here and there. All round, yes, the game is a belter in the graphical department however it’s when you really get close to something that you see certain parts seem like they still belong in the N64 era. The first thing I noticed concerning this was the bridge that links Kokiri Forest and Hyrule Field, where Saria gives Link her Ocarina. The character models really do look superb but everything surrounding them is incredibly cardboard, which is quite upsetting. This happens on various occasions though and it completely noticeable considering everything around it has been updated. It seems like an odd thing to miss.
Gripes? That’s the only one, and to be fair it is minor, perhaps the ‘Young Link’ slog is still a bit of pain. Having to walk absolutely everywhere until you can get Epona still bugs but with the game world being Hyrule, it’s barely a complaint. Maybe I’m just lazy.
‘The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’ is exactly what you want it to be. It’s the original game, groundbreaking in its day, made even better.
I can’t praise this update enough. Yes there are niggles that should have been ironed out, certain aspects that seem to be overlooked which is a shame, but it really is a small price to pay for a game as well executed as this one. It is reason enough to go out and pick yourself up a 3DS, perhaps in the same way it was reason enough all those years ago to pick up an N64 to play the original. Without trying to sound to fanboyesque, it’s the best handheld Zelda game ever made, the greatest 3DS game so far, the best use of the systems 3D features, and without a shadow of a doubt one of the very best games of the year.
Ah, Nintendo. All is forgiven.