Gamers have their own most treasured memories, the defining moments in their hobby that can be instantly recalled and swiftly take them back to a place and time far away. Mine is the ending of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – a singular, stationary capture that brought the previous twenty hours or so of gaming to a wonderful conclusion, wrapping the whole thing together and framing Link’s adventures across Hyrule.
Of course, even if Ocarina ranks up their amongst your more cherished playthroughs, such is the vast scope of the game and the consistently superb quality, your favourite section might be one of a hundred other moments. Games like this are rare, only surfacing once or twice a generation, and Nintendo’s true classic – whilst aped and copied numerous times – has arguably never been bettered. The word Legend is truly fitting.
Naturally, the Zelda games attract their own share of criticism just as they do acclaim: the plot often follows a similar structure each time, the basic mechanics remain the same and even most of the weapons, locations, enemies and music are recycled for each iteration: but that’s part of the charm, the appeal – and such notions are hardly unique to flagship Nintendo titles. Familiarity isn’t always a negative.[drop]The fact is though, when Ocarina first released in 1998, it was such a brave move away from the traditional 2D format of the games prior, that nobody really knew what to expect. It wasn’t just the visuals that blew people away, the sheer size of the overworld was one factor and the way the developers translated the temple format to an all-new 3D space was another: the Zelda world came alive, and for many, that feeling of bewildering scale and possibility hasn’t dulled much at all.
It’s an age old tale, too: small boy wakes to find his comfortable and safe existence being slowly taken from him, before pulled into an epic battle with evil – whilst fighting off countless enemies, exploring a series of caves and dungeons and gradually becoming stronger via increased abilities and more powerful weapons. Ocarina of Time introduced two time periods, too, with Link notably aged in the second – a clever move that still impresses today.
But Ocarina of Time has always been about the whole, not the individual elements. Nintendo crafted a brilliant story – one that grows with the player from start to finish – whilst still providing traction even when you’re off the beaten path. It’s deep without being stat-heavy and lighthearted enough without being throwaway. For many, it’s the perfect adventure game, and this all new 3DS version is a triumph.
For starters, the graphics are much improved. The character models are better, the environmental detail is sharper and richer and the framerate’s boosted to a rock solid 30fps – yes, some of the colours are a little too strong in places (losing a little of the darkness present in the original) but it’s easily the best looking version of the game. Some of the areas, like the Ice Cavern, are dramatically different – at least visually.
The 3D effect is subtle for the most part – you can happily whack the slider up to full unlike most 3DS games – with just Navi and some of the additional floating elements that have added to the game to give it some weight actually popping out from the screen. The depth is nice, especially given the game’s far better draw distance, but apart from a few instances with camera positions you wouldn’t miss the 3D. In addition, playing the game with the 3D completely off gives the graphics some anti-aliasing (they’re a bit too sharp otherwise) which some may prefer anyway.[drop2]Oddly, though, the music remains exactly the same. We’ve had loved to hear some orchestral versions of the classic Zelda songs that pepper Ocarina, but for whatever reason they’re the same MIDI versions from the Nintendo 64 – they still sound great, but if the audio had gotten the same upgrades as the visuals, this would have been a treat for the ears. The sound samples are identical, too.
What is nice about this 3DS version is the improved user interface – the touchscreen lets you quickly flick between items, gear and maps and you can assign more weapons and such than previous because there’s room on the lower screen for a few more spaces. This means that you can always hold the Ocarina in a slot and keep your arsenal handy, and the Iron Boots for the Water Temple are now much easier to flick on and off.
There’re a couple of other tweaks too – the aforementioned Water Temple is a little easier to navigate, and the presence of new hint stones dotted around the landscape means that if you’re stuck it’s possible to get a little help on areas you have already visited. They’re actually quite cool, showing off bits you might have missed, or hinting at things to come – although you can of course leave them if you wish. Finally, there’s a flipped version of the Master Quest (with re-arranged items, enemies and dungeons) and a Boss Rush mode once you’ve beaten each guardian.
But regardless, you’re buying this because it’s a wonderful game, not for new trinkets – an experience unmatched across the genre despite its age and one that’s surely the 3DS’ first must-have title. It’s superbly handled, and for someone that plays through the game once a year anyway the option to take it on the road instead of hogging the television is hugely welcome. This is unmissable entertainment, a truly brilliant, shining example of what the industry can do.
- It’s still one of the best games ever created
- Visual updates are consistent and faithful
- New controls and UI tweaks make it the best version yet
- The music could have done with sprucing up
- Master Quest should be open from the beginning
Whether you’ve played Ocarina dozens of times, or have the enviable opportunity to experience it for the first time now, this is the best version of a game that’s defined action RPGs for well over a decade. Amongst all the me-too shooters and dull, lifeless racers that fill videogame shelves these days, Link’s defining adventure stands tall. A remarkable game, and one that should be experienced by all. Go buy a 3DS. Now.