The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D Review (3DS)
Posted by Jim Cook, Jul 06, 2011 12:20
I feel unfortunate that I only got to play part of this game’s original Nintendo 64 release. Thankfully, I played enough to understand the game and mostly know what to look for in this modern remake, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D. It’s still the game that laid down the foundation for most modern Zelda games, and it still holds up well today. Despite its importance in gaming history, the original was released toward the end of 1998 and this review will assume some readers aren’t familiar with Ocarina of Time; hopefully it will be useful to veterans and newcomers alike. In quick summary, Ocarina of Time is a 3D, third-person action-adventure game where you’re given a large fantasy world to explore; your goal is to defeat a variety of enemies, solve various puzzles with an ever-expanding set of equipment, take on some fairly large bosses at the end of certain locations, and follow the storyline that justifies all this adventuring.
Ocarina of Time has obvious similarities to Twilight Princess and Wind Waker, as Ocarina is the game that laid the foundation for these later entries in the series. The player is put in control of the series’ iconic hero, Link, as he rises from humble beginnings to take on a quest to save the world. You’ll get to explore this world in significant detail, with no shortage of enemies to fight, new locations to find, equipment to buy, and find important items needed to advance the story. The general flow is one of traveling the ’overworld’ and towns to learn what you need to do, then going into a dungeon nearby to find a special item ranging from bombs to boomerangs and more, each with a special use. These tools let you solve various puzzles (often of the "use your new weapon to hit a previously unreachable lever/switch" variety, though some are more creative), replenish your supplies, and move on to meet a usually massive boss. Despite their size, these bosses tend to follow patterns and it’s your job to see through them in order to win. Fail and you’ll have to reload a save to try again, but success makes Link stronger and lets you advance in the story.
On its own, that summary does little to really convey the ’magic’ the Zelda series is generally known for. It’s hard to explain in mere words how the combination of an iconic hero, a detailed and interesting world, top-notch music, and the sense of always gaining new abilities works out to make a great game that you’ll ’feel’ on some deeper level. Nonetheless, the sense of steady progression alongside letting you proceed at your own pace and rewarding you with extra health and items for searching areas thoroughly does a great job of keeping Ocarina of Time fresh throughout. The second half of the game is particularly good at this and mixes things up in fascinating ways, though explaining this in much detail could be an unfortunate spoiler to some. Nonetheless, there is enough content here to keep even those eager to rush through the game busy for hours on end.
As a remake of a 1998 game, Ocarina of Time 3D addresses some weaknesses from the original release but leaves others quite intact. The most obvious improvement lies in the graphics, which take the previously blocky, angular visuals from the Nintendo 64 version and significantly improve on them. Facial expressions are more clear, lending weight to some emotional scenes in the storyline. The world itself looks much more vibrant and real, even if a few areas do make all too plain that a N64 game was used as the basis for the visual design. Some locations, such as the Temple of Time, look much more sensible this time around, giving important areas their proper sense of majesty. On top of this, the inventory and other controls have been cleaned up a bit; it’s much easier to swap items out than before, and you can now aim your first person view (or weapons that use this perspective) by moving your 3DS around, a touch that can be useful in some areas and is quite fun when sightseeing.
On the other hand, the camera system is very similar to the original version. It occasionally insists upon focusing at things it probably shouldn’t while you’re trying to dodge an enemy’s attack, and the view it offers of what lies beyond a platform’s edge is often useless; you end up having to carefully walk up to the edge and use the first person view to look down and see where you’ll land if you choose to jump down. Swimming and diving for sunken items is similarly imprecise unless you fiddle with the camera angles, and this is joined by slightly clumsy (but definitely playable) controls in some aspects of how Link fights. Those of you who hate Link’s companion fairy, ’Navi’, will be annoyed to find that in addition to all the old "Hey, listen, hey, Link, hey" prattling from the original... Navi also nags you for playing too long in this version, presumably a nod to how the optional 3D displays can cause eye fatigue. This seems like unnecessary ’nannying’ of the player, since Ocarina of Time 3D can be played just fine by turning the 3D effect off when necessary.
These flaws don’t ruin The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, they simply highlight that this is a decade old game that is ’merely’ great by today’s standards rather than perfect. Make no mistake; Ocarina of Time is historically significant to both gaming in general and the Zelda franchise, and it remains very enjoyable in 2011 so long as you are willing to put up with a balky camera and other mild annoyances. If you missed Ocarina of Time in its initial release or you’re certain you’d enjoy replaying it even without the aid of nostalgia, I do think it’s worth picking up; the question is "which version?" This 3DS remake is probably the best of them, with notably improved graphics and other minor fixes that help it clearly stand above the original release. On the other hand, it is $40 USD and is competing with itself in that the Wii Virtual Console (Nintendo 64 section) offers the original Ocarina of Time for less than half this price. Thus, your choice is between spending more to get notably superior graphics and mild tweaks, or saving a lot of money in return for putting up with older N64 blocky and angular visuals. Most players will be well served by one version or another, and this is one classic you should definitely check it out.
Rating: 5.0, votes: 1