Game review: Legend of Zelda - Ocarina of Time

By Alan Bell

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Link, the lead character in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Follow the link at the bottom of the page for gameplay footage. Image / Supplied
Link, the lead character in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Follow the link at the bottom of the page for gameplay footage. Image / Supplied

When it went on sale back in 1998, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was, for many, a defining moment. Released on Nintendo's two year old N64 platform, the game took the cartridge format to new heights, offering a vast adventure and compelling, coming-of-age narrative that few could resist.

To this day it is still the highest-rated game on Metacritic - the site that aggregates review scores from hundreds of different publications, including NZGamer.com - where it sits at a near perfect 99 per cent average review rating. It is, in other words, rather good.

Nintendo's new platform, the 3DS, is struggling. It sold well out of the blocks but ever since its sales profile has more closely matched the Bandai Wonderswan than it has the super-successful DS. Never heard of the Wonderswan? Exactly. If ever Nintendo needed a strong title to prop up fledgling hardware, that time is now.

Enter The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D. Short of a remake, it's more like a tarted-up version of the original. Control mechanics and interface have been tweaked to take advantage of the new platform and the graphics have had a major overhaul, but otherwise it's exactly the same as the first edition.

But is that enough?

First, the basics. If you're not familiar with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, it's best described as an action adventure game, with light role playing mechanics. There's loads of hidden stuff to find, characters to talk to, and it's all tied together with a classic tale where the underdog battles impossible odds (surely that's not a spoiler) and grows up as he does so. Players must engage their brains - not only to defeat the game's dungeons, but in order to figure out how to proceed outside of them too. If you're looking for something to lead you by the nose, look elsewhere.

There's no character creation, no real chance to specialise in a particular style of fighting; 90 per cent of the time you'll need to use the right tool for the job in order to proceed.

Some of the more notable improvements to the controls, which are largely the same, are the addition of (sensible!) motion controlled moments. Aiming your slingshot, for example, lets you fine-tune your targeting by simply moving the 3DS - a method so natural it instantly becomes second nature.

It's still hard to look around corners, however, and you'll find yourself running blind during boss fights or other frantic encounters - a frustrating admission when the game in question was so much better in this regard than its competition at the time. It's no worse now than it was, it's just that we're used to further improvements being made - that haven't been added back into the mix here.

Visually? It's utterly gorgeous to behold. In 2D, the colours and texture detail still pop off the screen. Running around Hyrule Field in 3D? It's the stuff dreams are made of. It's just so damn beautiful. 3D is no gimmick: when used right, as it is here, it brings you into the world like nothing else can.

The verdict, then

Saria first handed the Ocarina to a child Link thirteen years ago; Link might not have grown up in between times, but games? They did. There have been loads of clever designers follow on in the footsteps of Shigeru Miyamoto, taking what he pioneered and then polishing and improving on the mechanics as they went - and gamers went with them. Ocarina of Time 3D, then, works best as an homage to the original - a chance to reminisce, to spend time with the masterpiece of your youth. It looks better than ever, and improvements to the inventory and map display (direct access via the second screen feels natural and right) are a perfect fit. But the game mechanics feel, in parts, clunky and awkward - an impression assisted in equal measure by the fact the 3DS isn't laid out like an N64 controller.

It's never so severe as to ruin the experience but it's also not going to endear itself immediately to players who are new to the title. Some of them, blasphemy I know, might even wonder what all the fuss is about.

The good stuff, though, is still so very, very good. It's a coming of age tour de force; the ultimate hero's journey. You don't play Link, you are Link. Zelda is worth saving and Ganondorf is a foe you will not rest until you bring to justice. The love lavished on the title is apparent throughout every moment of the game: the combination of gorgeous music and lush graphics, with the deft hand of Miyamoto's sweeping gameplay variety engender a whole that far surpasses the paltry sum one might get by mere addition of the parts. Without this magical X-factor (no, we're not talking about that TV show), the score would likely be somewhat south of nine.

However, that X-factor is abundantly present and, while it doesn't match the 10/10 I'd have given the original, that it's still so close is testament to just how truly remarkable the original game was.

This is the definitive Zelda game, don't just buy it - put it on display. Zelda transcends the quirks that time has revealed in her and shines just as bright in the light of a new millennium.

See gameplay footage here

Played on: Nintendo 3DS
Rating 5/5

- NZGAMER.COM

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