This be Joe Garcia's blog.
Review — The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D
I usually get some pretty weird looks from fellow gamers when I tell them that I’ve never played a Zelda game for more than a few hours — you might be arching your eyebrow at the screen right now after reading that. It’s not that I dislike the games for any reason, they’ve just failed to grab me the same way that they’ve grabbed countless others. While I can appreciate the franchise’s legendary status and won’t discount any of it, it simply never clicked for me. Hell, I’ve even tried playing the Nintendo 64 version of Ocarina of Time a few years ago, but I couldn’t get past the mess of blurry textures and pointy polygons passing for graphics; I got as far as beating the Deku Tree dungeon, then abandoned the game forever.
However, in the name of inserting a 3DS game cart into my aqua blue handheld — the DS’s Pokemon White had dominated 90% of my playtime with the system — I plunked down the $5 to preorder The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D at GameStop, hoping that I hadn’t jumped the gun by spending $250 for a 3DS at launch.
Consider my purchase justified.
This game requires no introduction for much of the gaming population, as it’s often touted as not only the finest entry in the Legend of Zelda series, but arguably the greatest game ever. While I know plenty of people that have played through it several times, there might be a small handful that have no idea what they’re in for, which is perfectly okay.
The game’s story is pretty good, as Link travels back and forth through time to battle the evil Ganondorf, but what really steals the spotlight are the gameplay and environments. As you go from temple to temple, you’re presented with the opportunity to explore Hyrule, hunting down empty bottles, heart pieces, gold skulltulas … it goes on and on. If you really wanted to, you could probably scorch through the game in 15-20 hours, but then you’d be denying yourself the chance to really experience of the most well-realized game worlds ever crafted. When you think about the game relative to 1998 — when gamers and developers alike were still wrapping their heads around playing and designing 3D games — it truly is one of the greatest achievements in video game history.
Great … But What’s New?
For those that have already played Ocarina of Time to death and are wondering if there’s any reason to pick this game up again, the answer is a resounding “yes.”
The most striking difference between this version and the original N64 game is obviously the overhauled visuals. No longer does everything in the environment look as if it’d been smeared with ham. Characters are now comprised of more than a dozen polygons and emote much more believably (though the face young Link makes when he learns a new song on the ocarina makes me laugh). While the graphics aren’t pushing the hardware’s capabilities, the game actually looks like something released within the last few years.
For most Zelda fans, the enhanced visuals would probably have been enough. Thankfully, the fine folks at Grezzo were able to make several other improvements that make this the definitive OoT experience, and it’s not even close. One of the major selling points is right in the game’s title: 3D. I played through most of the game with the slider at full blast, and for the most part it works brilliantly. There are a few instances in which I found myself turning it down to about mid-level, though. Namely, this would be in the Sacred Realm after beating a dungeon, where suddenly there’s a lot going on visually and you’re faced with a lot of unsightly ghosting.
Also of note, while discussing the game’s 3D tech, is the addition of gyroscopic controls, used to aim the game’s camera or Link’s slingshot and hookshot. It adds an interesting perspective to the game, as it serves as a window into the world of Hyrule, which is legitimately enjoyable. However, because of the nature of the 3D screen, you have to turn the 3D off in order to use these controls comfortably; if you’re not viewing the screen straight-on, the game becomes a blurry mess.
Finally, the last major alteration to the game is in the movement of Link’s inventory from the pause screen to the 3DS’s touch screen. At a glance, this feature only gives Link the ability to equip one more item, but it’s much, much more than that. The real point to this is streamlining the game in such a way that you’ll never have to pause the game every single time you need to equip and unequip an item such as the infamous iron boots; it’s all right there for you to do with a quick flick of your thumb. It ends up being a beautiful example of making a game simpler to play, all without having to dumb it down.
It’s also worth noting that there are a few things that were kept exactly as diehard fans remember them. In a series of fascinating interviews with Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, the developers at Grezzo revealed that they felt compelled to fix bugs that they found in the original source code. According to programmer Shun Moriya, though, there were “staff members who had played the old game [and] said the bugs were fun,” so they kept them in the 3DS port so long as they “didn’t cause any trouble and were beneficial.” It’s an interesting approach, and it makes me wonder if this is something that other developers will consider as we enter an age in which remastered versions of old classics become more and more popular.
With the game being a highly-polished port rather than a full-blown remake, the gameplay is unchanged at its core. Because of the 3DS’s button configuration, the Z-Targeting from the original game now becomes L-Targeting. If you’ve gone back to play OoT in the past couple of years and found the Z-Targeting less-than-reliable, then it’s my sad duty to report that it will probably bother you again in this version. In many dungeons I found myself targeting either the wrong enemy or something else altogether. Having played Twilight Princess on-and-off for the past couple of months, I found the combat in Ocarina to be dated in comparison, as that game vastly improves on the foundation set by this game in 1998.
Also, there are some instances where the game gives you zero indication of what to do next. I’m not talking about hand-holding, but great games these days intuitively lead you into what you should do next (“Oh, I should probably do this next … yup, that was it.”) Inside Jabu Jabu’s Belly, for instance, there’s no indication that you have to speak with the Zora girl multiple times to get her to squat into a ball for you to carry through the rest of the dungeon, which is important because you can’t get further without solving several weight puzzles (done by stepping on buttons while you hold her). There were a couple of instances where I found myself stuck, consulted a guide online, and exclaimed “That was it?!” at pretty high volume.
Oh, and if Navi and that jerk-ass owl bothered you then, they’ll bother you just as much now.
Despite all of this, the game is an absolute blast to play. When you figure out the tougher puzzles in the game’s numerous dungeons, you can find yourself feeling like quite the smug bastard, and rightly so. The game’s music is absolutely fantastic, and the final boss fight has one of the absolute best moments I’ve ever experienced in a video game.
As the end credits roll, you’ve easily gotten your money’s worth … yet it turns out that you’ve just unlocked the Master Quest. This mode is a mirrored version of the game in which you take double damage and the dungeons are reworked, and well, it’s fucking difficult — I died several times in the Deku Tree, the game’s opening dungeon which I breezed through in about 30 minutes in the regular game. It’s not for lightweights, but every little thing you accomplish here feels like a tremendous achievement, worthy of recording in the annals of human history.
I missed the bandwagon in 1998, and since then I’ve played several games that I think are better and more deserving of being considered the greatest of all time. After spending the last two weeks playing nothing else, though, I gathered an appreciation for the memories that this particular adventure has instilled in an entire generation of gamers, while making more than a few of my own. For that alone, this game was easily worth the $40 price of admission.
Did you get all that?
— No <——