|Publisher:||Nintendo of America|
|Release Date:||June 2011|
|Save Feature?||I certainly hope so! (i.e. "Yes")|
After having to hear incessantly and relentlessly about this legendary game being an all-time great in the annals of video game lore for nearly 13 years, I finally gave in and decided to play The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D. I simply had to see for myself what all the fuss was about. And my findings were not disappointing either because the remake of this epic adventure is nothing short of masterful and the game itself seems to have been crafted specifically for the new Nintendo 3DS handheld system. This game is the real deal folks. It deserves every ounce of praise that it gets and is undoubtedly one of the true all-time greats in the realm of video games!
Overview: If you have already read my review of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, you might have gathered that, while I certainly enjoy playing the Legend of Zelda series to a great extent, I have never exactly been drinking the Legend of Zelda Kool-Aid if you know what I mean. Despite really liking the series and appreciating all that it has done in terms of revolutionizing and establishing the multi-genre video game (e.g. part action, part adventure, part role-playing), I couldn't help but feel that the Zelda series was somewhat overrated. Sure, it could have been simple jealousy to a certain extent (it made me so upset as a kid to see my beloved Mega Man 2 or 3 behind the first Zelda game on Nintendo Power's Top 30 charts) but when people started coronating each new Zelda game as the "greatest video game ever made," I would simply roll my eyes in disgust. Sure, my personal bias towards other games probably didn't help but I really did feel deep down that the Zelda series wasn't quite as perfect as the critics were saying.
Anyway, it is important for me to mention this because it largely explains why I never played The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time back in 1998 when it was released for the Nintendo 64. Well...that and the fact that I never even owned an N64. I was still rocking to my NES back in those days (I didn't even purchase a Super NES until 2000!) and just wasn't really into the newer state-of-the-art games and systems of the time (although Super Mario 64 did turn my head once or twice with its incredible visuals and huge world to explore). Even after Ocarina of Time was released and word spread of this game being out-of-this-world great and it remained an all-time favorite throughout the gaming community for more than a decade; for some strange reason, Ocarina of Time and yours truly just couldn't seem to meet up.
Enter the Nintendo 3DS. When Nintendo announced earlier this year that they were going to release a remake of Ocarina of Time for their brand new handheld system, my eyes lit up like the fourth of July! A remake of the widely-acclaimed classic with beautiful, state-of-the-art graphics and the 3D capabilities of the 3DS?! This was an opportunity that even I couldn't possibly pass up! At long last and after far too long, I was finally going to play Ocarina of Time and see for myself just how great this game was.
The whole experience of actually playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D was honestly a catharsis of sorts. You have to remember that, although I always enjoyed the Zelda series as a kid, I had not played any Zelda games beyond the first three for the NES and Super NES. I never owned a classic Game Boy so I never got to experience Link's Awakening (that one is currently on my "To Play" list), you already know that I was never a big N64 fan, and even the Gamecube was a Nintendo console that I stupidly passed over (although friends in college and I had an absolute blast playing Super Smash Bros. Melee deep into the night).
And it's not just the fact that I didn't own the "Zelda" video game consoles that bothered me. By the time this game was announced by Nintendo, I was practically chomping at the bit to play a new Zelda game. I thought that it was going to be the long-awaited Skyward Sword game for the Nintendo Wii but Ocarina of Time 3D was able to beat it to the punch. And you know something? I wouldn't have had it any other way. I think that Ocarina of Time 3D was the Zelda game that I was meant to play to finally get me back into the Zelda fold. And this gamer is so glad to be back too...let me tell you!
Anyway, you are probably wanting to hear about the actual game aren't you? You're probably saying "GET ON WITH THE REVIEW, MATT!" right? Whatever you might be saying or thinking, I can comfortably say that this remake of Ocarina of Time is simply outstanding! The graphics are vastly improved, the control setup is much more convenient to use, and there are a few really cool additions such as being able to re-live the boss fights again and again as well as playing through the game's spankin' new Master Quest (comparable to the Second Quest found in the original Zelda game). However, the classic sword-slashing, whirlwind-adventuring, mind-numbing gameplay along with a very memorable story have been untouched which is something I have always preferred in remakes. Obviously, I have not played the N64 version of the game myself but I have recently been able to observe my good friend Josh Zawel (Your name is listed in my review, Josh. You owe me!) playing the N64 version and it does look and play like the newer 3DS remake. And speaking of my friend Josh, his incredible passion for this particular game absolutely was a factor in me finally taking the plunge myself. Thank you for the encouragement and moral support, Josh!
Graphics: Although it has been a long, long wait in terms of me finally taking the time to sit down and play Ocarina of Time, my timing couldn't have more perfect to be honest. The reason I say this is because, in my humble opinion, Ocarina of Time was meant to be a 3D game. The technology simply did not exist back in 1998 to give the visuals the depth and the incredible attention to detail that they so deserved. Granted, for an N64 game, Ocarina of Time was very impressive visually. But the remake does exactly what a remake should do and improves on an already great game.
Simply exploring and wandering around Hyrule Field gives you a very good idea of what to expect in terms of the game's graphics. I love the 3D effects that become noticeable when you pass certain objects. For example, I think that it is so cool when you walk under one of the many trees located on Hyrule Field and see the leaves and tree branches literally reaching out of the screen at you! This effect is prevalent throughout the game and just gives Hyrule a real sense of depth and life.
The attention to detail is absolutely outstanding in this game as well. The character graphics are worlds beyond what they were in the N64 version for one thing. Link's face looks more like a beautiful hand-drawn picture versus a few clunky polygons thrown together and all of the other characters in the game such as Princess Zelda and Ganondorf look equally impressive. Even the countless side characters really stick with you due to their distinctive facial expressions and personalities. I actually laughed out loud several times throughout the game because of how goofy some of them were! The leader of the carpenters that stands with his arms crossed and moves his head in a goofy way is so funny! The eccentric guy in the windmill is a riot too...especially when you play the Song of Storms. I love it when the creators of a video game give everyone personality like this. It definitely makes the game a more enjoyable (and believable!) experience.
In addition to the much-improved character graphics, the detail in the plethora of houses/shops/rooms littered throughout the world of Hyrule is equally spectacular. Seriously, compare the graphics in the Potion Shop or Item Shop in Kakariko Village in the 3DS version to the N64 version. You will be amazed by what you see!
The background graphics and animations found throughout the game are superb as well...outstanding even! Just watching the moon quietly glide across the sky at night is enjoyable and the sheer variety of the game's locales is quite impressive...as it should be in a Zelda game. From swinging your sword in multiple fashions to glowing lights of life flying across the sky in Kokiri Forest, this game does not disappoint in the visual department. I could honestly go on and on describing the graphics in this game, but I can't give everything away, can I? You'll just have to experience this game for yourself if you haven't already done so!
Music: In addition to the world-renowned gameplay and the incredible visuals, the other aspect of Ocarina of Time 3D that I was really looking forward to experiencing for the first time was getting to hear the legendary soundtrack! Now granted, I had already heard several of the tunes in this game such as the happy-go-lucky Lost Woods theme and a good portion of the Ocarina ditties like the Song of Storms and Zelda's Lullaby to death and beyond thanks to the internet as well as my extensive experience playing the Super Smash Bros. series (which contain a myriad of Zelda themes). But by the same token, there was still a lot of music in Ocarina of Time that ended up being completely fresh and new. The intro theme with its light and gentle feel set the tone/mood for this game beautifully and coupled with the visuals of seeing Link riding his legendary horse Epona throughout the night, I was more than ready to press the start button and start a new adventure myself!
Speaking of the actual in-game music, the Hyrule Field, Kakariko Village, and Hyrule Marketplace tracks all featured music that fit those areas of the game like a glove. It was cool because certain tracks in this game such as the Hyrule Marketplace one with its happy, somewhat "celtic" feel reminded me of Termina from Chrono Cross! Did anyone else feel the same way?
Before I delve into the soundtrack any further, I need to mention something important. For all of its charm and its beautiful melodies strewn throughout the overworld sections of the game, the strength of the Ocarina of Time soundtrack can be summed up in one word: atmosphere. I was very impressed with the way the music created literally the perfect atmosphere in virtually every single area of the game. This is particularly the case in the game's myriad of dungeons and temples where the music leans away from the more typical, cheerful melodies and gravitates more towards dark, mysterious, somewhat suspenseful ambience. The Forest Temple theme is a perfect example because it creates a truly epic, mysterious feel that gets you pumped up at the same time. That temple almost feels like a rite of passage in a way because it is your first true challenge as an adult. Another tune worth mentioning is the Bottom of the Well/Shadow Temple theme. Dark and menacing, it added a really cool element to Ocarina of Time. I appreciate a Nintendo-made game containing something dark and eerie for a change.
In addition to the music discussed above, I really enjoyed the short Ocarina pieces that you play throughout the game. They are all just really pleasant and catchy as well. When you find yourself humming music from Ocarina of Time, it is most likely going to be one of these Ocarina tunes. Although it wasn't my favorite Ocarina tune, the remix of Zelda's Lullaby that plays during the game's ending just might be my favorite track in the game. It is just so beautiful and fits the game's ending perfectly. I'm actually humming that track as I write this sentence!
Lastly, the sound effects in Ocarina of Time 3D are some of the best that I can ever remember hearing in a video game let alone a handheld game! This is due largely in part to this game including what I have come to call the "Xenosaga effect." This effect involves long stretches of the game where little to no background music plays. Although it might be seen as a cop-out, this effect can actually enhance the game's atmosphere when it is used correctly. And by golly, Ocarina of Time 3D puts on a clinic in how to create the right atmosphere without music in addition to throwing a great tune out there.
In addition to sounds like swords slashing, bugs chirping, and cuccos making those funny clucking noises being impressive, I honestly can't recall the last time that I played a game with so many important sound effects. You really need to pay close attention to the sounds around you because certain ones are absolutely vital. One in particular is that skid-skid-skid-skid sound that alerts you to the presence of a Gold Skulltula lurking somewhere nearby. Pay close attention to that sound because there are a lot of Skulltulas in the game that are nearly impossible to find without understanding what that sound means. The classic little ditty that plays when you unlock a secret is huge as well. Whenever you hear that sound, look around to see if anything has changed. It probably has!
Play Control: Another reason why I feel that Ocarina of Time 3D feels right at home on the Nintendo 3DS is in regards to the multi-tasking nature of the game's controls. Thanks to the stylus that comes with the 3DS, navigating menus and setting up your item commands is child's play in this game! You can easily switch items in and out of the four item slots that the game gives you (I believe that the original N64 game was similar in this regard.) which is extremely important since you will be using a wide variety of weapons/accessories/potions throughout the course of the game. The X and Y buttons on the 3DS are essentially two of the four item slots with the "I" and "II" slots rounding out the list. This ability to not only use items but to quickly activate and then de-activate them is absolutely crucial to keeping the controls fun and intuitive without making them time-consuming and cumbersome as well. The perfect example of this is in the Water Temple where you will be constantly activating/de-activating the indispensible Iron Boots in order to sink and swim through the water. I have heard that the Water Temple in the original game was a nightmare to navigate because you had to flip through menus every time you wanted to equip or de-equip the Iron Boots. Apparently, this problem was fixed in the 3DS remake which was a fantastic adjustment by Grezzo/Nintendo.
In addition to the excellent menu setup, the lock-on battle system makes fighting enemies and avoiding some of them a truly enjoyable experience. In addition to locking on enemies and attacking, you can do a quick sidestep or even a nifty backflip by moving the circle pad (functions like an analog stick except it has a much smoother, accurate feel to it) sideways or backwards and pressing A! By pressing forward you can even execute an overhead sword attack that causes twice as much damage! Just make sure that you are holding down the L1 button while you do this! It takes some practice to get the hang of the lock-on system but once you get a good feel for it, you'll fall in love with it. I had a great time doing sidesteps and backflips particularly during the game's final battle and was able to narrowly dodge the final villain's massive sword attacks this way.
Lastly, I just want to say that simply using all of the items in Ocarina of Time is bundles of fun and surprisingly addictive as well! Aiming is half the fun when shooting arrows or using the longshot to latch onto a far-off post and throwing bombs and their fiesty bomb-chu brethern has never been this easy. I love how you can literally move the 3DS to aim before shooting an arrow or to simply look around at your surroundings. You really feel as if you are shooting an arrow in this game! You can also use the circle pad if you want but what's the fun in that? Ocarina of Time 3D truly excels in the controls department not just because of the ease of use but because of how enjoyable and varied the controls are. Trust me; the controls never get old and stale in this game. If anything, they actually become more enjoyable over time.
Challenge: If there is any one category that the Legend of Zelda series has thrived in since its inception, it would have to be in the challenge department. With a seemingly endless supply of enemies, puzzles, dungeons, and secrets, even the best gamers out there will be hard-pressed to find everything in this game. Simply figuring everything out on your own without any outside help will test your mettle as a gamer.
The cool thing about this aspect of the Zelda series is that it constantly gives you this rich feeling of gratification (and relief!) as you make progress and figure out where to go or how to figure out a perplexing puzzle. That is one of the many highlights of the Zelda series and is probably one reason why these games have such a loyal following. That sense of accomplishment is hard to mimic as so many Zelda "wannabes" have figured out. And speaking of progress, Ocarina of Time captures the very essence of the adventure genre because it doesn't always spoon-feed you on where to go or what to do. Granted, you have plenty of friends/allies willing to offer a helping hand and point you in the right direction if you talk to them. But on the whole, this is a rather open-ended, non-linear video game. And once you do manage to infiltrate a dungeon or temple, it's all on you to figure out what to do next. Do you need to bomb a cracked wall in order to find a critical item? Is there something that you need to shoot an arrow at in order to open a locked doorway? Will you have to play a certain song on your ocarina in order to open up a secret underground passage? These are just a few of the many puzzles you will encounter during your journey.
Although great graphics and a wonderful musical score are important elements of video games, the incredibly diverse nature of Ocarina of Time's difficulty really makes this game click. No two dungeons are exactly alike and what works in one area might not work in another. The game naturally builds on itself (think of the first three dungeons as a training ground for later challenges) without becoming old and predictable. Just when you start getting comfortable and feeling good about yourself, you'll come across some room or boss that throws a curveball and forces you to re-think everything! The Water Temple will make you earn your lunch while some of the bosses like Barinade and Volvagia will make you lose it if you're not careful. And speaking of bosses, Ocarina of Time 3D features an impressive cast for sure! The strategy to defeating the various behemoths strewn throughout the game will almost always vary so you will really need to be on your toes. But that's okay because you wouldn't want it any other way, right?
In terms of lasting value and appeal, Ocarina of Time 3D scores very highly simply because there is so much to see and do! Few games contain more secret areas/items/enemies than any Zelda game...let alone this one. There are plenty of tasks that you don't necessarily have to complete in order to beat the game and a plethora of items that you will undoubtedly discover some time after seeing the game's ending. As if that wasn't enough to whet your appetite, the new 3DS version of Ocarina of Time even includes a special Master Quest that becomes available once you manage to beat this monster once. As of this review, I have yet to play the Master Quest but once I do, rest assured that I will add my thoughts to this review!
Storyline: As if Ocarina of Time 3D didn't have enough strengths already, even the main story is very impressive in this game. Especially for a Nintendo-made game, I thought that the depth and scope of Ocarina of Time's story was nicely done and the time-travel element was used skillfully. Like the initial three Zelda games before it, Ocarina of Time's story really seemed to enhance the already magical atmosphere that seems to permeate the Zelda series through and through. There's just something special about the magical kingdom of Hyrule.
Basically, you begin the game as a young child (probably somewhere between 9-11 years old) and find yourself living amongst the Kokiri villagers in a magical forest. Before too long, however, you speak with the mystical Deku Tree nearby and discover that everything is not as peaceful as it seems. Dark forces are at work and Link's destiny lies not in Kokiri Forest but in the outside world. As you journey during the early stages of the game, you'll notice that the world is a very lively, happy place. People are dancing in the streets and life is busy, busy, busy in the Hyrule Marketplace. Hyrule Castle stands proudly and majestically gleams in the early morning light.
In the meantime, your task is to gather the three legendary objects that will eventually allow you to open the Door of Time in the appropriately named Temple of Time. Once certain events transpire and Zelda frantically throws Link the Ocarina of Time, he is able to open the door by playing the Song of Time on said ocarina. Link rushes into the magical room and finds nothing other than the legendary Master Sword. He walks up, grabs the sword by the hilt, and is suddenly surrounded by a bright flashing light in addition to the ominous presence of Ganondorf.
Shortly after these events occur (or so it seems), Link comes to his senses. He is still in the Temple of Time, grasping the Master Sword. However, something has changed. Link is now a grown man due to the fact that seven years have suddenly passed in the blink of an eye (to our hero anyway). The real stunner is when he leaves the Temple of Time though. Gone is the green grass, the beautiful trees, and the gorgeous sight of Hyrule Castle. Now, only a wasteland of emptiness and decay remains. The Hyrule Marketplace lies in tattered ruins where only zombies reside and Hyrule Castle has been replaced by the towering, ominous, and inconveniently inaccessible Ganon's Castle.
Without giving too much more away, I will simply say that this is the point when the game really begins. You learn about the six sages, a mysterious character known only as Sheik who randomly appears to offer wisdom and guidance to Link, and you begin the long journey of hopefully restoring the kingdom of Hyrule to its former glory. It isn't easy though. By the time you have reached game's end, you will have been tested in every conceivable way.
If you have never played Ocarina of Time and the above description of this game's story doesn't get you excited and make you want to play the game, I might have to check your pulse to make sure that you are feeling okay! Seriously, this game has a fantastic story from start to finish and it all culminates with an epic ending to boot. I was very impressed and I don't impress easily when it comes to a game's story.
Funfactor: It has been building up throughout this review but now I can finally say it. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D is the real deal in every sense of the word and I can finally see and understand why this game has such a loyal following! It is an incredibly enjoyable experience from beginning to end and is the perfect game to play if you consider yourself a true gamer. Especially if you are like me and passed on the original N64 classic that came out back in 1998, this game is absolutely positively catered to you! It is amazingly diverse in terms of the various controls/challenges/gameplay and the moderate-to-high challenge level will push you more than most games out there. If you enjoy exploring an immense world with plenty of variety such as grass fields, volcanoes, ice caverns, graveyards, forest temples, and desert ruins; if having a plethora of really cool weapons and items at your disposal is your cup of tea; if you simply want the complete video game experience, Ocarina of Time 3D is as good a choice as any.
Which brings us to one final thought to conclude this review. Just how good is Ocarina of Time? Where does a game like this fit in when the term "all-time greats" is whispered? Well, I will simply say this. It is certainly in contention because it honestly has all of the key ingredients that you have to have in order to make any all-time list. Ocarina of Time 3D is an incredibly balanced game in that it excels in virtually every key category with no real weaknesses to hammer away at. As far as the adventure genre goes, I really can't think of a better video game than this. My all-time list is pretty top-heavy with role-playing games and classic action games (I so need to create my personal Top 10 or 25 list sometime!) but this game would certainly fit in nicely because of how unique it is. It is difficult to compare games across genres because in some ways, it is like comparing apples and oranges. For example, the closest comparison to Ocarina of Time 3D that I can think of is honestly Dragon Quest VIII for the PS2. While the gameplay is completely different between the two games, the appearance of the overworld, the whole day/night thing, and even the atmosphere feels very similar in some ways. Heck, the original Ocarina of Time game probably inspired DQ8 to a certain extent!
Whatever the case may be, I do have a newfound respect and admiration for the Zelda series. Like I stated at the beginning of this review, I have never really disliked the Zelda games (quite to the contrary I might add!). I just felt like they were somewhat overrated and that they didn't really belong in any "all-time greats" discussion. Well, with Ocarina of Time 3D being released, all of that has changed. At least in my mind, this game truly is relevant and belongs in the discussion. Now...if we could only get a true Final Fantasy VII remake, we might have another game to throw into the mix (sorry FF7 fans but that game does not belong in the discussion until the lego-like character graphics are vastly improved). In any case, Ocarina of Time 3D is an awesome video game! I feel like a more complete gamer for having played it. All I can say is "Thank you Nintendo (and Grezzo!) for making this fantastic game!"
Negatives: I actually thought long and hard about this category before writing this review. Was I simply going to say "There's really nothing wrong with this game!" and leave it at that or find something really anal to nit-pick about? Is there anything that I even could nit-pick about?
Well, the only thing about Ocarina of Time 3D that might be a problem is the patience required to play a game of this nature. Personally, I loved playing this game! Granted, there were times when I would find myself stuck in a dungeon (the Water Temple was pretty tricky) or unable to figure out a boss' weakness (Barinade's final form gave me fits at first!) and it would get a little frustrating. However, that was totally on me. It's not the game's fault that I couldn't figure everything out right away. The problem is that not all gamers are created equal or have the same mindset...or the same skillset for that matter. And there-in lies a potential problem. It doesn't regard the gameplay but a less patient gamer might have a mind-numbingly hard time playing (let alone beating) a game like Ocarina of Time 3D. If you have little-to-no patience when playing video games and would rather play a simple action game that involves shooting objects and blowing things up, even a game as great as Ocarina of Time 3D might not be your thing.
And while this game's soundtrack is truly wonderful and catchy and memorable, I just can't find it in me to give it a super high rating because, in all honesty, I have heard better. That takes nothing away from this game's score though. It is still exceptional!
Lastly, while the game's story is really well done and incorporates the whole time-travel element beautifully, I would have enjoyed even more dialouge between characters and additional cut scenes if possible. I just can't get enough! And yes, the Xenosaga series has probably spoiled me forever in this regard.
Ratings: Graphics: 4.8 Music: 4.6 Play Control: 4.7 Challenge: 4.7 Storyline: 4.5 Funfactor: 4.8 Overall Score: 28.1 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Golden Classic!!
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