Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Review: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D

Developer: Nintendo, Grezzo
Publisher: Nintendo

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is almost universally beloved. It holds a ranking of 97.48% at Game Rankings, 99/100 at Metacritic, and received one of Famitsu's rare perfect scores. It sold more copies in it initial run that Halo, Modern Warfare 2 (on either system), Metal Gear Solid 2, every Final Fantasy game except for VII, and more than any game for the Gamecube or Sega Genesis.

It seemed that an eventual re-release was therefore inevitable. But how would Nintendo re-release it? Would they push it out the door with just a little bit of 3D and some touchscreen controls and expect Ocarina to stand on its own merits? Would Nintendo try and improve it somehow and risk ruining what made it special? Let's take a look.

First of all, Nintendo made the right choices when it came to Ocarina. Instead of making massive and unnecessary changes to it, they didn't try and tinker with a good thing. Instead, they've put in additions that are surprisingly useful and at the same time can be safely ignored if you don't like them.

One of the new additions are glowing Shiekah Stones that can help you figure out where to go next. They're at very distant intervals, so you won't be constantly bombarded with them, unlike Nintendo's use of Super Guide in games like Donkey Kong Country Returns. If you do use one, you'll find that they reveal just enough to give you an idea of what to do next.

For example, there's a hint video that shows you how to gain entrance into the Fire Temple. They show three brief videos: One of Link throwing a bomb at a rolling Goron in Goron City, then moving a statue, and then wearing a red tunic and firing a hookshot. That's it. For those of us who've played that section, we understand what they're trying to tell us. For someone who's never played Ocarina before, it pushes someone in the right direction so they're not wandering around for hours. It's a great system that should be helpful for those unfamiliar with Ocarina or who haven't set foot in its world for a long, long time.

They've also thrown in the ability to fight old bosses by returning to your home and going to sleep. You can try and beat the boss as quickly as possible and they record your times. Aside from some new touchscreen controls to allow for quicker changing of gear, that's pretty much it for gameplay additions, as well it should be.

Where Ocarina 3D really shines isn't in any gameplay additions, but rather in the boost to the game's graphics. You might pooh-pooh such a boost, thinking that Ocarina looked fine the way it was. Here's the problem: You're remembering how you think Ocarina looked and not how it actually was.

Does the original 1998 version hold up well? Sure, it's not bad at all, but there are certain parts of the game that could use some touching up. For example, in the 1998 version, Hyrule Castle Town was a blurry image with superimposed 3D characters that stuck out like a sore thumb. Hyrule Field has very little to look at. Heck, every character's nose looks wrong, like they stapled a triangle onto each face.

Playing Ocarina of Time with updated visuals is a shock. It feels like we've been playing this game through a tranlucent barrier and are finally seeing it the way it was intended to be seen for the first time. The first time I saw the updated Temple of Time's exterior, I literally whispered, "Wow."

That's to say nothing of the impressive 3D work. This wasn't a mere hack-job. Everything has been redone and it looks amazing. I found myself leaning into the 3DS, like I could fall in and get lost inside its tantalizing world. During an early sequence where the camera switches to a first-person view of Navi flying around, I actually jumped at one point. I've seen this sequence countless times and it never made me jump before. That's how immersive the 3D is.

The only area of Ocarina that wasn't enhanced was the sound and music. However, I have absolutely no complaints about either area. Ocarina always sounded good (or downright scary, in the case of the ReDeads), so that was never an issue in my book.

I do have one complaint, though. On the N64 controller, the lock-on function was on the B button. It was a really natural place to put that function and felt right. However, being as there's no trigger button underneath the 3DS, they had to move the lock-on button to the left shoulder button. It doesn't exactly feel natural, but they didn't have much of a choice, I suppose. It's just a minor quibble and didn't detract from my experience at all.

Here's what it comes down to: If you've played Ocarina of Time years ago and haven't played it since then, play this. If you've never played Ocarina of Time and want to see what the attraction is, play this. If you're a fan of Ocarina of Time and still play it from time to time, play this. The 3DS version of Ocarina of Time is now the definitive version of an all-time classic, and everyone who calls themselves a gamer should play it.

Final Rating: A

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