There is absolutely no game that has garnered as much critical appraise as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. First released in November of 1998, the game has since been re-released three times–twice on the GameCube and once on the Wii's Virtual Console service. No matter which version of the game it is, Ocarina of Time has always been considered timeless, and that's a feat that few other games have accomplished, especially in the N64-PSX generation where other revolutionary titles such as Final Fantasy VII haven't aged well. In honor of The Legend of Zelda's 25th anniversary, Hyrule's Hero of Time is back again reliving what's probably his most well known adventure now in full 3D.
What's It About?
Unless you're relatively young or have been living under a rock, the story in Ocarina of Time 3D hardly needs an introduction, but for the sake of the question, it shall be answered anyway. Ocarina of Time 3D introduces players to Link, a boy living in a small village in Kokiri Forest, where children have guardian fairies, wear green, and stay children forever. Unlike the rest of the Kokiri children, Link is different. He doesn't have a fairy, and he ages (which the Kokiri don't learn until much later in the game). One day the Great Deku Tree, the source of all life in the forest, sends a fairy Link's way in order to summon him. It is there that Link's story of time begins.
As Link, players will travel throughout the land of Hyrule, visiting both peaceful villages and places in peril, solving mysteries in a variety of themed dungeons, defeating enemies big and small, and do all this while also having the time for recreational activity such as fishing and playing the ocarina. The Legend of Zelda games have a certain charm to them, and the charm in Ocarina of Time is undeniable.
What separates the game from the rest of the series is its time traveling mechanic. Further into the game, Link will have the ability to travel forward and backward seven years and find that while the towns he was familiar with in his youth are still intact, drastic changes have occurred. As the "Hero of Time," Link will have to travel back and forth in order to uncover mysteries and properly progress. Time travel was nothing new in gaming at its time, but no game except Chrono Trigger has handled time travel with such mastery.
Why Should I Care?
One of the main reasons why the game is so critically acclaimed is due to the fact that despite its foray into a three dimensional atmosphere, it was still able to maintain the traditional Zelda feel while also re-defining the genre as a whole. From its familiar sound to the puzzling dungeons and epic boss fights, Ocarina of Time was and remains in a class of its own. The game was a revolutionary step in the action-adventure genre, and plenty of games including Beyond Good & Evil and God of War have adapted several of its qualities over the years.
Ocarina of Time 3D is not a port, and before anybody makes the judgment–it's not a remake. If you've played and beaten through any previous versions of Ocarina of Time over the past two weeks, then you'll notice that a lot of the stuff here is old, but not aged. The most noticeable change is in the game's visuals. It's not that big of a deal, but in the original Ocarina of Time, Link had no strap over his shoulders to show that he was holstering a sword. Though it was corrected in Majora's Mask, it's worth mentioning that Ocarina of Time also addresses that discrepancy. Aside from that, more details have been added to each of the characters, making them appear more defined. Also, the interiors of homes and dungeons have also been touched up to make them look more distinguished.
Of course, it isn't only the production values that have improved. Ocarina of Time 3D also plays a lot tighter and more streamlined then previous releases. All of the subscreens from the start menu have made their way to the touch screen, and the B, X, and Y buttons have replaced the C-buttons. Two corners on the touch screen also act as additional slots for different items, including the Iron Boots–which definitely makes the experience in the supposedly "difficult" Water Temple a lot less annoying. In addition to this, Ocarina of Time 3D makes use of the 3DS' built-in gyroscope. Now when using an item that requires the camera to go to first-person view such as the the slingshot, bow, and hookshot, players can aim simply by moving the 3DS around. It's a cool and very accurate feature, but if you're playing the game in 3D (and you should), it sort of ruins and distills the 3D effect if you're not careful.
Apologists of the OOT series bring up a valid argument that its foray into 3D has in a way made the game easier, but it's in no way a mock to the great series. Sure, the game is definitely more approachable than that of the challenging original, but it's easy to see where each of the games pay homage to previous entries. At the same time, while the game is surely approachable to a wider audience of players, the fact of the matter is a large number of the game's intricacies were thought of as brilliant in its time. Shooting an arrow through an open flame at a frozen target to thaw it is something you can do in 2D, but you can't say the same about shooting boxes off a ceiling in order to form a sliding puzzle. These things may seem cliché now, but they're just as satisfying to solve now as they were back then.
But for what it's worth, because the game was made for people to both rediscover the experience and play it for the first time, the game is also a bit easier. It's not the difficulty itself that was toned down, but the "getting stuck" feeling that folks may or may not have had with the original release is definitely gone. Now there are Sheikah Stones in both the Kokiri Forest and Temple of Time that Link can crawl into and see visions of what to do next, similar to those help boxes in the New Super Mario Bros. games. They don't totally give everything away, but they do sort of give useful hints. These are optional features because the game is still somewhat linear, but unlike later entries in the Zelda series, the objectives aren't in-your-face linear either.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Hardcore gamers worldwide won't question anybody who says that Ocarina of Time is the greatest game of all time. At that, those who disagree with this notion still have to admit to the fact that the game is a timeless classic. The original Ocarina of Time has gone through quite a few re-releases, but The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D is now indeed the best system to experience the adventure on. Those who beat the game will unlock the Master Quest, a more challenging Ocarina experience with more enemies, a mirrored overworld, and dungeons that have been re-designed from the ground up. It would've been nice if the developers let that quest be available from the get-go, but again, it's good to re-experience the game's epic journey in full 3D.
The touched up graphics are superb. In fact, the 3D effect gives the game an amount of depth that nobody would expect from a handheld, and while the game has been given a huge facelift with its production values, it has maintained its classic N64 feel. Still, some things visually still could've been improved. Stairs and climbable wooden fences still look flat, while the Happy Mask salesman and the Great Fairies from the fountains still look like a pointy freaks. Also, the game's musical score wasn't re-orchestrated either, but again, this wasn't a game that was remade from scratch.
However way you look at it, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D is the best gaming experience that the 3DS currently offers. It's still only a few months old, but if Nintendo can do this much with a re-release, then excitement should be raging for the games they have planned in the future.