"A Timeless Masterpiece, Unearthed and Touched Up."
What can be said about The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time that hasn’t been said before? Followers of aggregated review sites will already know that the Nintendo 64 release was the highest rated game ever, and there are countless individuals that feel as if Ocarina of Time was, and still is the pinnacle of gaming. Shigeru Miyamoto and the developers at Nintendo created a work of art that not only brought the franchise into the third dimension, but gave players a world that they would never forget. The impact was so great upon my life that I actually went out of my way and put together a boss FAQ over at GameFAQS when I was 19 years old. I absolutely fell head over heels over Link’s 64-bit debut, and would see myself completing the game a dozen times over in the first couple of years alone.
I briefly revisited Ocarina of Time recently to see if it had withstood the test of time. From an audio and gameplay standpoint, there was no question that it still maintained a cohesion and grace rarely seen before, or after its release. The hangup I had was the visual presentation. On a CRT or LCD screen, the once spectacular textures and color usages, combined with the character models and spell effects, showed its age a bit more than expected. Unappealing and poorly dated visuals notwithstanding, all of the core elements remained nearly as immaculate as I first remembered back in the late 90′s.
With the release of the Nintendo 3DS earlier in the year came word of a 3D incarnation of one of the most beloved video games in history. Those not in the know would have assumed that Nintendo would have performed a near 1:1 port from the Nintendo 64 and add in the 3D effect and call it a day. Thankfully that’s not totally the case here, as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D is more than just a port – it’s a return to the humble abodes of the past for the experienced, and an introduction to what the true fundamentals to a video game should be.
The core game remains the same – Zelda’s kidnapped, time travel, ocarinas, Master Sword and plenty of Navi annoyances all around. Veterans of the N64 title will quickly become accustomed to every facet in Ocarina of Time 3D (OoT3D), even with the refinements or additions here and there. The gryoscopic aiming controls add a layer of control that feels much more natural when aiming around with the various projectile firing subweapons at Link’s disposal. Providing touch screen inventory control with little hassle is a cinch to learn and quickly helps to further streamline item management. The little things that may have added a bit of pause to Link’s adventures on the Nintendo 64 have been sped up in their own ways, which helps with the overall flow of the experience.
That might be all nice and dandy for those who playe the golden Nintendo 64 cartridge, but to those who might have been too young, or those that somehow missed the boat on its maiden voyage, what’s the big hoopla over OoT3D?
As what a healthy amount of gamers label as “the best game they ever played” OoT3D is an uncanny offering of the classic series formula of Zelda kidnappings, multiple dungeon explorations and items to collect in aiding Link’s progression. When OoT was released on the Nintendo 64 well over a decade ago, 3D adventure games hadn’t really begun to really to become a fully fleshed commodity in gaming. In fact, 3D platformers in general were not very well produced, up until Super Mario 64.
While the graphics were indeed impressive for their time, playing the original today shows how poorly they have aged. Though Super Mario 64 still passes as a serviceable title in terms of visuals, OoT had a much stronger use of textures, darker shades of colors and environments not featured in the N64′s initial 3D title. Fast forward to the 3D incarnation of OoT on the 3DS, and the visuals have received a bit of a touch up overall. While there wasn’t a complete visual overhaul, character models, textures and effects have been upgraded, giving them a more presentable look, while retaining some semblance of a 64 bit video gamein its looks. Link himself looks much more “realistic” when compared to his simplistic model from years past.
The 3D effects are done with grace and are never obnoxious. From your initial surroundings, all the way to the final boss, not a single thing looks out of place, or comes out towards you without reason. Faeries surrounding Link, environmental activities and such, all come to life and feel natural in 3D. Turning off the 3D doesn’t increase the frame rate, and after an extended amount of time with it on, it doesn’t feel proper. Seeing Link and his surroundings come to life in a 3D plane feels like it’s the only true option to completely enjoy this installment of the franchise.
Having a map easily accessible and still clear enough for the size displayed, is another method of bringing certain aspects of OoT3D “up to date” from its 64 bit release. The actual command over Link is still fluid enough as well. What was once Z-targeting on the N64 (hold the Z trigger on the N64 controller to target the closest enemy) is the L-trigger, which still helps with targeting the closest foe, though it’s still not the best system for multiple enemies bearing down on Link.
The one aspect of OoT that has not met with almost any noticeable changes has to do with the audio. The only significance I can decipher is Navi’s annoyance coming off as a lot more coherent now than before, as with the other extremely brief vocal cues that come from various characters encountered throughout the adveture. Now gamers of the past and present can enjoy hearing Link’s fairy Navi in all her “hey!” and “listen!” glory. Moreover, the music is still some of the best to have ever been released on a cartridge, especially that relaxing, though infuses a sense of exploration that has rarely ever been duplicated. The sound effects are still as imposing and impressive as they were before. Nothing sounds off; swords hitting various environmental obstructions are met with sounds relevant to the object at hand.
Probably the most important question has to be whether or not a newcomer would find anything of importance, as well as a viable amount of substance when compared to the last several franchise releases on various platforms. Visually, it still has a tinge of a 64 bit feeling to it, but is definitely easy on the eyes. Some have complained about the lack of visual detail around the game world, especially Hyrule Field. This really doesn’t matter to the game as a whole, as the point was to touch up the existing models and world, not add onto it. This also somewhat affects the number of enemies encountered at one time. While there isn’t an overwhelming number of advesaries coming at Link at any given time, there’s rarely any time where the odds are heavily against him.
More recent Zelda titles such as The Minish Cap and Twilight Princess, never stacked the odds against the player in the form of an onslaught of enemies. Puzzles took a more center stage, between the backtracking and the initiation of events. This remains the same for OoT3D. Combat is there, and it’s as functional as all of the 3D console titles that followed OoT.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D is one of those rare instances in which a rerelease or a remake years after the initial release, still manages to retain just about every positive trait for veterans, as well as be presentable and memorable to those that might not have had any face time previously. Is it the most beautiful game ever? It’s not, but the 3D effect does feel natural and more than inviting. Are there a lot of dated aspects to the experience? Sure, but with the games pacing, puzzle solving and sense of grand adventure, things such as sparse open areas and not as impressive camera views are not deal breakers. Everything still gels together in such a near perfect way as a whole, that the minor quirks that Father Time has left Ocarina of Time 3D couldn’t keep fans of the series from the past to the present, away from another visit to one of gamings finest.