In 1998, nearly thirteen years ago, a title was released that changed gaming forever. It’s been heralded by many as the greatest game of all time, and while I’m not here to argue for or against that claim, I can tell you that The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, is really damn good. The famed game has now been ported to the 3DS, with improved graphics, a new touchscreen layout, and of course, 3D functionality. Purists, put down your pitchforks, everything you know and love about the game is intact. Only now it’s even better.
I had a really hard time figuring out how to approach this review. About a week before I got the game, when I found out I would be reviewing it, a thought struck me that hadn’t dawned on me before – what, exactly, was I reviewing? Ocarina of Time came out over a decade ago, and the port surely wouldn’t have enough new features to warrant a review solely dedicated to said features. Turns out, I was right, yet I’m left with more to say about the game then I had expected.
With that said, this review is going to favor the new features more than anything, as the original game is likely one that you’re very familiar with. If it’s not, then just skip this whole thing – go buy it, in some form or another, and play it. It’s a staple of gaming history, and everyone should play it at least once. I’m not asking you to like it, but it undeniably laid the groundwork for modern adventure games as we know them. It was incredibly relevant and revolutionary in the 90′s, and the 3DS port is just as relevant, though perhaps not as revolutionary. Rather, it takes something that was perfect in its own right and makes it even more perfect.
For the uninitiated, I’ll include a brief overview of the game, which also more or less sums up the entirety of Zelda as a franchise. You play as a young boy named Link, and you are tasked with saving the land of Hyrule from an evil man known as Ganondorf. You’ll travel the land by foot and by horse, conquering dungeons and monsters, and collecting weapons and items to aid you on your quest. The series relies heavily on musical instruments, and Ocarina of Time is no exception, hence the name. Now on to the good stuff.
The first thing that is immediately noticeable about OoT 3D is the visuals. The whole game has received a visual facelift, and it looks absolutely stunning on the 3DS. I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t particularly impressed with the screen shots that I saw of the game, but seeing it in action is an entirely different beast. Colors pop, environments are detailed, dungeons are unique and varied. Whether or not it’s the most visually impressive game on the 3DS is up for debate, but it’s certainly up there.
Everything looks phenomenal on the 3DS screen, thanks in large part to the new touch screen set up. All of the item shortcuts have been mapped to the bottom screen, which frees up an absurd amount of real estate on the top screen, giving you a full view of what is taking place in the vast world of Hyrule. Maps now appear on the bottom screen, so you don’t have to pause to find out where you are, and the Ocarina has it’s own permanent slot, which lists all of your songs as reference while you play them, so you don’t have to switch back and forth between screens. The player also has an additional item slot, giving you a total of four, as opposed to the original three. It’s all an admittedly simple change, but it’s a fundamental and very welcome one.
The 3D component is another element of the visual presentation that I was pleasantly surprised with. Let’s be honest – with the possible exception of Pilot Wings Resort, nothing on the 3DS has really proved that 3D is a necessary element of gaming, and while OoT likely won’t change your mind on that matter, it may make you feel just a bit better about the whole thing. The entire game has this added sense of scope and depth that simply didn’t exist in previous iterations, and it’s really quite stunning. If you turn the 3D slider from zero to max, you can watch these massive dungeons and landscapes stretch out in front of you, and the effect is absolutely thrilling. Everything just looks bigger, and ultimately better, with the 3D effect turned on. Ocarina of Time on the N64 was made long before 3D in gaming was a possibility (the accursed Virtual Boy aside), so its 3DS counterpart is obviously not going to be a poster boy for 3D. All the same, it’s extremely well implemented, and never once did I experience any discomfort or vision doubling during my play time.
My one complaint, and it’s not really a big one, is the music. Not the music itself, mind you, as the soundtrack is still as classic as they come, but rather that the soundtrack didn’t get a once over along with the rest of the game. I’m assuming that Nintendo left well enough alone for the sake of nostalgia, but the game makes enough changes that nostalgia isn’t necessarily a factor, and I would have loved to hear some newer renditions of the soundtrack. To add insult to injury, the ending credits now feature an incredible full orchestra medley of some of the songs in the game, and it really would have been awesome to hear these orchestral takes in game.
In terms of brand new content, there’s a handful of things. One fun addition is the inclusion of the Master Quest, which was previously only available in a limited edition Gamecube release of Ocarina of Time. Master Quest is a mirrored version of the main game, but the dungeons are re-worked and are much more challenging than they are in the original game. This adds a great deal of replay value to the title, and is a pretty awesome opportunity for players that missed out on Master Quest the first time around. There’s a boss rush mode, as well, where you can take on all the bosses in sequential order, which was also absent from the ’98 release. For newcomers to the series, there’s now Shiekah Stones which can give you hints as to what to do next. Those, combined with Navi’s constant barrage of instruction insures that you’ll likely never run off course in the twenty or so hours it will take to run through the game. There’s also the option to use the 3DS’ gyroscope to aim various weapons, and while it’s faster to aim that way, I ultimately found it easier to just use the control slider.
All in all, OoT 3D proves that it doesn’t take much to make Zelda enjoyable. The series has stayed largely the same over the years, and for good reason – it’s more or less perfect how it is. The changes made in the 3DS port are very welcome, however, and I’ll even go so far as to say this is how the game was meant to be played. It’s smooth, fluid, and works flawlessly on the 3DS. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Zelda, and Ocarina of Time in particular, yet I went into this game with a degree of forced speculation – after all, nostalgia can be blinding. Yet at the end I came out of it with a renewed appreciation and a stronger love for this particular title than ever before. Ocarina of Time 3D really proves just how timeless the game is. If you’re a fan, you’ve already picked it up. If you’re not a fan, you’ve likely picked it up due to hype and curiosity. For those of you left on the fence however, do yourself a favor buy this game. Go home, put on a pair of headphones, and fully experience the game that changed everything, the way it was intended. You’ll be glad you did.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D was released on June 19th, 2011 for the 3DS.