Dear Ocarina of Time,
In all honesty, I’ve never really liked you. When you were released in 1998, you were not exactly the sequel I hoped for. Sure, you were groundbreaking with your fantastic story, great characters and innovative 3D engine. Still, I didn’t even buy you at the time, even though I did recognise your qualities. In 2003, you returned as a bonus included with The Wind Waker’s Limited Edition. That was the first time I owned you and to be honest, I did enjoy playing this enhanced, polished version of you. And now in 2011, you’re back and I could hardly recognise you. You’re looking slick, smooth and even more polished. But is that enough to finally win me over?
Many perceive you as the perfect game and those people are entitled to their opinion, even if it doesn’t match mine. You know what it is I don’t like about you? You try too hard to be rough and realistic, while your predecessors were cute, charming and refined. And that’s exactly how I like my Zelda games. Your rough textures and barren wastelands pale in comparison to A Link to the Past’s beautiful and colourful landscapes and that’s a shame. It makes your world less wondrous and immersive. In my opinion, “rough and realistic” wasn’t done right until Twilight Princess. However, looking past this trait, underneath I do see a vast adventure with enough quality to classify you as “timeless classic”. And from a nostalgic point of view, you certainly are.
And you really do look much better and polished this time around. Your texture work is a huge step forward and your vibrant colours add more life to the barren landscapes of Hyrule. You were rebuilt from the ground up and it shows as Hyrule Castle Town and some of the shops have been completely reworked to look stunning. Even more, the enhanced framerate makes you much more pleasant to the eyes. Additionally, there’s the 3D and it might be the best seen so far on the 3DS. It looks slick and is useful especially when firing the bow or slingshot. Still, it’s far from essential, so I mostly had it turned off. However, thirteen years since your original release, I can finally say you won’t look any better until they made an HD console remake of you.
And, oh boy, that soundtrack is still as fantastic as ever. I had a tiny bit of hope for an orchestrated soundtrack, but a 3DS cartridge can’t fit all those tunes, I quickly realised. But maybe it doesn’t matter, since the midi renditions are already of the highest quality. Both music and sound effects are fairly identical to the N64 version, though your overall soundscape sounds better coming from the 3DS speakers.
The story you tell needs no introduction as the journey protagonist Link takes is already legendary. Your time travel plot still holds strong and it’s great to meet the characters again that make your story so memorable. And I can’t argue about the design of your dungeons as they are top notch and still hold up after all these years, especially the dreaded Water Temple, which I thoroughly enjoyed playing this time around.
Like I mentioned before, the use of 3D is great. The touchscreen works fine too, when it’s used to show information and maps. Item and equipment subscreens are easily accessible as well. Changing to the Iron Boots has never been so easy. And finally, using the gyroscope to aim the bow, slingshot or hookshot works like a charm. I can safely conclude you make good use of the system’s strong points.
Unfortunately, you’re still filled with annoyances. Let’s start with Navi. Her behaviour has not been addressed at all, which is a shame. She’s still annoying, whining and offering hints at the wrong time. When I’m in the desert, I don’t want to be told “Let’s go to the desert”. Stupid fairy. Then there’s the horse. When I approach a fence at a decent speed, I want it to jump over it and not do the opposite: stop, prance and walk backwards. Finally, it’s a shame there is such an abundance of rupees. My wallet is always full and new rupees I get just disappear. What a drag. This also makes the final reward for the epic Skulltula fetch quest totally anticlimactic.
Let’s face it, you are a remake and you don’t offer any new gameplay elements, making 40 to 50 bucks seem a little expensive, but there’s more to you than meets the eye. The developers were kind enough to add your challenging mirror version Master Quest and several new goodies into the mix. There are hint movies, in the form of “visions of the future”. Your bosses can be tricky to defeat, indeed. These hint movies give out strategies to defeat them and also supply hints on finding hidden items scattered around Hyrule. The additional boss challenge mode allows players to do a time trial of the various boss fights and compare completion times with friends.