It will be hard to read up on Ocarina of Time 3D without being reminded about how much perfection was jammed into the original game.
It’s inescapable; the Nintendo 64 classic carries with it an immense amount of good will – it's often touted as the best video game ever made. This version for the Nintendo 3DS is released to the world some 13 years after the original to an audience of expectant old fans and new gamers alike. Nintendo guru Shigeru Miyamoto has stated he didn’t want a remake of Ocarina to be released until new technology was up to the task – something the 3DS is proving it was built for.
For those either new to the world or buried head first in the sand, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is an epic action-adventure game, starring a young elf named Link. The game revolves around a time-travelling plot which sees the character of Link solve puzzles and battle bad-guys across the land of Hyrule. The sense of scale imparted on the player is enormous, the world feels realistically large and diverse as do the beautifully detailed temples and dungeons that Link must conquer.
The central aim of the game is to defeat the wicked Ganondorf, a powerful maniac hell-bent on assuming control of the Triforce, a mystical item which grants wishes. The combination of storyline, graphics, scale and control make Ocarina virtually flawless. At the time of its original release, Ocarina was groundbreaking and truly ahead of its time.
The 3DS remake of Ocarina is something to behold. Developers Grezzo have taken great pains to improve the looks of Link and his world without losing any of the noble charm that came with the first iteration of the title. The textures and draw distance of Hyrule Field, in particular, have been dramatically improved without losing any of the charm the original possessed. The colours are crisper and the relatively low-polygon models hold up very well on the small, high resolution screen. When the 3D mode is enabled, the rooms and open spaces Link has to play around in really open up – although tilting the 3DS side to side as part of energetic play will cause some dreaded flicker – some players will choose to leave it off for much of the game. Cut-scenes and general low-impact activities look like they always should have.
As an action-adventure game, Ocarina has its fair share of dastardly puzzles to solve. One of the prime ways to frustrate a player is to jam them up with poor controls and camera angles, making the logical task of defeating a series of requirements into a frustrating nightmare. Ocarina 3D continues the silky smooth AI-controlled camera of the N64 version as well as aiding Link by using the touch-screen for item management. This is a real breakthrough for the Zelda series, as equipping Link with the right gear for the job has been one of the least enjoyable parts of the previous titles. In addition to the main feature of the DS being put to good use, Grezzo have utilized 3DS’ gyroscope to provide manual aiming for weapons such as the bow and slingshot. This might sound like a gimmick, but it provides a quick, accurate and enjoyable method of dispatching enemies – plus you get to pull off Link action moves in real life.
Music plays an important part in Ocarina, both in setting the mood and motif. Crucial to progressing the game, 13 musical tunes must be mastered on the eponymous instruments given to Link throughout the story. As well as music the player is responsible for, the in game music darts between low murmurs and soaring orchestrals – all replicated faithfully in Ocarina 3D. Along with an unchanged set of sound effects, the 3DS hardware handles the complexity of the sound well – Link whooshing an arrow into the distance feels especially satisfying when it’s this up close and personal.
As well as the full, faithfully restored original game, Ocarina 3D comes with an updated Master Quest. This more difficult version of the main game features re-arranged dungeons, totally mirrored from the Master Quest disc that shipped with the Gamecube port of Ocarina. This piece of added value fits neatly alongside the new “Boss Challenge” mode, which lets players who have beaten the game take on more powerful versions of the bosses from the main game in sequence.
While these two extra features are welcome, it would have been a nice inclusion to throw ‘making of’ content in on the card.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time remains a true classic. The moves to the 3DS has given the game a whole new audience, one who may have missed this gem entirely otherwise. The hardware suits the action-adventure genre perfectly. All of the gameplay elements click together in a way that so few titles can achieve. The graphics are a well polished improvement – but only to the extent that they sharpen already fond memories. There is nothing garish or cheap about this remake, it’s made with the same attention to detail and playability that Nintendo EAD gave it all those years ago.
Players who have never taken on the adventure and those who are old masters will find joy in unlocking Hyrule’s hidden secrets, and felling its foes.