The more things change, the more we want to pretend that they haven’t changed, and that this is how they always were. In a way, Ocarina of Time is like this, sitting at the top of the Zelda throne like a big musical king, delivering all his decrees via a bloated harmonica. He’s that sort of king.
He’s the king you can’t ever really forget. There have been other kings that played musical instruments, sure, but this one had panache. He had style. He had an instrument you hadn’t even heard of. But then time marched on, his reign ended, and a few competent – if inferior – chaps took up the throne. But now he’s back, resurrected by a sacred rite that can be performed once a decade, when the moon is in the eighth house of Aquarius.
This latest incarnation has gone entirely according to plan.
If you have ever played Ocarina of Time before, you can read this paragraph and then stop. It is everything you remember, plus better graphics and all the things that annoyed you either fixed or removed. Job done, go and buy it.
But you are demanding people, I have been told. No simple one paragraph review for you. You want details, and here they are.
Ocarina of Time is, at its core, the game that all current Zelda games are defined by. It’s perhaps quite fitting that the first 3D Zelda game is now the first 3D Zelda game, but Nintendo have done more with it than just pander to the gimmick crowd. Everything is just that little bit tighter, and it was hardly a saggy little thing to begin with.
Accessibility seems to have been the watchword when it came to putting this together. While the controls have barely changed from their N64 days, working your way around everything else is much more straightforward. Front and centre of these changes is the ability to map two extra items to buttons on the touch screen. Before release, this was bandied about as a result of people’s frustrations with the metal boots in the Water Temple, and while it certainly makes that less stressful, it does wonders with the rest of the game too.
But it goes deeper than that. With so many items, Zelda games are often spent more in the menus than the game itself, swapping out item after item as and when needed. The extra slots help, but you’ll still need to mix up your configuration from time to time. The touch screen makes this chore a little more bearable, with the menus easy to flick through and navigate all via the touch screen itself, opening specific windows at a press.
In fact, credit must go to Nintendo for not mucking up the very basics of the game by feeling the need to include all of the 3DS’s lovely little gizmos too much. You have the touch screen for menus, a natural addition, and the gyroscope for first-person aiming, which can be ignored if you’d prefer, but is perhaps the single best addition in terms of gameplay. It is perfect 1:1 movement, and it makes aiming the various projectiles considerably easier than trying to do it with the analogue nub. You’ll look like a tool, yes, but consider for a moment the Forest Temple boss, the ghostly Ganon that rides out of paintings. Being able to spin your bow around in real time, without having to deal with the ponderous pace of the stick controls, is a remarkable way to pull you in.
Not that the 3D effects don’t do that themselves. I’m constantly surprised with the way the 3DS handles the third dimension. It seems so natural in most things, but Ocarina truly looks as if the entire console was designed solely for this game. Zelda was meant to be in 3D, and the improved graphics present a fantastic view of Hyrule. The screen doesn’t really seem to exist when you’re playing, everything seeming to spread out just that little bit further than it really should, presenting you with a portal more than anything else, a window into Hyrule itself. Even though this is what the the 3DS was made for, Zelda still manages to make it amazing.
And yet, at the end of the day, it’s still a game that is well over 10 years old. Nintendo have done what they could to bring it up to the requirements of the modern gamer – adding Sheikah stones to guide your play, for instance, for the more goal-oriented gamer, reducing the amount of time where you will be wandering without purpose – but there are still moments where you will be reminded of just how unguided things used to be. You will head to the stones and follow their advice, and you will look at it and think ‘how the hell was I supposed to work that out?’
But back then people managed it. It’s not obtuse by any means, but it still isn’t as open as games have become in the years since its début. But then, it’s a Zelda game. People who buy Zelda games have a list of expectations, and all they really want to know is whether this game delivers or if it defiles a sacred classic. It most definitely delivers.
If you are one of the few people left in the gaming world that hasn’t played a Zelda game before, however, there will be moments where you wonder what all the fuss is about. You’ll play through the bits as young Link and then get dumbfounded. The world will open up and even with the guide stones you’ll get lost and confused. But you’ll keep playing, you’ll explore, and you’ll find all those little things that I went searching for as a young’un when the thing first came out.
Simply put, Ocarina of Time is as good now as it ever was, possibly even a wee bit better. Really, if you have a 3DS then there’s no reason for you not to own this. Seriously. I can’t think of anything bad about it.
No, I tell a lie. It can be quite hard to use the shoulder buttons sometimes. But then you can set targeting to be a toggle I suppose, and then the shield shoulder button is much easier so…
Look, just stop it. Stop reading. It’s good. You knew it was going to be good. Everyone who has ever heard of Zelda knew that Nintendo weren’t going to screw up the game that is widely held to be the best of the series. They didn’t. It’s brill. Bugger off down the shops.
MLG Rating: 9/10
Platform: 3DS Release Date: 17/06/2011
Disclaimer: A physical copy of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was purchased by the reviewer and played over the course of one week on a 3DS. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.