Nintendo will sell millions of 3DS consoles with the release of a 13-year-old game in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D. I’m not sure if that says more about the quality of one of the best games of all time or the abyssal software line-up on the 3DS, but needless to say both have played their part.
For now, we get to focus on the former - a great game that has earned more praise than any other in recent time. When we reminisce about great gaming memories, Ocarina of Time always rises to the surface. I was worried that it might have begun to diminish in its old age, but thankfully, Ocarina of Time has held up exceptionally well and is almost as good as it was 13 years ago with a fresh coat of paint.
What The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D Got Right
The nostalgic Ocarina of Time - Don’t be fooled into thinking re-releasing Ocarina of Time was a quick grab for cash. While it will be a money-spinner for Nintendo, it was a serious risk to re-release one of the most and loved and respected games in the industry.
Fortunately, it has held up extremely well. It’s the best nostalgic experience I have ever played. Ocarina of Time 3D delivers mesmerising charm and takes me back to a different time in gaming, a better time in gaming, in my mind.
For veteran fans, it’s every bit as good as you remember it, minus the innovative feeling that could only be achieved on your first play through. However, it should also appeal to a new generation, who hopefully will be sitting here in 15 years’ time talking about the remake of their Ocarina of Time.
Looks fantastic in 3D -
Ocarina of Time looks fantastic in 3D, perhaps better than another other game on the system – which once again should be a worrying sign for Nintendo. 3D aside, there are new character models, better textures and more vibrant colours. I don’t remember Hyrule being so green, and it has never looked better. This isn’t simply a bump in the textures; it’s a reinventing of Hyrule.
The dreadfully pixelated backgrounds are gone and Link now has hands, like a real boy, rather than deadly triangular stubs. Once flat surfaces now protrude from the ground, in 2D or in very impressive 3D. Developer Grezzo has retained the visual style devised by Nintendo EAD all of those years ago and remastered it for a new audience.
I was deceived into believing that it hadn’t been upgraded all that much at first, but quite the contrary. It has been reimagined so true to the original design that you won’t even notice it has had a complete makeover, in a good way. There are obvious moments when Ocarina 3D employs modern gaming technology, but for the most part it flawlessly assimilates fresh visuals with the classic design.
The dungeons -
To understand just how well Ocarina of Time has aged look no further than the dungeons. They’re full of challenging puzzles, intuitive items, traps to circumvent and bosses to do battle. In the 13 years since its release, the “dungeon” concept has not been better imagined in a 3D game.
Ocarina of Time revolutionised gaming for its open world, array of enemies, innovative items, day and night sequence, Z-Targeting, context-sensitive action button and programmable controls. These have become standard in the decade since and minimised their iconic status in Ocarina. However, it’s the dungeons that cannot be replicated. They are what made Ocarina of Time one of the best games ever made in 1998, and they serve exactly the same purpose in 2011.
New additions -
Apart from the visual overhaul, Ocarina of Time 3D is essentially exactly the same as the original Nintendo 64 masterpiece, but that doesn't mean Nintendo hasn’t fixed some of the faults (and left some there quite on purpose and even created a few new Easter eggs).
The map is much easier to read and opened at all times on the bottom screen. This inherently makes it and the campus more useful, as they are just a quick glace away. Likewise, all items and menus are handled by the touch screen. Nintendo suggest you use the stylus, but it’s faster to poke the screen and much easier to navigate than the original N64 design. Link can don and remove his infuriating boots in the Water Temple with the hit of a button on the touch screen, rather than having to bypass every menu screen. That alone is worth the price of admission.
Ocarina of Time 3D is the best use of motion control I’ve seen on the device, but also utterly useless in the wrong circumstance (see below). You can aim Link’s bow, hookshot and boomerang by moving the 3DS console, and move the camera when holding down “L”. Surprisingly it’s more accurate than the C-Pad and has a much faster response.
Also included is Master Quest, a harder mode originally included on the WindWaker bonus disc that muddles up the dungeons and is unlocked when you finish the game, and a new Boss Battle mode that allows you to challenge any boss to a rematch against the clock.
For the newbies, Nintendo has included Shiekah Stones, which offer some handy hint videos if you get stuck. They don’t hold your hand as much as Super Guide in NSMBW, and could even come in useful for the more seasoned Ocarina of Time player. I’ve finished the game four times in the past 13 years, but even I had forgotten what to do at times. That’s all part of the fun, as Ocarina of Time replies on your intuition like no modern game. For the new generation of gamers, who might not be used to being left to their own devices, the addition of hint videos is a friendly helping hand that doesn’t give away too much.
The soundtrack -
The soundtrack has been left largely untouched, but like any retro music, that’s just the way we like it – to an extent. It’s one of the best gaming musical scores ever crafted, and sounds better than ever with the 3DS’s surround sound. The ocarina music is an integral part of the gameplay, and will still bring a smile to your face every time Link recites a couple of bars. This is what a gaming soundtrack should be.
Having said that, it’s a little disappointing that they didn’t remaster the whole soundtrack. An orchestrated version of the main theme plays during the credits, but the rest of the game is limited to the Nintendo 64’s technology with the addition of surround sound. It still sounds fantastic, but it could have been off the charts.
What The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D Got Wrong
3D or gryo? -
The gyroscope motion control is deviously useful. At first it feels like a cheap gimmick, but it is surprisingly more accurate than the Circle Pad for aiming and adjusting the camera. However, it’s useless if you intend to play in 3D or out in public.
At home on the couch with 3D off, I highly recommend adapting to the gryo controls that most people will pre-emptively hate. However, it disrupts the 3D effect if you choose to use it. Furthermore, you need serious space. It’s not something you can use on the train or really anywhere that benefits from a portable gaming device.
Talking about the 3DS’s weaknesses, the limited battery life is highlighted by a game like Ocarina of Time. Unlike the pathetic launch titles, it’s easy to get lost in the magical world, smashing pots and pruning chickens, to discover four hours have passed, by which time your 3DS has long been flat. Granted I was rushing through for this review, but I had to connect my 3DS to a power supply for the duration of my adventure, which isn’t fantastic if you want to play it strictly as a portable game (unless you can recharge every 2-3 hours).
Is it worth full price? -
This is the biggest problem with Ocarina of Time 3D. Is it really worth full price after 13 years when you can buy the same game on the Wii’s Virtual Console for $15? It’s not really a portable version, as you have to recharge every two hours - more like bursts on the go. That leaves us with the visual makeover as the key reason to buy it again. While Ocarina of Time has never looked better, it’s 13 years old, and should be surpassed visually by all future 3DS games.
Ocarina of Time is my favourite game, and with nothing else worth a second glance on 3DS, there was no contest. However, if you don’t feel the same way, it’s hard to justify the price tag.
The Final Verdict
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D is one of the best games ever made. It is just as you remember it and looks stunning with fantastic remastered visuals. There isn’t much in terms of new content, but there didn't need to be when we're talking about one of the few true masterpieces of gaming. Ocarina of Time has aged better than any other game from its era and is the perfect nostalgic experience for veteran players, and a piece of Nintendo magic for newcomers.
By Ben Salter
A fantastic game is remastered for the next generation.