Reviews : The Legend Of Zelda : Ocarina Of Time 3D

Platforms:    Nintendo 3DS
Publisher(s):    Nintendo
Developer(s):    Nintendo, Grezzo
Genre(s):    Action/adventure
Release Date:    June 19, 2011
ESRB Rating:    E 10+

“What if, on a crowded street, you look up and see something appear that should not, given what we know, be there. You either shake your head and dismiss it, or you accept that there is much more to the world than we think. Perhaps it really is a doorway to another place. If you choose to go inside you may find many unexpected things.”

    ~Shigeru Miyamoto

That quote by game industry legend Shigeru Miyamoto perhaps best describes what it is like to play the 3DS remake of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, which was released on June 19, 2011.
As a series, what Zelda games have always done well is giving the player a wide world to explore that feels like a new experience. Back on the NES, Hyrule was a gargantuan interactive world the likes of which had only at the time been imagined in movies like The Neverending Story and novels like The Lord of the Rings. Like Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Hyrule is an ever-growing and changing thing that over the course of 25 years has evolved into its own distinct feel and character. Truly, while other games focus on the character of the protagonist and forget the development of the world, Zelda games have always excelled at the idea of worldbuilding.

With Ocarina of Time on the 3DS, Nintendo has given us a Hyrule that, while feeling like a treasured old haunt for those returning to the game, feels ever more like a real place from the simple experience of being able to peer into it in 3D. I have in the past commented that the 3D on the 3DS is a non-essential bit of tech that acts as a Trojan Horse of sorts for bringing the system’s other interesting features into people’s homes. That mindset has changed with the release of this game. Instead of being a simple set of 2D images that are displayed on a flat monitor, Hyrule is now a world of depth and distance with loads of secrets to explore, all in the palm of your hand. While the game’s play is not overtly enhanced by the 3D effect, it helps create the illusion that the player is interacting with a real, albeit miniature, place.
The Game That Doesn’t Age

Ocarina of Time came out in 1998, 13 years ago. This was a period of time when games were still on CD’s and cartridges, the Playstation was in its first iteration, Halo didn’t exist yet, and Duke Nukem Forever had only been announced one year prior. Yet for all the progress the medium has made, Ocarina of Time feels fresh. Players find themselves in a world of puzzles and quests that hold up incredibly well. Hyrule is a living and breathing world and the mechanisms and trading sequences that make up the puzzles make sense within it. The control is spot-on and responsive, and the way Link navigates through the levels never puts the player in the wrong direction. The sound design, retaining the same sound effects and music from the Nintendo 64 original, holds up immensely well, minus some of the MIDI sounds meant to mimic singing.

As someone who’s played the original many times, I was also impressed by how many of the original game’s cutscene shots were enhanced by the 3D. For example, when accessing Zora’s Domain the camera trucks back between twisting ledges and frames the image of Link in front of a waterfall. While this was simply some nice cinematography on N64, it is a feature that shows off the system’s stereoscopic abilities without skipping a beat, as though it had been designed with that intention in the first place.
I am a big stickler for level design, and again I have to gush at the level of detail put into the experience. There are traps and treasures around every turn in the game and the characters that inhabit it seem like real people. The way that the actual spaces are laid out make navigation very simple, especially in a Hyrule field that would otherwise run the risk of being an empty green plane. Orientation is well accomplished with the use of landmarks and standout features, and that design language translates into the game’s dungeons. Modern designers could learn a thing or two by playing this game again and understanding the well crafted and not-entirely-linear experience that Nintendo put out all the way back when Will Smith was still “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It.”

One thing that did cause a somewhat mixed reaction, however, was the artwork. When playing on an N64, polygonal game models were at a point where a certain level of abstraction was to be expected. In-game textures also had not evolved to a point of any real sophistication yet, so many characters and NPC’s were left with little more than simple colors. Seeing the game on a higher definition screen shows that some of the characters are cartoonier than many would have imagined the Ocarina of Time cast to appear. Indeed, Wind Waker doesn’t look like such a change of form now. I didn’t find this revelation bothersome, but I would be surprised if some people are disappointed by enemies such as Wolfos and others not evolving much past their N64 models.
Additionally, the textures are at times hit or miss: certain ones are crisp and beautiful while others are a bit more pixellated. Certain NPC’s such as those in Hyrule Castle Town retain the non-textured basic colors look of their N64 counterparts. Clearly the production of the game, like XBox Live’s HD remake of Perfect Dark, was done with N64 era methodology. Don’t get me wrong, EVERYTHING looks better than it did on N64: in 2D the game looks like an expertly crafted digital painting and in 3D it looks like an equally well-made diorama. However, some of the models and textures just look like they were given more attention than others.
The Tools of the Hero Trade
Besides the 3D effect, the touch screen functionality of the game is the other big change to talk about, as it directly affects the way the game is played. While many games simply utilize the DS screen for displaying inventory or menu functions with mixed results, the addition of the touch screen greatly enhances the experience of inventory management in Ocarina of Time. The major test of this functionality comes in the much-hated Water Temple. While the layout of the dungeon still occasionally gets you lost, you won’t have to spend half your time pausing the game, putting on the Iron Boots, unpausing the game, walking 10 paces then switching the boots back off with the pause menu again. Items like that can be mapped to touch screen switches that not only make access to them simpler, but give the player the possibility of having more inventory items out at one time. This is great for a system that has less buttons than the N64 had. It not only makes up for the loss of those buttons, but makes the inventory system better. Even when the player has to switch, save or look at a map, the touch screen menu is quick and doesn’t bog you down.

Another mechanic added by the system is the ability to use the 3DS’s gyro to aim weapons and look around. I must admit I was extremely skeptical about this addition, thinking that it would be another motion control gimmick on a system where you are supposed to hold still to see the 3D. However, aiming the slingshot early on in the game and playing with the aiming weapons that follow is both quick and intuitive, more so than even the regular control stick. Using the gyro aiming made precision target mini-games like that found in Kakariko Village a breeze. This mechanic greatly adds to the illusion that Hyrule is a real place that you can only see through the lens of the 3DS screen, hidden behind the veil of the real world. A word to those using the gyro system though: if you are aiming weapons in rapid succession (such as when you have to climb ledges with the Hookshot in the Water Temple), make sure you re-center yourself before each shot, or you will end up looking up with the system behind your head like I did. This isn’t a criticism of the gyro’s implementation, but a testament to how incredibly immersive the combination of Zelda and gyro control is.
The Road Goes Ever On
To say that The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is a classic game is an understatement of the highest order. It is more accurate to say that Ocarina of Time holds one of the top spots in the pantheon of great games. As someone who studies, teaches and makes games, I would argue that Ocarina of Time is among the “required reading” of games, regardless of what console you own or devote your fandom to. The remake on the 3DS not only preserves this titan of good design but enhances it to be more playable and more immersive than ever before. Hyrule is gaming’s Middle Earth and everyone interested in the medium should travel there at least once.

For the 3DS, whose retail releases thus far have been lukewarm, this is the first of several system sellers to come, and perhaps one of the most important. If you love the original, this one is definitely worth the price of admission, system and all. If you haven’t played it then I envy you for getting to play this game for the first time though be warned that this is from the era where games were still challenging.

Missing are some of the 3DS’s other features, like AR and StreetPass, but even after beating the main quest players are treated to the more difficult Master Quest, that beefs up the complexity of puzzles. These harder dungeons often give you the weapon of the dungeon in the beginning and have you utilize them in increasingly out-of-the-box ways. Having two versions of an amazing several-dozen hour quest is money well spent.

thanks to http://videogamewriters.com


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