This review was originally written a few years ago for a review site called dooyoo. I don’t really use the site any more, but I have a lot of pieces over there that I’m pretty happy with, so I’m in the process of carrying them across. I’m playing Majora’s Mask 3D right now, so it seems a good time to bring you this review of its predecessor. I’ve given it a re-write, a bit of polish to clear up Younger-Me’s little eccentricities, but it’s largely how I wrote it. Enjoy!
Where should a review of Ocarina of Time begin? Most start off with a bit too much fawning. “Greatest game ever made” will probably turn up somewhere. My review won’t go like that. Firstly, because I don’t think that is necessarily true, and secondly because the original title came out fifteen years ago. Most reviews of Ocarina of Time 3D say more about games in 1998 than today, and more about the Nintendo 64 than the 3DS. Despite its great reputation among gamers, we are dealing with a whole new audience now and so this port must be able to stand on its own two feet.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D is a remake of the first 3D Zelda title. It features the entirety of the original game, along with upgraded graphics and a few minor adjustments to the control scheme. Otherwise, this game is generally unchanged. The game stars Link, (unless you change the name) a young boy who lives in the woods with a community of childlike people called the Kokiri. The game opens as Link is sent on a quest by the protector of the Kokiri village, a wise talking tree. It’s all a bit outlandish in the way games and films from the 90s so often were, but it’s not as goofy to play as it is to write down. As Link leaves the forest, he eventually finds his way into the vast kingdom of Hyrule, where he is given his world-saving quest. The story takes Link from settlement to settlement, dungeon to dungeon, where he’ll meet royalty, fish people, lava monsters and, if you’re lucky, a horse. Along the way he meets the Princess Zelda, eventually kidnapped by the seedy Ganondorf, who wants to kingdom for himself. Rescuing the Princess will see you travel the kingdom, jump back and forth in time, and eventually come full circle to what is an ending so satisfying, it’s a real rarity in games today.
If this all sounds familiar, don’t be surprised, Ocarina of Time was so successful that it eventually became the template for almost every Zelda game that has come since. It’s only by replaying this game that I realised just how derivative, and dull, the series has become. Ocarina of Time 3D, despite its age, manages to be a better game than its successors by remaining so conceptually pure. Link is a young hero who sets out to rescue a princess, the kingdom of Hyrule is a recognisable fantasy medieval kingdom and the various dungeons have clear structures and puzzles based around their theme. There’s a sense that the game is reduced to its most basic elements here and the result is that it feels very accommodating. It’s a difficult game at times, but it never feels like the game is cheating or deliberately confusing.
I think one of the most enjoyable experiences to be had here is the sense of scope. This is a big game, it was a big game back in 1998 and it’s bigger than a lot of games now. It will take you a long time to work through, but there’ll be real twists and turns in the gameplay along the way. The 3DS is still not exactly rolling in great games, (EDIT: No longer true, it easily has the best library of any console out right now.) so it’s nice to have one that you can really get invested in. The flip side of that is that the game is not really pick up and play friendly. The 3DS might fit in your pocket, but this is a console game through and through. Put it down for a few days and you’ll probably have lost your way a bit, forget where you went last and where you should go next. In some ways it’s very modern, in others there’s a frustrating sort of trial and error about it. I’m not fond of modern gaming’s tendency to hold the player’s hand, but Ocarina of Time throws you into the deep end in a way that’s refreshing and irritating at the same time. Its style lends itself to continuous play, but its length prohibits it.
There are some problems here though. Most are leftovers from the 90s. The controls are alright, but the camera controls are a little awkward. The original game used an awkward “3D look” setup which had not aged well and has unfortunately been carried across here. For the most part it’s easy enough to adjust to, but it still becomes an obstacle now and then. There’s also the small problem that small 3DS screen makes a few things trickier to deal with. Shooting a tiny spider off a web from the other side of a dungeon is a lot easier on a 20+ inch TV. It’s not all bad. The developers have used the 3DS touchscreen to implement better swapping of inventory items. This makes quick switching between gadgets and weapons much more pleasant, and takes away one major design flaw from the original game that made a particular dungeon a nightmare to traverse. I wouldn’t give this game a great score for controls alone, but it’s never a serious infringement on your fun.
Graphically, it’s a gem. The style of the game is preserved, but improved. It looks clean, colourful and fits the console well. The 3D effect is a bit of a waste. The game doesn’t lend itself well to the 3DS style of depth, which works better for games with tighter, more locked in visuals. Though, I might be biased. I played this game with the 3D off most of the time. I don’t have anything against the 3D effect, but Ocarina of Time features a nice anti-aliasing option that is only enabled when the 3D is off. This very well implemented feature smooths out a lot of the aliasing and makes the picture dramatically better on the 3DS’ low res screen.
I was all set to bash Ocarina of Time 3D. A port of a 15 year old console game on a handheld that really needs more innovative releases. In the end though, I came away with the feeling that Ocarina of Time 3D had been really worth my time. It’s a nice, lengthy adventure that is accessible and well made. It feels more fundamental than more recent Zelda titles and held my interest far better than I expected it to. Its inherited a few problems as a remake, but none of them are deal breakers. Overall, I’d say it’s a 3DS must own.