Prelude of Light
Set aside the notion this is as good as gaming will ever get; surely it isn't, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Not everyone's a Zelda fan, in spite of how good the series has been over the years. That's just the way it is – one man's treasure and all that…
But if you love games like Ninja Gaiden, God of War, and Demon's Souls, coming back to Ocarina of Time (OoT) is not only a welcome reminder of where those games got so many of their ideas, it's still a step above contemporary adventures.
Yes, even today, Ocarina of Time manages to outshine most other games, not because of nostalgia-colored glasses, but because the ideas have yet to be bested. The game has it all: unimaginably inspired puzzles, heart-tugging prose, side quests and bounty, and wonderfully paced adventure that stands the test of…time. Its mechanics are also as spry today as they were in the late 90s.
It's fitting too that a new version of OoT come to a Nintendo handheld, as the camera system hasn't really changed at all over the years. The 3DS, of course, has only the one analog control, and like the original OoT, you'll reposition the camera behind Link's back with the left shoulder button (aka Z-targeting). It's certainly something players will have to reconcile, but surprisingly, it's a system that still works quite well.
The puzzles and riddles can be a tad esoteric, but then, that's where OoT's real challenge (and reward) lies. The bosses are clever and creative, but they're rarely difficult. There's nothing quite like the way a Zelda dungeon comes together, and OoT is the pinnacle of the series. If you've played the game to death already, there's little new here. But for new generations of Zelda fans, this is an adventure that simply shouldn't be missed.
Though OoT is mostly linear, there is some wiggle room as far as how you tackle main-quest events. The map will alert you to where you should be poking around, but if you get stuck in one area, you can often push forward in another.
All that glitters isn't gold, however. There are still issues with the game's geometry, and getting permanently stuck in the environment and having to reload your game is a frustrating hassle, especially when it happens during a timed event. Though coming to grips with the camera system isn't difficult, the camera can end up in some seriously comprising positions, causing you to fall to your death.
Nowhere were the camera issues more a source of contention for me than during the Bongo Bongo boss battle. The lock-on system shows its weakness here in spades. It's a big game, and for many of us fans it's enough the game has come to a handheld at all. But a bit more tightening in key areas would have been nice.
Navi's also a royal pain sometimes. Her presence is occasionally appreciated, but she's constantly reminding you how to engage an enemy you've encounter countless times, as well as recommending periodic gameplay breaks. She's cute but annoying.
It's also worth noting that, though I personally find the stealth sequences in the game to still be enjoyable, they feel greatly archaic by today's standards. This is perhaps one area of OoT where Nintendo could have taken a few liberties and spruced things up a bit. Heck, you could sidle in Wind Waker; why not add the mechanic here, at least during these portions of the adventure. The Gerudo guards perform their same mindless patrols, and there's no ability to hug crates and walls when attempting to stay hidden.
The main enhancements to OoT are in the presentation. The visuals have received a major overhaul, though not everything has been changed. Link, Sheik, and most of the other characters have been given a detailed facelift, but certain elements, such as the fairy goddesses, remain mostly unchanged. The environments, however, are very pretty, with detail that often rivals first-party Wii titles. The 3D during cutscenes is the best I've seen on the system, but the effect simply isn't practical for gameplay. For me personally, I turned the effect off during most of the game, as any slight movement of the system would cause the view to go completely out of whack.
The aural presentation seems to have had less tinkering with, and that's probably a good thing. The quality of the audio seems enhanced, yet the heart and soul of OoT's soundtrack remains completely intact. This is a powerful and moving adventure, one where the music stands as the crux of the tale being told.
One other major addition – for good or ill – to the 3DS version of OoT is the Sheikah Stones. If you're stuck, you can consult one of these stones for help. You can then sift through a selection of in-game movies that will show you how to proceed. Honestly, I have mixed feelings about these things. On the one hand, it's great for folks struggling with a particularly challenging puzzle; on the other hand it's a crutch that can rob you of the reward of solving the game's incredibly clever conundrums. I appreciate the notion of making the game accessible to a broader audience, but the Sheikah Stones somehow seem to compromise the integrity of what makes Zelda games so special in the first place.
In spite of my many criticisms and less complimentary observations, I still consider this latest release a wholly entertaining experience. For every mechanic or flub that frustrates, there's a collection of massively satisfying gameplay elements that still manage to awe. OoT is today, as it was years ago, a monumental achievement with few rivals.
Lastly, you're getting a lot of bang for your buck, whether you've already played through OoT or are taking on the adventure for the very first time. The main quest is huge, clocking in at up to 30+ hours depending on your pace and desire to seek out hidden treasures. The Master Quest adds a welcome challenge that should keep diehard fans busy a good while longer. For me, this is one of those games I can play over and over and enjoy for a lifetime.
So, is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time the greatest videogame ever created? Well, it's certainly an adventure that stands the test of time. For some, it will always be a magical experience that no other game can rival. One thing's for sure: it's deserving of all the accolades it has received over the years, and playing it today, the game feels just as grand as it did years ago. This isn't a game you simply go back to just for a history lesson; OoT is still one of the greatest gaming journeys you could ever set out upon. All that being said, this isn't necessarily the greatest re-mastering of the "greatest game ever created." Nintendo have done an admirable job bringing OoT to their newest handheld, but it's far from perfect.