June 26, 2011

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D - Game Review

The 3D revision of arguably one of the best games of all time hit store shelves last Sunday, June 19, 2011 – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D. There is no denying the simple fact that the original Nintendo 64 adaption to the series had a following that nearly rivaled that of Final Fantasy VII. It was the game that introduced three-dimensional graphics to the already hugely popular franchise... And now its back, in a new kind of 3D!

 A whole generation after the original 64-bit version, Nintendo gave us Master Quest; a 'hard mode' version of the original, figuratively speaking. Since then, we've experienced the same game on the Virtual Console, and before that, on the promotional disc, “The Legend of Zelda: Collector's Edition,” for all the hardcore Zelda fanatics out there. Now, some may be wondering if playing that game a fifth time is worth $39.99. My answer to that question is “Yes!” Now here's why.

The Legend of Zelda as a series has always been about free-roam exploration, thought-invoking puzzles, an advancing inventory, side quests, mini-games, collecting, slashing and secrets. Shigeru Miyamoto said of the original Ocarina of Time, The foundation lies in the puzzles that have appeared in The Legend of Zelda franchise since the first game. It's taking that traditional series material and skillfully transposing it to 3D that really makes the game The Legend of Zelda.” And having played through the N64 version multiple times, I feel that those words couldn't possibly be more sound. It is because of how all of these aspects are brought together and executed so masterfully that the series has grown to be cherished among gamers, young and old, and to become the giant staple in video gaming that it is today. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, though being a remake, is certainly no exception.

The game presents a handful of new features. These include the Sheikah Stones; relics similar in appearance to the gossip stones at which you can view snippets revealing the answers to secrets, puzzles and points at which you may otherwise get stuck. The addition of Sheikah Stones provides an optional means of eliminating the frustration of not remembering how to solve a certain puzzle and running about aimlessly, scouring for a clue. Additionally, a post-game 'boss mode' has been added that allows you to fight your favorite boss battles as many times as you like. Not to mention a mirrored Master Quest play-through bringing a new, disorienting way to experience the game in which enemies deal double the damage. Navi has even received some occasional new dialog, making your little fairy a little less predictable.

Because this game is a remake, some may feel as though the experience might be like watching a familiar movie, just in 3D. The 3D is no gimmick in this case! The game must be played in 3D in order for the player to receive the full experience that it offers. If you are a fan of the series and have played through the original, memorable scenes will become much, much more memorable when viewed this time around. The game also features highly detailed textures as well as a fairly large amount of new detail in the geometry of nearly every model, and much of what were once sprites are now models as well. But despite all of the graphical assets being completely rebuilt, your memory will comfortably recall every tree, person and camera angle in the way that these fundamental pieces are carefully replaced. IGN put it this way,
You'll still recognize everything and everyone, but you'll see them as they were originally meant to be.”
And I couldn't have said it better myself. Even when played with the 3D turned off, Hyrule is still remarkably beautiful. But as a rule, when a cut scene triggers, turn it on!

Graphical improvements are especially obvious throughout the dungeons. The theme of each dungeon has been drastically brought forward. For example, the inside of Lord Jabu-Jabu's belly very much looks and feels like an organic environment, far more so than it ever did on the Nintendo 64. Even when strolling around other areas such as Zora's Domain, you will quickly notice tiny stalagmites and 'tites scattered around just to add to the aesthetic feeling of being in a cavern that has contained water for some ages. Not to mention a final battle that left me absolutely speechless. Small details such as this go a very long way. Unfortunately, camera clipping is still very much present throughout.
The convenient new touch screen-enabled inventory style makes organizing and switching items far quicker and easier than the previous setup. Rather than pressing the start button and toggling through four different screens, now you can simply tap 'Items' at the bottom of the screen to access your inventory, or tap 'Gear' to access your equipment. When you want to save the game, just hit the start button and tap 'Save.' The new setup also features five buttons to assign items to where as the original version only had three. This also helps to speeds up the pace of gameplay. In addition to the game offering five item buttons, all of which you can simply tap on the screen, the ocarina gets its own designated on-screen button, which makes one less important item to have to switch in and out of the inventory. The duel screens also allow for nearly the entire interface to be located on the bottom screen with only an action indicator in the bottom right corner of the top screen. This allows for a clear view of the scenery that is not too obstructed by GUI objects cluttering the game screen.

The gyroscopic features allow the player to tilt the 3DS around when in first-person view or aiming manually. I cannot even begin to describe how well this improves accuracy with the bow and slingshot. All I can say is that I have never once missed a perfect score at the shooting gallery because of this. In fact, the gyroscopic aiming allowed me to become so dangerous with the bow that I can pick off a small flock of diving keese in less than a second without L targeting at all. Needless to say that poes, disappearing when L targeted, are now hardly a challenge. With the 3DS's new circle pad, you can swiftly aim in the general area while simultaneously tilting the system to perfect the shot in the blink of an eye. I have NEVER experienced first-person aiming this perfect in my life!

There is however, one issue with aiming in first-person view. When the 3D setting is turned on, angling the system anywhere other than straight in front of your face quickly blurs your vision and causes you to start seeing double, making aiming extremely difficult. This is one example where control concept and graphical concept contradict one another. But turn the 3D off when aiming, and your deadly accuracy becomes solid gold! There is also something very grand about looking around a room by literally looking around the room with the system. And that's just something else that any previous version of the game is not going to give you.

While playing this remake, I noticed that it very much seemed like the click-track timers in the dungeons could possibly be extended in some parts. While this removes some challenging parts of the game, It definitely also removes some of the frustration included in the original N64 version. Whether this is truly the case or not, I felt as though I could take my time platforming across rooms without falling and starting over twenty-some times before succeeding. As the aspect of extended timers being a pro or con may vary from player to player, I certainly found it helpful, adding to the fun factor of the game.

The game also contains crisp and clear audio, with one specific musical track being orchestrated (I won't spoil which one.) The music and FX certainly play an enormous role in the general experience of the game. So much so that would I recommend playing through it using a pair of studio-grade headphones, since the audio has such a hand in bringing the whole atmosphere to life throughout each scene.

Overall, this 3D revision of a game that the world has treasured for roughly thirteen years conveys the story again in a quality that was unforeseen. While the game does have its minor imperfections, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D is definitely a masterpiece worth playing. Just as the original version on the N64 introduced the third dimension to the world renown Zelda franchise, Here it is again, sharper and finer. And this time, introducing the new era of that third dimension!

If you are a fan of the Legend of Zelda series and you have played through the original Ocarina of Time, then you are in for a real treat when you feast your hands and eyes on this wondrous revision. If you haven’t played the original, then there has never been a better opportunity for you to witness the grand adventure of a young child growing into an adult, that set an everlasting landmark in the series and video gaming alike.


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