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GN Podcast #471

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GoNintendo 'End of Day' thought - Cort's impressions of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D

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I sure hope you didn’t get enough of Cort from his Wednesday stint, because he’s back with an ‘End of Day’ thought. This time around, he’s got some hands-on impressions with a near final build of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D! Yes, he’s quite a lucky guy indeed. Read up on his experience below! I’ll see you in a few, short hours.

And as my friend Jerry Springer says, take care of yourself, and each other. - RMC

How many of you started your week with a special, private demo of LoZ: OoT 3D with a few of the Treehouse folks from Seattle, including an English-only Bill Trinen? That wasn’t you? Pity that, because it’s exactly what I did. Let’s chat…

I was out of high school and working at a Toys R Us while waiting for the next college semester to start when Ocarina first released. Being a student of computer animation at the time, I also remember being a bit torn, because while the N64 was certainly a capable machine for its time, it was also clearly lacking in some big ways, visually. It was similar to my perception of games as a child during the NES years, thinking that “games must be able to look better than this!” Then along came the SNES and proved me right, because the leap between generations was almost night and day for the better. It wasn’t until the Gamecube showed up that I felt that 3D images in games were finally starting to show promise.

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Pretty, even if still a bit on the empty side.

That’s why when I see what Nintendo is doing with their update of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the 3DS, the rather wide chasm between what was happening in 1998 and what exists today, it reminds me of the same inter-generational situations as above.

To be fair, MOST of what this update is doing (I refuse to call it a remake, because it really isn’t) is visual, which I will get to in a bit. What isn’t new are the music and sound, being 100% authentic to the original source, which for me is the ideal choice. The Gerudo Valley theme is still among my favorite game tunes ever, and that aging synth just can’t be topped, despite some of the fabulous attempts to do so over the years. I also prefer the original NES versions of the Mario games’ music compared to the 16-bit All-Stars versions, if that puts things in perspective. Also, aside from control instructions, all text and story are the exact same.

New, non-visual features include using the 3DS’ built-in gyroscope for the first-person camera view. I’ve played around with this a few times, and while it may not always be the most practical method (versus the stick), it is definitely much more accurate, and tons faster. I probably won’t be swivelling around while riding the train as I try to pick off golden skulltulas with the slingshot. The touch screen also takes a lot of burden off of the buttons and mess from the action on the top screen. You don’t really appreciate this until you have the original game on a giant plasma screen next to you, and 20% of it is covered in… stuff. The presentation of action-only on the upper screen of the 3DS is genius, beautiful genius.

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Tagging the torch with the sticks actually IS easier in 3D.

Speaking of the bottom screen, you can actually do quite a bit with it in terms of managing inventory and shortcut buttons, accessing that first-person view, or even playing the ocarina. Yes, using simple touch and tickle dots on an image of the instrument, you can play the notes you like, if pressing the 3DS’ buttons aren’t quite your thing. And yes, the slide pad does all of the wicked half-note magic as the analog stick did on the N64’s pitchfork controller.

So the real meat here is in how much prettier this game looks. Through all new character models and some beautiful new textures, the game really does feel fresh. Some dismiss it as not going far enough, but the “pointiness” of the new models to me is one of those nods to the game’s roots; a slight love nudge in the ribs if you will. If they had gone full-on high-res remake, I personally think it would feel alien or disconnected. Having a hint of those roots to the original is not just acceptable, it’s necessary…for me anyway.

We’ve seen some screens already comparing things like one of the shop’s interiors, which is an apt abbreviation of what to expect on the whole: a ton of new detail. Trees made of real wood, Hyrule castle made of slightly rugged stone are just the tip. Looking at the character models, not only are they more robust, but combined with the new textures, they now actually look more like the character art from the manual or players guides than minimalist papercraft. Kaepora Gaebora (the giant owl) drove this point home for me…compared to the official art, it’s simply amazing how more “Zelda-like” it is now. The Giant Deku Tree is another… seeing the original on the giant plasma next to the revised edition on the 3DS is stark if you have the chance to do it so directly.

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Get ready for some sparkling sphincters inside!

But strangely it wasn’t those obvious things that convinced me this isn’t just an “up-res” cash-in; it is the tiny details that Nintendo is always so good about. Things like walking into the Temple of Time and seeing a glossy marble floor that has gorgeous reflections, although very subtle. Or wandering the countryside to see some tiny vegetation geometry scattered about. Or in Jabu Jabu’s belly, those valve-flap doors are now glistening-wet sphincters, with specular highlights and muscular definition. In fact, a lot of the little upgrades in the Lord’s entrails made it a whole new experience that affected MY stomach…in a net positive way.

The 3D effect is also very useful, and during this demo was much more accurate than what was on display at GDC, where the demo units seemed off/fuzzy. Not in private. I was able to dodge those annoying electrocuting bubbles in Jabu’s belly using the depth and run through a group of them full-on with no trouble whatsoever. Additionally, some cut-scenes (like the three goddesses) look incredible, because while none of the camera angles have changed, it’s interesting to see how many of them are perfect for a 3D screen. I can only imagine how these benefits will come in handy during the rest of this very, very packed game.

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Link and I ♥ it; you probably will too.

So for those of you who might be on the fence; worry not, because they are giving this title the respect it deserves: a healthy tune-up, but not so far you can’t tell the source material, and to be sure, with a game this classic, that is a very fine line. For those of you who don’t really care about the 3D, or the pretties, there are some other secrets Nintendo has in store, but I can’t talk about any of what I stumbled upon just yet… gotta go. —cortjezter


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