I’m pretty sure this is the toughest review I’ve ever had to do. How does one go about reviewing what many consider to be the best game of all time? How do you critique something that has been scrutinized, analyzed and dissected from just about every single angle? On top of that, shouldn’t I refrain from discussing certain elements of the game in order to preserve the experience for those that are running through Ocarina of Time for the first time? There were so many things to consider while piecing together this review, and I can only hope that you appreciate the avenue that I take.
I’ve done my best to walk the fine line between giving you guys tons of information you already know, as well as keeping away from spoilers for the gamers out there that haven’t gone on this adventure yet. Just think about how horrible it would be if you had your Ocarina of Time experience ruined before you even had a chance to place your hands on the controller? That’s how the years since Ocarina of Time’s original release have been, and I’m not going to keep that tradition.
Whether you’ve played The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time before or not, you most likely know that it is a major landmark for the video game industry. It’s not just one of the best games ever, it also happened to be a turning point for game design. Much like Super Mario 64, there are still lessons being learned from Ocarina of Time to this day. From the simple gameplay experience to the direction and pacing, there are so many things executed perfectly in this title. That was true when the original released on the N64, and you can be sure that the same is true today. Simply put, if you liked Ocarina of Time when it first came out, you’re going to like this re-release just the same.
I’m approaching this review by looking at the content that is new/changed from the original release. There are some obviously switches that slap you in the face when you see them, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth discussing. The good news is, none of these changes hurt the game in any way. You’ll only find the experience better for it, so long as you’ve played the game through already. For those that are new to this title, rest assured that you’re getting the definitive experience with the 3DS version.
I guess the most striking difference this time around would have to be the visuals. While some screenshots show huge changes while others looked slightly different, you really have to get this game in your hands to appreciate the graphical overhaul. Ocarina of Time 3D looks absolutely gorgeous, and it screams detail from the palm of your hands. Much like I did when the original released, I found myself stopping to take in the scenery once again. I remember the original’s presentation quite fondly, but there’s no denying that absolutely everything is better this time around. Ocarina of Time looked fantastic for its time, but this visual overhaul really works wonders. Ocarina of Time has cleaned up very nicely.
A huge part of this experience is with the 3D visuals as well. Seeing Ocarina of Time in 3D is proof positive that 3D visuals can really enhance a game experience. Wandering out into the expansive Hyrule Field was a sight to see on the N64, but seeing the simulated open space with 3D visuals is breathtaking. Not only do you truly get a sense of distance, you also feel like you’re really traversing a huge landscape. Looking off into the distance and feeling that space is pretty amazing. I’m a big fan of the 3D visuals in a few 3DS games thus far, but Ocarina of Time definitely shows why Nintendo feels that 3D gaming is somewhere the industry should go.
Tie all of that in with the upgrade in frames per second, and you’re in for a silky smooth experience. The original game ran at 20 FPS, but it didn’t always keep that framerate. With Ocarina of Time 3D, I only hit one area where the frames dropped for a few seconds. As far as I know, this was a simple hiccup along the way. I remember struggling with framerate issues in the N64 version, and getting this upgrade to a very steady 30 FPS makes for a big change. I often find the debate of 30 and 60 FPS a bit silly, but playing a game with a lower FPS and seeing it cleaned up is definitely a plus.
Even with all that visual glory to drool over, I think the most welcome change with Ocarina of Time 3D is the touch screen. I cannot tell you how much better it is to have touch-screen menus at your stylus tip. Drudging through the original game’s menus was a bit of a chore, but that’s the best we could do back then. Without a doubt, the touch screen controls are hands-down superior to the original experience. It makes choosing items and playing ocarina songs so much easier. To go back to the original controls now would feel like a massive hindrance. Even if Ocarina of Time 3D retained the original N64 graphics, I still feel like I’d be okay with that, due to the fantastic touch screen implementation.
Another layer still, we have the added functionality of the gyro sensor controls. If you want to, you can look around the game world by hitting a touch-screen button to go first person controlled with real-world movements. If you want to look up, you simply point the 3DS up. While this is a camera option that is totally up to the player, I felt myself using it more often then not. I’d often use a combination of the circle pad with the gyro sensor to get things done. A simple nudge in the right direction with the circle pad and then fine-tuning with the gyro sensor really made for a great experience. Free-aiming at keese with the gyro sensor makes you feel like a total bad-ass, by the way!
Hopefully these new controls help make your run through Ocarina of Time easier than the first time around. Even if you’ve played through the game before, you might find yourself forgetting the methods to complete certain puzzles. If you really are lost for what to do next, you could take advantage of the new in-game hint system. While I stayed far away from this element of the game, I know that there are plenty of gamers that will appreciate this addition. The best type of in-game help is the type that doesn’t force you to use it. If you need a push in the right direction, these new video hints are here for you. Hopefully you won’t feel too bad after you use them!
Everything I mentioned above falls into the category of content that I was excited about. With that said, the one thing I was worried about going into this title was the soundtrack. I was pretty disappointed to learn that this remake wasn’t going to have a remastered soundtrack. Ocarina of Time has a fantastic musical score to be sure, but with updated visuals, wouldn’t the original music seem really out of date? I felt that way until I actually sat down with the final game, and then I found my worry fading away. Even with the N64’s limited sound output, the soundtrack still sounds great today. It’s not going to match up with the fidelity of an orchestral soundtrack, but there’s something quite charming about the original sound design.
I want to stress that this could very well be the opinion of people that played the original, but not those that are coming into the game for the first time. I could see someone playing Ocarina of Time for the first time on the 3DS being a bit underwhelmed by the audio experience. I would completely understand that bit of disappointment. Quite honestly, this is the one area of the game where I feel the experience could lose some points, but again, it’s all up to the player’s interpretation. You’ll either appreciate the classic approach or wish that Nintendo gave the whole thing an overhaul.
What else is there to say about Ocarina of Time 3D without ruining the experience? I can safely say that this title definitely holds up all these years later. The game managed to wow me just like it did back in the day, and all the new visuals/controls really helped to freshen up the experience. The actual gameplay itself is still top-notch, and it doesn’t feel dated in any way at all. Anyone that has played Zelda titles in recent years should feel right at home with this. Even if you’ve played through Ocarina of Time on the Wii VC, you still should make a point to check this 3DS version out. In my opinion, Ocarina of Time 3D is a true system-seller, and I’m sure I’m not the only one that feels that way.