Sunday, February 27, 2011

Oracle of Ages & Seasons: 10 Years

This year is not only the 25th Anniversary of the Zelda franchise, but also the Oracle games are celebrating 10 years of excistence by now (and 20 years of A Link to the Past, but I'll come to that later). The games were released today ten years ago in Japan, on May 14th 2001 in the US and on October 5th 2001 in Europe. I can't believe that it's already been ten years ago, sometimes it feels like yesterday that I went into the store to pick these games up. My first Zelda game was Link's Awakening, so I was really excited about Oracles back then, because it's basically just "more of Link's Awakening".

What makes these games so special, is that they can be be linked together. They were basically the Zelda pendant to the Pokémon Red & Blue editions. The difference was that these were two entirely different games, which would get a common thread by linking. What also makes the Oracle games special is the fact, that these are the first Zelda game not directly developed by Nintendo, but by team from Capcom called Flagship. At first it was declined by Nintendo, but after Capcom showed many efforts they eventually gave in. Originally six Zelda GameBoy games were planned, but then a trilogy, the "Triforce Trilogy". Capcom started by remaking the first The Legend of Zelda game in the style of Link's Awakening. You can still cleary see that in the finished products, especially in Oracle of Seasons. The first dungeon, the Gnarled Root Dungeon, is a remake of the Eagle dungeon. All the bosses from the original Zelda game are present, the overworld map has similar structures and there are small nodds like old men hiding in a cave under burnable trees.

The third game would have been about color or daytime puzzles, but it got scrapped later, because the linking of three games was too complicated. This is actually sad, because in the way I see it, not having three games was the problem, but the linking itself. The linking turned out to be too complicated, which is the major flaw of the Oracle games. The order, in which you play the games, plays an important role. You can't get and experience everything by playing the games just once. But you can start a simple 2nd Quest and use it to complete your ring collection while playing in the other direction. So, you can either start a normal game, a linked game, a 2nd Quest or a linked 2nd Quest. That's four ways of how to play the game! Way too complicated. They should have made the linking in a way, that the order of the games doesn't matter. Even that you can play through the games at the same time. Just use the passwords (or the link cable connection) to add stuff in the other games. Unlock the Hero's Cave in one game, by finishing another. Unlock the Twinrova scenario in all games by beating all the games once. That way the linking would be less complicated, it would be more enjoyable to play through the games and it would even allow to have three or more games...

The animal buddies were another problem, you can only chose one per playthrough. Each buddy changes a part of the environment, so if you want to see all possible environments, you have to play through the games at least three times. If they would have simplified the linking and made three games, it probably would have been better to have one animal per game.

But it's too late for that, it's no use to celebrate the 10th birthday of the Oracle games by discussing their flaws. But I already summed up their strength with the statement "more of Link's Awakening". Because that's what these games are in the end and they did a great job with that, though they aren't really better than the original. But they offer a lot of cool quests, dungeons and items all in the lovely style and sometimes quirky ways of Link's Awakening.

With the 25th Anniversary of the Zelda franchise this year and Oracle of Ages & Seasons celebrating 10 years there might be a chance that both games will appear on the 3DS Virtual Console later this year. Around October 5th would be a good choice.

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