Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (Review)

If there's one issue with the Nintendo 3DS, then it's the current lack of good software. The biggest must-have title for the 3DS is actually 13 years old, the remake of Ocarina of Time. But is this game really something, which makes buying a 3DS worth it? Unlike my review of the Four Swords Anniversary Edition this review will only deal with the qualities of the remake itself, because there's no point in reviewing Ocarina of Time. We all know that the game is great, many still consider it to be the best Zelda game and it's certainly one of the greatest games of all time. If you haven't played Ocarina of Time yet, then go play it now. This review should primarily concern people, who played the original game and now want to know how much better the new version really is.

Technically this isn't really a full "remake", it uses the original game as a base and it tries to be very faithful to it, it's more like an updated, remastered version. I will still use the term "remake" throughout the review.

Graphics and 3D

The main focus of this remake lies definitely on the visuals. This is primarily a graphical update of the game. And at first it's quite stunning, you will be amazed with all the new details, which they added to the game. And it runs so much more smoothly on a steady framerate, it's really enjoyable. But the euphoria about the new looks wears off quickly. The problem is that the level of detail is varying a lot. At some places like Hyrule Castle Town they went through a lot of troubles to remodel everything and add nice details in every little corner. You can spent hours just studying the new details. However, in other places it just looks like a simple texture pack. For example the staircases in Kakariko Village are still just simple textures and you start wondering how hard it can be to model an actual staircase. Another good example would be fences, in some places they are now actual 3D models, in other places like Hyrule Field or Hyrule Caste they are still 2D objects. If you look at them from the side they are nearly invisible. This shouldn't appear in a game, which is all about 3D! Some things even might look worse to you, the best example would be the muddy textures for Like Likes and the Dead Hand. They really looked much better on the N64.

But the 3D effect definitely works nice for this game. Unlike the flat 3D effects in Dead or Alive: Dimensions the 3D here goes very deeply and there are actually things popping out of the screen, for example when you get certain items or look at the lens flair effect of the sun. And if you think about it, this game was originally made for 3D, it was the first 3D Zelda game and one of Nintendo's first biggest games with 3D graphics, so the environments were really made with 3D in mind, even though at that time there were no 3D screens like today. I don't have much experience with the 3DS yet, but I'd say that Ocarina of Time 3D is probably one of the best showcases of 3D on the system.

Interface and Controls

Of course the game plays slightly differently on the 3DS than it did on the N64. It heavily uses the touchscreen for your interface and it adepts to the button layout of the 3DS, which is missing the four C-buttons of the N64. You only get to use the X and Y buttons for your items, but as a compensation the four corners of the touch screen now act as touch buttons. On the left side you will find the button for the camera and Navi and the button for your Ocarina. The buttons on the right side can be assigned with items of your choice. But since the touch buttons feel somehow unresponsive and you may not like touching the touchscreen with your fingers, they are only suitable for items like the Eye of Truth, bottles, masks or boots. Something that doesn't get used extensively.

The new item menu works similar to the one from the early GameBoy Zeldas, you can swap items all around. The Iron and Hover Boots are now normal items like in later 3D Zelda games, which makes swapping them much faster and more comfortable. Overall the new item menu works nicely except for the Fairy Bow. To switch between the different arrow types you have to tap on the bow icon to open a little submenu and then select the arrow of your choice, which is even more inconvenient than it used to be. They also removed the nice glowing effect. It would have been better if they handled the bow like in The Wind Waker, where you can toggle between the arrow types live by pressing R.

The Ocarina is now played with the L, R, Y, X and A buttons in that order from lowest to highest note. You need to get used to it and you won't like it at first, simply because you have the original songs memorized, but after a while you will realize that it actually plays much better than in the original. And quicker. I can now play the Requiem of Spirit at the split of a second. You can also now look at all the songs while playing, which is nice and really helpful with the change of notes.

But the best addition made to the entire game is the faster screen text! It was probably the most aweful thing in the original version, that you couldn't skip a text and you had to wait for it to appear slowly letter for letter. This could heavily test your patience during replays, like the four carpenters telling you the EXACT SAME things four times in very slow tempo. You should buy this version for the faster screen text alone.

The only real complaint I have about the interface is the use of the map. It's like they totally ignored the Nintendo DS Zeldas, which made really good use of the second screen for a map. The touchscreen just shows the entirely useless world map while you play the game or the current floor if you're inside a dungeon. The navigational map is still on the top screen, just very tiny and unlike in the original N64 version you can't deactivate it. There's also a larger version of the navigational map, however, it only appears if you visit the map menu! What were they thinking? The navigational map should always be visible on the lower screen. And the 3D screen should have as few HUD elements as possible, certainly not a map.

Master Quest

Master Quest was originally released on a bonus disc for the GameCube and was basically the same old game with rearranged dungeons. I really like Master Quest and it's great that they added this as a 2nd Quest to the game, which makes it finally complete. The new Master Quest comes with two twists, one of them literally. They mirrored the entire game and you now have to endure double damage.

For the mirroring they basically flipped the entire game graphics horizontally. What used to be left, is now on the right. What used to be in the east, lies now in the west. If you've played both the GameCube and the Wii version of Twilight Princess, you know what this feels like. It can be very confusing, it's the same old places, but everything is in different locations. You know where everything should be, but you lost your sense of orientation. It basically should be as simple as flipping left and right in your brain, but it isn't. Some areas look like completely new places alltogether and you can get confused easily. While you may not like it, there's no arguing that this really adds to the replay value. The dungeons might have been remastered in Master Quest, but the rest of the game, everything on the overworld, is the same. Playing Master Quest right after the normal quest would have been really boring if it wasn't for the mirroring. But now you won't really bother that you're actually doing the same quests again, because you're too busy getting used to the mirrored game world.

Additionally you will lose twice as much health if you get hit. This can lead to some challenges, for example Iron Knuckles now cause eight hearts of damage, but experienced Ocarina of Time players shouldn't have any real problems with it. It's definitely a great idea though.

New Features

Ocarina of Time 3D introduces two new features to the series, which will also be present in the upcoming Skyward Sword: the Sheikah Stones and a Boss Battle mode. One is meant for beginners and the other one for veteran players.

The Sheikah Stones are basically an ingame video guide feature. There are only two of them, one at your house and one inside the Temple of Time. They show you visions of how to progress through the game the game. These clips are quite short, for example there's only one vision for the entire Bottom of the Well dungeon. It's about 10 seconds short and it only shows four flashes, Link entering the dungeon's main area through a fake wall, Link playing the Ocarina to lower the water, Link entering a crawl space tunnel and Link fighting the Dead Hand. That's it. Reading my description here probably takes longer than the clip. And I can't really evaluate if this is actually helpful or not, since I already knew the game and wouldn't use such a feature to begin with. It would be nice to know if new players actually found any assistance in this, but some people just need full hand holding and might be still lost after watching these short clips. The Sheikah Stones are not present in Master Quest, which only makes sense, since Master Quest is supposed to be a challenge for expert players.

The Boss Battle mode is definitely more interesting for seasoned Zelda players and it let's you rebattle all eight normal bosses. Ganondorf and Ganon are not included, probably because you can replay them whenever you want anyway. You only get what you could consider to be the minimum equipment for each boss and you fight them against the clock going for personal highscores. If you've rebattled all eight bosses, the Boss Gauntlet opens, where you fight all eight bosses in a row. You get no recovery items at the start and only few Heart Containers, but after each fight two treasure chests appear, which might contain something useful like the Longshot or additional Heart Containers or something completely useless like Deku Nuts. It's a gamble, but it's a fun mode. In Master Quest the whole thing gets a little bit harder, because you get even less Heart Containers and the bosses all deal double damage, which can potentially kill you in one hit. The Boss Battle mode can be accessed by going to your bed after you've talked to Sheik at the Temple of Time.

The new features are basically entirely optional, you don't have to use them, if you don't want to, and they don't effect the original game in any way.

New Content

The biggest complaint about this remake is about the lack of new content. If you expected anything new, like new dungeons, new enemies, new sidequests, new items or new characters, you will be heavily disappointed. There's nothing new save for the added graphical details and the Boss Battle and Sheikah Stone features. And it's hard to understand, why GREZZO didn't add anything here, new content can be an important selling point. The best example would be Link's Awakening DX. When the game was released in Europe 1999, I didn't buy it because of the colors, I bought it because I wanted to play the new bonus dungeon, the one that comes with lots of new puzzles, enemies and two new tunics. This was an awesome addition and it was the main reason to buy the new version. Not the graphics. And if they would have added anything to Ocarina of Time 3D, it would be the same. But there isn't anything, in that sense they stayed a little bit too faithful to the original game. And it wouldn't be hard to add something, just place a new hidden grotto somewhere leading to a new minidungeon. Even another Cave of Ordeals clone would have been fine, in fact I would have liked something like this. They could have added enemies from Majora's Mask to make it more interesting. The item menu has two open slots, which is weird, so why not use them for some new items? An item like the Telescope or Hawkeye from previous games would have been awesome in 3D. Or add Pegasus Boots to make Link walk faster. Anything. But the lack of any new content is really disappointing and prevents this remake from being "perfect".

Other Changes

There are some small changes here and there, which should be noticed. Overall GREZZO really tried to be faithful to the original game. So faithful in fact that they even preserved some "bugs" like back flipping over fences. On the other hand they made a series of questionable weird changes.

Some of the sound effects changed like breaking pots, like in the Four Swords Anniversary Edition they are not really better or worse, they are just different for whatever reason. And there's a cool new detail, where adult Link twirls the sword while fighting an enemy like he does in Twilight Princess. That's really cool, I totally love it!

In the normal quest all puzzles that required you to spin through bars to activate a crystal switch were removed. There was one in the Water Temple and one in the Spirit Temple. They just placed the crystal switches in different locations for whatever reason. In Master Quest these puzzles are still present, so it's not a problem with the new engine. They must have thought that these puzzles were too tricky for the average or inexperienced player. However, this raises the question why they added the Sheikah Stones in the first place. They could have easily added a vision that shows Link spinning through bars. It's much better than dumbing down two entire puzzles.

Who also got dumbed down is Dark Link. It's now easier to fight him with the sword instead than with the Megaton Hammer or Din's Fire. Well, I guess, it definitely turns this fight into a more dynamic sword battle, but it also destroys an old phenomenom in this game. They could have at least preserved the old Dark Link for Master Quest.

Cojiro doesn't crow anymore in the Lost Woods. It's not really important, but it's also a part of the game's original atmosphere missing.

And if you would ask any Zelda fan how to improve Ocarina of Time, they would all give the same answer: mute Navi! She's such an annoying little fairy and this was the best chance to make her a little bit less annoying. But instead they made her even worse. Now she also bothers you in dungeons telling you to visit one of the Sheikah Stones or to take a pause from playing. And like this wouldn't be already bad enough, they added a blinking NAVI sign on the lower top screen. "Hey, listen, Link, hey, listen, listen, hey, hey!" It really distracts you from the 3D, which makes ignoring her even harder than in the N64 version.


Ocarina of Time 3D is all about reexperiencing an old love. At first you will reexperience it thanks to the visual makeover and marvel about all the new models and textures. Then you will experience it's mirror version in the new Master Quest. And this is great, replaying Ocarina of Time never was as exciting as on the 3DS. The lack of any new content is definitely very disappointing and some of the changes are actually questionable, but this still should be considered to be the ultimate version of the game. If you've played Ocarina of Time 3D, you never want to go back to the original version. Is it worth buying a Nintendo 3DS for this game? No, definitely not, just pick up an older version for ten bucks and save yourself some money. Don't buy a 3DS for this game. But if you ever decide to buy a Nintendo 3DS, this game shouldn't be missing in your shopping cart. It's probably the best game on the 3DS so far.

+ faithful remake
+ rexperience an old love with new looks and through the mirror
+ Mirrored Master Quest with double damage
+ new improved item menu
+ easier handling of Ocarina and the boots
+ new Boss Battle and Sheikah Stone features
+ fast text
- lack of any new content
- varying level of details
- questionable use of map
- inconvenient way of switching arrow types
- Navi as annoying as ever
- some weird changes

1 comment:

Ceska said...

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is arguably the greatest video game ever made. Even when running on the Nintendo 64's very limited hardware, it captured the imagination and the hearts of gamers everywhere. Now, this masterpiece has been given a facelift and very impressive 3D remastering for the Nintendo 3DS.