The epic tales of Link and Zelda are ones which have entranced the gaming world for decades, culminating in the franchise becoming as popular and well-known as Mario (or even more so). Now Link is back, and this time remastered in beautiful 3D effects for Nintendo's 3DS handheld.
The original Ocarina of Time was released some 13 years ago for the Nintendo 64, and went on to become known and admired as one of the best games ever created. With its innovative 3D world, revolutionary targeting system and of course a spellbound story that is unlikely to receive an equal. Guinness World Records even declared the title to be the highest rated game ever reviewed, and the 3DS version is living up to the reputation, scoring a whopping 95% average on Metacritic.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D is as straight a remake as you can get, and fans of the original N64 version will recognise every character and aspect of the vibrant world without fail. While some might lament this fact, for veterans pure nostalgia more than makes up for this, while newcomers can now enjoy this gaming classic in all its updated splendour.
As we've said, the Ocarina of Time 3D is an updated version of the original, which means that as far as storyline is concerned there isn't much that's going to be different.
For those unfamiliar with the tale though, the game puts players in the shoes of a young boy named Link, living among the peaceful denizens of the Kokiri forest in the kingdom of Hyrule. Soon after starting the game and obtaining Link's signature sword and shield, the guardian of the forest, known as the Great Deku Tree, summons Link to his side.
The Great Deku Tree informs Link of a curse placed on him and tasks Link, along with his new-found fairy companion Navi, to expel the evil monsters within him. However, after successfully vanquishing the evil the guardian informs Link that it was already too late for him. Before dying the wise tree tells Link of the creation of Hyrule, the magical treasure known as the Triforce and of the evil Ganondorf who desires it.
He also reveals that it is Link's destiny to thwart this evil, and hands him one of three Spiritual Stones used to unlock the gates to the Sacred Realm, the place where the Triforce is kept. Before his last breath is spent the tree instructs Link to find Princess Zelda of Hyrule, who will help him defeat Ganon's evil.
Back in its day Ocarina of Time was greeted as a revolution in action adventure games, with hundreds of subsequent titles from all genres copying its staples. That is because the game managed to do everything right, from creating an immersive and easily navigable 3D environment (not easy in 1998), to introducing sprawling game worlds, a convenient targeting system and combat, which managed to remain fresh and enjoyable even after your ten thousandth sword swing.
The game also features a couple of extras, such as the Boss Gauntlet Mode which is unlocked after completing the game. In this mode players can defeat each of the game's bosses and compare completion times with that of your friends. A new hint system is also built in to aid newcomers, with special Sheikah Stones showing small hint movies that may give suggestions or point you to the location of secret items.
Controlling Link in the 3DS version of Ocarina of Time was again a simple and fluid affair, with the character responding well to input thanks to a camera system that effectively tracks what you want to look at. The camera in the game is more of a joy to use thanks to the 3DS' gyroscope, allowing players to physically move the handheld and look around the gameworld. Players simply press the left shoulder button to enter targeting mode and can then turn in their chair (or wherever) to look around the world from a first person perspective.
In addition to being able to quickly spot hidden ramps and sneakily placed ladders, the new viewing mode also makes aiming in the game a much simpler affair. Equipping Link's trusty slingshot or bow, players are once again able to move the handheld around to adjust his aim, instead of using the analog stick (as used to be the norm). If you prefer aiming with the controlpad though this option can be disabled, but getting used to it really makes ranged combat a much simpler and smoother affair.
The action button 'A' will be used for most of the basic movement and interaction within the game, while pressing 'B' will cause Zelda to rip out his trusty blade. By pressing 'B' in conjunction with the targeting button players can perform either vertical or horizontal slashes (both useful in particular situations), and by combing targeting with the 'A' and 'B' buttons players can perform manoeuvres such as backflips or leaping and slicing towards foes.
Furthermore, item slots are bound to the 'X' and 'Y' buttons in addition to two being bound to the touchscreen, and players have the freedom to choose which items must be bound to which keys. So if you'd prefer your bow to be on 'Y' instead of on the touchscreen, players can simply drag and drop.
The bottom touch-screen on the handheld really makes inventory management a breeze, with players able to use the stylus to easily rearrange or check anything by simply tapping away mid-game. This is much easier than the constant pausing that was needed on the original. Your map will now also be displayed on the bottom screen, allowing players to simply glance down to be informed of their current location.
The visuals are obviously the most major and eye-catching improvement made to the 3DS version of Ocarina of Time, and developers Nintendo and Grezzo really went all out to revamp the world. We're not simply talking about a few fresh textures here and there, the team literally redrew everything, with vibrant colours, in-depth locations and awesome animations which now take place at a snappy 30 frames-per-second.
While characters, structures and locations remain in the same spots, textures, models and animations have been completely revised. So, while virtually unchanged, the remastered scenery definitely breaths new life into the gameworld, and while you may quickly get used to the new visuals, a quick look back at the N64 version and you'll be amazed at the differences. The game's masterful soundtrack remains intact as well, together with all your favourite Zelda themes.
The 3D effects in Ocarina of Time 3D was also by far the most impressive of what we've seen on the Nintendo 3DS. Cutscenes especially stand out spectacularly thanks to the added 3D effects, and moving the 3D slider up and down you can really witness Link and his surroundings pop out of the background. While the 3D effects really looked stunning though, we found that in certain levels it's better to play the game in 2D, especially when a lot of first person viewing or aiming is involved as the 3DS's viewing range still has its limitations. This largely comes down to personal preference though.
There's a very good reason why the original Ocarina of Time is the highest rated game on metacritic, basking in an average rating of 99%. The game features a spectacular and heart warming story, filled with many amazing adventures, insane boss battles and now even updated 3D visuals. For Zelda veterans replaying, the game will unlock tons of forgotten memories and can make for great gaming moments, while newcomers to the series can enjoy its remastered gameplay in a full 3D setting.