"For veterans of the original, the dungeons become all new challenges (sometimes extremely frustrating ones), with different sequences necessary for progression and a horde of remixed enemies throughout—for instance, where there might have been a few keese in Ocarina of Time, there now stands a Stalfos."
When The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time debuted on the Nintendo 64 in 1998, it was hailed as arguably the greatest videogame ever made. To some, that claim still stands. To others, newer, hipper titles have conquered that position—to even others, many old-school games remain the superlative creations. Nonetheless, OoT was good enough to warrant a bonus release—and, in some respects, a necessary re-release—on the GameCube, along with a new, though disappointingly familiar adventure in the way of Ocarina of Time: Master Quest.
For those who haven’t experienced Ocarina of Time (and amazingly, there are few who haven’t), the game features Link, the sword-wielding Hylian, in his adventure to save the kingdom of Hyrule from the evil Ganondorf’s wicked intentions. The plot is essentially one of the strongest points of OoT, and often feels like a great fantasy novel in its storytelling.
(OoT is included on the bonus disc in addition to Master Quest and a collection of previews of upcoming games, just in case anyone wishes to re-experience the original in itself.)
Ocarina of Time introduced a new 3-dimensional combat system that was hailed as a top innovation of its time—by using Navi the fairy as a cursor, Link can lock on to his opponent using the L shoulder button (previously executed via the Z trigger) and have the camera keep them in view at all times.
Various items can be used in battle—aside from the standard sword and shield, Link has access to arrows, the hookshot, a boomerang, and even blinding Deku seeds—or they can be used throughout the quest to solve puzzles and gain access to new areas. While previously used with the Nintendo 64’s C buttons (left, down, or right), items can be assigned to their respective directions on the GameCube controller’s C-stick, or to the X, Y, and Z buttons. The former often feels unnatural and altogether difficult, while using the face buttons—the method of execution in The Wind Waker feels even smoother than before, and ultimately becomes an improvement despite the lack of an updated interface on the screen.
The ocarina, essentially the key to all of the game’s secrets, can also be played by using the C stick (the left, right, and down directions also correspond to Y, X, and Z, respectively). Just as the items were an improvement to the original, the ocarina is a vast step in the other direction—it is not nearly as easy, and often becomes frustrating, to use the C-stick instead of the C buttons of the N64.
The game’s overall rendition of the original Ocarina of Time is a decent one, though not perfect. The resolution has been bumped up a bit, though it is nothing really noticeable to the average player. The graphics are still primitive by today’s standards—after seeing such gorgeous titles as Metroid Prime and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker running on Nintendo’s system, Ocarina of Time looks comparably stale and ugly.
While the camera in the original suffered from its own problems, it is considerably sluggish and choppy in the port—oftentimes an enemy will become impossible to fight because the camera has either stuck itself behind a wall or given the player the worst possible angle in which to fight; either some of the programming was corrupted during the conversion process, or an attempt at resolving the previous camera issues backfired.
The sound, too, seems to have taken a step in the wrong direction. The ocarina notes often sound flat, as if the MIDI was not correctly converted for the GameCube, and Hyrule Field retains the bland, unfamiliar melody from the original (the title screen features a gorgeous interpretation of the Hyrule Theme from previous Zelda titles, which would have been nice to have in its stead).
The dungeons in Master Quest, however, are some of the most creative, wonderfully designed creations in Nintendo history. Compared to the collection of Ocarina of Time’s dungeons, Master Quest is simply a stroke of pure genius—in one dungeon, cows replace the standard switches, while the Song of Time (used scarcely in the original) becomes the heart of several puzzles in other dungeons. For veterans of the original, the dungeons become all new challenges (sometimes extremely frustrating ones), with different sequences necessary for progression and a horde of remixed enemies throughout—for instance, where there might have been a few keese in Ocarina of Time, there now stands a Stalfos.
The bosses, however, are no more challenging than before. Aside from requiring a few more hits to be extinguished, their attacks are unchanged and the strategy for beating them remains the same. It would have been nice to have to think a little more than before in order to conquer the various bosses, but this is forgivable considering the near-flawless dungeons in Master Quest.
Aside from a few recurring bugs (such as the sloppy camera) and a couple complaints that have gone unresolved, Ocarina of Time remains a terrific game. Nearly flawless in its presentation, and just as fun to play as anything out there, even now, any gamer worth his weight in rupees who hasn’t played the original should at least experience it once, and any Zelda veteran interested in something new will be very pleased—hell, ecstatic—with the remixed dungeons of Master Quest.
Staff review by Zack M (May 15, 2003)
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