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The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (3DS) artwork

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (3DS) review


"When I started playing the actual game, though, my perspective changed almost immediately. Linkís prophetic nightmare, the shivering elven boy on the straw mattress, the dying monarch of the forest summoning a fairy and the awkward bump against the fence that looks too much like an open waffle iron all unfolded almost exactly the way I remembered them from previous trips through the game, but I realized with surprise that something unexpected was taking place: I was loving each moment again."



Like most gamers of a certain age, I knew precisely what to expect when I started playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D. In the two or three years that followed the release of the original Nintendo 64 version of the game in 1998, I spent so much time with the title that I eventually became immune to its charms. I memorized the dungeons, the enemies, the puzzles and the secrets. As I sat down recently to try my hand at the 3DS update, I already knew that my return to Hyrule in 2011 on the occasion of the franchiseís 25th anniversary would wind up being a generally enjoyable but somewhat melancholy walk down memory lane, one that would likely prompt me to comment on how unkind the passage of time is to even the most beloved of the industryís classics.

As the opening theme song played through the 3DS speakers and the mare Epona galloped across Hyrule Field with Link on her back, I could see that I had kept my expectations reasonable. The title sequence was almost exactly as I remembered it. Someone had gone through and cleaned up the haunting ocarina music so that it sounded more like an instrument and less like noise from muffled television speakers, and there were richer colors to the textures with hills that werenít so jagged and uneven. The depth of field was pleasant too, but none of the improvements stopped my reviewís outline from forming in my head. ďThis is Ocarina of Time the way you remember it,Ē I would say, ďand thatís just as good and bad as it ever was.Ē

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D asset


When I started playing the actual game, though, my perspective changed almost immediately. Linkís prophetic nightmare, the shivering elven boy on the straw mattress, the dying monarch of the forest summoning a fairy and the awkward bump against the fence that looks too much like an open waffle iron all unfolded almost exactly the way I remembered them from previous trips through the game, but I realized with surprise that something unexpected was taking place: I was loving each moment again.

Itís perhaps an odd thing to say, but for the first time in years I was playing one of my favorite games and I was having a blast. Venturing through the tunnels to find my sword didnít feel like a chore again. It felt like a task to prove my mettle. I peered around the edge of a rock wall and there was the boulder that I knew would be there, rolling toward me. I let it roll past and then I started after it, wound my way through a narrow opening and there I found the sword that I would ďborrowĒ resting in a dingy treasure chest. Iíve often gone through those passages, but the trial was only exciting the first timeÖ and this time.

From a technological standpoint, the effort that Ocarina of Time 3D goes through to make such moments matter again isnít terribly impressive. Games have come a long way since the original game was developed, so of course a graphical overhaul is going to make a difference when compared to something originally available in the previous millennium. If anything, itís a surprise that the visuals havenít improved even more. When you shimmy up close to a wall, its surface doesnít look as detailed as you might expect and every pixel is evident. Link is a great deal more expressive than ever before, but his hands still look a lot like mittens. The Lost Woods still feel like one screen repeated ten times, except now the moblins that guard the Forest Temple have well-defined abs of steel and menacing scowls that you couldnít see in the past. So goes the presentation throughout the whole game.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D asset


Despite once blazing a trail for 3D graphics in a console adventure game, though, Ocarina of Time was never really something that people played just for its visual splendor. Thatís why a modern update has to change so little to work so well. Underneath the aging graphics engine, there rests an otherwise polished design that time canít render obsolete.

The 3DS just makes everything stand out more. The depth that glasses-free 3D affords Hyrule truly brings the land to life. Environments that time turned into set pieces once again feel like places. The first steps I took into the Temple of Time on the Nintendo 64 felt momentous because of the adventure that I had already had and the uncertainty that shrouded my future. On the 3DS, I instead felt a sense of wonder as I wandered the vacant halls and looked to ceilings now properly vaulted above me. The senses of time and mystery were joined by newer senses of space and perspective. I felt more like a hero who had earned the right to savor his walk through those halls and less like a gamer who sat around pressing buttons.

For all of its strengths, though, Ocarina of Time was never a perfect game. It remains imperfect in its newest iteration, perhaps because the team responsible for the update was afraid to mess with an experience that still lingered so close to perfection. If youíve had a problem with orientation while exploring Hyrule Field in the past, that problem doesnít vanish just because Lon Lon Ranch now towers more majestically over the regionís gentle slopes. If the central prairie always struck you as a level hub in transparent disguise, the best I can say now is that its expansiveness finally adds to the charm. Encounters with skeletons in the moonlight still suck, though.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D asset


Importantly, the developers were willing to tweak the source material when needed. Now you can find large stones placed throughout the world. If youíre not sure what to do next, you can consult the stones for hints and the game keeps track of which bits of assistance you finally were offered. Such a feature would have been welcome even in the pre-Xbox era. The control scheme has also changed. Thanks to the touch screen, itís much easier to manage your inventory and to remain aware of what resources you have available. Combat also seems to go more smoothly. Iíve suddenly become very good at actually targeting the enemy I want to harm, circling around him and making mincemeat of him with my sword. Mechanisms that allow you to examine Linkís surroundings have been similarly improved. You simply tilt the handheld this way or that, though the tilting does lead to a blurry screen unless you ditch the 3D effect. I canít imagine anyone wanting to do that.

The addition of an actual third dimension has no right to make Ocarina of Time a better game, but thatís precisely what it does. Factor in a challenging ďmasterĒ quest that you unlock by completing the 20-hour main adventure and you have twice the value for what basically amounts to half the cost of the original release. These are Hyrule and the Zelda franchise at their best: utterly absorbing on a level that other games seldom even approach. Whatever your history with Hyrule, Nintendoís update to one of its best-loved classics is one that you canít afford to miss.

I thought I knew precisely what to expect from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D. Iím glad that I was mistaken.

Rating: 9/10

honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (June 19, 2011)

Jason Venter founded HonestGamers in 1998, and since then has written hundreds of reviews as the site's editor-in-chief. He also is a prolific freelancer with game reviews, articles and fiction available around the Internet.

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jerec posted June 19, 2011:

You make me want to spend money I don't have on a 3DS and a game I've played more times than I can accurately count.

Damn you, sir. And an excellent review.
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SamildanachEmrys posted June 20, 2011:

I completely agree with jerec. I found myself wondering whether I could justify shelling out for a 3DS for this, even though I still have an N64 and a copy of the original.

The review is certainly one of the better that I've seen on HG. Personal associations, balance, th way the game exceeds your expectations, but also notes of the old and new flaws, however small. Great stuff.
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honestgamer posted June 20, 2011:

Thanks for the comments, guys! I'm pretty happy with how this one turned out, where "this one" refers to both the game and the review and therefore represents poor grammar.
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EmP posted June 20, 2011:

You do seem to save your best work for this game.
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kknd posted June 22, 2011:

I'm playing through the game right now and that's exactly what I think about it too, great review! :)
(I'm in dodongo's cavern right now)
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honestgamer posted June 22, 2011:

I'm glad you enjoyed the review, and that you're enjoying the game. The best is yet to come!

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