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

It's time for a new generation to fall in love with the best game ever.

By Jack Taylor – 17 July 2011
Reviewed on Nintendo 3DS

Millions of gamers have had the opportunity at least once over the past thirteen years to get their hands on what is commonly thought of as not only Nintendo's best game ever, but also one of the greatest games of all time. After its original release back in 1998, it landed on GameCube twice and came to the Wii Virtual Console soon after. Now, having been revamped for the Nintendo 3DS, it's time to see once and for all just how well The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has aged.

There are so many staples of the Zelda series that were born from Ocarina of Time: lock-on targeting can be used to focus your attention on a single target for better precision; varied clothing and footwear lets you adapt to the current situation whenever necessary; even things we even give a second thought to, such as using various notes to play instruments. Link may have had instruments in the past, but never was he able to actually "play" them. It's no surprise, then, that the game received the critical acclaim it did: it was groundbreaking in many ways and it has, in some way or form, affected every other Zelda game to date.

That's not the only reason for the game's incredible success. Compared to other Zelda titles, Ocarina of Time has quite a simple storyline: Link, a young boy from Kokiri Forest, is summoned to the forest's guardian, the Great Deku Tree, who tells him he must seek out the Princess of Hyrule in order to warn her of an impending evil. The twist in the tale comes when Link comes face-to-face with said impending evil - none other than Ganondorf - and after seven years of sleep in the safety of the Sacred Realm, the young lad is revealed to be the Hero of Time, bringing about even more adventure. There's even a spot of alternative time travel along the way: one of the game's defining aspects is Link's ability to travel freely between the Hyrules of his younger and elder selves.

As was no doubt Shigeru Miyamoto's doing, the story stays very much in the background for the majority of the game, as most of your time is spent travelling around the land of Hyrule finding and defeating the evil inside the world's various dungeons and temples. There's only one major sidequest, alongside several much smaller ones, and even that has no impact on the main storyline, nor does it take up much time itself. It's fair to say, then, that Ocarina of Time is all about the gameplay, which is exactly how it should be.

These are just some of the reasons Ocarina of Time was so successful and it's a huge relief to see that this perfect formula hasn't been messed with in Ocarina of Time 3D, which remains very understated despite the impact of the original: there are no unwanted bells and whistles and it's clear that the developers had no intention of trying to make the best game ever "even better" in that way. It would have been difficult for Ocarina of Time 3D to stay any truer to the original than it does, which just goes to show how much the team wanted to make sure the game wasn't hurt by the inclusion of too many new features.

The game even uses the same soundtrack as the original, albeit remastered for the 3DS, from the sound effects (the timeless item jingle remains - and so it should) to the themes for each different overworld area and dungeon. Only one new track has been added, which we won't spoil despite the fact that it's utterly fantastic. Ocarina of Time certainly has one of the most recognisable Zelda - and maybe even Nintendo - soundtracks there is and it brings great pleasure to know that it's stayed intact. The best part is that thirteen years later, it still feels current and not dated in the slightest.

The game's transition from the Nintendo 64 to the Nintendo 3DS has helped it immensely as well. For one thing, the gyroscope is put to excellent use in several different ways: whether you're using it to see the world from Link's eyes or to aim your slingshot, bow or hookshot, it's an incredible experience and one you could well end up using extensively during your time with the game. It might sound like a tacked-on addition just to make use of one of the handheld's new features, but it's been done extremely well and is definitely one of the better additions to the game.

Of course, being on the Nintendo 3DS, the game has also had a graphical revamp of sorts: while it remains instantly recognisable in terms of the landscapes and characters, the quality of the graphics has been greatly improved, making areas even more bright and vivid than they were in the original. The system's 3D graphics have been used incredibly well, with a fantastic sense of depth felt in narrow corridors, particularly when moving items such as blocks through them: it really feels as though the walls are moving closer and closer the further down you get.

Turning off the 3D doesn't detract from the experience in the slightest, however: the graphics retain the same vividness and are just as clean in 2D. Not only that, but the frame rate is slightly higher in 2D, making motions look slightly smoother as well, though obviously the switch between 2D and 3D has no impact on the actual gameplay. That's not to say the lower frame rate in 3D is a bad thing: in either mode, it's considerably higher than in the original, making the gameplay look stunning either way.

The graphical improvements have meant that some areas have been treated to a much-needed overhaul as well: the buildings in Hyrule Castle market town now have as much detail as everything else in the game, unlike their shoddy pre-rendered counterparts from the original game. Everything across Hyrule, from the ground to the steps and from the gates to the stone walls, has been revamped, making the world even more amazing to look around than before. Even the Water Temple has had a small facelift, with colour-coordinated levels added to aid newcomers to the game - not that it helps the cause, since it seems the Zelda team has created a monster of a temple even the talented folks at Grezzo haven't been able to tame.

Never mind the motion controls or the new graphics, though: by far the single greatest "addition" to Ocarina of Time 3D comes in the form of the touch screen. The entire menu interface has been completely overhauled, with four items available for use at one time, a permanent icon for the ocarina, an icon for first-person view (hogged by Navi whenever she wants your attention) and menu icons for your personal gear, a detailed map and your inventory. The touch screen also includes a small map and details of your life and magic meters at all times, meaning considerably more space on the top screen for the action to take place.

The item screen holds a five-by-five grid for a total of 25 items to be stored, with four items being equippable at any one time. The two most often-used items can be assigned to the X and Y buttons, whilst two more can be equipped to icons I and II, in the top-right and bottom-right of the screen respectively, which can be tapped to use. While some items from the original games have been condensed - a sub-menu for the bow and arrow has been added, meaning all four types of arrow effectively take up just the one space - Link's boots are now also on the item menu, allowing for simple taps to equip and unequip them.  This is a far easier way of utilising the boots than having to open the menu every time you want to take them on and off - and possibly the best new "feature" of the game next to the overhauled menus.

Another new feature for those who need a little extra help is the Sheikah Stone. Two of these are located in Hyrule - one in Link's bedroom and one in the Temple of Time - and they can provide you with "visions of the future" to help you on your way. These are short videos showing you in a small amount of detail how to progess with a certain task. They never show you exactly what to do, nor do they carry it out for you like hint guides in previous Nintendo titles: they're only a few seconds long and literally only give you a couple of hints about what to do next, leaving the rest of the work up to you.

There are also two major new additions to Ocarina of Time 3D, the first being Boss Challenge: later on in the game you'll be able to return to your house and, by resting in your bed, you'll be able to go back to any major dungeon boss you've previously encountered and fight them again. For each boss, the number of times you've defeated them is noted as well as your quickest time doing so. By defeating all the bosses - of which there are eight - at least once, you'll even be able to unlock the opportunity to go through them all in order without stopping.

Undoubtedly the biggest addition in the entire game is Master Quest. Anyone lucky enough to own a very rare GameCube disc issued alongside The Wind Waker in 2003 - and anyone who knows the history of the Zelda series like the back of their hand - will know of this already: the original Master Quest, known as Ura Zelda in Japan, was a tougher version of the original game, with all dungeons and temples being completely revamped with more confusing layouts, tougher enemies and hard-to-get chests with nothing but money or recovery hearts inside.

This time, however, there are two very significant twists: while the dungeon layouts from the original Master Quest are intact, Link now takes twice the damage he does in the standard game, so you'll have to be extra careful and make sure you've got plenty of fairies and potion (both of which you can keep in bottles and use to replenish your life when it's low). Not only that, but everything in Hyrule has been mirrored, from the overworld to the temples, dungeons, houses - everything has been flipped, which is bound to confuse anyone who knows any of the dungeon layouts well in Ocarina of Time. It's one thing beating Ocarina of Time, but if you want a real challenge, Master Quest is a fantastic way to see just how hardcore you really are.

There is so much more that could be said about Ocarina of Time 3D, but going into so much more detail would mean fewer surprises when it comes to playing the game. It really is such an amazing and incomparable experience, playing a brand-new 13-year-old game for the first time. Even if you've played the original to death and you think you always know what to expect, with the astonishing new graphics, there are so many areas you'll get to and you'll be amazed by how much more amazing they look. It'll probably be the first time in a very long time that you actually stop and look at just how impressive it truly is.

One thing's for sure, though: whether you're an Ocarina of Time veteran or newcomer, or even a newcomer to the Zelda series altogether, the game has always been well-deserving of a modern revamp and Ocarina of Time 3D is as perfect as they come. It's a truly immersive experience and the first must-have title for the 3DS - and despite the seemingly impossible nature of the task, it is actually better than the original in almost every sense. Even when the main game ends, you still have Master Quest to play with, which will no doubt take you considerably longer to beat than the standard game. It just can't get any better than that, which is why Ocarina of Time 3D is quite possibly the best Zelda title ever and, in a few years' time, there's a very good chance it'll still be the best game on the Nintendo 3DS.


Verdict: Masterpiece

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Published by Nintendo
Developed by Nintendo