Giant Bomb Review

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The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D Review

5
  • 3DS

After more than a decade, portability and a lovely visual makeover are just bonus features for a game that holds up as well as Ocarina of Time.

How does a person, in 2011, approach a review of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time? By what standards should you judge a game both universally hailed as one of the best ever made, and also now almost 13 years old? Difficult questions, but ones I could generally set aside once I sat down and actually dug into Nintendo's new portable version of Ocarina, gussied up in 3D. The original is a game I count among my all-time favorites but which I haven't touched since it was only a few days old. Today, the game holds up remarkably well, all things considered, and by sheer process of elimination it's practically a must-have for anyone who's already ponied up for the software-scarce 3DS.

Ocarina was inarguably a landmark when it released in 1998, and Nintendo has shown the game the right amount of reverence with this updated release. Not a port but not quite a remake, Ocarina of Time 3D boasts as its primary selling point a complete visual overhaul that brings the game up to 3DS standards--or at least, what I assume is indicative of the 3DS' capabilities, since we really haven't seen much out of this machine yet. You'd be forgiven if you took a cursory look at Ocarina 3D and thought it doesn't look much better than the Nintendo 64 original, but you'd be objectively wrong. That's just the rose-colored tint of nostalgia. Side by side, the new release looks leaps and bounds better than the old one, particularly the far more detailed character models. The world is full of cleaner, sharper textures and tons of lively new ambient effects as well. Top to bottom, it's a great overhaul. And while every person handles the 3DS' depth feature subjectively, this has been my best experience with the system's 3D to date. Hyrule's wide-open expanses and ornate interiors make a great showcase for the 3D effect, and I was able to play with the 3D slider most of the way up without my eyes ever seriously crossing.

In contrast to the thorough graphics upgrade, Ocarina 3D slavishly recreates every other aspect of Ocarina of Time, for better or worse. That's mostly for the better. Even now, over a decade later, the game's dungeons are still the real deal, full of devilish puzzles that challenge you to use the old Zelda item lineup in creative ways, intricate multi-level layouts, and no shortage of set pieces and architectural novelties. Remember stepping into the Forest Temple's twisted hallway for the first time? The passage of time hasn't much dulled the impact of such unexpected sights. Some of the dungeons are so complex, you get that almost overwhelmed feeling akin to the way you feel in games like Portal, where you have to step back and take it all in from a distance before you can decide how to start going about solving things up close. For a game this old to engender such a modern reaction is pretty impressive.

My prevailing memory of Ocarina focused on the sequence of those iconic dungeons. "Right... three dungeons as a kid, travel through time, five temples, done." But there's a good bit more content, most of it optional, around the edges of Ocarina to flesh out and enliven the game's version of Hyrule. Even having played the game in its day, I found myself stumbling onto some neat secret areas, finding unexpected pieces of heart, and so on, without immediately remembering where everything is. Ocarina of Time was one of the first games I remember that established a strong, coherent sense of place, and you still get a pretty great sense of that larger world as you explore Hyrule. There's plenty of value even for those who have been here before, though you're sure to recall certain things more clearly and immediately than others.

Ocarina's position in the video game pantheon is well-deserved, but there are a couple of spots where the age begins to show, where you wish devotion to recreating every aspect of the classic game might have given way to some thoughtful, modern-day refinements. The movement and combat work surprisingly well on the 3DS' controls, with a much appreciated option to toggle the enemy targeting by simply tapping the L button, instead of having to hold it down constantly. But it's hard not to miss the dual-analog camera control that underpins modern third-person action games, and the camera here tends to get hung up in tight spaces and make combat and some navigation a bit frustrating at those times. Also, early on in the game you'll spend an awful lot of time running back and forth across the sprawling Hyrule field, which itself doesn't contain much to occupy your attention. Later on there are enough ways to warp between locations this isn't much of an issue, and besides, I remember thinking the field felt a little empty way back in 1998 as well. There are probably fewer moments here where you remember this is an old game than there are in practically any other game of the era, but they do pop up.

Since this is, ultimately, a nice new coat of paint on the same game that came out last century, Nintendo's other few enhancements to Ocarina 3D bear mentioning. If you feel driven to go back and fight the game's bosses from a menu with a timer, you can do that. It's great that the game also offers the much harder Master Quest once you've completed the game the first time. There are some neat hint videos that apply to just about every area of the game, though none of them explicitly hold your hand through all of the puzzles. The best addition, besides the new graphics, is a pair of extra buttons on the touch screen that supplement the normal face buttons and let you map a couple of extra items. Even boots. (That means navigating the infamous Water Temple is as easy as tapping a button, rather than navigating multiple menus every time you want to access those infernal boots.) And while gyroscope-based motion control for aiming originally seemed like a bad idea to me, it actually comes in handy for precisely aiming projectile items like the hookshot and bow.

There are surely 3DS owners out there for whom Ocarina of Time 3D will be their first experience with one of the few classics important enough to truly earn the word "seminal." Those people should by all means stop what they're doing and go get this game. It's not the Zelda that established the series' traditional dungeon-item-dungeon-item formula, but it's the one that brought it into 3D space and (along with Super Mario 64 before it) and defined how pretty much every subsequent action game should work in 3D, as well. It's almost as important as a historical record as it is a game that's still enjoyable today.

For everyone else, your interest in this game should hinge on your interest in replaying a better-looking 3D version of Ocarina of Time, and unless you've replayed the old game to death in the recent past, this updated release serves as the best version to hold onto for posterity. If nothing else, Ocarina 3D is a sign of great things to come, because if the 3DS can pull off such a lovely rendition of this deep and deeply satisfying classic, just imagine what sort of new Zelda adventures the system might offer in the future.

Brad Shoemaker on Google+
211 Comments
Posted by Brad

yeah whatever

Staff
Edited by wolf_blitzer85

Zelda Wins!

I've played this game countless amounts of times on various platforms. The game still engages me just as much as it did in the past. Plus it's a goddamn game for my 3DS so WHOO!

Posted by Phoenix87

meh

Online
Edited by Otrebor

Great review. Cant wait to play this.

Posted by Origina1Penguin

If I end up with a 3DS, I'll be sure to get this.

Posted by Jackhole

I'll get a 3DS one of these days. Maybe.

Posted by ChristianCastillo
@Brad said:

yeah whatever

Was this an attempt at getting the quest?  If so, CHEATER!
Edited by Video_Game_King

Why aren't captions showing up? It's kinda weird. Also, the review kinda sucks. From what I've read, it doesn't tell me how the game plays or what to expect. Granted, I've played the damn thing already, but there are tons of people who haven't. Also, it meanders around a bit, not feeling very smooth or refined.

Posted by Draco9898

its awesome, please buy a 3DS so we can make a meme gif of how it "prints money"

Posted by LethalKi11ler
@Jackhole said:
I'll get a 3DS one of these days. Maybe.
Posted by lawlerballer

its Zelda! automatic perfect lol

Posted by RobotHamster

Now if only I had a 3ds.

Posted by Nocall
@Brad said:

yeah whatever

I laughed. 
 
I'll probably pick this game up for my brother's birthday. He bought a 3DS at launch but I'm pretty sure he never used it--and since he missed the original (too young) it looks like a perfect gift.
Posted by RecSpec

Playing through it right now, having a blast. Although I still need to finish my current Link's Awakening run before I go too deep.

Posted by Keen_12

Just finished the water temple. Yo those nintendo guys make some good dungeons.

Tap L to target is a must if you don't want the worst cramps ever on boss fights.

Posted by Th3_James

I disabled hold to target and the motion camera control

Posted by ArbitraryWater

To be fair, the inclusion of Master Quest is a fairly substantial addition if you weren't one of the crazies who pre-ordered Wind Waker (to be fair, it's a pretty great preorder bonus). I was not, but I had a friend who did and from what I played of it, it was pretty crazy. If I had a 3DS, that would probably be my selling point. Oh well, I'll have to content myself with looking at listings for the Master Quest gamecube disk on Ebay.

Posted by MisterMouse

a great game on the 3DS???? its a port? oh well ill take it.

Posted by beard_of_zeus

@Brad said:

yeah whatever

Haha, nice job playing the role of apathetic commenter :)

Nice review though, Brad. Picked this up on Sunday and enjoying it a lot. I totally feel you on all the points you made in your writeup. The last time I played this was back during it's release, and I've been running into the same feeling of remembering some things, and finding new secrets as well. The game holds up surprisingly well, especially in its clever dungeon design and sense of place you get from Hyrule. The new coat of paint (so to speak) is quite nice as well, and the interface tweaks/upgrades are helpful.

Posted by robbob88

Fanfuckingtastic review. I agree with every word of it. I am enjoying this game more so than I did when it came out 13 years ago :D

Edited by Firelogic

Alright, the fact that you love the game is great and all but you can't sit there and tell me that this game is a perfect 5/5. The gameplay hasn't been changed to reflect the 15 years that have passed since it was first released. The mechanics are archaic now. Not to mention, it still has midi music. They could have at least updated that.
 
What exactly did the 3DS pull off? It's a half-assed "remake" of a 15 year old game.

Posted by Cyrisaurus

This is kind of sad. Must suck to be a 3DS owner and this is the best reviewed, most anticipated game for it.

Posted by natchy

"Some of the dungeons are so complex"
 *Brad hit the boxes* "I think I'm missing something really important here.."
 
Zelda's really awesome :) Ocarina of Time is still my favorite game ever.

Edited by SomeJerk

Dear Games Industry in the year 2011..

Iwata: *laughs*

e: Firelogic, what's the latest FPS action title you liked? Tell me and I'll call it a piece of shit using old archaic gameplay mechanisms from the early 90's and that it should be changed to reflect changes made.

Posted by Rio

This is getting dangerous. I'm very close to trying to find a used 3ds and trading in my dsi to get it. I really shouldnt, but I want to play this pretty badly. Damnit Brad! Why couldnt you find some horrible flaw with the game lol.

Posted by DarkGamerOO7

I will definitely have to pick this up when I get my next pay check. :]  I've played this game so much on my Nintendo 64, though I did prefer the much underrated Majora's Mask; which hopefully will get a Full 3D update too, or at the very least an e-Shop release. I'm curious to see if the next Zelda game on the 3DS is in the style of Ocarina of Time or the 2D style of Zelda games...

Posted by robbob88
@Video_Game_King: I see what you mean by Brad not mentioning how the game plays therefore the people new to this game may not want to play it given the fact that they don't know how the game works, but they don't need too. They just need to know that this game is considered the greatest of all time for a reason, and that is all they need to know in terms of convincing themselves into buying this game. But I see what you're saying. 
Posted by RYNO9881

I should probably get a 3DS one day. Now start remaking Majora's Mask; man these ideas of mine are gold.

Posted by Cyrisaurus

Also, anyone else feel disgusted that often GB talks about the Vita (or PSP) and says "We don't want console style games/ports on handhelds, and therefore we don't care about the Vita" and then BAM, 3DS gets a port of a 14 year old console game and it's the holy grail of portable games. Ugh.

Posted by RandomInternetUser

This game is going to make me get a 3DS.  I can feel it.

Posted by ThePhilatron

My only issue with this review and other Ocarina 3DS discussions lately is that I feel that the Master Quest addition is being undersold. The fact that they were able to go back into this game and keep the dungeon layout exactly the same while completely changing the puzzles in a way that makes them substantially more difficult is a great addition. If you've played this game before but never got the preorder bonus for Wind Waker, I'd suggest starting this game on Master Quest if you decide to pick up this version.

Posted by Hailinel

@Firelogic said:

Alright, the fact that you love the game is great and all but you can't sit there and tell me that this game is a perfect 5/5. The gameplay hasn't been changed to reflect the 15 years that have passed since it was first released. The mechanics are archaic now. Not to mention, it still has midi music. They could have at least updated that. What exactly did the 3DS pull off? It's a half-assed "remake" of a 15 year old game.

Why can't he? And what's wrong with the gameplay being as old as it is if it holds up? Did you actually read the review at all, chuckles?

Online
Posted by Video_Game_King
@robbob88
 
Although shouldn't part of justifying why it's one of the best games ever entail explaining how the game actually works? It's not like I'd write a review of Fire Emblem 4 without ever explaining things like moving on a grid or forming romances. If I did that, then everybody who hasn't played the game would be confused as shit.
Posted by Hockeymask27

tl:dr  
 
my version its still oot and its still awesome.

Posted by EnchantedEcho

I am buying a 3DS for this game, somehow didn't manage to play this when it came out for the N64.

Posted by PrioritySeven

@xobballox said:

This game is going to make me get a 3DS. I can feel it.

I bought one on Amazon this morning dude. I couldn't resist any longer!

Posted by punkxblaze
@Firelogic said:
Alright, the fact that you love the game is great and all but you can't sit there and tell me that this game is a perfect 5/5. The gameplay hasn't been changed to reflect the 15 years that have passed since it was first released. The mechanics are archaic now. Not to mention, it still has midi music. They could have at least updated that.  What exactly did the 3DS pull off? It's a half-assed "remake" of a 15 year old game.
If he believes it's a 5/5, it's a 5/5. Reviews are subjective. Just because you don't agree, does not make it catagorically wrong. I don't think it should be a 5/5 either, but I'm not Brad, with Brad's tastes, and Brad's judgement, so of course I don't see 100% level with him.
 
Also, it's more than just a half-ass remake. Literally every piece of geometry in the game has been rebuilt from the ground up, every texture repainted, lighting and colors improved, etc. It's not like they pulled a Sony HD collection and just uprezzed some textures and added Antialiasing.
Posted by Deathpooky

@Cyrisaurus said:

Also, anyone else feel disgusted that often GB talks about the Vita (or PSP) and says "We don't want console style games/ports on handhelds, and therefore we don't care about the Vita" and then BAM, 3DS gets a port of a 14 year old console game and it's the holy grail of portable games. Ugh.

I think there's a difference between playing a better-looking version of one of the best games of all time, with some minor gameplay enhancements, to playing a worse-looking, dumbed down version of current gen games. I mean really, do you want to play a game that thrives on HD graphics and cinematics like Uncharted on a tiny screen with worse controls?

Posted by zombie2011

As some one with no nostalgia for this or any Zelda game, my opinion it's that it's good but nothing special.

Posted by Skald

Well, that's heartening.

Posted by Chewii101
@Brad said:

yeah whatever

Oh Brad
Posted by Landon
@Firelogic said:
Alright, the fact that you love the game is great and all but you can't sit there and tell me that this game is a perfect 5/5. The gameplay hasn't been changed to reflect the 15 years that have passed since it was first released. The mechanics are archaic now. Not to mention, it still has midi music. They could have at least updated that.  What exactly did the 3DS pull off? It's a half-assed "remake" of a 15 year old game.
OoT's gameplay is timeless. What, exactly, should they have added to make an already fantastic game better?  And calling this a "half assed remake" is like calling True Grit a half assed remake.
Edited by Vorbis

Honestly this just kind of depresses me that it wasn't a new Zelda, even though it's still great for people who missed it the first time round to get another chance with it.

Here's hoping Skyward Sword will be just as great and scratch my itch, if not, there's always Darksiders 2.

Posted by CoruptAI125

The question I have to ask is would this game be considered more exciting then twilight princess? Twilight  Princess was my first and only Zelda game to date and I ended up giving up on it. I didn't find it to be bad,  just boring. 

Posted by BD_Mr_Bubbles

@Brad said:

yeah whatever

lol, good review Brad.

Posted by Damax

Great review having a blast playing this classic again

Posted by Mabui

I've played a little of the game, not a whole lot.  If I ever get convinced to buy a 3DS I might buy it.

Posted by Cyrisaurus
@Deathpooky: I do plan on buying Uncharted with the Vita. One, the screen is amazing, and two, the controls are the same as the console, with added touch and tilt features, so I don't see how it's worse.
Posted by Kyle

@Firelogic said:

Alright, the fact that you love the game is great and all but you can't sit there and tell me that this game is a perfect 5/5. The gameplay hasn't been changed to reflect the 15 years that have passed since it was first released. The mechanics are archaic now. Not to mention, it still has midi music. They could have at least updated that. What exactly did the 3DS pull off? It's a half-assed "remake" of a 15 year old game.

A 5/5 on Giant Bomb is not a "perfect," it is an unreserved recommendation.

I agree that the updates in this version are not very significant, but Ocarina is just still that good. Still.

Posted by Brendan

@Brad said:

yeah whatever

I know it's been quoted already, but this comment kicks ass.

Anyway, since I fall in the minority of never having owned an N64, but having played pieces of this game at a friends house back when it was new, I am excited to pick this up and get the full picture of it. Thanks for the review Brad.