The Zelda you were waiting for was the one you already had.
I should start by saying that it would be impossible for me to give the re-release of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time anything less than five stars. I first played the original on a neighborhood friend's N64 when the game was first released in 1998. Being only ten at the time, and having a very limited exposure to video games, coming in contact with Ocarina was a formative experience to say the least. Since that first play through in 1998, I've played the game to completion well over a dozen times, enjoying each play through just as much as the last.
But the original Ocarina was reviewed years ago, and most people agreed that it was pretty good as well. Does that mean you should should shell out thirty-nine ninety-nine (or ostensibly three hundred dollars if you were waiting for an actual game to play before you bought a 3DS) for a game that, at it's core, is over a decade old? The answer is a resounding yes.
The Zelda franchise, like most top shelf Nintendo franchises, is all about solid game play. Ocarina and Mario 64 are probably the most prominent examples of this as they set the ground work for how a game should work in a three dimensional environment. So while, as I've said, the core mechanics of Ocarina 3D are identical to what they were in the original release, this is by no means a negative. I was almost blown away about how well the controls and movement were replicated on the handheld version. Detail to retain the original feel went to such lengths that even some of the bugs present in the original appear in the re release as well! None of the bugs were ever game breaking, so seeing their inclusion is really more akin to an Easter Egg than anything else.
The aspects of the game that were changed do not disappoint either. The most obvious update is the complete overhaul of the visuals. Thanks to Grezzo, the studio Nintendo entrusted with the remake, just about every nook and cranny of the land of Hyrule has been gorgeously updated. And it's not just the higher resolution textures or smoother looking I'm talking about. New subtle details and clever touches are sprinkled throughout the game world now, and in such a fashion that they seems as if they should have always been there, not that they were sloppily plopped in. One of my favorite examples of detail like this appears in the house of Impa, Zelda's caretaker. If you look closely at the new decorations you can see hints for solving many of the puzzles throughout the games dungeon! The other major change from the original are the inclusion of touch screen controls, which make item management and map use a breeze. There's also the nice touch of dimming the lower screen in the story sections of the game, which totally eliminates any distraction from all the drama unfolding on the upper half of the 3DS.
Then of course there is the biggest change that has been made to the game, which appears right in the title itself: 3D. I will say I played probably 95 percent of the game with the 3D turned all the way off, flipping it on mainly for cut scenes or just now and then to see what a particular room or environment looked like in 3D. The added depth it provides is extraordinary to be sure, but I personally just felt the beauty of the game shone more with the higher resolution provided when 3D is off. At times I will say I felt guilty for neglecting to use the feature that is central to the 3DS system, but the option is always there, and off or on, has no direct bearing of the quality of the game, but boils down to simple personal preference.
Being originally a console title, the length of the game is ample, and will take more than a few sessions to complete the story, let alone finish the many side quests and activities that you'll encounter throughout the main story. All are identical to the original as well. There have been two inclusions to enhance the replay-ability of the game however: Master Quest and the Boss Rush mode. The Master Quest is the same as the version released along with Windwaker as a bonus, but with the screen flipped a-la mirror mode in the Mario Kart games, which definitely adds a nice twist. Unfortunately, Master Quest can only be played after the main game is completed once, and while the dungeons are fresh, the rest of the game might be a tad too similar to play to warrant jumping right in for a second go. The Boss Rush is similar as that the boss fights must be unlocked as you progress towards the end. This mode is great for the handheld, as the boss fights generally don't last more than a few minutes and are great for little time trial like runs.
All in all, the original game spruced up in this beautiful new package is exactly the kind of Zelda game fans have been clamoring for ever since, well, ever since the original Ocarina of Time was released. The first game did such a good job at defining what Zelda was the subsequent entries in the franchise have had a tough time innovating without upsetting fans of the series. It is, after all, tough to one up what can be considered one of the greatest games of all time. What better way to improve on the game to put it right in your pocket, remastered and polished in every way imaginable to present it as action adventure game that it was at it's original release. This version is a true gem that belongs in every Zelda fan's collection. But really, you already knew that.