Written by Nathan Love
Whole armies of gamers fondly remember The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. For many, it defined childhoods and adolescences- it was simply THE game among game nerds, that game that if you were cool, you had beaten over and over and done speed runs. (Side note, by that standard, I’m totally cool.) Released on the Nintendo 64 console in 1998, Ocarina of Time completely shattered video game expectations of the time and is still considered by many critics as the best game ever, so Nintendo’s announcement that a re-creation of the game would be made for the 3DS seemed only logical- and moreover, the remake simply does not disappoint.
It may seem cliché to review Ocarina of Time 3DS highly. After all, the original is the most highly-praised and critically acclaimed game of all time (if you don’t believe me, check Metacritic or a similar review aggregation site). The problem is that clichés exist for a reason, and in this case it’s because Ocarina of Time really is that good. The people rebuilding the title for the 3DS seemed to understand that perfectly in that the gameplay on the 3DS is exactly the same as the original. Link handles the same, his attacks work the same way, his reach is exactly perfect down to the pixel. Every room in the game has been reconstructed in the exact same fashion as it existed in the original game- the sizes and proportions are perfect. I do have one very minor criticism here, though: the ocarina controls feel wonky, particularly to an Ocarina of Time veteran. The touch screen controls are welcome, but I am unsure as to why they didn’t make ABXY mirror the four C buttons and use R for the old A button, with L to return back to what you were doing before you pulled out the ocarina. Again, this is a very, very minor criticism and I doubt it would matter to me if I hadn’t played the original.
For all the stellar things that Nintendo retained about the original game, they also really took the opportunity to make improvements where they were needed. That sentence alone is blasphemy in and of itself to many gamers, but if you take a step back and really think about Ocarina of Time on the N64, you’ll realize what I’m talking about. The graphics are absolutely dated. Try playing it again and not feeling that the entire time. Looking at Link’s nose alone is enough of a turn-off in this day and age. The character models needed work, and the game was rife with the familiar early-3D modeling graphical glitches that have been mostly ironed out from any games considered “good” by today’s standards. Ocarina of Time 3DS has completely fixed those issues. The models looks smooth and stylish, the animations are fluid and graceful and everything received a stylistic upgrade. Nintendo put a lot of love into the way it looks, and it shows. There are a couple of things that they could have smoothed out- there are still some of the blocky textures of the original- but the improvements to the graphics elsewhere helps mitigate this somewhat.
Regarding the utilization of the 3DS itself, it’s awfully nice to be able to play the game using something other than the N64 controller, which was an awkward piece of machinery to say the least. At first, I thought I would never use the tilt controls, but then I tried them out and found that they are the vastly superior way to aim. They encourage you to stand up and get in the action, and some fights practically demand tilt control- Phantom Ganon comes to mind as one I stood up at a friend’s house and spun around. I felt as if I were in the room. The 3D is excellent as well, although most people are not quite acclimated to the concept yet. The execution of it is beautiful, though.
What consistently impressed me as I played through Ocarina of Time 3DS is just how well the game still holds up by modern standards. I found myself having just as much fun as I do playing any of the modern blockbuster games, and in many cases even more fun, even accounting for nostalgia goggles. Nintendo’s attention to gameplay detail in the Legend of Zelda series is very rarely matched in the gaming industry. The pacing is ideal and the strength you accumulate throughout the game gives Link a unique sense of growth. The settings are interesting and beautiful without exception. All in all, the remake is an improvement over the original in every way and I would highly recommend it to those who have never played a Zelda game and Zelda gurus both.
Overall Score: 97
An intensely fun, incredibly high-quality action-adventure dungeon exploration game from the past, lovingly recrafted in a beautiful new shell with better controls and graphics. The minor flaws are counteracted by the pitch-perfect gameplay. One of the best games you’ll ever play.
Genre Score (Action-Adventure): 97
Few game series hit the genre nail on the head quite like the Legend of Zelda. The action-oriented, dynamic combat combined with the dungeon exploration and myriad side quests will keep you engaged and loving every minute.