A classic title, looking it’s best yet….
Ask any gamer what the best game ever is, and it’s highly likely it will be one of Halo, Mario 64. Half-Life, WoW or Ocarina of Time. Ask anyone who knows their games over the age of 25, and the proportion of Ocarina votes goes up – it was a title that reinvented the way we play games, bringing open world gameplay, clever puzzling, and a great story together into one incredible package. It wasn’t the first for any of these things, but it was one of the first to bring this together in a way that worked so well. It also was one of the first games to really draw in a mass market of gamers – I know people (including my own brother) who only really got into gaming because of this exact game. So properties such as Ocarina develop an aura of myth, and become hallowed titles that need to be handled with care. Ocarina was due a true high-profile update (the Gamecube version was a straight port, after all), but needed to tread a very careful line so as not to become a high-profile dud. Good news is, it scores magnificently. Quick update for the newcomers: Ocarina is part of the Legend of Zelda series, which all revolve around a character called Link (not always the same dude), a girl called Zelda (often, but not always a princess), and a bad guy called Ganon or Ganondorf (often, but not always, some kind of bandit with a need to rule the world). Whichever variation of the story you are playing, you can expect an open world, lots of gadgets and toys to help you get around it, and tricky dungeons that need to be negotiated to take Link from ineffective weakling to a powered up warrior capable of saving the world. Sounds clichéd? Probably, but only because the Zelda series built the cliché itself. Sounds repetitive? Possibly, but the level of innovation and new ideas brought to each title means that nearly every one has become a classic in it’s own right. And generally, anyone who has played them will tell you that Ocarina is the greatest of them all by far. The reason Ocarina is so revered is it is the pinnacle of what makes the Zelda games so good – it keeps the traditional format, tweaks the gameplay, adds a really involved world with buckets of character, and makes the player really feel the full effect of the journey from young boy to hero in a way that so few games really manage. Add thirteen years to the mix, and it becomes the Star Wars argument – the original films aren’t actually that great by todays standards, but the nostalgia and reverence applied to the whole universe mean that they will always be loved.
…Even in todays bloated gaming world, this is probably one of the greatest adventures you’ll ever play
So good news is, Nintendo tinkered in the right way, not the wrong one. Controls have stayed the same, but additional buttons have been added to the lower touch screen.The inventory is always visible (along with a map) on the lower screen, and accessing all the gadgets you pick up along the way has never been easier (remember the annoying Iron Boots? They have been remapped as an item, making putting them on and off so much easier….). The actual areas and dungeons have been left alone, but the graphics tweaked to keep them fresh. It is a true mark of genius here that the graphics look the way we seem to remember them not as they actually are (trust me, I checked) – texture and highlight have been added to original models without actually remaking them. And even in todays bloated gaming world, this is probably one of the greatest adventures you’ll ever play. We call Zelda an RPG, but truth is, its an action platform crossed with RPG tropes and wrapped in an exploratory, side-quest-filled world that would make many modern RPGs blush. I’m deliberately skimming over the plot and gadgets for the first time gamers, because this is an experience that everyone who has ever played a game should try – it really is that good. It’s truly great as a defining mark for the 3DS too – the 3D adds a lovely depth to everything, and really works. It doesn’t make your eyes hurt, although the use of the gyroscope for aiming is a bit lame – the 3DS needs the user to be in a sweet spot to see the 3D, and moving around often breaks that. However, it runs with not so much as a judder, loads quickly and doesn’t miss a beat of action. It doesn’t justify the purchase of a 3DS for Ocarina alone, but if you were thinking of picking one up, it should be the weight that tips the scales. Downsides? Well, it is still the same old game, and those who are looking for anything new will be disappointed, as the Master quest mode is a mild shuffling of the dungeons, and the Boss Mode gets thin very quickly. It also still has the odd moment where it shows its age, such as the lack of speech. It can’t be helped on a restricted handheld medium (and would also possibly destroy the nostalgia too), but the lack of voices is something that wouldn’t be accepted in most modern titles. But it’s still Ocarina, and that means that even if they hadn’t added the tweaks that refined the gameplay and visuals, it’s worth every penny of almost anyone’s money. 20+ hours of the best questing of the last fifteen years, along with the pick up and play capabilities that Nintendo do so well, should bring this classic to new gamers worldwide. Heck, Ocarina isn’t the best game I’ve ever played, yet the 3DS version is still likely to be the best thing I’ve played since the first Bioshock, which is incredible considering how little has been changed. Don’t use it to justify buying a 3DS (although recent price drops make them very attractive now), but if you have one, there is no reason why this shouldn’t be in your collection.
The Bad: Gyroscopic aiming doesn’t work with 3D switched on; doesn’t add an awful lot to the original adventure; lack of speech and simplistic puzzles remind you its a thirteen year old game