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Saturday, 26 July 2014

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D.

Why an ocarina? Why not the banjo?

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D.

Well, here's the main thing I took away from playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D: I'm not very good at Zelda games. I am actually quite bad at Zelda games, or possibly everyone is quite bad at Zelda games and I never noticed before, but probably just me. As much as I enjoy watching other people play Zelda games, there are apparently the natural Zelda players of the world, and the people who have to resort to flinging themselves blindly about a dungeon for half an hour before pleading with their friends to act as kind of living walkthroughs that dispense advice like more in-depth but also more long-suffering Sheikah Stones.

So, let's keep that firmly in mind as we go on with this review. I am bad at this game. I am genuinely terrible at this game. People who are good at this game might literally be wizards.

Literal magical wizards.

Anyway. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D is, as the title might suggest, the 3DS version of the 1998 game of almost the same name, which sent the franchise skyrocketing to popularity and also started off the horrible split timeline shenanigans, in which the timeline splits into four separate strands. Ocarina of Time follows Link, a young boy raised in a village of ageless forest children, who is summoned before the Great Deku Tree and told of Ganondorf, an evil sorceror. Collecting three jewels from three peoples across the world of Hyrule, he then accidentally opens the door for Ganondorf to gain Unlimited Cosmic Power, and is sealed for seven years until he can grow into the adult hero capable of defeating the dark king.

It's a fairly iconic game, and is largely responsible for the spawning of the juggernaut Zelda franchise that looms large over video gaming today, and the 3DS remake is a pretty faithful remake of it. Arguably too faithful: Two temples, a Wind Temple and an Earth Temple, were cut from the original game due to cartridge size, and in a stunning show of faith in the virtues of perfect remakes, aren't re-instated here, even though that would probably be an excellent selling point.

The Great Deku Tree.

In terms of gameplay, it's – well, I found it unspeakably awkward. The fact that other people can apparently throw their bombs with perfect accuracy and consistently L-target enemies without the camera swerving around them is a mystery and a bafflement to me. Maybe it's just me and we need someone else's opinion on this, but it all came off as just unspeakably awkward. Far more awkward than it appeared when I was watching other people play it. More than once, I accidentally downed a potion despite being at nearly full health when I meant to throw a bomb. I frequently got lost in the dungeons and couldn't figure out even remotely what I was meant to do.

It was all the more baffling because the Zelda games and Okami are very similar, and I was great at Okami, but I'm starting to think that maybe that was just because in that game, every time you need to use one of your tricks and skills, you're functionally pausing the game as you do it, meaning that the chance of inaccuracy as you flee madly from a giant dinosaur that needs you to throw bombs into its mouth – a task that must be perfectly timed and that requires you to be very close and running at the time – is greatly reduced.

(Okami was still unspeakably awkward at times anyway, though.)


The game is beautiful to look at, I'll say that, though. The graphics aren't massively complex, nor do they really need to be (and they seem to be trying to stay as close to the original game as possible while making everything much smoother and clearer), and everything has a nice, bright sheen to it, making the surroundings seem warm and inviting. This was sometimes a little confusing, such as when I emerged from the Temple of Time into a hellish world of monsters, staggered through the ruined, zombie infested Hyrule Castle Town beneath a red, burning sky and finally emerged over the broken drawbridge onto a … incredibly sunny and cheerful Hyrule Field.

Well, that hellish future certainly didn't pan out. Everything remained bright and fluffy until I got to the Kokiri Village, which was also run down and decaying, giving the impression that the apocalypse had only really happened around the edges of the map.

Don't worry, things brighten up the second you get out of town.

The soundtrack is good too, and – well, I'll be honest, there's not much more I can say about that. Zelda soundtracks are always very good. Skyward Sword, an often subpar game, had a strikingly beautiful soundtrack, even if it did send fanboys into a rage because it was all orchestrated rather than synthesised (because … that's a … bad thing?).

As for the story – well, Ocarina of Time isn't my favourite Zelda game, or my second favourite, even. Or my third favourite. But I can see why people do like it: It's a strong storyline with a good villain, and it's really no mystery as to how this is considered one of the great high points of the Zelda franchise. I prefer The Wind Waker and Majora's Mask because I think they're very unique and very memorable, and Twilight Princess over both of them because it feels vast, sweeping, and epic, and also probably because it was my first experience with the franchise.

One notable thing about Ocarina of Time is that for all people protest that the Zelda series are about a dude rescuing a princess (I'm not sure all that much rescuing of Zelda actually takes place in this game, but she's rescued in other games, that much is true) there's really no shortage of strong female characters in this game. There's Zelda herself, who is an active participant in bringing down Ganondorf; there's Saria, functional leader of the Kokiri and mentor figure to Link; there's Impa, who's also very active in-game and a ninja; Nabooru, who while brainwashed by two evil witches is a miniboss battle, and who along with Impa, Saria and Zelda is one of the seven most powerful people in the story. On the villain side, there's Kotake and Koume, two witch sisters who raised Ganondorf into the evil sorcerer king he is today, and who are not only boss battles in this game, but are also major villains of a future set of games.

It's unusual to see a game with that many strong, and important female characters today, let alone in 1998.

What a lovely evil castle.

Maybe playing Zelda games just isn't for me. Maybe, in the same way that the majority of people who watch football matches would probably break their own noses on the ground if they tried to kick a ball, I am forever consigned to watching other people play Zelda games and occasionally cheering 'GET IN THERE' or 'WHAT THE 'ELL ARE YOU DOIN', THROW A BOMB INTO ITS BELLY CAVITY!' Maybe I could make up some kind of chant for whenever Ganondorf shows up, like 'THREE CONSOLE ITERATIONS AND SOME HANDHELDS I THINK DON'T QUOTE ME A-WOOO-A-WOOO.'

So essentially what I do now.

Nor, I think, will I ever hold Ocarina of Time in as high regard as some fans do. I can see why – and I say that genuinely, not as a segue into a snide comment about nostalgia goggles – because it is a good game with a lot going for it, but I feel it lacks the character that a lot of its sequels showed. Even Skyward Sword, for all that I would put it many, many miles below Ocarina of Time in a ranking of Zelda games, oozes with character.

Remember what I said earlier about the apocalypse?
This is post apocalyptic Hyrule Field. Save us from the
horror of this world of monsters and darkness and death, Link.

It's looking like it'll be a good few years for the Zelda franchise, too. A Link Between Worlds came out a few months ago to great acclaim, and come Autumn we'll be seeing Hyrule Warriors, a Dynasty Warriors style hack-and-slash, before the new, mysterious, much anticipated next console Zelda game comes out next year.

So what we should be getting from this, really, is that while we still don't have a definite release date for either of Square-Enix's two big titles, Nintendo is churning out varied and interesting Zelda games on a variety of consoles.

Somebody needs to step their game up and it's not Nintendo.

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