Nothing ages quite as poorly as a seminal videogame. The medium has managed to notch up a very ample spread of established, thoroughbred classics, but of that hyper-elite bunch, perhaps half of them (at a push) are still capable of resonating with newcomers today. Occasionally this is down to dated hardware, sometimes it’s the fault of our newfound avidity for a strong narrative, but more often than not it’s because the groundwork that those games so brilliantly laid has been subsequently built upon every bit as shrewdly; making the original work feel antiquated in the process. For every evergreen Doom there is a stammering Goldeneye, and for every gripping Half Life there is an ice-cold Metal Gear Solid.
But Ocarina of Time is different. It (along with Mario 64) essentially established a perfect gameplay formula; and one that’s still constantly referenced today. It isn’t regarded as one of the most influential games of all time for nothing, and the only real barrier that has prevented new players from experiencing it – ignoring the straight ports that were released on the Gamecube and the Wii Virtual Console a couple of years ago – was the fact that it was only available to play on a dead console; with retrograde and potentially uninviting low-fidelity visuals.
So fittingly, Nintendo haven’t cynically served up some slapdash port, and if any videogame deserves this kind of lavish treatment, it’s Ocarina. As countless 3D movies have recently proven, the process of “retro-fitting” a non-3D product into 3D doesn’t normally result in a compelling argument for the form, but Nintendo have clearly gone the extra mile here. This is probably the first 3DS game that people will comfortably play through to completion without ever touching that 3D slider, and this stands as a significant victory for the company. Games like Ocarina of Time are all about immersion, and the 3D visuals actually do make you feel more engaged with Link’s adventure than ever before.
3D aside, the visuals have been touched up an absolute treat, and several environments (particularly Zora’s Domain) look quite amazingly vivid and rich. The gameplay is completely untouched for the most part, although the new first person combat perspective (which works in conjunction with your bow and hook-shot) not only feels great, but is also immeasurably more accurate than before. Being able to instantly access maps, items and weapons via the touch-screen is another quiet masterstroke, and one that saves a considerable amount of time; which is invaluable when you’re faced with an impending battle that you hadn’t prepared for.
Optional hint movies have been included to appease younger players – Ocarina of Time was never a breeze to complete, which was always part of its appeal – but it never actually steps in to hold your hand. After completion, a new Boss Rush mode is accessible from Link’s bed – the encounters are re-lived in his dreams – and the mirrored Master Quest mode (which originally appeared in the Gamecube port) has also returned. It’s a delight for hardcore players who wish to add an extra degree of challenge, and it sees Link’s health get cut in half, as well as tougher dungeons and more taxing puzzles.
Cynics may take issue with the fact that the only true killer app for Nintendo’s new console is a remake of a game that’s now well over a decade old, but endeavours as consistently delightful as this don’t deserve to be tied to any one console. In many ways, Nintendo have spent the past decade trying to top Ocarina, and whilst they’ve always come close (creating no less than four must-have system sellers in the process) they’ve never quite managed to top it. This isn’t to discredit them; it’s merely to illustrate how uncommonly perfect Ocarina of Time really is. If you’ve played it before, chances are you’ve already picked it up again. If you haven’t, you’re truly in for a ride that you won’t soon forget.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D is available now for the Nintendo 3DS.
Watch the trailer for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D here: