Note - due to vision issues, I won’t be able to review the 3D features of any 3DS games.
I’ll never forget the original release of Ocarina of Time on the N64. Beyond the experience provided by the game, there was so much pre-release hype that it was impossible to open up a gaming magazine without seeing at least one piece on it, and it received numerous “best game ever” and “best game of the year” accolades. It was one of the most innovative games on the N64, and its Z-targeting system, context-sensitive buttons, and using the analog stick to jump based on how much you move it became series staples with effects that are still felt in other games today. Now, nearly 13 years later, OoT has been re-released numerous times, with a GC release alongside the Master Quest and a Virtual Console release, it might seem like there’s no need for this incarnation.
Well, I’m happy to say that there are some valid reasons to pick up this re-release. The game needed a new coat of paint for a while, and this is the first version of it to revamp the graphic. Also, like the original game, it makes impressive use of the hardware it’s on. Here, the 3DS’s gyroscope is used to aim either the camera, slingshot, or any other long-range weapon like that. Thankfully, you can choose to just use the old analog stick/button setup if you prefer, although I found the ability to aim with the gyroscope to work far better at absorbing me into the world. There’s just something really neat about activating the camera and moving it around from a first-person view as if you were Link. You’ll see the same things either way, but the gyroscope adds to the overall experience of the adventure you’re on.
The addition of a second screen makes the top screen look far less cluttered, which along with the widescreen nature of it, makes the adventure seem a bit more epic. The touch screen’s item layout is nice and clean, making it easy to go from your items, to your gear, to the map and swap out whatever you need. Of course, there are other control changes. The analog pad works as a fine substitute for an analog stick, but I found movement with either the GC or N64 stick to be easier and more accurate than using the analog pad. It’s also somewhat harder to use the analog pad for longer periods of time.
The 3DS having four face buttons instead of six leads to more control changes. In-game item usage is a little clunkier than the original because you now only have two physical face buttons to use for items instead of three, and two slots for touch screen-only items. While the additional overall item slot means you won’t need to pause the action to swap out items as much as in the original game, having to look away from the top screen to swap them, no matter how quickly, isn’t much better. It does come in handy when you need to equip something you’ll always use and won’t need to access really quickly, like a weapon. Otherwise, the controls are fantastic, with combat controls in particular seeming to be a little tighter and more responsive.
OoT 3D is the first portable incarnation of the series’ initial 3D offering, which means that it’s also the most epic adventure available on the 3DS. However, translating a console game to portables brings its own challenges, and has caused some problems here. For one, there’s no save state option to save things exactly as they were when you left - so if you’re in the middle of a dungeon and have to save before finishing it, either due to the system’s battery running low or simply wanting to play something else, expect to retrace your steps just like in the console releases. I can certainly understand keeping things like the original game, but this does hurt the game slightly. I commend the developers for including some nice bonuses when you beat the game, including the Master Quest, which wasn’t in the N64 version, but was featured in the GC re-release, and mirrored the world, changed puzzles, rewards, and made the game much harder. A boss challenge mode is a completely new addition and is a fantastic way to relive some of the game’s more epic battles.
The new coat of paint I mentioned earlier really helps prevent the game from looking as ancient as it is, although it still winds up showing some of the visual flaws you’d expect a game from ‘98 to have. The biggest overall improvements are to the environments, which go from having a muddy-looking attempt at photorealism to now looking sharp with the important environmental details (like the inside of Link’s tree house, the Temple of Time, or Hyrule castle itself) having a crispness you always wanted them to have but didn’t have in the original game. You could tell what they were going for, but the hardware wasn’t strong enough to allow that part of the vision to come to life - now it is. The addition of a widescreen aspect ratio alone really makes the epic adventure seem bigger and really drives home just how big some of the bosses are as well.
However, as great as the overhaul is to the overall experience, some parts of the environments, like stairs and fences in particular, still have a muddy look to them. The character model overhaul is a huge upgrade in some ways, and yet still seems a little underwhelming as well. One big improvement is everyone having fingers and not giant blocks for hands. There’s also an increase in color to some enemies, which makes the world more vibrant, but the characters still seem a little blocky as well. They’re not as smooth-looking as I was hoping they’d be, and come off like upgraded N64 models, which is what they are in a sense, but is a bit disappointing since the game was rebuilt from the ground up with the 3DS hardware in mind.
The audio has received no noticeable changes, which I’m fine with. The music is still fantastic, and the title screen theme remains one of my favorite songs in gaming history, while the classic chimes that play when you grab loot from a treasure chest sound as good as they ever have. Nintendo thankfully didn’t give the characters anymore of a voice than before, so the usual oohs, ahs, and single-note exclamations are here for those who enjoy them. I enjoy great voice acting, but there’s something about Nintendo’s games that seems to just not need them. Metroid was hurt by giving Samus a voice in Other M, the Mario Advance games were annoying due to their voice work, and it’s just never something that Nintendo has excelled at, so I’m glad to see them avoid doing anything like that here. The Zelda audio formula wasn’t broken, so they didn’t “fix” it, and the game as a whole is much better for it.
The 3DS incarnation of this classic adventure is in some ways, the definitive entry and yet falls short in others. Visually, this feels more like what the game was intended to look like - but it doesn’t look as good as it seemingly could given the character models still looking like something between the N64 and GC. Still, it is the biggest single adventure available on the 3DS. But, given that it’s available on other platforms, including the GC and Wii via Virtual Console, it’s tough to recommend this as a full-price purchase if you already have it. If you don’t and have never played it, then definitely give it a shot.