The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (or TLoZ:OoT for short) stands as the highest critically rated game of all time on any of the various websites that record this kind of thing. It therefore comes as little surprise that Nintendo announced that this legendary N64 game would be ported to its new and shiny handheld hardware – the 3DS.
Rather than assess the quality of the game itself – after all, this one’s been done to death and back again; my focus is on what the new hardware brings to the party.
Porting such a loved title to new hardware is something of a no-win situation. The traditionalists will scream if so much as a pixel is out of place, whereas everyone else will claim that Nintendo is simply cashing in on a 13 year-old game, and not bringing anything new to the experience. So what does OoT 3D do that the N64 game did not?
While the glasses-free 3D screen of the 3DS is the key USP of the device, I must confess that I’ve always been sceptical of this feature, considering it to be more of a headline-grabbing gimmick than a true game-changer. The majority of 3DS titles that I’ve seen to date, seem to reinforce this view, with the 3D effect looking surprisingly flat even when cranked up to the max.
The truth is that OoT 3D is, without a doubt, the best use of the 3D screen I’ve seen on the hardware. There’s just the right amount of depth, without everything looking false and articial, and the game seems to avoid the ‘cardboard cut-out’ look of some other 3DS titles. While this doesn’t add anything to the gameplay, looking across the Hyrule Fields to the castle in the distance is made even more impressive and stirring with the benefit of some proper depth to the view.
The graphical limitations of the N64 resulted in almost all games looking washed out, with a slightly blurry, Vaseline-lens look. While this somewhat adds to the charm of the aged hardware, I would really be looking for the 3DS’s horsepower to allow Nintendo to fix this look, rather than slavishly reproduce it.
OoT 3D has retained the feel of the original, but aesthetically, the whole thing has been brought into sharp focus – Hyrule is now a world of bright, vibrant colours and clear, crisp edges. OK, so graphically this game won’t blow you away, but Link and the world of OoT looks great on the 3DS’s 3 ½ inch top screen.
The touch screen on the DS (and 3DS) seems to have been something of a mixed blessing. In some games, it’s turned the mundane into the magnificent and in others it feels like a horribly-tacked on feature. In OoT 3D the bottom, touch screen is primarily used to de-clutter the main gaming view, with the usual map, weapon and health information now clearly displayed without obscuring your view of the action. It’s also used to make weapon and equipment selection much simpler and quicker, largely overcoming one of my main gripes about the N64 original.
But, as far as I can tell from my fairly limited play-time, that’s about it – there certainly didn't appear to be any silly mini-games and control of our hero is strictly a circle-pad and face buttons affair. For me, while not ground breaking, I cannot think of a better use for the touch screen for this game.
Now I’m trying not to sound too overwhelmingly positive here. In almost every respect, OoT 3D is a Nintendo Fanboy’s wet dream – it’s a perfect re-creation of one of Nintendo’s best loved titles, with just the right amount of change and innovation from the new hardware. But nothing could be quite this perfect, and there is one aspect of this marriage of game and hardware which, for me, doesn’t work:
The ‘look’ camera (for want of a better description) is controlled using the 3DS’s gyroscope. Very neat in theory; simply hold the left shoulder button and move your 3DS around to look around the Hyrule landscape. But, this doesn’t work for me for two reasons: firstly, unless you’re looking squarely at the top screen the 3D effect blurs quite jarringly, breaking the immersion, and secondly I mainly play on a train so am keen to avoid the strange looks I’ll certainly get by waving my 3DS around. I am told that you can disable this option, but I certainly couldn’t figure out how to.
So where does that leave us? Despite my minor gripe, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, pretty much ticks all of the boxes for a brilliant remake. While it’s been squeezed into the modest form of the 3DS, it still manages to retain what made the original great, but with the added benefit of being able to play whilst on the move.
I’ve always felt that the 3DS has been lacking that killer title, making it a must-own piece of hardware, and from what I’ve played of this game, I think we may just have found it.