The Nintendo 64 era was hardly a golden age for Nintendo, given the rise of its competitor Sony, whose compact disc-based PlayStation made for things such as anime or CG cutscenes, voice acting, and so forth, whereas the Big N stuck to the restrictive cartridge medium, with the system’s path through history paved by the cadavers of partially-developed games. Among the top-reviewed games for the system, in fact considered one of the greatest games of all time, is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Over a decade later, Nintendo would release an enhanced port for its 3DS system entitled The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, which provides an experience largely on par with its two-dimensional brethren.
Ocarina was the first of the fabled Zelda franchise to make the jump to three dimensions and thus have its mechanisms adjust to the additional facet, given Nintendo’s desire in the N64 version’s time to make the gameplay 3-D as well. As in most titles of the series regardless of dimension, Link can hack away at enemies with his sword, defend with his shield, and use a variety of tools central to both combat and solving puzzles. The original version was somewhat considered inventive with its Z-targeting system, with players able to use the 3DS’s L button to lock onto an enemy Link is facing and move around while he still faces the foe, with several additional moves to attacking such as jumping to assault.
The main drawback of the targeting system, however, is that players have to keep their fingers on the L button, which can be slightly more difficult in the 3DS version than the N64 version, and changing targets requires players to release L and face another foe, which can be slightly taxing given the nuisance of the camera at times. There’s also the slight predictability of boss fights, which almost always require the new tool Link tends to acquire in dungeons, although some of them do mix things up a bit. Trends from prior Zeldas such as acquiring four heart pieces to gain an extension of life (with additional full hearts granted after most bosses) recur, as well. Overall, despite the targeting issues, the gameplay isn’t terribly intrusive, and is a boon to the port.
An addition to the 3DS version is the Sheikah Stones in Kokiri Village and Temple of Time, which can provide helpful gameplay tips for in and out of dungeons. Even so, it can be annoying to leave in the middle of a dungeon to go to one of these Stones, which don’t cover all potential possibilities of players getting lost. Also new, though is the significantly-faster text speed, a major complaint of the N64 iteration (which actually wasn’t a problem in that version’s Japanese equivalent). The player can save their game anywhere, as well, but doing so in dungeons and the various fields doesn’t keep Link where the player saves, with fixed restart points at the start of dungeons, and there are occasional stretches to bosses without healing opportunities prior to the boss chamber. Overall, interaction could have been better, but has its strong points.
Story has never been a strong suit in the Zelda franchise, and Ocarina continued the trend in the original version’s release, and still does so in the 3DS iteration, although there is some backstory regarding the Triforce and creation of Hyrule, to a lesser extent Link. The time travel element, however, is as usual plot hole fodder, with plenty recycled story elements from other entries in the franchise too. The translation is largely polished, although there seems no reason why anyone would think it natural for a character to greet “Yahoo! Hi, Link!”, address someone to their face as “Navi the fairy” or “Link the hero”, or scream “CURSE YOU…SAGES!” In the end, the plot is mediocre at best.
Sound, however, tends to be a more positive aspect in the Zelda pantheon, with plenty of catchy tracks, and many ocarina songs serving as central themes, but there is no music outside dungeons at night, and dungeon themes tend to be largely atmospheric. There are still voice clips in the 3DS version, which don’t detract, and ultimately, the game is largely easy on the ears.
The port is easy on the eyes, as well, with character models updated to look less polygonal and blocky, alongside good use of the system’s three-dimensional capabilities, although the scenery can still appear poorly-textured when viewed close-up.
Finally, given the lack of an in-game clock, total playing time is indeterminate, although the game does feel longer than its two-dimensional brethren, with plenty lasting appeal in the endless secrets Hyrule holds.
In the end, Ocarina is an enjoyable title in the Zelda franchise that, pun intended, stands the test of give, given its fun gameplay central to the series, the ability to get in-game help if the player is having trouble, its good soundtrack with plenty catchy tracks, the polished visuals, and plentiful lasting appeal with the more challenging Master Quest unlocked after the player beats the game. Does it, then, deserve its adulation as one of the greatest videogames of all time? Not by a long shot. Best game on the 3DS as it was considered on the Nintendo 64? There are better titles out there. Best of its series? This reviewer enjoyed Link to the Past more. Worth playing? Very much so, but just don’t expect to be blown away.
+Enjoyable Zelda gameplay.
+Sheikah Stones can help player.
+Nice upgraded graphics.
+Plenty lasting appeal.
-Easy to get stuck/lost in dungeons.
-Saving doesn’t keep current location.
-Many moments without music.
The Bottom Line:
The definitive version of the game.
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 9/10
Playing Time: No in-game clock.