It’s been a little jarring to be playing Ocarina of Time so I can craft a good walkthrough while all the 3DS remake news, screenshots, and art has been flowing. I’ll find myself looking at a particularly nice screenshot and then dive back into the N64 version and find myself almost intolerably underwhelmed. This juxtaposition of old and new has driven me to think a lot about how I feel about the upcoming 3D version overall. Are the graphics really all they’re cracked up to be? Are the extras worth getting excited about?
“That’s one small step for Zelda, one giant leap for its graphics”
Everybody knows that the graphics are the biggest selling point for this remake, plain and simple. I’ve got to admit, while I really liked the idea of giving Ocarina of Time the modern makeover treatment back when we saw the first screens at last year’s E3, I didn’t necessarily see it as a must-have at the time. A number of the other fans I’ve spoken to still feel the same way, especially given that they’ve already bought into one of the multiple cash-in ports of the game on GameCube or Wii.
But holy crepes, after seeing the last round of screenshots I’ve really gotta say that this game has me sold. The enhanced color palette especially really makes the scenery pop in such a way that I feel like I’m seeing the game for the first time again – and, no, that’s not an exaggeration, I really get the sense that this could be a brand-new game as opposed to a remake. Let me show off a few of my favorite new screens so you can see what I mean:
The one on the left is from a scene that every Zelda fan should know by now – the first time Link and Zelda ever meet. It’s not the most drastic example of the 3DS version’s improved visuals, but for a scene like this to look a lot crisper and cleaner than the original is a joy to see.
On the right is an excellent shot of the atmospheric Hyrule Field. I love the improvements they made to the sun and lighting effects – it looks a lot more like the real sun, and the colors in the sky look more natural. The cliff walls surrounding the field and even Death Mountain in the distance now all have a real sense of depth and have been fully-rendered in 3D. Should create a nice 3D effect! Also, I love the detail they’ve added to the field itself – you see patches of flowers here and there, and the ground is a lot more vibrant, making the original look totally washed-out in comparison. Still a bit pixel-y since the 3DS definitely isn’t the highest-powered graphical machine out there, but that doesn’t mean it can’t look freaking gorgeous.
Below is the last new screen I want to highlight – the one of the Hyrule Bazaar. They’ve added a number of doodads and detail touches to make the Bazaar finally look like a real shop – there are advertisements on the walls, lamps hanging from the ceiling, and stacks of stock all over the store. Compare this to the drab and empty-looking original and the differences are staggering, a testament to how well Grezzo was able to retool the visuals to make them look fresh while still remaining faithful to the source material.
I claimed that I believe this game is the best-looking Zelda game ever about a week back. Still, it’s about more than just looks, it’s about polish – and while the game looks excellent it’s not necessarily pixel-perfect. As I mentioned when talking about Hyrule Field’s sleek new finish, there are still parts of the game that don’t use the best textures, and some things look kind of grainy at a distance. Small tidbits like Link’s hands, which still look mostly glued together aside from his thumb and forefinger – although now with defined “fingers” rather than a bland polygon! – also still look mega-dated. All in all, though, the game’s definitely a AAA effort, especially when you consider that they’re leaving the core game structure almost entirely intact.
Hyrule in your hands
Conceptually-speaking the idea of playing Ocarina of Time 3D on a more than capable handheld is already ridiculously attractive – but the question remains: will it be viable on a handheld? After all, the DS iteration of Super Mario 64, while not unplayable by any means, was a bit of a struggle to control with the D-pad. And while the addition of the Circle Pad eliminates that potential problem for Ocarina, how it transitioned to 3DS is still very, very important.
Fortunately all indications seem to be that this game plays and feels essentially the same way it did in 1998 – which when you’re dealing with remakes is by and large a good thing. While the Circle Pad isn’t quite the same as a traditional analog stick it definitely gets the job done, and some report that it actually feels better in retrospect. Streamlining menu navigation by mapping everything to the touch screen should drastically reduce downtime, and the addition of virtual buttons for item use and first-person camera viewing more than make up for the three face and trigger buttons the 3DS doesn’t have.
The addition of gyro controls for first-person aiming don’t sound like too big a deal, but with pretty much everybody reporting that they’re actually more accurate than Circle Pad aiming, this may be an important factor in giving this version an edge over the original. I know I had some problems adjusting to the differing sensitivity levels of the GameCube’s analog stick when playing the Master Quest version, so hopefully the gyro controls will improve control so I don’t run into the same problem again.
From what I can tell, it seems like this game’s done a good job translating the N64 classic to 3DS, with just enough added features for the gameplay to really be rated as significantly improved over previous editions.
New Game Features
Ocarina of Time 3D is set to include a number of features not available in the original version – and I stress “original” version because one of them is the Master Quest edition, which isn’t new strictly speaking. It does offer one novelty over the previous GameCube release – the entire world will be mirrored to throw players for a loop. I can see this being somewhat jarring in the more confusing dungeons such as the Water Temple, but generally I didn’t have much of a problem adjusting in Twilight Princess so I can’t see myself having too many problems here. There’s also some word of increased enemy difficulty, although we don’t know if this just means increased damage or something like more aggressive AI or faster enemies. (I wonder if Link will be right-handed again!)
There’s also going to be a Boss Challenge mode which will allow players to replay any boss they choose or face them all in a straight shot. It sounds very much like this game’s version of the Cave of Ordeals, only this time limited strictly to bosses. I wonder if there’ll be an alternate edition for Master Quest that will incorporate the “harder enemies.”
Unfortunately, a mirrored world, boss replay mode, and minor enemy tweaks don’t quite constitute “new content” in the sense that they’re just old content repackaged. And I’ve got to admit: after the other Zelda remakes, which involved new sidequests and even extra dungeons, I’m actually pretty disappointed that they’re not advertising something of that sort for Ocarina of Time 3D. I’m still holding out hope that maybe they just haven’t mentioned it yet, but I get the feeling that if they really had something totally new to bring to the table, they would have hyped the heck out of it by now. I suppose we might get some news to that effect at E3, but that might just be wishful thinking.
Sound & Music
Even more disappointing is the fact that the soundtrack for this game remains completely unchanged from the original. Not to say that I don’t like the original tracks or that there’s no retro value in keeping them, but it really highlights the fact that this game wasn’t quite given a full modernization. But like I said – this isn’t necessarily a bad thing outright. A live orchestra just wouldn’t have sounded the same, and fidelity to the original score might have been somewhat lost in the translation. Same goes for sound effects – they can change them up, but at the end of the day that loses some of the integrity of the source material.
I dunno – I’m pretty on the fence about this one.
Dude. It’s freaking Ocarina of Time.
Overall Excitement Level
A Nintendo classic with redone graphics, repackaged in a way that doesn’t feel totally alien? Check. On a portable handheld system that you can take anywhere? Check. With streamlined gameplay and intuitive gyro controls that don’t feel too invasive or forced? Check. With a full second quest? Check.
Sure, the lack of any real new content and the decade-old musical tracks and sound effects might objectively bring this game down a few notches on the “quality remake” scale. But this is excitement we’re talking about, not quality.
And, again: it’s freaking Ocarina of Time.