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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Retro Review: Why Zelda: Ocarina of Time is still the best (available on Wii Virtual Console)

After all this time, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has still not been bettered. There's a timeless quality to this game that Nintendo has simply failed to recapture since.

The first time we saw this, we were spellbound. OoT's world was pure magic

That's not to say other Zelda games that have come since are necessarily bad – the series has maintained an impressive standard throughout its history, which is why the series is still there while others have fallen to the wayside.

But where Ocarina of Time is timeless, the likes of Spirit Tracks has been throwaway entertainment. Where Ocarina of Time was visionary and creative, the likes of Twilight Princess have been content to fly the flag of conformity. It's like comparing Lord of the Rings to the likes of Robert Jordan or George R. R. Martin – the former was visionary, the latter are competent and entertaining, but no more than that.

In part, Ocarina of Time's initial success was due to the sheer impact the move to 3D had on the series. At a time where the industry was still learning the ropes with 3D, Ocarina of Time provided many Nintendo owners with their first near-open world 3D adventure. By comparison to what had come before, those first tentative steps on to the huge field of Hyrule were epic and filled with promise.


The use of time travel and magic in this game was clever and organic. Nothing about OoT felt forced or deliberate

The Zelda series is not known for a great deal of change from one game to another, but the third dimension did shift the fundamental way puzzles and dungeons were approached. That approach is now unfortunately familiar, but Ocarina of Time was first, and in that it really was new.

Of course, nostalgia is often an enemy in the guise of a friend, and going back to these games after so many years often makes flaws quite obvious. This is especially true with games that have had a major technological impact (such as moving a series to 3D). These games are almost invariably filled with side-effect flaws that have since been rectified as developers become more comfortable with the new technology, and the original, innovative games are left behind by their more refined successors.

A couple of Nintendo games have suffered from this over the years. Mario 64 is a standout – such an incredible game back in the day as since lost a lot of sheen, and the likes of Mario Galaxy now leave it in the dust (in every conceivable way), but Ocarina of Time is almost the opposite case.


Even the combat was fun, thanks to an excellent lock-on system

The camera still works as well as any modern Zelda game. The world to explore remains acceptably large. The dungeons still remain fun to explore. The design of the world itself, with its secrets, and places to explore is second to none. While visually primitive, Ocarina of Time retains an aesthetic that is pleasing and a joy to behold.

While the infamously clunky and irritating Water Temple is a progressively more ugly stain on the tapestry, Ocarina of Time is still a flawless, highly replayable experience. It doesn't really play like a retro game, and indeed, the fact it's free of silly gimmicks like the Spirit Train or Wind Waker's boat actually makes it the more refined title.

And this is, no doubt, why Nintendo has decided it's still worth rereleasing. On the 3DS, Ocarina of Time will not be a 'new' game, and the 3D effects will be limited, but this game is so good, and so old now, that Nintendo should find a whole new audience this time around. It saves Nintendo from needing to produce a new Zelda title, and gives us gamers a few more years, at least, before the next crazy Zelda “innovation” that takes more from the formula than in puts in – personally, I have my bets hedged with the next (new) handheld Zelda to feature a spaceship.

Zelda: Ocarina of Time is available on Virtual Console already, and is an essential purchase if you're not willing to wait for the 3DS retail release.



Retro Review: Why Zelda: Ocarina of Time is still the best (available on Wii Virtual Console)
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