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The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons (Game Boy Color) Review

Review for The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons on Game Boy Color - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

After the sublime The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, which also received a Game Boy Color remake in 1998, the torch for portable Zelda games was passed to a Capcom subsidiary called Flagship. In a very surprising move for the series, the team developed two different games that were released simultaneously and included plenty of connectivity features between the titles via passwords or Game Boy link cables. Did this decision pay off or was it a mis-step that shouldn't have been made? This review, focusing on Oracle of Seasons, holds the answer…

The tale begins with the Triforce calling out to Link and as he approaches it he is transported to another world known as Holodrum. After he arrives there he is found unconscious by a dancer named Din, who is kidnapped by Onox, General of Darkness. He referred to her as the Oracle of Seasons and promptly after she was captured, the seasons start changing rapidly, heavily affecting the lives of its inhabitants of the world. Link then meets the Maku Tree in Horon Village, the capital of Holodrum, and receives the task of gathering the eight Essences of Nature. Not far into his quest, Link acquires the Rod of Seasons, which is the central item of this game and helps him travel through the land with its ability to manipulate the seasons.

The gameplay is very similar to Link's Awakening in terms of controls. Link is moved with the D-pad and both the A and B button can be used to equip one weapon or item at a time. Much like other games in the series, the goal is to explore the world and discover various dungeons to complete. However, on top of Holodrum, there is a subterranean world called Subrosia that is linked to the overworld by several portals. This area is full of rocks and magma and has its own new race, the Subrosians. They are very secretive and always wear full-body robes to keep their identity hidden from others. Fitting for their hot habitat, they enjoy hobbies like dancing and perhaps less common ones like taking magma baths. Their isolation from the world of Holodrum is also apparent by the fact that they use ore chunks as their currency, as opposed to the classic Rupees.

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons on Game Boy Color - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

The most unique aspect of Oracle of Seasons is without a doubt its flagship item, the Rod of Seasons. This rod allows Link to manipulate the seasons and use them to his advantage. For example, a lake that he can't swim through is completely frozen during winter and opens up new paths. The Rod of Seasons can be used on tree stumps that are all over Holodrum but it doesn't come with its full abilities of controlling every season right away, as it has to be powered up three times throughout the game to regain its former strength. While a lot of content is in the dungeons of the game, plenty of time is also spent on the overworld and trying to discover where the next dungeon is and finding out how to access it with the help of the Rod of Seasons or other obtainable items. Surprisingly, the developers have actually found a way to make clever use of the newly added colours of the system, as the seasons are very distinct in their colour palette and easily recognisable that way. However, a small icon indicating which season it is will also appear each time an area is entered that has a different one than the region the player came from.

Link also teams up with three animal partners along the way but only one of them can be a permanent companion, based on the flute that is obtained. The first one is called Ricky, a boxing kangaroo that carries Link in his pouch, can use his fists to kill enemies, scale large walls and jump over small pits. Then there's Dimitri, a friendly red Dodongo that can bite and eat enemies as well as swim up waterfalls and through tough currents without being pulled along. Last, but not least, is Moosh, a large blue bear with wings. While Ricky can only jump over one hole at a time, Moosh can hover for a short period of time to get past long strings of pits in the ground and attack enemies with a ground pound. Depending on which partner is chosen in the end, the terrain of some areas in Labrynna will actually change to adjust to the specific abilities of the chosen animal.

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons on Game Boy Color - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

It's not immediately noticeable, but Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages focus on one particular element that defines the gameplay of the Zelda series. Seasons has a lot more action, such as combat and generally tests the player's skill a lot more. Ages, on the other hand, is very puzzle-based and challenges the mind with some extremely tricky puzzles. That's not to say that they are completely lacking in the opposite area, though. The selection of items available also varies slightly, with some being exclusive to one game. For example, Oracle of Seasons has a Magnetic Glove that pulls Link toward or pushes him away from magnetic objects. Oracle of Ages contains an item called the Switch Hook. Unlike the classic Hookshot, Link will switch places with whatever it grabs when he fires it. In true Zelda fashion, both are used in some very clever ways to solve puzzles or even defeat enemies. Decisions like these makes both entries feel distinct while still sharing a lot of other elements.

Another very refreshing and addictive feature that's only found in the Oracle series is the inclusion of rings. These useful items can be obtained in a ton of different ways and can be equipped to gain special abilities. The effects can be incredibly varied, from simple attack or defence boosts to transformations that are purely for cosmetic purposes or even modifications to Link's basic abilities and items. For example, with the right ring, a bomb will not explode while it's still being held. There are even ones with negative effects to make the game more challenging for particularly brave adventurers. A total of 64 rings can be collected throughout both games but they can't be used right away. A found ring is unusable until it's appraised by a jeweller called Vasu. Once that is done, it will be added to the collection at his shop. To actually use a ring, it has to be put in Link's ring box and equipped from there. The ring box only holds one at first but can be upgraded via side-quests to be able to carry more without having to go back to Vasu's shop each time to switch them out. This system is very well made and gives an almost RPG-like twist to the games, yet another element that makes the Oracle series stand out from many other entries in the Zelda franchise.

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons on Game Boy Color - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

The addition of connectivity between the two games was very ambitious for its time and the system they were released on, even surpassing what the Pokémon series offered at the time. At the end of either game, a secret password will be shown that can be used on the opposite title to start a 'Linked Game', which changes part of the main plot and grants access to the true ending and story while also creating many small events that would otherwise not happen. On top of all that, an optional dungeon becomes accessible in both games. While they share the same name, both are very different and very difficult to complete. There are many other cool and useful secrets to be discovered in the Oracle series, so this is just scratching the surface of what this connectivity system offers. It should also be mentioned that they were released at the end of the Game Boy Color's lifespan and actually have some extra content for the successor, such as a secret shop that can only be accessed when played on a Game Boy Advance.

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons on Game Boy Color- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

New and creative gameplay ideas are added to the already outstanding portable Zelda formula of Link's Awakening. On top of that, the connectivity features are extremely ambitious and way ahead of their time, adding a ton of value for players who either own both games or simply have access to the passwords, be it via friends or the Internet.

Graphics

While the Game Boy Color wasn't a major upgrade like the Game Boy Advance that arrived years after it, it's remarkable what was achieved in the graphical department. Some things look similar to Link's Awakening but in many areas it surpasses an already incredible-looking game, considering the hardware it was released on. Varied and highly detailed locations, lovely animated sprites and excellent use of the new colour capabilities put other games on the platform to shame.

Sound

A mix of old and new music makes for an outstanding overall soundtrack. It's a shame that the limitations of the system didn't allow for higher quality music, as some tunes included would have certainly benefitted from it. The sound effects are spot on and oozing with old-school charm.

Value

The main quest is very lengthy for a Game Boy Color game, with roughly 15 hours of playtime. In true Zelda fashion, there are also plenty of rewarding side-quests to be discovered and completed. However, what really adds stacks of value to the game is the connectivity with Oracle of Ages, unlocking extra items, content and even a secret ending.

Cubed3 Rating

10/10
Rated 10 out of 10

Masterpiece - Platinum Award

About this score
Rated 10 out of 10

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons is an absolutely outstanding game. Along with Oracle of Ages, it's one of the best games the Game Boy Color library has to offer and can easily compete with Flagship's later efforts, like The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap on the Game Boy Advance. Unfortunately, Flagship ceased to exist in 2007 and its employees merged into Capcom's main studio, so it's very unlikely that another handheld Zelda game from them will ever be made again. What should definitely be seen, though, is both this game and Oracle of Ages being released on the 3DS Virtual Console, following the release of Link's Awakening DX shortly after the 3DS launched.

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04.01.2013

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Nintendo

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Nintendo

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Adventure

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1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (31 Votes)

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Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

Staff Member
This post is a copy of the news report: http://www.cubed3.com/news/17833

All posts made in this forum topic below will appear as news comments on the above link. If you make a comment on the original article link above, it will also appear here as a forum post.

Cubed3 reviews the classic Game Boy Colour gem, the highly underrated The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons.

 
Staff Member

Sweet background info there, Adam. I knew about the third game and the names but I didn't know that Nintendo had any former Flagship developers at all. Director for Skyward Sword is certainly no small position! Smilie

 
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Yeah, I've not fully looked into what happened to all Flagship members, but I remembered the stuff about Fujibayashi-san due to hearing about some of the Minish Cap team being involved with Skyward Sword. Perhaps explains why I enjoyed SS more than Twilight Princess Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
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I liked the inside joke in Minish Cap where you could only put two of the three goddess ladies (Din, Nayru, Farore) into a house, pointing to the fact the third planned Oracle game never came to fruition.

Been a while since I played these games, but I was always under the opinion these were the best 2D Zeldas to date. I miss classic Zelda.

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Flagship developers working on Skyward Sword definitely added to it I think, you could tell just by playing it that there was more care put into the plot and hidden goodies, and the story and secrets of Flagship's Zelda titles were always standouts to me. I'm hoping we get to see the goddesses in their Oracle forms again sometime! I loved that in Minish Cap (another amazing Flagship game)

In fact, in the run up to SS' release, the number one hype generator for me was the fact that it had old Flagship dudes working on it. As far as I'm concerned.. their handheld Zeldas are better than any other 2D or handheld Zelda Nintendo has ever made.


Adam Riley said:
I always wondered what the planned third edition would have been like...

Mystical Seed of Power became Oracle of Seasons
Mystical Seed of Wisdom became Oracle of Ages
Mystical Seed of Courage...I wonder what that might have been called? Oracle of Might?


Always imagined it would be Oracle of Secrets, considering that was Farore's role in the games. However her role may have been changed considerably since her game was scrapped 'n' all.


Azuardo said:
I liked the inside joke in Minish Cap where you could only put two of the three goddess ladies (Din, Nayru, Farore) into a house, pointing to the fact the third planned Oracle game never came to fruition.

Smilie .... 
That just suddenly clicked! I thought the developers were just being cruel! Smilie

( Edited 07.01.2013 14:15 by SuperLink )

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.... 
That just suddenly clicked! I thought the developers were just being cruel!

Not many people know that, tbf. Neither did I at the time, either. Very well played by the developers, though.

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Azuardo said:
.... 
That just suddenly clicked! I thought the developers were just being cruel!

Not many people know that, tbf. Neither did I at the time, either. Very well played by the developers, though.

I didn't realise this when I played it all the way back when it was released either. My OCD side was very annoyed by it, though. I thought there just had to be a way to get a third house somehow but nope.

 
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Mhmm, think I discovered it through GameFAQs when I was getting 100% and tried to find out if you could get a third house. I probably wouldn't have known the real reason for it today if I hadn't checked at the site way back when.

Cubed3 Staff :: Senior Editor
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Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Hmm - some fans should really consider putting a third game using the sprites/assets from the two perhaps.

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