The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (Nintendo 3DS) Review

By Jorge Ba-oh 14.06.2011

Review for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D on Nintendo 3DS

When The Legend of Zelda fans reminisce about which of the Hylian hero's adventures stirs up a tingle of excitement, the 1998 classic Ocarina of Time usually always springs to mind, etched deep within the corridors of gaming history as the adventure game to own and re-live again and again. Since then the franchise has evolved, progressing into a larger scaled beast, but still the core features remain ever present. It's been 13 long years since the original release, and with the industry crying for epic, complex adventure games does Nintendo's aging story have a place? Can the success of the original game be replicated in portable form?

Ocarina of Time was the first title in the Zelda series to transform the once sprite-driven top down adventure into a fully fleshed 3D polygonal game. It redefined how players and developers approached the genre, offering a completely new perspective, ways to play and interactions within a fully 3D environment. It's a difficult thing to do, recapturing that magic and updating the game for a newer audience, and this time round Nintendo have enlisted the help of fellow Japanese studio Grezzo to revitalise and improve the game on the 3DS.

For those unfamiliar with the tale, we take on the role of a young boy who's bored, restless and plagued by nightmares of an impending evil. He's the only one in the entire village who doesn't have a fairy, and unlike his friends he doesn't dream of grass and rainbows. He instead sees a caped bloke riding a horse through searing flames of danger, over and over. One fateful morning the village's protector, a wise old tree, decides to put a stop to this and sends out a perky fairy known as Navi to summon the poor lad, Link, who soon discovers that his visions are real. There is a power hungry menace on the loose, Ganondorf, and the whole kingdom of Hyrule is in grave danger. Armed with a teeny sword, shield and new fairy companion, our hero sets out to save the world from destruction. Throw in a dollop of time-travel, friendship, climbing, swimming, horse racing and chicken catching and you've got one versatile adventure in store - even if you've seen the end credits roll for the sixth time, as we have.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D follows the age old tradition of collecting new items, emblems and thwarting the bad guy. You navigate a large, free-roaming world in search for isolated levels or dungeons - these are usually in palaces, caves, inside trees, deep underground and so on. Have a wander inside, solve puzzles and challenge a devious boss in each using a special item hidden behind an intricate maze of baddies and locked doors. Whether it is a stone hammer to brutally slay a pesky dragon or a shield that deflects magic beams onto a pair of aging witch lovers, there's plenty of action to go round.

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D on Nintendo 3DS

The learning curve is fairly shallow, so within the opening levels players will be able to learn what to look out for, how to solve puzzles and navigate the dungeons using the good ol' fashioned map and compass. That said, Ocarina of Time has always been one of the more difficult entries in the Legend of Zelda series in terms of knowing where to go next, with little hand-holding throughout. To help newer players overcome the sometimes vague plot, there are a series of new ‘Sheika Stones’ to crawl into. Once inside you're greeted with three or four very short clips that lead up to a particular goal. Seeking a power-up or puzzle solution? This method gives a gentle nudge without spoiling too much, ideal for both newer players and those needing a recap after so many years!

The first thing you'll notice is how beautiful Ocarina of Time 3D looks in the palm of your hands. Grezzo have injected new life into the entire adventure, from the once pre-rendered interiors to the vast overworld field and characters themselves. The land of Hyrule has never looked this vivid and lush, feeling fresh but still staying true to the original art direction - it looks like Ocarina of Time, but sharper and far more detailed. The original game invested in a generally washed-out palette with touches of grey, but this time round we have a brighter and more exciting world littered with fine textures, mystical particles and fairies buzzing about. It does pose a problem in some areas, where a grimmer and darker atmosphere is needed through more varied lighting.

One of the examples highlighted in preview builds of the 3DS edition were boss battles in particular, where for example the human-hungry spider Queen Gohma would be shrouded in a curtain of smoke and dark shadows above. This time round the atmosphere is slightly more relaxed, clean but still eerie, and it remains a great first boss. Despite the more neutral lighting throughout the game, the increase in detail within the environments and enemy models make the later dungeons far more fearsome. Remember that demented creature with the multiple hands buried within the well? In 3D its blood smeared face will make you recoil in terror. If you haven't played Ocarina of Time before you're in for a delicious slice of fear!

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D on Nintendo 3DS

Despite the friendlier vibe, the sheer amount of extra detail really stands out, especially when recapping the original design. There's no question that Ocarina of Time 3D is the best looking version of the game to date. The once pre-rendered areas have been given a vast makeover with fine detail that sits perfectly with the game's world but would look out of place in other Zelda incarnations. Likewise the non-playable citizens and Ganon's legions of minions appear more expressive and life-like than before. Though running on simple, goal driven dialogue there's still a timeless charm about all the folk you'll encounter throughout the adventure - from the cheerful children who live in your home town to the musclebound rock munching Gorons; even the confused medicine woman who lives in solitude has her own unique charms. The graphical update has added new life to our hero too - Link's always been the silent type, but this time round he's just that bit more animated and lifelike, telling the tale through shock, excitement and awe. Brilliant! The game’s framerate has also been improved since the Nintendo 64 original - better hardware, smoother performance. Aside from a few very minor occasions (oddly enough when running through narrow corridors) and peculiar re-animation of some of Link's movements where there's some chugging, it’s a joy to behold in your palms.

With a revitalised world to contain the Ocarina arc, one of the big reasons to bring the older game to the new format was the potential to inject a new 3D perspective into The Legend of Zelda - but does it work? The answer for the most part is a triple onslaught of yes, yes and yes. There are scenes that fans cherish and these are even more impressive when re-living or experiencing afresh in 3D. Stepping out into Hyrule Field for the first time is always a key moment and this time round the 3D output causes that brew of nostalgia neatly mixed with a new sense of immersion. It's not purely cosmetic either. In areas that require players to be able to feel distance and volume, for example leaping across narrow ledges or judging a drop, 3D does help getting it right and avoiding slipping into a pit of deadly traps!

The effect works well throughout most of the quest, but does tend to blur or ghost slightly in some areas - there may be some tweaking in the amount of 3D or trying to find the ‘sweet spot’ from time to time. Highly reflective, brighter levels like the Ice Caverns, for example, cause problems when viewed in 3D, becoming blurry and at times unusable, so 2D picture may be preferred. There aren't many instances where you might need to shift into regular viewing... except when using the 3DS' motion control for aiming.

The only real issue we have with the 3D effect is the new, optional motion control that lets you look around and aim in first person. The 3DS’ built-in gyroscopes allow you to literally move the hardware around to see, becoming Link's eyes and ears. In 2D mode it's by far a more ideal method, especially in scenes that need both speed and precision in aiming - the bow or slingshot shooting games for instance. Shift gears into 3D and this is where the problem lies. To get the best, blur-free picture in this mode you need to keep your head and eyes in the ‘sweet spot’ - tough when the motion control requires you to move the hardware around. It's tricky and just doesn't work, presenting an unfortunate double-edged sword: both motion control and 3D enhance the experience, but don't quite mesh together. Traditionalists can disable motion control completely though, opting to use the Circle Pad to control the camera, though this often feels slow in comparison.

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D on Nintendo 3DS

The game may look great and have plenty of content to get on with, but how have Grezzo translated the controls onto the 3DS handheld? Pretty well, actually. Past DS Zelda games opted for a less conventional touch-screen approach, but here we're sticking with the Circle Pad for movement, face buttons for actions, items and swordplay and the shoulder triggers for targeting and drawing your shield. It may sound tricky, especially those perhaps used to a sole action button and movement, but fortunately it's a lot easier the original setup. The touch-screen houses your map, items and direct access to your ocarina and Navi. This simple change makes a lot of difference - item swapping is easy and accessible, plus there's less need for stopping and changing your inventory over. The whole process makes Ocarina of Time 3D the most streamlined and effective version of the game yet, useful for newer players who are trying to get to grips with Link's tools and for veterans wanting more efficient play. The lack of compass placement on bottom screen map (it only shows in the top screen) is a peculiar design decision though; causing a few niggles when trying to work out where to go in the later levels.

There were many things that the original game did right and one of them was a dynamic and memorable musical score. Here we have continual aural delight, but it could have done with the same improvements that other areas of the game have gone through - recording with real instruments/an orchestra could have given the adventure that bit more oomph.

Once you've dealt the final blow and the world's a better, brighter place there's the new option to combat past bosses again with whatever tools are needed, and also a harder, far more random mirrored Master Quest feature to dive into. Both are worthy add-ons, especially the ridiculously hard second quest that will cause veterans to re-think the game! The Legend of Zelda has never been a game meant to be played in quick doses, but with the 3DS in mind there perhaps should have been quick access to mini-games, however, maybe expanding on these to make Ocarina of Time 3D more portable friendly.

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D on Nintendo 3DS

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

An excellent remake of the much loved Nintendo 64 classic: refreshed, renewed but still very much familiar and fun. Ocarina of Time 3D may lack the complexities and scale of more recent Legend of Zelda entries, but it gets by with a timeless adventure, challenging gameplay and a lengthy campaign. 3D graphics and an improved look really bring a new depth to the world of Hyrule without veering too far from the original artwork and style. The 3DS version could have done with a more portable-friendly approach and pick-up-and-play value in some areas, but The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D is still a overall superb adventure that's worth considering whether you've played the game before or are longing for a fresh slice of pure Nintendo quality.






Action Adventure



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10 (116 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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