The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages is one of the two Zelda games released at the same time for the Game Boy Color. This review will be assuming you already know the basics of Zelda games. If you don’t know the basics then check out my review on the first Legend of Zelda first and then come back. If you’re still here then let’s get right to it. So the main story is basically that the evil sorceress Veran takes over the body of Nayru, the Oracle of Ages, and uses her powers to travel back in time and take over the land. Her ultimate goal is to spread sorrow, which she does by stopping the flow of time, making the workers construct a mighty tower endlessly, and other various acts to make the people of the land miserable. So it’s up to you, the hero of Hyrule, to save Nayru, stop Veran, and restore peace and happiness to the land.
You do this by collecting the eight essences of time. Each essence is hidden inside of a temple full of enemies to fight, puzzles to solve, and a final boss to defeat. You’ll find items along the way to help you fight the enemies, solve the puzzles, defeat the bosses, and adventure to new places. There are also some mini games and side quests along the way. That’s all pretty standard Zelda stuff, but there are some new things in the game as well.
One of these things is the harp of Ages which gives you the power to travel through time via the specific warp points. This allows you to travel between the past and the present, a mechanic that is integrated into both adventuring and puzzle solving. Later in the game you’ll gain greater means to more freely manipulate the flow of time. This basically works like the light world and dark world mechanic from A Link to the Past, making for an overall bigger map to explore. There’s also a mermaid suit you can obtain that allows you to dive into underwater screens in deep water. So present, past, and underwater screens in each time period plus all the caves and dungeons makes a mighty big world for a handheld. You can plant gasha seeds in patches of soft soil to grow trees bearing gasha nuts. These nuts grow with the more enemies you kill. The longer you wait to harvest them, the better their contents will be. Many times these nuts will yield rings, but rings can also be obtained through winning mini games or found in specific chests throughout the game. These rings need to brought to the jeweler to be appraised for a fee. Duplicates will net you some profit, but new rings will be explained and added to your list. These rings have a range of effects. You can select which ones to carry with and switch them out at the jeweler. This gives you some good customization options as you can plan on using specific rings for specific situations, areas, and dungeons. These are the most major additions.
I really enjoy the focus on puzzles. It doesn’t feel like there are too many but rather a good balance between puzzles and action. There are even some cool items that lend themselves well to puzzle solving. The bosses are cool because you don’t always fight them with items you find in their dungeons, and they tend to have complex methods of defeating them. They might take multiple steps to damage them at all or take on different forms that each have their own weaknesses. They can sometimes be tackled in different ways as well. This all adds to a more interesting set of boss battles than you may have come to expect from the series. I also liked how there were multiple trading sequences going on. Some of them were shorter. Some of them were longer. Some of them may even be going on at the same time as another. It makes it feel much more organic to what’s happening rather than one huge, linear trading sequence for one thing. Some are even tied directly to story progression, making the idea in general seem like it could be important for any of them at some point. The use of rupees can be pretty solid for getting some expensive yet useful items and smaller sums for appraising rings. The bit of world building through characters to interact with is nice as well. It feels like an inhabited land rather than just a few towns between adventure points, and most of the characters have some type of importance in one way or another. There’s really a lot to love about this game’s design, but there are also some things I’m not too fond of.
Most of the audio and visuals feel like recycled or updated versions of assets from Link’s Awakening. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it can be seen as a tad lazy I suppose. The swimming mechanics change part of the way through the game when you get the mermaid suit. It can be annoying at first and those controls should probably be more universal for the entirety of swimming. The ring system is cool, but the rings aren’t all helpful. Some rings have trade-offs. Some of them are just negative, but at least they can be used to give you an extra challenge. The worst part is that some of them do absolutely nothing. They are more or less like achievement rings that are just there for the sake of having more rings to collect. I guess with the challenging nature of the puzzles some of this game can get downright frustrating to do. However, liking a good challenge can easily turn that into a positive. I just wish there wasn’t so much handholding. It’s not crazy with this aspect, but being told where to go next for each major dungeon isn’t really all that necessary.
Overall, The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages is a pretty great handheld Zelda experience. All of you Zelda fans looking for some more 2D Zelda action on your handhelds, look no further. The balance of puzzles and action is great. There is a vast world to explore. There are lots of neat characters, interesting mini games, and fun side quests to keep you going for hours. Plus the new ring system can help give some customization. And would you believe it was made by a team at Capcom? Pretty neat, huh? As far as how Oracle of Ages relates to Oracle of Seasons is for another review. I’ll go into more detail on the connectivity of these dual releases when I talk about Oracle of Seasons, so be sure to check that review out as well. Just know that Oracle of Ages is still a satisfying experience as a standalone game, so don’t let the idea of connectivity scare you off. See you next time!