The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D is a Nintendo 3DS remake of the original Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64. For this review I will be assuming you’ve either seen my review of the original, seen some other coverage of such, or have experienced it yourself like so many others. I’ll be focusing on this version’s changes as well as my first time experiences with the Master Quest mode. With all of that out of the way, let’s see how Ocarina of Time, often considered one of the greatest games of all time, goes about keeping up with the times.
The story, characters, secrets… everything is intact. This game IS Ocarina of Time, which is good. You don’t go taking a classic like this and start changing its beloved core. It’s very clear that a lot of attention was given to keeping things as similar as possible to keep that nostalgia alive. Besides, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The most obvious change that you’ll notice immediately is the graphical overhaul. Everything has been given a nice, shiny coat of paint, and it looks beautiful. The colors are so vibrant, with extra details added here and there to give new life to the environments. Beyond that, most of the representations, hitboxes, and animations have been tweaked to make the gameplay more accurate and fluid. No more will people ignore the title for the blocky, awkward presentation of the N64. Don’t get me wrong, I love N64 style, but this is clearly much more clean, vibrant, and desirable all around. It might not be HD, but it looks damn good. However, I can’t speak much for the 3D effect because using it always messes with my eyes too much. Sorry about that. The small bit I experienced was okay, but I’m not the audience for it.
The other obvious change is in the controls. A 3DS isn’t exactly a Nintendo 64 controller now is it? Instead of Z-targeting you use L-targeting. R still uses your shield, A is still the contextual button, and B is still the sword button. Items can be bound to X and Y, but the touchscreen integration comes in to pick up the slack. In the upper and lower right corners of the touchscreen there are buttons labeled I and II. You can bind items to these buttons, which means you can have a total of four out at a time. This is especially nice for placing items you need in an active position without necessarily needing them on your main buttons. It saves you the menu management. The button in the upper left is the camera/Navi button as C-up would be in the original. The bottom left button is a dedicated ocarina button, which is also a nice way to keep it from eating up slots of items you’ll actually need to use in action. On top of that, the touchscreen has tabs for items, gear, and maps all along the bottom. Quick and easy navigation while also constantly showing your map on the bottom screen to keep you from needing to pause. Of course you can use the D-pad to toggle the mini map on and off on the top screen. Oh, and the circle pad is used to move… in case you were wondering. Another facet of this system is that, while aiming, you can choose to have gyro controls on or off. Turning them on allows you to tilt your 3DS around to aim with great precision. Just make sure you have a steady hand, because while it can be fast and accurate… it can also be tough to keep still. So this improved interface gels nicely with the tweaked animations and hitboxes for some efficient and satisfying gameplay.
There are some other smaller features I’d like to bring up too. Part of the tilt controls also applies to L-targeting. While holding L, just tilt your system to get a better view in that direction. This can be very helpful for quickly scoping out certain areas without the need to go into first-person aiming dead in your tracks. It’s a small thing that goes a long way once you’re used to it. The Stone of Agony has been replaced by the Shard of Agony. This is nice because it will just beep with an icon on-screen when secrets are nearby. No need for some pesky extra accessory to use this reward. It’s quite nice. Oh, and the boots… they’re fixed! Now they’re just like regular items rather than gear. So slap ‘em onto one of your four available slots and switch ‘em on and off with the press of a button. Now you’ve got no reason to bitch about the Water Temple. You even seem to move a little more quickly underwater, but maybe that’s just me. I also appreciated that they cleaned up the text with the beggars. Instead of just telling you to sell them something, they actually say to sell the contents of a bottle. I never did understand what they wanted before so this was most helpful. There are also some changes that aren’t so great, though.
First of all, let’s get this out of the way. I still think Navi forcing information on you without a choice in certain places is counter-intuitive to the design of an adventure game. This issue has not been fixed. It made sense for an early 3D game to teach you how it works, but even then it didn’t excuse the issue. Well by now it’s pretty common to play 3D games, so it’s even less understandable outside of the nostalgia, even though everyone complains that Navi is annoying. Now Navi is even MORE annoying by also piping in to suggest you take a break. And sometimes she’ll tell you to go look for a Sheikah Stone to get a hint. Isn’t guiding you supposed to be HER job!? So now not only is she counter-intuitive and annoying, but now she’s also inconsistent. You’re probably wondering what a Sheikah Stone is. It bears a striking resemblance to the Gossip Stones, but these are larger and only two of them are in the game. One is outside your house and the other is in the Temple of Time. You crawl into these stones and then select hints which play out in the form of short cutscenes showing you what to do next. They’re nice for beginners, but once again we’re looking at a feature that is counter-intuitive to adventuring and exploration. These things are terribly annoying and still keep the game from being a masterpiece in my eyes.
There are also some less offensive, yet still negative, changes here. The aforementioned motion aiming can be shaky with an unsteady hand, but turning off the gyro controls leaves you with only manual aiming. I did all of the original game with manual aiming, but here it feels a bit too slow to be used alone. The fight with Phantom Ganon certainly wasn’t happening without those tilting tweaks for my shots. And speaking of the Forest Temple, I could NOT, for the life of me, get that damn scarecrow to activate. Either the position is VERY specific in this version, or it’s flat out broken. The item situation can be a bit difficult at first, with only two main buttons instead of three. You’ll adjust to the extra touchscreen buttons, but on the off chance that you don’t, you’re stuck with limited item usage. The ocarina can be a tough thing to master for those that are well-acquainted with the original. The notes don’t really move up in the same way. From bottom to top, it goes L, R, Y, X, A. You’ll get a handle on the way it flows but this is one instance where your nostalgia will be working against you rather than for you. You’ll get it down, but give it time. You can also hit the notes on the touchscreen instead… for… some reason. Also, while the visuals have been cleaned up, the audio seems to be about the same aside from a few effects. Not that I don’t like the original music and sounds, but it feels a bit odd to have the dated soundtrack against the remastered graphics. Maybe it’s just me. The one other thing about it that I found a bit annoying is that you need to unlock the Master Quest by playing through the main quest. It makes sense, but this game has been available on every Nintendo console since its release. There are tons of people who are incredibly familiar with the main game and might want to jump into the Master Quest for something different right away.
Though I will admit that forcing players to get used to the new visuals, controls, and interface before jumping into something as difficult as the Master Quest is probably a good thing. And hey, once it’s open you’ll have a total of six save slots between the two, so that’s neat. But what is the Master Quest? Well, it originated on the GameCube in a limited time offer. I’ve not played that version personally, but from my research I believe it has the same overworld. The difference is in the dungeons. All of the dungeons have been changed up to have new layouts, puzzles, and enemy placement while keeping with their themes and assets. They’re more challenging and certainly more interesting. Some of them require items that used to be totally optional before. Plus, the gold skulltulas are going to require some hunting to find in these unfamiliar lairs. This quest will stretch your mind and your skills. If you try to just blaze through it on your first try, expect a swift kick in the balls as even I died in the Deku Tree due to my carelessness. And ya know what? It was nice to have a new challenge in a game I thought I was so damn familiar with. It made me take my time and explore. I experienced the game again, almost as though for the first time. It has been a long time since Ocarina of Time was new to me, and it was nice to recapture that feeling. Now, in the 3DS version, it seems that everything in the Master Quest is mirrored AND you take double damage. The mirroring even makes you right handed, so aiming and sword swings will need some adjusting as you deal with your other-handedness. The double damage also keeps you on your toes. Don’t get sloppy! They also take out the Sheikah Stones so no more easy hints for you.
Although Navi still chimes in to tell you obvious shit. Mirroring the dungeons wasn’t really an issue for me as a first-timer to the Master Quest, but the overworld being mirrored isn’t really a challenge, it’s just disorienting and annoying. All the secrets and locations are the same… just flipped. I’d rather it be more mixed up and new or just be the same as before and leave the changes to the dungeons. I also find double damage to be a lazy way to up the difficulty, especially since it’s supposed to be more difficult to start with. The bosses and mini bosses appear to be unchanged, so unless you were taking damage on ‘em before, you’ll probably have more trouble with the dungeons themselves than these bosses that are supposed to be a threat. Oh, and this is specific, but the frog song minigame is really frustrating here. You need to play the note that corresponds to the frog with the butterfly above its head. Doing so makes it hop and eat the bug. In the main game, the frog layout corresponds with the button layout, making it visually understandable. In the Master Quest they flip the frogs so you need to hit the opposite of them to make the correct one jump. It’s a lot harder than it sounds, I promise.
So the Master Quest is best saved for the diehard fans looking for more fun out of Ocarina of Time. I wouldn’t suggest playing it directly after the main quest as half of the game is the same. But the new dungeons do add a lot of fun when you do feel up to the challenge. The main game is wonderful. It’s even better than before with all the new features added in. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D is the definitive version of the game. Beautiful visuals, great interface, tweaked controls, and Master Quest all available to play anytime and anywhere on your Nintendo 3DS. AND since it has become part of the Nintendo Selects, it is now only 20 bucks brand new! So whether you’re a fan that owns the original or a newcomer to the series, this is easily worth the asking price. You’ve got no more excuses. Pick this game up, or regret it.