Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Review #300: The Legend of Zelda - Ocarina of Time 3D

 And so I've hit 300!
 If you fancy yourself a gamer, you have heard about The Legend of Zelda - Ocarina of Time, often touted as the best game of all time. Personally, I only considered it as such before I discovered Final Fantasy VII. And later Chrono Cross. And then Disgaea, and even later, Half Life 2, and so on. Which is the reason I consider it the most overrated game of all time bar none. Personal feelings aside, it's time to give Ocarina of Time another go.

 As the story goes, you play as Link, the only boy without a fairy on the hidden village of Kokiri. But don't worry about our young hero, at the start of the game a fairy, named Navi, comes to him, and will become his partner throughout the entire adventure. The game biggest draw is tied to the game's namesake, the Ocarina of Time, as Link will be able to travel about seven years into the future. There's some stuff that can only be done in the past, and some that can only be done in the future, and a few times you'll have to travel back and forth. Now then, story has never been Zelda's strongest suit, and the same holds true here. There're a bunch of flavorless speeches and monologues thrown throughout the game, which are fairly boring and dull and can't be skipped. And even worse, every now and then Navi will warn you about stuff, y'know, like telling you that the shiny orange liquidy  thing in front of you is lava. The Shadow Temple is particularly annoying, I really didn't need all those unavoidable pop ups. I know what I have to do, dammit. And even if I didn't, it would be easy to figure out.
 If you've played the original, the first thing you'll notice is just how beautiful the game looks. The game runs at a much faster, steadier framerate as well. If you've played the original as much as I did back in the day, you'll also notice that some things feel a bit... off. Stuff like walking sideways, now Link kinda tilts his body to the side as well. The Hovering Boots as well seemed to 'trip' or rather, slide, in ways that the original didn't. It's hard to put in words, but I fell to my death a few times on the Shadow Temple due to this. It's mostly minutiae, but I think it's worth mentioning. And it doesn't make it a better, or worse, game, just, y'know, a curiosity.

 In Ocarina of Time you'll be doing a ton of adventuring. The land of Hyrule is yours to explore, and it has a fair amount of secrets to be found. But you'll need tools to find them, and most of them are found inside the many dungeons. Dungeons are where most of the action happens, you'll solve various puzzles, obtain key to open locked doors and advance, find a weapon/tool and defeat its boss, usually having to use your new found weapon. It's a fairly simple formula, really. It has to be noted that the puzzles are rather simple, and even though I know it's unfair, they don't stack up to the puzzles that would eventually be seen in future installments. I'll also admit that I played the original game oh so many times, that I wasn't really discovering the solutions, but rather remembering them. I still had to do a few rounds around the forest temple, but the rest? I cleared fairly fast. Heck, even as a kid I considered the Water Temple to be overrated in how annoying it was, and now it's made even simpler thanks to how Boots work. That said, the base game took me 20 hours to almost complete it(Only missing some Skultulas, and the Fishing-mini game heart piece. Is it me, or is it harder to fish now??), although I distinctly remember clocking over 40 when I was younger, so maybe the fact that I knew what to do most of the time had something to do with it.
 But beating the game unlocks Master Quest. Not only do dungeons get entirely different puzzles, the entire game has been mirrored, and Link takes double damage now. New to this version are Hint Stones, found near Link's home and inside the Temple of Time, I never used them, since I didn't need them, but apparently they give video-hints on what to do next. This version also lets you challenge bosses again by going to Link's bed. There's also gyroscopic aiming controls, which you can turn off. But the thing that matters the most, item loadout, has been entirely revised. Previously you could set 3 items to the C-Buttons. Now you can set only two items to the X and Y button... but there's two new touch-pad buttons to equip another two, and the Ocarina gets its own slot while boots are now classified as items, so equipping and unequipping them is hassle-free.

 While the first few parts of the game, namely Young Link, is fairly linear, as soon as you get the boomerang, from the third dungeon, you'll be capable of accessing a few of the sidequest collectibles. But the game truly opens up as soon as you grow up. With just the Hookshot, a grappling hook item, you can now access a ton of different areas and collect a ton of items. There're still things to be done in order, you can't enter the Shadow Temple until you clear the Water Temple, and while you could attempt the Spirit Temple, you might need the 'Lens of Truth' item. There's a bunch of stuff to collect on your spare time as well. 36 heart pieces, 100 Golden Skulltutlas(The prize for getting all 100 sucks, but you get a heart piece at 50), get the Biggoron Sword, collect all four bottles, etc. And getting some of these involve sub-sub quests as well. The fourth empty bottle, for instance, requires defeating all 10 Big Poes. There's definitely plenty to do here, and then there's the Master Quest which even changes the location of some of the Heart Pieces!
 Movement and control is pretty simple, but polished. Something that was a big novelty back in the day was how Link would automatically jump if you ran towards an edge, which works really well. Combat is relegated to slashing and blocking, but most of the time you'll be waiting for an enemy to drop its guard so that you can use the powerful jumping slash. Or you could aid yourself by using the subweapons, like bombs or arrows, and if you are savvy enough, the Hookshot(Or Boomerang, for Young Link) to stun enemies. Another then-big novelty was the Z-Targeting, now L Targeting, which changed games forever. It's not perfect, when compared to how future games would do it, but it works very well here. The only instances in which it might annoy you is when swapping targets, which requires tapping the button multiple times, or when you need to use the L button to put the camera behind your back, if there's an enemy nearby it will prioritize targeting it over moving the camera, which can get really annoying depending on the situation.

 While the puzzles on the dungeons are relatively simple, sometimes you might have a hard time figuring out where to go, which is why I'd say that the dungeons are the hardest part of the game, since bosses are push-overs. The problem isn't that you have to use whichever weapon you found on the dungeon, the problem lies on just how easy they are. Take the Spirit Temple's boss, ideally the last temple boss you'll fight before heading out toward the real last boss. The only thing she does is throw elemental beams at you, and the only thing you have to do is raise your shield. It's not even hard to avoid, or rather catch(This shield absorbs her beams).
 Back in the day, I thought the game was overblown. It was good, just not THAT good as far as I was concerned. Nowadays, I'd say the same thing. The game is a blast to play, there's a ton to do and find, and it does feel like an adventure. It helps that there's a lot of variety, the run-of-the-mill town, the water town, the mountain town, and their people! You've the kids from Kokiri Forest that can't grown up, the amphibian Zoras and the adorable Gorons, and then there's the fact that each dungeon has a different theme, with puzzles tied to the weapon that you'll eventually find, so it gives dungeons their own identity and flavor. While combat is simple, this is an adventure game, combat is not the focus, so for what the combat is meant to be, it's more than fine. You are not meant to pull flashy combos, or figure out enemy patterns, so that you can perfectly time your attacks, oh no, it's just about figuring out just how to use your new weapon against them(Except the Shadow Temple's boss...).

 But if so, what holds the game back, in my opinion? Well, for instance, ever since I discovered RPGs, I've never been a fan of games in which combat has no 'meaning',so to speak. In an action game, you usually have to fight enemies in order to proceed, unless you want to die. On a proper RPG, you are rewarded with money. Here Combat is just... there. You have to defeat enemies because the brain-busting 'puzzle' is to defeat every enemy in the room. Or because you need money, but there're better alternatives. So why do I want to actually fight? It never feels rewarding. And I don't usually care about stories in games(I mean, just look at how many times I've written 'But you don't play X for its story'), if you are gonna have these long monologues, and speeches about the creation of the world and what not... make them interesting! Not that it doesn't have its moments, finding the name of that one Goron in the future and why he was named like that? That made me crack a smile. And you know what, even though having four slots to set items on, going back and forth to equip or unequip items sometimes felt like a chore. The two touchpad slots are perfect for toggle items, like boots or the lens of truth, but throwing bombs with them? Using the Bow? The hookshot? Trust me, those you'll want to use with proper buttons. Still, at times, in order to reduce the amount of times I went back to the Item menus, I had to settle with using the hammer or bombs with the touch pad, and while not unwieldy, it wasn't as comfortable as using the buttons.
 8.5 out of 10

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