The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time / Master Quest
Review by Snow Dragon
"The best things in life are free"
First off, I'm all for nostalgia. I'd give anything to have a complete DVD box set of every single episode of The Super Mario Bros. Super Show or to sit down at the breakfast table and have myself a fulfilling bowl of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cereal (part of this complete breakfast). Memories of Captain Lou Albano, marshmallow likenesses of all four turtles, and pieces of Chex cleverly marketed as ''ninja nets'' are all perfectly healthy. But now, in this day and age of carefully made but still quickly cooked food that people can't even wait on and the ability to not go out and buy CDs, but burn your own, the time period that it takes for something to become nostalgic in nature is greatly decreased. Here we are five years after the initial release of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and there are already people lining up in game stores to ''relive the memories.''
People, if I had bodily hair when a game came out, then that does not qualify as nostalgia fodder.
Nevertheless, here we are, and all who pre-order The Wind Waker for Gamecube are bestowed upon them this other tiny disc, with the capability to hold not one but TWO very similar but very different games. Of course, the original game remains the same fun game that it always was: Link travels through time with the help of his little ocarina, makes a bunch of friends, and does battle with the evil Ganondorf. It is tempting to replay this game for what can only be the 957th time, but then you see that picture over to the right. It lingers in your mind, it has Link on it, and has flashy graphics. Which is what got you playing Ocarina of Time in the first place, AM I RIGHT, PEOPLE?
So you begin playing this so-called Master Quest. Upon first glance, it does not appear to live up to its name at all. Sure, the graphics have been noticeably polished - the ever-famous Heart Containers appear to have 20,000 more polygons in them than before and the textures have all been prettied up quite a bit - but to all outward appearances and a first impression, justice has not been duly served.
Then you enter the first dungeon. Already it's looking kind of fishy, even to the LoZ aficionado. Everything looks the same, but it's all set up in a different order. The Skulltulas aren't in the same places either. The puzzles have become fourteen million times more difficult, and with the sharp increase in dungeon difficulty comes a directly proportional increase in fun. See, the original Ocarina of Time was fun, but I am not going to sit here and lie to your face: it was boring. And before you jump all over me with juvenile fanboyish retorts, it is possible to have fun games that are boring. Look at Xenogears! While the dungeons all maintain their original look and feel though, they are set up differently. Things loom around corners that were once not there, and your heartbeat speeds up to dangerous levels.
Finally, you realize that this ain't your big brother's Ocarina of Time. New monsters and gigantified versions of old monsters inhabit the least likely areas. Your sword and shield are hardly equipped to take on these sickening new breeds and breath-stealing leviathans. But fight to the death with them you must, cutting their lifelines off at the stalk and taking blade to face in order to cadge the few remnants of health or money they offer. These dungeons are not, and I repeat not for the faint of heart. It is almost as if someone has hacked into the game and made everything illegally but deliciously fun, except that the hacker is Nintendo, it's perfectly legal, and they somehow still made it fun. Wow.
I could go on and on all day with examples of the betterments that have been made to it, but I shall offer up only one in order to tantalize your salivating senses: In the first dungeon, you are in a wide room with nothing inside. There's not a sound being made. If a tree fell in the forest, you wouldn't have heard it. And yet still, high above your head on a ceiling barely noticeable to the naked eye, you find a Skulltula scurrying about in utter silence. He's unreachable with everything in your arsenal: the boomerang, a slingshot full of Deku Something-or-others, the kitchen sink, etc. Only when you return and play the Song of Time do you realize the secret of the towering ceiling. Blocks appear in a spiralled pattern and make their way up to a point where you could almost grab the Skulltula with your hand. You effectively kill him with ironic ease and retrieve the resulting token. It's just one of the many puzzles you'll find yourself solving anew, and it's as close to perfection as this game will ever come unless we see another re-release in five more years.
Most everything translates well to the miniature Gamecube disc, including the controls. The Z-targeting concept that was implemented so well that it became the norm remains here, except that with the changes made in the layout of the Gamecube controller, you now have R-targeting, a weird but acceptable substitute. It's just as easy to switch through menus and use all your fun weapons. The handling of the bow, which is just as realistically shaky as it ever was, and the stark contrast of the precise aim of the hookshot remain intact. Link runs around in his adult and youth forms with the same amount of energy, and nothing tends to sway too far from its original leanings. Newbies to the Gamecube controller might have difficulty adjusting from the trident shape of the N64's controller, but in time you'll be playing the game at the peak of professionalism that you were before. Boss fights are paradoxically easier than ever. With the increase in the difficulty of the dungeons, the boss fights remain strangely the same. For all the rough times you go through just to get to a boss, you find that the boss fights remain as easy as ever. While we can't have all the nice happies we want, it would have been nice to at least seen some expanded arenas for the boss battles and maybe an extra tweak in their fighting style here and there. But I digress. Control = yummy.
Something not quite so yummy remains the graphics, which are polygonated and messy to the extent that they were on the Nintendo 64. Nintendo has still, however, gone to the trouble of futzing with them a little bit. Transparent objects have had the most work done to them that is due a fair amount credit, such as water and the aforementioned insides of the Heart Containers. Other than that, there is the problem that N64 games like Goldeneye had of making written text appear on the screen without any corresponding mouth movements. It still looks like everyone is communicating telepathically, and the attention given to ambient objects should have been put into the renovation of several bigger objects - the ones you actually look at in other words. Without these graphical touches, Ocarina of Time and Master Quest both remain the same old boring games to look at. They are not, however, without their elements of fun.
Thankfully for your aural pleasure, one of those elements remains exactly the same, and that is the sound. Miyamoto and Co. have always ensured that not only did the gameplay of the Legend of Zelda series leave a mark in the minds of its gamers, but so did the music. Anyone who's played the game could go around whistling the theme from Saria's forest home or make their mouth into an ocarina of their own by belting out the Song of Time in the public (much to the stares of others). Link's voice remains the same, the best sound bites being his screams. Everyone knows they've gotten an enormous thrill from the sound of Link biting his lip as he lands on the soles of his feet from a long distance. Ganondorf still reigns supreme as the scariest video game villain on two feet, and there is the elusive feel of Zelda/Sheik who remains a mystery even after you've gone through the entire games a hundred times over.
In the end, this game is a marketing ploy. You cannot avoid this fact. If anything, this bonus disc's best use lies in the realm of an introduction to children who got a Gamecube for Christmas and want to be involved in a fun, non-threatening RPG. The fond memories are still too fresh for people to be going ga-ga over them the way they are in several other reviews, but there is no denying that Ocarina of Time remains a testament to the successful transition of the series into the world of tri-dimensionality. And nothing beats a game that's free with every reservation of The Wind Waker. Fortunately, it will appease diehard and casual fans of the game who need a quick Zelda fix to hold them over until that beautiful sunny day in March. In order to be something more than a marketing scheme to get previous N64 owners to get their hands on the same game for their new console though, a bit more attention should have been paid to a more thorough do-over of the physical appearance in general - a lot of you are next-generation spoiled graphics babies, after all, and you shouldn't be afraid to admit it. In the end, what it boils down to is that Master Quest is great for anyone who wants a challenge and wants an expanded view of the dungeons of LoZ:OoT and that OoT will be unconditionally loved because it is still the same old game it ever was.
The same old boring (but fun) game.
The same old fun (but boring) game. Understand?
This game is not nostalgic though, and if you approach it in that light, then you are grievously mistaken. Things like The Super Mario Bros. Super Show and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cereal are nostalgia. If I could find a bowl of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cereal that wasn't stale from years of storage, I would eat it. You would too. Admit it.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/23/03, Updated 02/23/03
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