Review by RageBot
"Back to the basics: The warrior's way"
In my Majora's Mask walkthrough, I mentioned that game as the twin of Ocarina of Time, gameplay-wise. Well, now I review two games that really are twins, but are very different gameplay-wise. They are also stuffed to the brim with cameos, not of Super Mario Bros, but rather, cameos from other Zelda games, such as Tingle the floating creep, Biggoron who is bigger than a mountain, Jabu-Jabu the ocean king, Malon and Talon, and even the twin evil sorceresses, Twinrova. Because of all the cameos, even their place in the timeline is an enigma. Oh, and the three goddesses take the form of women and walk across the land for the first (and only significant) time.
Both of these games take place outside of Hyrule. In both intros, which are incredibly similar, Link returns from far away (say, the dream about Koholint while on the raft) and checks out on the Triforce. The Triforce, however, has a new quest for Link, and it sets him on a journey outside Hyrule. In this game, which takes place in the land of Holodrum, Link immediately comes to notice a troupe that plays and sings, and one gorgeous dancer. That is Din, and if you played Ages before, you know what happens next. She is then kidnapped by the evil general Onox. With that, the Temple of Seasons sinks to the underworld, and the world falls into chaos. Wait a minute... isn't Din the goddess of power? Was Link teleported only across the oceans, or was he warped thousands of years back to the past?
Anyway, in both game you are aided by a Maku Tree (another cameo... the name is different, but it definitely inspired by the Great Deku Tree). You must crawl through eight dungeons to find eight essences, which are then used to get you the Maku Seed, which is needed to gain entry to the final area. This is clearly a rehashment of the eight musical instruments in Link's Awakening. In a nod to the original Legend of Zelda, each dungeon feature an array of rectangular rooms, which make a figure. For example, a dungeon named "Dancing Dragon Dungeon" in shaped like a dragon.
The control scheme is also based on Link's Awakening's engine: You can equip up to two items, one for each button, and you may choose not to equip your sword. The items that made the puzzles of Link's Awakening all make a return for both games. Those are the Roc Feather and Power Bracelet. Strangely enough, both lack the bow, a classic Zelda item. In addition, the Seed Satchel, a new item, appears in both games. There are five types of seeds: Ember Seeds take the place of the lamp and sets stuff on fire. Mystery Seeds make owl statues give you clues. Scent Seeds lures enemies into traps. Pegasus Seeds replaces the Pegasus Boots and make you faster. And last but not least, Gale Seeds teleport you around the world.
Another thing featured in both games is Gasha Seeds. Those are silver, tear-shaped objects that you plant in the ground. Over time, they grow into trees, and later still, bear nuts. When they are ripe, you can slash those nuts, to find a surprise inside. You can find fairies, heaps of rupees, and only once, a very rare Piece of Heart. Most of the time, however, you'll find rings, another thing exclusive to both Oracle games. New rings must first be analyzed for 20 rupees a piece, at the local jewelery store. Then, they must be applied to the ring box, which has a place for only one ring in the beginning, but you can upgrade it. Rings can be very useful or very useless. Some can greatly help you, while others do little things, or even nothing at all.
There is another way to obtain rings. Maple is the apprentice of the usual witch that sells potions. Every once in a while, she'll appear, flying on a broomstick. You may want to bump into her, spilling out both your and her items, if you're fast enough, you may win more rupees, seeds, bombs, potions, and more precious things, such as new rings, Gasha Seeds and even a Piece of Heart. Be warned, though, Maple always goes for the precious items first. Also, they may randomly fall closer to her than to you, or if you're really unlucky, they may end up in the water or in a pit.
Whatever way you choose, I must warn you that the appearance of rare items, such as Pieces of Heart from nuts and Maple, or precious rings, is extremely random. You could potentially plant a hundred trees and not get the Piece of Heart, and some rings are even rarer. There are items that can tweak the odds, however. The Gasha Ring improves your chances of getting a rare item, and the Maple Ring increases the encounter rate with Maple. In addition, if you plant a tree in specific locations, your chances of getting a rare item increase.
Each of those games also have a pet. Ricky the Kangaroo can leap across cliffs, Moosh the Bear can fly above holes in the ground, and Dimitri the Dodongo can swim up waterfalls and eat enemies. This game's pet that you ought to get is Ricky, but by doing certain things, you can get your hands on the flute that summons Dimitri or Moosh instead. There is one area in the game where you MUST use your pet, and it changes from a rocky road full of pitfalls to a mountain range to a flooded plain, depending on which pet you can summon.
There are more differences between the games than similarities. This game is red, the color of the Triforce of Power, and the game is focused around battles. The villain, Onox, is a huge tyrant clad in golden armor, wielding a massive morning star. However, he doesn't show himself at all. In fact, since the incident in the beginning, his name is not even mentioned ever again. Onox is easily one of the most disappointing villains ever.
To return order to the world, Link will need to get into the underworld, called Subrosia. There, Link must locate the place where the Temple of Seasons fell, and get the Rod of Seasons, this game's mascot item, that allows you to change the seasons. Each season has an advantage and disadvantages. Water freezes in the winter, allowing you to walk on them; Snow may pile up, giving you access to some caves; And trees wilt, making access where their branches block you before. In the spring, stone flowers are slashable, and stone buds can lift you higher. In the summer, the water level decreases, revealing underwater caves, and climbable vines cover some of the cliffs. Finally, in the autumn, rock mushrooms are liftable, and leaves cover some of the pits, allowing access.
While Ages put puzzles in the center, this game is much more simple-minded, focusing on combat. Puzzles are usually nothing more complicated than pushing this or that block so that they are all symmetrical. This game also pays a lot of homages to Zelda 1. The symmetry puzzles are but one form of homage. You can burn certain bushes and may find an old man that gives you a lot of money ("It's a secret to everybody!!!") or take some from you. There are also old men that tell you incomprehensible hints in the dungeons. All six original bosses are also imported, and all are improved. While Aquamentus only charges you and is still the easiest boss ever, Manhandla turned into a tall plant that fights you in a room of quicksand, featuring a monster of a battle.
Presentation, as usual. The graphics are as vivid as they could be, as expected from a true Gameboy Color game (instead of a Gameboy port to the Color). Most character models, however, were imported from Link's Awakening, including a black haired Link. I am genuinely disappointed. Couldn't they have made Link's hair yellow? Most enemy models are also imported, including some Super Mario cameos such are Thwomps. Lynels, very tough enemies from the first game, also make a comeback.
The sound quality is good for Gameboy. Anyone disappointed with most of the dungeon themes, will shout for joy here, as some of the dungeons have very good, melodic themes. In Seasons, the dungeon themes are even better, and the fourth dungeon's theme might be the best in Zelda history. Also, none of the tracks are as bad as the fufth Ages dungeon, although the third Seasons dungeon theme also lacks.
Other than that, almost all themes can be also found in the other game, and they are mostly very good. In game, there is only one twon, and its theme is decent, but nowhere nearly as good as the Ages town themes. Also, all tracks fit their location. The underworld theme is moody and slow, as you would feel in such a strange place. The tracks aren't always enjoyable, but such areas won't be good enough with a great theme. The overworld theme, like many other things, is imported from Link's Awakening.
And again, the review cannot be over until I write about the password system. If you happen to own both Ages and Seasons, you can enjoy playing a combined game. After beating one game, you get a password to insert when starting a new game in the other. During a password game, you will see sprites from the game you finished, offering you passwords to use in the former game. Using them, you can get upgrades for both games: More bombs, arrows and seeds you can carry, a better sword, a better shield, an extra Heart Container, and the Biggoron's Sword, a powerful two-handed sword.
One last thing to mention is the password system. While each game is decent enough in itself, the true experience comes from playing both in succession. After beating one game, you get a password that will make you continue the plot in the other game. See, Veran is but a pawn, just like the villain in Oracle of Seasons. With the password system, you can upgrade all of your items, and get two brand new items. You also get to see Zelda, and beat the true boss of the game. I'll let you figure out who it is. If you really are a completionist, you will want to go from one game to the other, start the other again, and back to the first. That's the only way to get all 64 rings in one game.
Final grade: The game in itself gets only 7.8/10. However, if you play both games and unlock the true ending, the whole experience gets 8.7/10 from me, and I grade the whole experience, because that's how the two games are meant to be played.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 07/01/11, Updated 03/28/12
Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons (US, 05/13/01)
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