Review by discoinferno84
"Can you handle the seasons of this life?"
Ah, the summer is in dwindling force right now. Everyone is back or about to go back to school for another semester of education. There's plenty of burning grassfires and triple digit weather here in California, and tons of foul weather bombarding the East Coast. It's a great time to just sit back and appreciate what you have, even if the weather is slamming you one way or another. But what would happen if you could control the weather? Think about it. You could turn that burning heat into something a little more manageable, or make that crappy storm blow away. What would you do with that kind of power? Taking an unexpected turn, one of the last Legend of Zelda games on the Gameboy Color incorporated the intriguing concept of weather control. And somehow, everyone's favorite little elf managed to pull it off without a hitch.
Coming off the heels of Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask, one had to wonder just how a two-dimensional Zelda game would hold out. Since Link to the Past was considered one of the finest in the game series, would these new Gameboy games be able to hold their own against such standards? Hoping to come up with something fresh yet retaining that old school feel, Nintendo teamed up with Capcom to come up with a two new Legend Zelda games for the handheld system. Unlike many of Nintendo's previous marketing schemes, both Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages were each distinct games, not mere versions of the other.
In the Oracle of Seasons, we find Link traversing the realm of Holodrum, a beautiful land under a menacing peril. It seems that the evil warlord Onox has complete and utter supremacy over the oppressed inhabitants. In fact, he's captured Din, the Oracle of Season, captive in his mighty fortress. Soon after the beautiful Oracle was taken hostage, thw world of Holodrum fell into chaos. Apparently, Din had the control of the very seasons withing her hands. Without her influence, the order of the seasons went straight to hell, causing all sorts of disease, pestilence, and starvation. One minute the sun would be blistering hot, then suddenly change to a snowy blizzard within seconds. Being the natural hero that he is, Link can't just stand by and watch as Holodrum sinks into ruin. And thus the latest adventure of Link begins.
So what does Link have that could possibly stand up to the forces of Mother Nature? As luck would have it, Link obtains the Rod of Seasons early on in the adventure. All he has to do is jump on a giant tree stump and wave the little stick around like there's no tomorrow. In the blink of an eye, the entire landscape will change before your eyes. Say you were traveling through Holodrum in the middle of the summer, then decided to change the weather. With a simple press of the button, the leaves will fall off the trees, the color scheme of the land would become a little darker, and suddenly you've got a whole new take on the world around you. Push the button one more time, the land will become awash in huge drifts of snow, freezing some enemies and plants in their tracks. It's this kind of phenomena that his heavily integrated into the progression of the game. Say you can't reach a certain ledge, or jump over a certain pit? Why not try changing the seasons and see how your obstacles change? Thus the need to constantly change the weather patterns is essential to your success, letting you rule the landscape for your own needs.
Every element of the Zelda standard gaming formula is presented and accounted for. You've got your hero, the impressive dungeons, occasionally tricky puzzles, countless enemies, and plenty of other little surprises just waiting to be found. Link starts off with a sword, but he'll accumulate plenty other items along his quest. There's the basic bombs and boomerang, along with Roc's Feather mixed in for good measure. However, there are plenty of new additions to this latest batch of games. Link can find dozens of little rings that can give him all sorts of powers, like extra defense or adds more power to your attack. While these rings may not sound like much, they make a pretty decent impact on how you play the game. If you're low on hearts, can you risk going into a dungeon without some kind of defense? Are you low on rupees? Why not find that one ring that could earn you cold hard cash? Besides the obvious advantages to having these little trinkets around, it'll make collectors obsessed with finding and catching em all before the game is finished.
Nintendo and Capcom also threw us a few curves with this installment. On top of the usual item collecting, you also have to harvest tiny seeds in order to progress through the game. Now, what does gardening have to do with Zelda? Apparently these little morsels have unique powers of their own, letting you light torches or teleporting from place to place. While these things grow in abundantly throughout Holodrum, they are of utmost necessity as you progress through the dungeons. A good majority of the dungeon puzzles implement the seeds nicely into the solutions, making you consider and reconsider every possible angle before figuring out how to get past the obstacle. But even though the seeds are meshed nicely with the gameplay, other aspects of the game weren't so fortunate. For some reason, the game designers decided to include three animals to help you on your journey. You've got a flying bear, a kangaroo, and a Dondongo waiting for your call. And while these animals are occasionally necessary to gain access to parts of the land, they still offer little to the story or the overall impact of the game.
However, you can't deny the beauty of this game. Since this game was the end of the Gameboy Color's run, it lives up to all of the graphical and audio standards that we've come to expect. The themes of the Zelda series have been remixed yet again, offering an upbeat but occasionally choppy music mix. All of the necessary sound effects are there, from the slight boom of bombs exploding to the soft clink of sword against sword. The world of Holodrum is detailed as well as can be, offering a wide and varied portrayal of a land in peril. The transitions among the seasons are incredibly detailed and stand out from each other, offering their own unique atmosphere and settings. You can easily see the difference among the seasons by their contrasting colors and effects, like how the brownish leaves stand for fall, or how almost everything has a slight shade of icy blue during the winter season. It's little details like these that make you appreciate the effort put into making this game great.
Did you know that this game was essentially the sendoff for the Gameboy Color? Sad to say, but at least the little handheld got a very good game in the end. Aside from the novelty of a 2-D Zelda in this generation of games, Oracle of Seasons offers just as much as any other of the Zelda series. You've got your hero, a blend of old style gameplay mixed with a few new features, and a quirky little concept that just happened to be executed with style and grace. And when everything is said and done, Oracle of Ages is a not only a great addition to the Zelda series, but also a solid and wonderful game to play.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 09/09/04
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