Review by clarkisdark

"Bow to your master"

This is not a relevant review. The Ocarina of Time / Master Quest disc came out several years ago. Since then, Nintendo launched a new console (Wii) and a new Legend of Zelda, that being Twilight Princess. In fact, you have probably already played Twilight Princess and noticed its similarities with Ocarina of Time. For all intents and purposes, many will claim Twilight Princess is merely a bigger and prettier version of Ocarina of Time. ... Or is it? Does this nearly ten-year old game still hold its own, or has the Twilight Princess really taken over as the "best Zelda ever?"

The first thing you'll notice when you boot up Ocarina of Time is just how outdated it looks. Textures are blurry and smeared. The draw-distance isn't very grand. All the models are low-polygon, giving people square faces and boulders sharp, pointy ends. Many elements, like chicken feathers and bushes, are obviously 2D sprites, and they look quite jagged and ugly. Furthermore, the animation is pathetic. Some of it is so cheesy, you'd think it came straight out of a high school 3D modeling class. Ouch. This may be a classic, but technology has advanced. Regardless, Ocarina of Time still retains a huge amount of charm. The characters are still loveable; young Link is, as always, adorably self-determined (and not as dopey as Link in Wind Waker, either). And Hyrule field feels as epic now as it did so long ago with that ever present feeling of hugeness. Just seeing it again is enough to forgive its dated graphics. The game runs well on the Gamecube, too. You have to wait a minute for the disc to initially load the game, but there isn't a loading screen afterwards. And the framerate, while not a constant 30 frames per second, is doable.

The sound, on the other hand, hasn't aged so well. Granted, the music certainly brings back fond memories. Those dungeon themes remain some of the eeriest themes ever. But what's odd is that none of it sounds all that different from what we were listening to in Wind Waker and Twilight Princess, and hearing them again is a testament that this series needs to upgrade its quality. Furthermore, the sound effects are quite poor. The cackling of fire alone is completely awry and sounds more like somebody chewing on a mouthful of rocks. And who can forget the annoyingness of Navi, the fairy, constantly shouting, "Hey! Listen! Hey! Hey! Listen!" She needs to shut up.

When you move deeper into the game, however, you'll find that the gameplay is still pretty strong. And part of this is just that the next several Zelda games haven't veered too far away from these roots. You have your towns, a big overworld, and several dungeons. Surprisingly, it still works! Going through the first dungeon was not just nostalgic, it was challenging and fun. Kakariko Village feels more homely here than in any other Zelda game, and learning and playing songs on an ocarina is much better than Wind Waker's wand or Twilight Princess's obnoxious howling. Ocarina of Time also scores big because of the child/adult time shift. Playing as young Link and old Link feel like totally different experiences, and switching between the two is a unique dynamic which Twilight Princess is missing, even with the wolf transformations.

This disc isn't a direct port of Ocarina of Time, though. While it does have that, Nintendo went a step further and included the Master Quest. Originally released as a Japanese-only add-on, the Master Quest is nearly the same game as Ocarina of Time but with retooled dungeons. The point is that the game is supposed to be harder. It's been so long since I played the original, though, I had a difficult time recognizing what was new and what was old. But the dungeons do feel different. I suspect some rooms weren't there before, and there are a lot more monsters than I remember. But that's where the Master Quest disappoints. Most of the changes were just adding more monsters, not turning the puzzles around. Dungeons also now have more sinister hiding spots for skulltulas. Collecting these was fun side quests before, but I feel like it's overdoing it when a dungeon's big secret is a measly skulltula location.

It should be noted, however, that it's not entirely easy to jump right back into this game. This is especially so if you just came from Twilight Princess, as you'll be tempted to shake the Gamecube controller to get Link to swing his sword. Doesn't work that way. For the most part, the N64 controls translate well to the Gamecube controller. The C buttons can be reimagined with either the C-stick or the X, Y, and Z buttons. The N64's Z button is now the L button. It's fairly close to what Wind Waker was doing, but the discrepancies are obvious enough to make it easy to forget how to do something. And some things just feel clunky. Aiming your slingshot or bow is simply not as ironed out as it became in later sequels.

For as much as this game is loved and beloved, some things simply do not stand the test of time. Future Zeldas have, believe it or not, improved on the old formula, and going back to the very first 3D Zelda feels a little tired and archaic. The first notable problem is the Z-targeting system. The way it's set up makes it difficult to see what is behind you. Pressing Z (or in this case, L) is supposed to flip the camera around, but if an enemy or interactive object is nearby, you will focus on that instead. If several enemies are present, it's a never-ending struggle to get the camera away from them. Wind Waker fixed this with an awesome free-roaming camera assigned to the C-stick. Obviously, for Ocarina of Time, this doesn't exist. And on top of this, you don't hold the L button down to target. You only have to push it once. A second push will cycle your focus to the next available target. What's annoying about this is when you want to stop targeting something but can't. In Twilight Princess, you could switch the controls so the target system made you hold down the button. When you let go, you stopped targeting. Period. In Ocarina of Time, this isn't an option.

Another problem is the speed at which text unravels. It's reminiscent of a first-grade reading level. You will most likely be able to read faster than the dialogue appears, but you can't do anything about it. Most of the dialogue will not let you press A to speed it up. And those rare times when this does work--usually with non-important NPC conversations--it skips all the way to the end. So you missed half of what the person was saying. Not being able to fast-forward makes cut scenes unbearable, especially when you most likely already know the story and just want to get straight into the action. Returning to where you were before you saved and quit is also a glaring setback. Unless you were in a dungeon when you quit, you will always go back to your home in Kokori.

Lasting Appeal:
You will still enjoy this, though. If you at all loved it when you first played it back on the Nintendo 64, you will only love it more playing it again. This is a good 20 hour adventure that's amazing from beginning to end and has a really lengthy fetch quest that'll take some time to complete. Plus, it's just fun experiencing this game a second or third time. I can see this being the perfect game to play over Christmas break when you eagerly await the next batch of games Santa Claus is supposed to bring. This is a game you do not let go of.

Sadly, this rare disc was never officially released in retailers. It was a bonus for those smart (and lucky) enough to have pre-ordered Wind Waker when it came out. If you missed your chance then... well... you missed your chance. Let's just hope you didn't miss picking up the even more coveted Legend of Zelda Collector's Edition set. Wait, what? You did? Well, if you're anything like me, you'll be kicking yourself over this one for years to come. Sure, you will eventually be able to download this game over Wii's Virtual Console service, but having a tangible CD is better than having a piece of flash memory that may not last forever. I wouldn't recommend paying those outrageous eBay prices for this, though. But if you can find it for $20 or less, that's a relatively decent price for such a timeless gem. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is not only one of the best Legend of Zelda games ever made, it's one of the best video games ever made. Eight years and three major Zeldas later, it still holds up really well. The Master Quest also gives you a slightly new experience and, more importantly, a new reason to go back and play a classic. It's too bad the Master Quest mode doesn't feel as different as it should.

+ Still an epic adventure
+ Runs fairly well on the Gamecube
+ More charming than Twilight Princess
-- Some mechanics are very outdated
-- Master Quest doesn't feel all that new

Score: 9/10

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 12/13/06, Updated 12/13/06

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