Review by Mariner
"The Second Quest?"
The year is 1986. Your heart is pounding, your breath shortened, and you simply cannot believe you finally won. The enchanted silver arrow embedded itself deep into Ganon's chest, and the monster exploded in a flash of light. All that remained was a pile of ashes and the Triforce of Power. Trembling, you walk over and pick it up. A doorway opens, and there you find Princess Zelda, trapped in her cell. You free her, and the end credits roll. You have mastered the most amazing game you ever saw, and it's finally over. Until you read the screen: ''Another quest will start from here.'' Curious and confused, you start your game again. You walk to the first dungeon, and find it completely refurbished. You weren't done, you only finished the easy quest. And now you get to experience the whole thing over again. The thrill of playing this game remains for one more time around.
The year is 2003. It's been four years since you finished Ocarina of Time. And now you are ready for the new Zelda game. But wait, you hear of a pre-order deal. You hear of the Master Quest. Could it be? Is that the same feeling you felt all those years ago? The joy of re-experiencing some of your most magical moments in a video game, with everything refreshingly new yet still familiar? Will it feel like a true Second Quest, harder and more thought provoking than the first, yet still relying on the same fundamental principles of the first quest? Will you feel the excitement and awesomeness that you felt the first time playing Ocarina of Time? Well, not exactly. But close enough. The Master Quest is not at all a new game, but still manages to make parts of the game just as much fun as the first time you played Ocarina of Time.
Of course, it's all based on Ocarina of Time, and the original game is also present on this lovely disk. Much has been said about it already, and there's simply no time to go into it here. Suffice to say I consider it the greatest and most amazing game I've ever played, and my origins as a truly fanatical Zelda fan began with this one. Sure, I loved the previous games, and even prefer the original to this one, but this one really got me hooked. It just feels so natural, so immersive, and a perfect translation of Zelda into 3D. The exploration, the brilliant level design, the fantastic environment, the music and artwork, and some truly memorable scenes all come together to form an experience unlike any other I've felt in a videogame. Controlling Link as he became the Hero of Time was never dull, there was always plenty to see and plenty to discover, and the world felt alive and wondrous. Sure, some people might consider it boring or pretentious or easy or whatever, but I could never feel that way about this game. For no other game managed to keep me obsessed for so long, and never got old or frustrating despite taking months to beat. If you've never played OoT before, then by all means play it now. Even without the Master Quest, OoT is still worth playing again and again.
So what is this Master Quest? Well, it'd be easier to say what it isn't. There are no graphical or aural enhancements from the N64 version, sad to say. Everything in the overworld is also the same. Every piece of heart and gold skulltula that you find in Hyrule are in the exact same spots as they were in OoT. There are no new characters, side quests, subplots, or anything of the sort. The only differences are in the dungeons. But even there, the basic layout is the same. The rooms are the same as in the original, and generally have the same basic figures. Thus, there's still a giant Dodongo head in Dodongo's Cavern, still a room with pitfalls in Jabu Jabu, and still a boat that carries you to the ''other side'' in the Shadow Temple. If you remember OoT, you should feel right at home when you start up this new quest.
But that doesn't mean playing through these dungeons is the same as before. Puzzles, enemies, and item and gold skulltula locations are all remixed. Sometimes this means nothing more than fighting a few extra lizardfos in unexpected locations, but often it changes the entire dynamic of the stage. Places that you couldn't reach early on in the dungeon may be open to you immediately, while some of the first rooms may be blocked in the beginning. Enemies tend to be harder, and the puzzles more challenging. Gold skulltulas are harder to find, and often require you to return to the dungeon after becoming better equipped. Despite the layout being the same, practically every room in every dungeon has something new in it.
So is the lack of a complete makeover bad? Should we complain? Sure, I would have loved to see some enhanced graphics and all, but I'm not that disappointed. One has to keep in mind that this is simply a free game, and so we cannot expect them to put too much effort into it. The lack of anything new in the overworld is a bit more problematic. Perhaps it's just a drawback of 3d though. In the original Zelda, secrets could be hidden anywhere, because the entire world was made up of repeated tiles. But in OoT, the world is highly varied, and there are only so many places in which one can hide pieces of heart. The obvious hiding places are already taken, so what's the point in changing them? And what good would extra characters do without adding anything new to the game? You can't include more items or more pieces of heart, and new characters would not fundamentally change the plot or anything. If it's just going to be a simple remix of a game, some things just can't or won't be changed. It's unfortunate, but we'll just have to live with it.
Besides, the temples definitely make up for it. Despite the fact that all the rooms are basically laid out the same way as in the original, the dungeons still feel different. Many of the puzzles are entirely new, and offer far more variety than OoT had. You will be required to actually think some things through, and rely on tricks you never thought were possible. Rater than simply pressing a switch to lower the water so you can get across, you must now step on a switch to ignite a flame, run over to the flame before it goes out, jump onto a moving platform, duck under some spikes, and get to the other side to ignite a lamp before your torch burns out. And that's just in the first level. You will find puzzles relying on a combination of tricks, on careful observation and deduction and process of elimination, and on dexterity and speed. Parts of the game that have become boring are new yet again, and you will once again find yourself looking around the temple, wondering where that switch is. Once again, you must explore a dungeon, even if it appears familiar. Don't make assumptions or act smug based on your experiences in OoT, because everything is quite different now.
It's even worth going through again despite the fact that the layout of the temples and dungeons are the same. In fact, it may even be better. The level design was already fantastic, and I think it speaks volumes that everything can look the same yet still seem new. Many of the puzzles manage to completely reshape the dungeon. You will often find yourself going ''backwards'' through a level, reaching areas early on that you wouldn't in OoT, or entering a room where you exited in the original quest. Despite the fact that it's still the same dungeon, despite the fact that you know exactly where the boss is and know the map of the temple perfectly, you will still feel like it is an entirely different experience. In some ways it heightens the newness, as you are more apt to miss things that were irrelevant in OoT. Sure, some of the remixes are better than others (unfortunately, the Forest Temple didn't feel much different), and some things are still done the same way, but it still feels different enough to make each temple an experience.
Much has been said about the increased difficulty, but it's slightly overexaggerated. Obviously, the fact that the puzzles are new will occasionally make you lost and confused in the dungeons, and make stuff harder to find. And the enemy placement is new too. Unfortunately, it doesn't increase difficulty that much, but it can still surprise you. And that's more important - the illusion of a challenge. When you see a baby gohma literally fall on top of you, you'll be surprised. When a stalfos suddenly appears in front of you, your heart beats just a little faster. Sure, they're not too tough to beat, and you should have no problems whatsoever getting through the game without dying, but the unknown element keeps you on your toes. And sometimes, your carelessness will catch up to you. Imagine an army of armos all charging toward you in a narrow and confined space. You accidentally activated them all, not quite believing that you would actually be trapped in such a situation. You better think and act quickly, or you're dead. It's a feeling you couldn't get simply replaying OoT, and it was easily one of my favorite parts of this remixed game.
No, it's not quite a second quest. But it is still worth playing, and still an excellent excuse to play Ocarina of Time yet again. Even if a good 80% of the game is exactly the same as you remember it, that other fraction is enough to make the whole experience fresh again. You can now focus on the temples, and re-experience the joy of solving a puzzle. You can be surprised again, lost again, and frustrated again. It may not be a different game, but it is a new option, a new way to play this masterpiece. Can one fault Nintendo for giving us that? Ocarina of Time is still one of the best games I've ever played, and the Master Quest fulfills its promise of making me enjoy it yet again.
Final Score - 9.0
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 03/06/03, Updated 03/06/03
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