Review by Eric43

"Link's Awakening 2.0 - New World, New Stuff, New Laundry List"

Zelda games almost always meet gamers' expectations. In the jump to the third dimension, the two N64 classics, Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask, were regarded as some of the best games ever. But gamers didn't forget about the classic 2-D gameplay that preceeded it, and by 2001, a new handheld Zelda was in heavy demand. That year, Nintendo and Capcom produced two new Zelda games for the Game Boy Color that go hand-in-hand, Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages. Both are reminiscent of the classic Link's Awakening for the Game Boy with all new landscapes, dungeons, and items. And if you were looking for that ace-in-the-hole 2-D Zelda game, then you had to take a look.

Oracle of Seasons is similar in structure to Oracle of Ages as in you have your typical vast, screen-based world with eight dungeons to beat and an array of weapons at your disposal. However, they are both quite different as they each have their own unique features and areas, which would make any Zelda fan squirm with delight (sixteen dungeons total!). The plot of Seasons isn't that great—Link visits the land of Holodrum and a villain named Onox holds Din, the goddess of the seasons, hostage, and it's up to Link to fix the fluctuating seasons and restore peace by helping a giant tree retrieve a bunch of lost items. Nothing revolutionary, and it kind of stinks that classic characters like Zelda and Ganondorf seldom appear, though the plot does go hand-in-hand with Ages' storyline.

Seasons' gameplay consists of your traditional 2-D Zelda gameplay in which you play as the green hero Link and walk around, slash up enemies with a wide variety of weapons (particularly the sword), solve puzzles, talk to people, and do other good things. The controls are identical to Link's Awakening as in you can strafe in any direction flawlessly and assign two different weapons to the A and B buttons. Weapons include the classic sword, shield, bombs, as well as some new items such a slingshot with different seeds of different abilities and magnetic gloves that attract/repels you from polarized objects. You can also collect and equip rings, which give you miscellaneous abilities, such as added defense, attack power, or protection from miscellaneous elements. The only real complaint is more frequently than in Link's Awakening, Link can get “stuck” on enemies and can lose a chunk of health too quickly. Besides that and the frequently weapon switching you'll do, the control is fluid and you'll have a blast with it if you have any remote interest in the genre whatsoever.

The game's progression begins with only a small portion of the world map reachable with the initial sword and shield. Go to the next dungeon and collect a crucual item, such as a feather that allows Link to jump over holes or a bracelet that picks up pots and stones. Between dungeons, expect to find a key, talk to specific people, do a minigame, and accomplish miscellaneous tasks. The progression does extend replay value and gives you an incentive to check out new parts of the map. However, the progression is the game's most apparent problem. Usually, after completing each dungeon, you get a tip to travel to a certain portion of the overworld and explore. From then on, the stuff you have to do to proceed is usually off-the-wall, such as helping a guy build a bridge or finding an arbitrary key you don't know exists until you make some old man or sketeton pirate happy. Combine that with conveniently-placed portals to a sub-world called Subrosia (a lava world with a bunch of happy-yet-hooded people) required to get some random stuff to proceed and the game seems weak in the knees when you just want to jump to the next dungeon. Yes, I know this sequence of events is typical for a Zelda game, but compared to the tasks of other Zelda games, I found these less enjoyable.

Unique to Seasons and not Ages is the different seasons that have an effect on the landscape. Through the adventure, you'll get a staff that, when waved on tree stumps, will change the area's season between winter, spring, summer, and fall. In winter, snow obscures some paths but also allows you to walk on large mounds to reach normally unaccessible areas. In spring, certain flowers bloom and can launch you up cliffs. In summer, the water level drops and climbable vines grow. In fall, mushrooms are ripe and able to be picked (passed) and pits are filled with leaves. This twist does help with the game's aching progression though you'll frequently backtrack to tree stumps to change the weather when necessary.

In Seasons, the dungeons are more combat-based than puzzle-based, which can be more-or-less a good thing depending on your tastes. Similar to Link's Awakening, you'll traverse around and pick up keys and fight enemies and bosses. The thrills in the dungeons are similar with a few new twists and enemies, such as a few minecart segements. In terms of difficulty, Seasons seems harder than Link's Awakening, particularly because of trickier segments and nerfing of overpowered weapons, such as the boomerang. The only problem is the “rooms” in the dungeons are now larger, which makes the dungeons feel more vacant as a whole as you spend more time walking from point A to B, unlike the more packed temples in Link's Awakening. But unchartered ground is always enjoyable.

With Ages, the game offers a little more value in the form of passwords. In general, by talking with certain people or beating the final boss in Seasons, you are given a password to type in Ages to unlock new items and features, and vice versa. It's a neat but not necessary feature that gives both games a little more value.

The game's visuals aren't much different than Link's Awakening DX but artistically, it is aesthetically pleasing. The colors, particularly between the different seasons, have a fine contrast to them. New sprites, particularly some trees and enemies, give the game some flair. The interface is clear and you'll have no trouble seeing what's going on around you. The sound effects are mostly recycled from its predecessor but with some original music for dungeons and whatnot. Nothing fantastic but for a Game Boy Color game, it is top notch.

Oracle of Seasons is a vibrant game that Zelda fans, particularly fans of Link's Awakening, should take interest in. It'll take about 15-30 hours to complete, bar additional items such as heart pieces and rings. But with a few unusual changes in game play such as the mish-mash of overworld tasks and plot of lesser-known Zelda characters, it's not one that'll completely blow you away. Compared to Ages, Seasons is about just as good so there's no need to get picky. Most likely, it's only worth playing through once or twice unless you're a real addict of the genre.

Presentation: 9/10 – Typical Zelda intro with a few neat artwork still cutscenes. Interface looks organized.
Gameplay: 8/10 – Throwback to the classic Zelda formula of beating dungeons and going around the overworld. But the progression is a bit disruptive.
Graphics: 8/10 – Clear, neat looking 2-D world and animated charaters, but hardly new to begin with.
Sound: 7/10 – Mostly recycled sound effects but with a few new bits here and there.
Replay Value: 7/10 – This Zelda adventure has good length to it but not a whole lot of incentive to play through after a few times.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 12/14/07, Updated 01/04/08

Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons (US, 05/13/01)

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