Review by Joe the Destroyer
"Link: Eternally cursed to search dungeons that seem to be all over the damned world."
Sure, I wanted one at first. As time went by, though, I slowly lost interest. I'm referring, of course, to Gameboy Color. Sure, it had its share of good games, but it seemed for the longest time that most of its array of games were nothing more than TV and movie licenses. Close to the end of its life, GBC looked like nothing more than a dumping ground. Because of this, I never bought one. However, one light glimmered above all other GBC titles: A pair of Legend of Zelda games that would blow away the entire GBC library with one punishing shot! Two games that were linked together like conjoined twins; a collaboration between Nintendo and Capcom! The games were titled Oracle of Season and Oracle of Ages. There was so much hype behind these games, and hype usually translates to something that can ultimately be the downfall of a game. Such was not true here. Even with all the hype, I expected just another Zelda game. However, there was one thing about these games that I found very alluring: linking! Your quest doesn't end when you've completed one game. It continues on into the next. Nintendo has cleverly snatched a little over $50 from my pocket. Sure, this could very well seem like the usual marketing ploy that has been played out with other games since Pokemon (different versions of the same game). But it definitely is very much more than that. With solid gameplay, a building story, and innovative linking capabilities, the Oracle games pack one hell of a punch into the final breath of Gameboy Color.
Hyrule has once again returned to peace. Ganon is sealed away, Zelda and Link both finally find time to rest. However, something is amiss... Link, who has recently arrived in Holodrum, witnesses the kidnapping of a young dancer named Din by the hand of a mysterious villain named Onox. All over Holodrum, the seasons have all gone haywire. Some areas are treated to a perpetual state of summer, while others are given the cold nights of winter. It seems that the kidnapping of Din has caused major dysfunction to worm its way through the shifting of seasons, and now it's up to Link to rescue Din and destroy Onox, thereby restoring the seasons.
Familiar sounding premise? Yes. Even though you are not in Hyrule through this tame, you still have to save a maiden. Meh... Capcom and Nintendo did land some saving rolls when creating this story, though. If you started with this game, you will see some allusions to an even bigger plot that will unravel in Oracle of Ages. The opposite is true if you started with Oracle of Ages; you will continue the plot from before and all the loose ends will eventually be tied together. The larger plot, as you may find out, is also nothing incredibly special, but at least saves a little grace from the unoriginal plot that this game (and even Oracle of Ages) brings to the table.
Yes, the game is pretty much like other Zeldas in the gameplay department, with some new goodies added in. You have the classic overhead view, of course. You can move in all directions on a plane-based environment. Enemies are scattered about the land that can be killed with your trusty sword. As usual, you have a collection of different items that you can use to help guide you through the various traps and dangers of Holodrum and the dungeons. For instance, we are given the magnetic glove, which you can use to attract or repel other objects, or even attract or repel yourself toward/away from other objects. You even get a bag for carrying different seeds which serve different purposes in the game such as starting fires, teleporting to anywhere on the world map that you've been, or even gaining the ability to run fast. Of course, classic items like the boomerang and bow and arrows also make an appearance. Such an item line-up is pretty much par for a Zelda game. Not too much unnecessary garbage added, but at the same time, nothing really left out.
As with many other Zeldas, dungeons are hidden throughout the land. Entering a dungeon means you have to solve all the puzzles of the place, obtain the necessary equipment to advance, and engage in two fearsome battles against the mini-boss and the main boss of the dungeon. Defeating the mini-boss unlocks a portal that you can use to go from the beginning of the dungeon to the room you fought the mini-boss in, and vice versa. Defeating the main boss means you get a piece of the Essence of Seasons, which is needed later in the game. Yes, it's a familiar formula, but it just it is one that is tried and true. What is a Zelda game without dungeons? The dungeons in this game are engaging and challenging, but not overdone on either aspect. This gracious fusion is what makes Oracle of Seasons that much better than Oracle of Ages.
Without a doubt, the best feature of this game (the game itself) is the changing of seasons. Different areas in this game, as stated before, exhibit different qualities of different seasons. In order to advance after a certain point in this game, you need the ability to change the seasons. Changing the seasons will definitely change the weather and thus change the environment. The winter season, for instance, can add piles of snow to the ground, which can either hinder you by creating an impediment or work to your advantage by giving you an extra walkway in certain circumstances. Spring can open certain flowers, summer calls up vines, and fall can soften up certain hardened mushrooms, as well as clog holes up with leaves to give you the ability to walk over holes. Since you cannot just change seasons just anywhere, but in designated areas, you really have to think as to which season you want to change to in which area. This adds a bit more to the challenge, giving a much more thought-provoking feel to the game.
If you want to talk best features in both games, the definitive answer has to be linking. When you finish one of the Oracle games, you are given a password at the end that you can use in the next one to continue the storyline where you left off. You can even go through both games finding tons of passwords and using in different areas to unlock new items or events. This is what definitely separates this investment from other Zelda games. You are not just playing a gimmick to access new areas. You are actually given a very unique system that makes this possibly the most innovative of the dual game releases.
The graphics in this game are definitely great work! Each season is given its own distinct look. Nintendo very well utilized colors and tones to capture the feeling of different seasons. You can see it in the plants, leaves, and water especially. Monster designs haven't changed too much from this game to Link's Awakening (the previous Zelda portable), which isn't necessarily a bad thing. We did get to see some new faces to the circle of evil, even new bosses that were very well designed. Graphically, I'm impressed with Nintendo's work here. They took the GBC's graphical capabilities and made the best out of them.
The sounds are, for the most part, just what you would expect from a Zelda portable game. Again, that's not bad. Most of the soundtrack is that which we've already heard in Link's Awakening, but there are some new cuts that were thrown into the mix such as new boss music. The sound effects worked just as well with their events here as they did before. I guess you could say, ''If it isn't broke, don't fix it.'' With that in mind, I really have no qualms about the sound played in Oracle of Seasons.
Here's probably the biggest complaint, and it really isn't even that big of a complaint. There have been times in this game where it seems the controls didn't respond soon enough. A good example would be times where I've tried to jump over pits, hit the button way before even getting to the pit, and still fell. There have been other instances of late response that I've noticed, but none of them seem to weigh heavy enough against this game to make me really hate it. Other than that, the controls are just fine. As usual, you have the great response in the D-pad that isn't too stiff and definitely not too over-responsive.
To say the least, I am incredibly impressed with Nintendo and Capcom's efforts at a pair of Zelda titles that link together. This is not only a shining addition to an already solid series, but a highly innovative idea that adds enough dimension to keep Zelda fans busy for some time. There's so much to the games beyond just your regular hack-through-dungeon-after-dungeon what with the unlockables that equate a great replay value. Only by playing and linking, though, can you discover the whole story behind the games. Great graphics, nice sounds, incredible gameplay, innovations galore also highlight this spectacle! The only downside has to be the occasional late control response, which weights against this game like a dime against a whale.
Graphics: GBC's visuals have been put to good use 9/10
Sounds: Nothing much new to the sounds, but that isn't so bad 8/10
Controls: Save for the late response that comes in every now and then on the action buttons (A and B), not bad 7/10
Story: It may sound like your typical Save-the-Maiden, but there's a bit more to it than that. 7/10
Gameplay: Absolutely solid! 10/10
All Together: 10/10
*Good graphics and sound
*Late action button response every so often
Zelda fans, of course. If you're looking for that good game on GBC, here it is! Adventure fans should also be delighted by this. If you're thinking this is just another Zelda title or that it's just like Link's Awakening, think again. Linking adds a lot to this game, so I'd suggest getting this with Oracle of Ages if you can.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 08/20/02, Updated 09/28/03
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