Outside the MMO Box: The Ocarina of Time 3D
Ah the month of June! A happy and sunny time; a time when flowers shine bright and gay; a time when the aroma of fresh-cut grass fills the nostrils; and a time when a legion of writers descend upon California, all giggling behind the excuse that they're actually there to do some "journalism". I'm not bitter that I happened to have jumped out of a womb on the wrong side of the Atlantic, no, far from it, I'm pleased for my fellow writers I really am.
While I sat at home weeping - I mean having tons of fun and partying late into the night in my own private function, my comrades of MMORPG.com were enjoying the delights of the yearly gaming expo. Some received the care and attention of PR agents, some tried out some new games, and I happened to know that our overlord Bill Murphy received "favours" from a dwarf dressed up as Gimli (Son of Glóin). Is it really such a bad thing spreading malicious rumours?
Apart from sending one or two letter bombs and crafting some rather fetching voodoo dolls, I have had to do something with my time in the wake of E3. Rather than fuelling my anger and becoming a little vessel of evil, I instead took to my local gaming store and happened to pick up arguably one of the greatest games in existence. I suppose it isn't so bad living in the UK after all.
Wait, Zelda is a chick?
The 3DS has been a strained purchase for many. Aside from the visceral delights of Street Fighter, there hasn't been much released to make this a must-have handheld. Being a sucker for technology and eye-strain, I opted to purchase on the day of launch, grasping at my little black box of magic, and hugging my copy of Rayman 2, I was very excited. Everything was good for a few hours, but then I came to the realisation that I've played this title on around 5 platforms already; if I was a paranoid man I'd say that Rayman himself is running the ship at Ubisoft. And so, aside from one or two slightly amusing flourishes with an extra dimension, my 3DS has sat lonely, gathering dust for a while.
That is until now. Shigeru Miyamoto in 1997 unleashed upon the world another entry into Legend of Zelda series. While we all gawping at that funny looking nub in the centre of a pad that looked like an upside-down Poseidon's Trident, nobody could deny that this was a very special game indeed. From the beautifully crafted story, to the elegantly sculpted world that packed so much life and creativity - here was a piece of software that would capture our hearts for many years to come: and that's just what it did, and now almost 13 years later, it is back to enslave us all once more.
Link is the only green-clad forest boy without a fairy, which amongst the Kokiri is an odd trait indeed. Alone and shivering one night, the sentient, and oddly "Freddy Mercury" moustached, Deku Tree sends out Navi (no not the Smurfs from Avatar) to accompany our protagonist on a soon to be calling adventure. Taking on the role of Link, players are tasked with saving the kingdom of Hyrule from the dastardly Ganon once more, whilst making use of the titular Ocarina and aligning with the power of Sages to reunite the Triforce. Trust me it makes sense when you're doing it.
In essence Nintendo have released little more than a port of the original 64-bit game. The story is still the same, the gameplay is intact, and in all it stills feels so nineties that a better tagline would have been "Fresh Prince of Hyrule". None of this however, is a bad thing, here is a game that didn't need tweaking or fiddling with, Miyamoto managed to jam brilliance into a cartridge a decade previous, and a similar act has been perpetrated here.
What changes that have been affected are more to do with the actual device in which the game is played on. First and foremost is the addition of the DS touch-screen which illuminates the bottom half of the system. Proudly displayed at all times is the map, and also littered around the edges are icons which allow you access certain menus, equipment, and shortcuts. Ocarina of Time benefits immensely from this new feature - jabbing your thumb on the screen negates the original system of pressing the "Start" button and cycling through the half-dozen menus, and while being very intuitive, also makes great use of the device.
The next, and perhaps most important addition, is the 3D conversion of this timeless classic. While at first it can be a little hard to find a comfortable position in which to fully realise the effect, the extra dimension is a surprising bit of eye candy. The sense of depth sharpens the visuals, and the magical flora and fauna of the Kokiri forest that glitters in front of your eyes really adds to the sense of immersion. The added gyroscopic features too add something of a novelty to the ensemble. Whilst aiming your slingshot, bow, or hookshot, players can now twiddle the thumbstick and at the same time edge the console in hand to line up a perfect shot. The only problem with this however is that the 3D effect tends to shift out of alignment once moved from the "sweet spot", and in the words of Rocky, you still start to "see three of 'em out there!" which is never great when facing off against a Dodongo.
Perhaps the biggest issue the game faces is in the trademarked 3D conversion. While the visuals are updated to a nice level of detail and crispness, the depth-effects can really make this an uncomfortable experience. Shifting slightly will see the visuals blur, and also after a prolonged session you can start to feel like you have ingested some sort of psychoactive drug, as your eyes begin to strain and your head feels a little worse for wear - at some point I may have started licking the screen whilst gumming the words "I am the lizard queen".
All hand-held specific woes aside however, flicking the game to standard 2D and running through Kakariko Village once more is as fun as it ever has been. Amazingly Ocarina of Time doesn't feel quite so dated as it should. The puzzles are still fresh and inventive, and the combat feels engaging while at the same time managing to conjure those pre-teen squealings of "that looks so cool man!" A decade on since its initial release, the game still manages to surprise and engross a player in a way that very few games do. The amount of content is astounding, and the side quests available are just as fun to discover.
The Nintendo 3DS version of Ocarina of Time is simply a must have title, for what now is surely a must have system. Some effects may be a little hit and miss, but this is simply one of the greatest games ever created and this latest outing only serves to prove that fact. Brilliantly realised, lovingly crafted, and still as important as it was in 1997 - no game has yet surpassed it and by revisiting the lands of Hyrule once more it looks like it will be a while before anyone even comes close to contesting its status as "greatest adventure game ever made". If you don't have a 3DS, go buy one. If you don't the money - I suggest you head up into the attic and dig out that old Nintendo 64/GameCube, you simply won't regret it. Screw E3, I heart Zelda forever.