Cynicism. Shameless money grabbing. A lack of new ideas. These are just a few of the criticisms levelled at Nintendo for its continued reliance on its back-catalogue of characters and hit games.
Last week, Nintendo announced five new titles for the 3DS, a new console in dire need of some decent games. These were Starfox, Super Mario 3D, Luigi’s Mansion 2, Kid Icarus Uprising, and Mario Kart. As you’ll have already noticed, every single one of these games is either a sequel or a new iteration of something that was released years ago.
And while every one of these games has been warmly received, and will no play beautifully and sell well, it seems as though Nintendo has been putting far more energy into off-the-wall hardware ideas than innovative videogame concepts of late.
Which brings us to Ocarina Of Time 3D, an updated reissue of an N64 game that Nintendo has already re-released several times since its first appearance in 1998. This time, however, the Japanese studio Grezzo has taken this most venerable of Zelda adventures, and updated it for the 3DS.
And for those fearful of some sort of dreadful, hastily put together emulation with a bit of added headache-inducing 3D, rest assured that Ocarina Of Time now looks absolutely beautiful. The blocky, almost nonexistent textures of the N64 original have been replaced with more detailed ones, while the slightly drab, smeared colours of old are now vibrant and fresh.
As mentioned in our hands-on preview last month, this is Ocarina Of Time as it should have looked back in the late 90s, or the Ocarina Of Time as I remember it through the misty lens of nostalgia. In many instances, the alterations Grizzo has made to Ocarina’s graphics are so subtle that you’d struggle to spot them unless you were to view the 3DS version and the original side-by-side.
And it’s only when you do so that you realise just how much smoother and more detailed this rebuilt Ocarina looks. The young Link still stomps around with the same attitude as he always did (and the way he insouciantly kicks small treasure chests to open them still makes me smile), but his character model is now more smoothly animated, with a greater range of facial expressions.
The addition of 3D, a feature that hasn’t always convinced in the handheld’s earliest releases, also makes sense when seen in the context of Ocarina’s sprawling landscape. The fields, temples and dungeons really do look great when viewed in 3D, and I suspect even those who’ve been rather cynical about this most prominent feature of the 3DS will find themselves at least a little impressed at the way it adds a subtle sense of scale and drama.
Visual facelifts aside, this is Ocarina Of Time as it ever was. Even a subtle change to the layout of the game’s design would almost certainly enrage devotees of the original, and Grezzo have left the layout of Ocarina’s world and characters completely untouched.
What the studio has done, however, in mapping the game’s controls to the 3DS, is actually create a system that’s slightly easier to use than the N64’s. The inventory and map is situated, logically enough, on the lower screen, meaning that items can be equipped and mapped to the 3DS’ buttons with a jab of your thumb. Just how helpful this is only becomes clear later in the game, where some dungeons require the repeated swapping of items, such as the eye of truth or iron boots in the dreaded Water Temple.
The 3DS’ circle pad also makes a surprisingly useful replacement for the N64’s analogue stick, and whether you’re guiding Link across narrow platforms, or switching to a first-person view to fire a Deku nut at a button with your catapult, the pad feels precise and accurate. You can also use the 3DS’ accelerometer to aim the catapult, or admire the scenery in free-look mode – a nice touch, but simply using the circle pad is less embarrassing than waving the 3DS around on a crowded train, and you’re less likely to get a headache from the flickering 3D screen that inevitably occurs as you start to move the console out of parallel with your eyes.
There are also Sheikah stones for those new to the game, which give away a few hints if you’re stuck – a thoughtful addition for new or younger or less experienced players. Elsewhere on the cartridge, there’s also a boss challenge mode and the Master Quest that originally appeared as part of the game’s re-release on the GameCube back in 2003.
Whatever your opinions are on Nintendo’s continued reliance on old names and past glories, there’s no denying the magic that lies at the heart of Ocarina Of Time. It’s a game that regularly appears at the top of all-time great videogames, and for good reason; its marriage of action, exploration, simple puzzle-solving and lyrical storytelling is quite simply perfect.
With this new 3DS iteration, this timeless game has been given a colourful, attractive new sheen. As a result, one of the greatest videogames ever made now looks beautiful and fresh once again. This is undoubtedly the console’s first must-have release.
The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time will be released on 17th June and can be pre-ordered from the Den Of Geek Store.