The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D could mean very different things depending on who and how old you are. To me, it’s the latest reincarnation of an N64 game I hated myself over when I was 13 because I always got sidetracked and never quite beat it. I ran through the beginning handful of dungeons so many times I wanted to die. That was 1998. For people who were going about being born in 1998, it’s certainly possible that they never played the original game. They’ll turn 13 this year, and, if they own a 3DS, either apply themselves more vigorously than I did when I was a newly -teened teenager, or remain forever n00b in the same way that the Kokiri Forest people stay forever young.
To call the story a coming of age tale would be a joke, but also true, so I’m going to make it. In this, the fifth Zelda game, the first in 3D (as opposed to “eye-popping” 3D, that’s in a minute), Link does indeed grow from a misfit boy into a strapping young adult, all to the pure, sweet tones of ocarinas given to him by pretty girls, including the titular Princess Zelda. Our villain, evil King Ganondorf of the Gerudo tribe, cannot under any circumstances be allowed to find his way to the sacred and powerful Tri-Force, so whether you are jogging, swimming, flying in the talons of an owl, riding your trusty steed Epona, or, you know, leaping through time… get in his way!
Given the Guiness World Record for being the highest (critically) rated game ever, we know Ocarina of Time is a fantastic one. The genuinely epic mix of dungeon running (although you can argue we’ve all shoved our share of blocks, these puzzles are still pretty serious), screwing around with target-shooting, fishing, and other assorted mini-games, as well as exploring Hyrule’s every nook and cranny with the hardcore determination needed to, say, conquer the mask trading game, or find every Golden Skulltula token is a lot to immerse yourself in.
On the 3DS, things even get a little inverse-immersive, as the 3D images start coming off the screen via Nintendo’s technological know-how. To be honest, though, there is no way I could or would want to keep the 3D slider up while actually playing the game. Not only do my eyes go buggy, the graphics look cleaner to me with it off. It was fun to flick it on during cut-scenes—any time magical particles are floating around they pop a bit, and Ganondorf’s nose is pretty pokey—but trying to keep the hardware at the appropriate angle to my eyes for the effects was so distracting that it started detracting from the fun and engagement. You won’t feel ripped off if you go the 2D route, though, since playing in 3D is not a required part of the experience (it states as much on the front of the box).
Having done away with the triple-grip crazytown controller that was the N64’s button throne, the 3DS’s touch screen becomes a hub of stats, maps, and gear. You can assign the perennial crop of Zelda game gadgets (hookshot, bow and arrow, bombs, etc.) to X and Y, but a huge win comes in the form of two extra virtual buttons, easily punchable with your thumb, that function the same way. And you’ll never have to worry about wasting one on the ocarina, since that has its own dedicated spot. This time saving and flexibility is a great addition to an already sensible control scheme.
Speaking of flexibility, I’m trying to remember how many times I literally bent over backwards today aiming at Skulltulas crawling up walls I needed to crawl up myself. It is still possible to aim in a more traditional way, but I found that taking advantage of the motion control here was fun and less detrimental to precision than you might guess. It’s not something you can get away with on the bus, but at home anything goes and I would love to see YouTubes of under the leg, behind the back, and other trick shots. My only issue with the controls was the fidgety L targeting, and it seemed at times like my shield wasn’t going up quite as snappily as I would have liked under duress (but then maybe I’m just hoping for too much from Mr. Link).
If you’re asking if you should run out and by Ocarina of Time 3D, and I suppose you are, then I would say only “run” if you have never played the game in any of its past incarnations, or are just really hankering for a version that has the Master Quest with alternative dungeon puzzles. Otherwise you can walk leisurely toward this no-doubt cherished memory, perhaps wait for a used copy, or maybe even choose to keep the experience preserved in your mind’s eye like your 13th birthday party. Personally, I thought I would be fine if I never played Ocarina of Time ever again, but enjoyed it more the further I adventured, and even got kind of emotional when Sheik’s theme played. Heart.
Developer: Grezzo, Nintendo
System: Nintendo 3DS