Review: Can a remake qualify as one of Nintendo’s best-ever releases? Yes!

The return of a classic title on a new platform rarely causes amazement. But this is no ordinary updating or simple port. It’s a complete rebuild, aimed at keeping a great game–possibly the best game Nintendo’s ever made–entertaining and relevant for a new generation, as well as Zelda’s ever-growing fan base. Nintendo did this right. The result is spectacular.

It’s tricky to write a review of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, because I could run out of synonyms for “incredible”. The game’s really that good.

Nintendo has accomplished something amazing here: they’ve completely upgraded’by leaps and bounds’a groundbreaking videogame masterpiece without sacrificing one speck of the original’s unique charm and atmosphere. If you played the N64 version of Ocarina back in ’98, you may have been startled to revisit it on Gamecube or Virtual Console and discover that the original polygon visuals now seem…painful. Ocarina 3D brings to life the version of the game you thought you saw thirteen years ago.

Goodbye, fog. Goodbye clunky character models. Hello, Hyrule! Nice to see you so clearly!

If you’ve never played Ocarina of Time’and you’re any kind of fantasy fan’you’re in for a great experience. If you enjoyed the original, prepare to be amazed at the transformation and the confirmation that…yes, the core game was great in ’98, and it’s great today. And if you really, really love the original Ocarina, well…you just may find yourself giddy with joy at many, many points in the journey.

The characters finally look like their production art portraits. The Great Owl no longer resembles origami. Water looks wet. Death Mountain’s rocky trails look sharp enough to cause real injury. Amazing creatures and cultures spring to life with personalities and expressions that were previously impossible to convey. This new level of detail enlivens every aspect of the game: villains are more threatening and fights become more thrilling. The good folk of Hyrule are now more endearing, adding emotional substance to the quest and deeper heartbreak to the game’s darker second half. From the better-than-ever boss battles to the hilarious little frogs on the log, the continual rediscovery will keep Ocarina veterans enthralled even if they already know how to solve every puzzle.

I’m glad Nintendo chose this time and platform to revitalize Ocarina, because it showcases some of the best 3D I’ve encountered in any format, be it movie, game, theme park ride or my old Viewmaster. I love the way Navi’s trail of sparkles often flies right out at your face as you run. The Triforce origin cinemas explode from the screen  like live firework spectaculars. Hyrule field looks properly vast and caverns look…er…cavernous.

If any criticism could be reasonably leveled at this game, you might argue that Nintendo could have added more polygons to the environments…but the company walked a fine line between preserving the original’s unique style and upgrading the look. With the finished product succeeding so well on both issues, I’d say they made wise choices.

My two actual complaints are ridiculously minor: I wish there was an in-game screenshot option, and…well, I don’t know what facial expression they were going for when Link receives the Ocarina, but I’d describe it as “horrified and repulsed.”

So much for quibbles. Now consider these points about Ocarina 3D:

1) It’s the best version of (arguably) the best videogame in history
2) It includes a very welcome boss battle mode
3) It includes a mirrored version of Master Quest
4) It’s portable

I have a feeling that, for a while, 3DS has just become many players’ long-term exclusive “Handheld Hyrule” machine. One of the all-time greats can now travel along with you. In 3D.

We live in good times.