The very first thing you will notice is how amazing this game looks on the 3DS. The colours are bright and bold and, for those of us used to the original, everything is very smooth. The faces of characters are less angular and the whole thing is far crisper and cleaner. I must admit I was slightly worried about it being a direct port without doing much if anything to the visuals but all those worries have been put to rest. I assure you the game is stunning. The 3D works remarkably well for the most part; it adds depth to the game and genuinely enhances the visual appeal which I was, if I’m honest, not really expecting.
The music is simply divine from start to finish as well, the backing tracks are well suited to their individual environments and the melodies you play on the ocarina are great. Given that there is a musical instrument in the title this seems somewhat fitting and I cannot think of a game I would put forward as a contender for having a better soundtrack…well at a push Chrono Trigger but I still think this one edges it. The nostalgic value of stepping out onto Hyrule field for the first time in too many years is an amazing one for those of you lucky enough to have been there before.
Right on to the game itself. The plot is a fairly normal one, young boy thrust into a huge adventure and needs to go on a quest to save the world, going through dungeon by dungeon gathering new equipment as you go allowing you to progress. That said the game will take you a good chunk of hours to complete and is not at all linear in that you can wander Hyrule and search for extra Heart Containers to increase your health or Great Fairy Fountains to gain new magic spells so you never feel forced down the story path.
The gameplay is sound and remains mainly unchanged from the origins but the introduction of the touch screen has led to some interesting and beneficial changes into how it works. Where before you would have to pause the game and hit L or R until you got to the right menu screen now you simply touch the tab on the bottom screen and that’s that. This makes switching out your assigned items much quicker and less irritating which was one of the only complaints I have about this classic. This is further aided by having 4 active items at once, 2 mapped to X and Y and 2 on touch buttons as well as the Ocarina having its own dedicated button so there’s never a need to have it take up an item slot. Also now when you select the ocarina you can open a tab which has all the songs you have learnt there for you so you can read it off and play. This is a vast improvement on the old way which meant that if you forgot the song you had to quit playing, pause the game, rotate the menu to the correct screen, find the song you wanted and then attempt to memorise it. Not a great method if your short term memory is a s bad as mine!
Possibly the biggest change in how the game works is in the first person viewing mode and the aiming for ranged weapons. You can still use the circle pad as you would an analogue stick and aim around as you normally would but there is now another way. Once you have the weapon drawn or have zoomed into first person you can physically point and move the 3DS around and the screen moves as if you were actually looking around in the game world. This is great except for a few small issues. First among these is that if you are playing with the 3D on the image splits horribly if you don’t move your whole upper body around to keep the head on view the 3D image requires. This coupled with the fact that, at least in my handheld gaming posture, you don’t get that much of an arc to move in, it made me feel like one of the guards from Metal Gear Solid who can only ever see in a cone shaped spot directly in front of them.
That is one of only two complaints I have about this game, the other is so minor I feel it’s hardly worth mentioning but I will in an attempt to bring some semblance of balance to this fan boy fuelled rambling. Once while I was riding around Hyrule Field I attempted to jump a fence and glitched on top of it, unable to get off at all. This however was easily sorted by saving the game, quitting and reloading since unless you are in a dungeon when you restart after you quit you go to either the Temple of Time or your House in the starting village.
To conclude, I adore this game. I have done ever since I was much younger than I am now and will continue to do so into the future. The story, although somewhat basic, is charming and the game itself is a fantastic example of a near perfect adventure game. As an added bonus the Mater Quest option is available after you have finished the game which is mostly the same game but with more challenging dungeons. There is also a boss challenge mode which does exactly what it says on the tin and requires no explanation. In all with the slight 3D niggles involved in aiming aside I genuinely feel that with this re-release Nintendo have improved on the near perfection that this game already was, if I had the option to play it on big screen with the DS acting as a bottom screen (Wii U compatibility may be a possibility for this in the future…) I would be even worse than I have been in terms of praise. As it stands though there are a few things that could be tweaked to make it better, just a little bit better but not a lot. Thank you Nintendo for bringing this game back into our lives for those of us with fond memories, and for bringing it to the new generation of gamers to experience greatness for possibly the very first time.