Online I go by the alias of Shuuda. I am currently living North Yorkshire, England. In 2011 I graduated from the University of Hull with a first class degree in Design for Digital Media, where I studied both the creative and theoretical sides of the digital technology and the internet.
As someone who is passionate about about video games than the fantasy genre, I am highly interested in how stories can be told through interactive media. I concern myself with how the genre is portrayed within the medium and its implications. I give it both criticism and praise, but mostly criticism. Writing fiction has been my hobby for many years, and I feel that video games have influenced and inspired the content of my work in recent times.
The Legend of Zelda, the Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons were originally released for the Game Boy Color back in 2001, more than ten years ago now. They have reappeared on the 3DS E-shop for download. Since I had fond memories of playing these games in my youth I decided to pick them both up and take a nostalgia trip. For the purpose of this review I'll be looking at Oracle of Ages, since Seasons was the game I played first time round all those years back.
Oracle of Ages revolves around Link's quest to save Nayru, the Oracle of Ages, who has been possessed by Veran, the sorceress of shadows. Using the Harp of Ages, Link travels between the present and past of Labrynna in order to find the essences of time. The Oracle of Ages takes the very typical Zelda formula. Link must travel the land seeking out the magic artefacts locked away inside various dungeons. It pulls the formula to the letter, never really taking the time to justify the existence of these dungeons, or why there would be a monster filled cave under an inactive volcano in the middle of a village.
While this does sound all run of the mill for Zelda game, Oracle of Ages does come with a few plot twists here and there, and puts a greater focus on time travel than most other Zelda games (with the exception of Majora's Mask of course). I do like the fact the game does not get overly bogged down in the need for “deep” story that most modern RPGs do. This means Oracle of Ages is a short, manageable size, perfect for a hand-held title.
As always the game features a host of characters to meet. Because of the time travelling mechanics in the game you often find yourself meeting the ancestors or descendants of different characters and interacting between them. You'll find the usual suspects like the the Gorans and the Zoras, alongside a few new additions. There are plenty of amusing faces, such as the heroic but ineffectual Ralph and the lovestruck Maku Tree.
Oracle of Ages is only half of the story however. In order to get the complete plot you'll have to play through Oracle of Seasons as well using a password given to you once you complete the game. This can be done the other way around of course. I personally liked this two part story, but I get the feeling that having to pay for two games to get the whole might not be to the taste of others.
Oracle of Ages has a grab bag of different items and weapons for Link to use some of which are quite amusing. These include a gun that can shoot enemies with various seeds for different effects. Making them fly off Team Rocket style with the gale seeds for example never gets old. There's also the switch-hook, a variant of the hookshot that lets you switch places with objects and enemies.
One thing I praise is the fact that the items you collects don't see to fall into disuse and puzzles involving them go beyond the dungeon which you found them in. The game is crammed to the brim with puzzles to wrap your brain around, and the items you find get plenty of usage through them.
An annoying problem with Oracle of Ages, and its counterpart, the Oracle of Seasons, is the fact you can only have two items in use at the same time including your trusty sword. This means having to go into your inventory constantly to swap between items when dealing with puzzles. It's particularly annoying when it comes to certain bosses who need three items to defeat, which is something I want to like about this game.
Enemy variety in Oracle of Ages is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand there are plenty of different enemies to slay, from your typical octorocks to some enemies even stranger, and some of them require you to use something other than your sword to get rid of. However, there are also many enemies that feel like they were just copied and pasted. This is most noticeable with javelin throwing and sword carrying enemies.
Bosses feel like they meet the standards of the Zelda series. Each one acts as a final exam for the dungeon, testing your mastery of whatever shiny item you acquired previously. Some bosses seem more like puzzles rather than boss fights, requiring you to play a little mini game to beat them. Weak points on bosses are never made blindingly obvious, meaning they can be a bit of a challenge when you first encounter them. Each dungeon of course comes with a mini boss, most of which have their own little gimmick when fighting them.
The dungeons themselves are decent enough. There are eight of them, and most of them shouldn't be too difficult. Most of them have their own little gimmick that requires you to use the item you find, but they tend to feel more like mazes. There is some tediousness when it comes to the final few. Unless you're already familiar with the game you'll find yourself walking in circles a lot.
The visuals comes straight from the Game Boy Colour era, but they don't exactly offend either. I do like the different appearances they use for the present and past, with everything in the past being a bit browner and musty, like it's set in some old timey film. That said, Oracle of Seasons is the better looking of the two with its vibrant differences between the four seasons.
The music for Oracle of Ages is so-so. Aside from the good old Zelda theme there are pieces of music that sand out as interesting or memorable. Sometimes it can even be a bit annoying. There's not much in the way of variety either. Every boss has the same theme, most of the world uses the same tune. Each dungeon does at least get a unique song.
The Oracle of Ages is a shortish RPG romp with some interesting mechanics thrown in here and there and puzzles aplenty. It's a great title for anyone who enjoys puzzle solving in Zelda games as opposed to hack and slash. It might not be the crowning achievement of this famed franchise, but it's a little gem all the same.