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Hands-on: Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3Ds's Master Quest mode

7:00 PM on 05.11.2011 // Sherilynn Macale

Being a huge Zelda fan myself, I can’t tell you how stoked I was to hear I had a chance to preview the 3DS remake of what is possibly the Nintendo 64’s most well-known title, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. So like any biased fan, I walked in to take the test run with fairly high expectations. What self-respecting Zelda-gamer wouldn’t, right?

Fortunately, this highly anticipated reproduction has done with the title exactly what we hoped it would do. Rather than changing the original recipe, they’ve kept to the same formula that we all know and love while managing to serve us a few tasty additional plates of Zelda goodness on the side.


The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (3DS)
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
To be released: June 19, 2011

While I am typically the first in line to snag myself the latest in new consoles or gadgets, the 3DS is one system that I’ve patiently waited on picking up (mainly because it has no games worth playing just yet). But after sitting down with Nintendo to take Ocarina of Time for a test run, it was obvious that they were aiming to take full advantage of the shiny new features of the 3DS and incorporate them into the game as much as possible.

Utilizing the 3D depth slider on the side of the handheld moves you from 2D to 3D in an instant, allowing you to control how strong you want your 3D Zelda experience to be. This is a feature that varies from game to game and is, of course, up to the developers to utilize (something that the Nintendo devs clearly took into account in order to make our experience with the game that much more enjoyable.)

During this particular test run, I was able to view the remastered version of the Water Temple where everything from the vividness of the shifting water to the textures on the walls was now much more crisp and clear. Even Navi’s trail of sparkling fairy dust popped from the screen as she zipped from one item of interest to the next, chirping her familiar “Hey” and “Listen” catch phrases to grab my attention.

I felt silly peering around my handheld looking for the C-Up button to access Navi’s hints as I’ve so often done with the N64 original, only to be pleasantly surprised when I found that they’ve now integrated Navi into the 3DS’s touch screen. A simple tap to Navi’s icon in the top left corner of the bottom screen brings her conveniently to life. And even more convenient still, they’ve managed to integrate the entire menu into the lower hub, making the overall navigation a breeze.

You might remember how frustrating and time consuming it may have been to constantly pull open the menu in order to remap Link’s weapons and equipment to the various directional C-buttons.  However, in this updated version of Ocarina of Time, you are able to quickly map any item you want to hot keys (or shortcut keys) on the touch screen by simply tapping them to switch their positions. And hey, less time spent popping open your menu means more time spent actually playing and enjoying the game!

The Water Temple, for example, is now much easier to navigate and explore through the use of the integrated touch screen menu. If you’ve played the original, you’ll remember Link’s essential Iron Boots -- an item that provides Link with enough weight to sink him down through the water in order to help him access various levels of the temple. Unequipping these boots, of course, floats him back to the surface.

Other items and weapons like Din’s Fire, bombs, and of course Link’s handy slingshot or bow and arrow can also be hot-keyed as desired. But the 3DS takes playing with these old-school favorites to a whole new level by utilizing the system’s gyroscopic aiming feature.

With your bow and arrow or slingshot equipped, you can tilt and move your handheld around, twisting and turning in order to shift Link’s aim in the game harmoniously with your own. While this might be awkward to view from afar during, say, a bus ride to work or school, the accuracy of this feature is surprisingly precise and smooth in execution and is something you do not want to miss out on. Can you imagine fishing with this feature? Or even better, playing through the Shooting Range in the Gerudo Fortress? Or bombing your way through the bowling alley minigame? There is so much fun to be had with a system that not only immerses you visually in the Zelda world, but now gives you a physical experience as well.

However, if you are anything like me and are easily embarrassed by the thought of swinging your handheld around in public (god forbid I get so into the game that I actually smack someone mid-aim!), you’ll be happy to know that this is a feature we can easily switched on and off. So no worries! We can all secretly enjoy the awesome gyroscopic goodness within the privacy of our own homes.

But again, all of these new features are simply add-ons to an already amazing game well loved by fans worldwide. Although the entire Zelda world has been rebuilt visually from the ground up with better textures, sharper graphics, and more lively NPC animations -- the actual layout of the dungeons and puzzles as well as general storyline have been preserved. Little tweaks in the script have been added here and there to help explain the additional features of the 3DS, of course, but other than that the overall Ocarina of Time experience has remained largely unaltered. Why mess with a formula that already works, right?

Dan Owsen, a translator present at the preview that has worked on many of the Legend of Zelda games including Ocarina of Time, stated, “[Nintendo] didn’t make too many changes. Usually when we release classic games, we tend to keep the original text. There might be a few places where it could have been polished up, but I think it’s good they just left it as is.”

Though while the all-important large chunks of the game have been left untouched, some pieces of the Ocarina of Time world have definitely been through an upgrade. Take, for example, the Gossip Stones (or Sheikah Stones) scattered throughout Hyrule.  

Previously, Gossip Stones spat out random hints and babble, or offered the time and remained generally useless to Link’s quest (though I’m sure more than a few of us have sought them out to see if we could discover any hidden Easter Eggs in their pointless blathering). This time around, however, they are now the bearers of indicative Hint Movies that serve to jog your memory and help you solve the more frustrating puzzles in the game, clue you into treasures you may have missed, or lead you to various side quests and mini games.

Of course, it’s not going to be that easy to work out the answers from the visions alone. After all, the Hint Movies are exactly that: hints. They are more like leads that tip you off to the locations of puzzle-solving keys, encouraging you to soak in the actual environments of the visions in order to figure out the answer on your own, rather than acting as would-be FAQ/Walkthroughs that give you point-blank solutions.

For the more seasoned Zelda players who already know the ins and outs of the game and don’t quite need or feel a use for the new Sheikah Stones (as cool as they might be), 3DS Ocarina of Time offers a newer and better Master Quest mode. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Master Quest is a more difficult version of the game that originally was only available in limited edition quantities to those who pre-ordered The Wind Waker and later came with GameCubes in the US. It basically ups the ante by challenging the player with much more difficult dungeons, as well as tougher puzzles to solve while following the same, familiar storyline.

Nintendo, again keeping to their winning formula, hasn’t changed the dungeons or puzzles from the original Master Quest and has left them pretty much untouched in every shape and form.  Except this time, enemies are smarter, strike harder (double damage!), and the entire Zelda world has been mirror-imaged, forcing you to relearn and explore the environment as a now right-handed Link.

And if that’s still not enough awesome Zelda goodness for you, the brand new Boss Challenge Mode could very well be the more exciting experience you’ve been looking for. In this fresh feature, you now have the chance to relive every boss fight you encounter throughout the game, but with a timer! Challenge your friends and compete to see who can get the best time on Dodongo, or race to beat Gohma in this additional element of the game, and then replay it again to beat your own score.

But that’s not all. Once you’ve conquered the entire game and have hacked and slashed your way through every big baddie challenger, you will then unlock Boss Gauntlet -- a hardcore run through of every boss in the game, but with a catch: You only have one life. Phew! For the seasoned Zelda veterans only.

With remastered visuals, additional features, brand new play modes, and amped replayability that takes total advantage of the 3DS’s abilities, Nintendo has managed to take a title that all Zelda fans look back on fondly and make it even better. Finally! A game worth buying a 3DS for. Will you be standing in the long line with me, $39.99 in hand, to snatch up your own copy of the “new” Zelda: Ocarina of Time on June 19?

Sherilynn "Cheri" Macale is a freelance journalist and illustrator who can't exactly decide what she wants to do with the rest of her life and so does absolutely everything. Harass and prod her via Twitter, check out the badassery on her Website, and leave a friendly message on her Facebook.

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