In case you’ve forgotten, Nintendo released a 3D version of its bestselling DS system. The system has been in stores for five months now, but consumers haven’t exactly been snapping it up. To bolster sales, Nintendo recently reduced the price of the 3DS to $180. But the problem isn’t the price. The problem is that the system doesn’t have any must-own games yet.
Perhaps the 3DS’s best game is a remastered version of an old game — the 1998 classic The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. And while it is one of the greatest videogames ever made, it’s also 13 years old. However, if it’s truly a timeless work of art, it should feel just as fresh as it did the day it was first released. And if it’s merely a game, then it’s bound to feel stretched. Been there, played that.
There’s nothing particularly unique about Ocarina of Time’s story — track down the parts of a magic treasure and rescue a princess. But the telling of that story makes it artistic. Players must revisit seemingly familiar landscapes, which enlarges the sense of the game’s mythic world. Supporting cast members get introduced long before they become pivotal, allowing for character development that is rarely seen in the functional world of videogame narration. And a perfect balance is achieved between players exploring at their own pace and the unfolding of the game’s narration in fixed, steady sequence.
All of these details make Ocarina of Time more immersive than any 3D effects could ever achieve. But there’s still good reason to try Ocarina with the new technology. The landscapes of the game are open, vast and enchanting. With the depth that 3D adds, the sense of adventure — of wondering what lies around the corner — becomes a real, almost physical sensation. And simply seeing Link galloping across fields that stretch to the horizon lends the scene an epic sensation. It becomes about the place rather than the action.
But Ocarina of Time also loses something in its transition to the small screen. The 3DS doesn’t really make things pop out as much as it makes space recede. This gives the whole thing a feeling akin to those three-dimensional plastic-ridged pictures. I’m sure that would be awesome if it were done on the scale of a wide-screen TV. But on two tiny handheld screens, the depth becomes constricted as soon as it opens up. The game is vast, but the system is a little too small.
THE GOOD: I’m a big fan of role-playing games on any DS system, for two reasons. First, it’s portable. I don’t want to sit in front of the television for dozens of hours. And the system’s touch screen makes a seamless job of opening inventories and controlling things like the ocarina.
THE BAD: The sense of depth that the 3DS adds to Ocarina of Time assists the spirit of the story. But it can’t do much to enhance the action. Zelda is still primarily a sword-swinging game when it comes to combat, and the feeling of that action hasn’t changed since the days of the old two-dimensional top-down perspective.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is a deep classic that’s been given a little extra depth.