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Zelda Ocarina of Time Impressions

The N64 classic made its playable 3DS debut at Nintendo World, and we waited 90 minutes to play it.

Zelda Ocarina of Time on display at Nintendo World 2011. Nintendo closed off the line in the early afternoon due to the long waits.

The first game I played today at Nintendo World 2011 was Resident Evil Revelations. That was probably a mistake. As I played Capcom's gorgeous 3D take on the Resident Evil series (see our mobile blog for impressions), the lines at the nearby Zelda Ocarina of Time demo area began to back up. This was less than 20 minutes into the start of the show. By the time I'd gotten through with Jill Valentine and was lined up for Link, I had a 90 minute wait ahead of me. The lines continued to grow and grow, topping the 100 minute mark at some points.

All this for a remake of a 13 year old title. Of course, it's a remake of a 13 year old title that many consider one of the greatest games ever made, so the interest is not too much of a surprise.

The Nintendo World demo had three save files:

  • Kokiri Forest
  • Deku Tree
  • Gohma

I selected Kokiri Forest first, but, as you might expect, it turned out to be just Link running around. The third file was presumably just a boss fight, so I reset and selected the middle file, which was a full dungeon.

As I navigated the dungeon, the fundamentals of moving Link around and switching into lock on mode for combat felt familiar, although I should admit that it has been years since I last played Ocarina of Time, making it tough for me to see if there have been any fundamental changes. There are a few obvious areas where the 3DS technology is put to use for improvements, though.

First, the touch screen allows for easier navigation. You can toggle the screen to show your dungeon map, inventory and equipment. It also shows what item is assigned to what button. When Navi wants to talk, her icon will flash on the bottom screen and you can tap it to respond.

The bottom screen has an "eye" icon which can be used to switch the game into a viewing mode for getting a look at Link's surroundings. You can control the camera in this mode the old fashioned way with the analogue stick, or you can make use of a new feature for the 3DS version: gyro support.

When in viewing mode, you can directly control the view by moving the system up, down and around. This basically means turning your body around just like Link would. Yes, playing like this will draw stares on the train, but I found the gyro-based controls intuitive and preferred using it in place of the traditional analogue controls.

The gyro-based control system can also be used for aiming while firing your slingshot, so it could end up being a central part of the gameplay.

The 3DS version of Ocarina of Time also adds 3D output to the game, of course. To be honest, nothing really stood out about the 3D in my play session. It just looked like Ocarina of Time, with some depth added to the visuals. I did like how solid the 3D effect made Link look, though, especially when climbing the vines in the Deku Tree dungeon stage. He looked like a little 3D figure running around in the screen. However, the visuals on the whole look dated compared to some of the other 3DS titles (especially Resident Evil, which I'd just played) so that may be taking a bit away from the 3D effect.

For those who've played Ocarina of Time now three times (on the N64, the GameCube and Virtual Console), the big question is what types of improvements or changes we can expect. Motion support for viewing and aiming, and the ability to select things from the bottom screen look like definite improvements to the classic gameplay. But we're going to have to wait for Nintendo to tell us more about what else is new for 3DS. Zelda is not a launch title, so Nintendo is hopefully taking their time to make sure the 3DS version does justice to the name.

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