Review: The 3DS makes it 'Time' for a revamped 'Ocarina'

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D

Nintendo 3DS
rated E10+ / $39.99
rel. June 2011

GOOD: the first epic adventure on the 3DS

BAD: it was also an epic adventure on the N64

FINAL: You NEED this game.
5 out of 5 stars

Courtesy Nintendo of America

In 1998, Nintendo took the "Legend of Zelda" series into three dimensions with the Nintendo 64 release "Ocarina of Time." Back then, "3-D" did not mean what it does today; it simply meant the game employed polygon-based graphics that created the appearance of dimensionality on a flat, 2-D television screen. The arrival of the Nintendo 3DS means that 3-D actually is 3-D, with images that pop from the screen and recede into the depths. Add that feature to an older game that consistently appears on gamer's "Best Of" lists, and you have a natural pinch hitter to help prop up Nintendo's new device that is still searching for must-have games.

"The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D" is, as ever, a story about a boy set to an epic quest against insatiable evil in the land of Hyrule. The plot twists into a story of time travel, allowing the player to switch between kid and young adult versions of the hero Link. A robust cast of characters, bathed in Nintendo's always-brilliant combination of charm and melodrama, works with Link to find treasures, unlock secrets, and confront the manipulative Ganondorf.

The stars of the game, however, are the dungeons. Key locations on the map must be explored in depth, using specific tools and weapons to find whatever hidden purpose lies within. The complexity of these dungeons - ranging from a fiery volcano to the inside of a beached whale - balances the player on the head of a pin. Players typically have to solve puzzles, fight enemies and collect items in a particular order to cut a path to the dungeon's boss creature.

The first benefit of the journey to the 3DS is the 3-D itself. Turning on the 3-D effect transforms Hyrule Field into a broad, rolling plain. Village huts become discrete objects, with townspeople strolling around and through them. Like many 3DS games, the effect is deceptively subtle. You do not realize how deep and impressive the 3-D is until you experiment with turning it off.

The game's texture work is another subtle improvement. Although the shapes that comprise the game's levels and structures are largely unchanged since the 1998 edition, the textures that color those shapes are all vastly improved. Again, even old "Ocarina" fans may not notice how much brighter and better this version looks, but if you scan some old screenshots you can easily tell that plenty of loving work went into repainting Hyrule.

Using 3DS motion controls, players can physically move the 3DS around in space for a 360 degree look at Link's environment or to aim his slingshots and arrows. It's a neat optional feature, and fun to play with, but I'm not convinced it's better than the standard control system.

One sign that you're playing a game that debuted a decade ago: While the menus and inventory screens have been 100 percent re-worked for the modern touchscreen of the 3DS, the game still maintains a weird old-style saving system that can be confusing to players.

In the end, that one quibble does not get in the way of a genuine video game classic. If you loved the Nintendo 64 original, this release is definitely worth a second look. If you are new to Nintendo's homegrown fantasy world and have never before experienced "Ocarina," now is the time.

This review is based on product that was supplied by the game's publisher. Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times