The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D review: From Hyrule with Love

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time hasn't stopped being one of the greatest video games ever created in the 13 years since its initial Nintendo 64 release. Its decade-spanning story, lovable characters and groundbreaking methods of interacting with a 3D world were so ahead of their time in 1998, the game still manages to outpace most action-adventure games released today. This is very, very fortunate for Nintendo, because Ocarina of Time 3D is about as straightforward a remake as remakes come.

Aside from a few neat gimmicks tied to the 3DS' hardware capabilities, Grezzo's renovation of Nintendo EAD's masterpiece is entirely superficial. In this complete aesthetic overhaul, however, Grezzo has exhibited something extremely rare for developers -- more rare, even, than the creativity and inspiration that made the original Ocarina of Time such a revelation: Grezzo designed every gorgeous inch of Hyrule with unswerving, boundless love.

The word "remake" has become something profane in years past. So many aged publishers have been content to release old games on new platforms with the least amount of polish they can manage. Rather than uprezzing a texture here and there, Grezzo has ambitiously redrawn the world of Hyrule from the ground-up. Once-flat surfaces now ripple with character, once-dull colors sing with newfound vividness and animations unfold at 30 frames-per-second -- a marked improvement over the occasionally choppy original.

These improvements don't just represent under-the-hood technical wizardry -- Grezzo exercises a keen balance between remastering each nook and cranny of Ocarina of Time and maintaining the visual style established by the original game's designers. It lends itself to a particularly perplexing phenomenon: Because Grezzo has adhered to the original game's design philosophy so rigidly, you'll occasionally fail to realize just how starkly different the two games look. Frequently, though, you'll see a gorgeous area that clearly would only be possible with modern gaming technology, and you'll snap back to the present. It's as close to time travel as video games are going to get.

These moments are made all the more momentous should you decide to risk battery death and eye strain to enable the handheld's 3D functionality. So many cutscenes in the game are designed to be seen with depth; moments like the crumbling of Ganon's Castle, your first entrance into Zora's Domain and the opening of the Temple of Time. No other 3DS title has been able to sell me on the value of the handheld's stereoscopic capabilities -- use of the 3D display in Ocarina of Time isn't a novelty, it's a necessity.

The handheld's other constituent hardware features are used just as effectively -- items are now bound to the X and Y buttons, as well as two inputs bound to the touchscreen. Said screen now plays host to most of the game's UI elements (such as menu tabs, health, magic and the dungeon map), leaving the top screen largely uncluttered, making it far easier to appreciate Hyrule's makeover.

The 3DS' gyroscope also allows the player to move the console to aim ranged weapons, a feature which takes no small amount of getting used to. If you prefer to stick to the traditional, analog method of lining up your bow shots, this feature can be disabled -- however, once I mastered it, I found that it actually made some of the game's trickier shooting segments far less tricky.

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Aiming isn't the only thing that's been given a new level of ease this time around; Grezzo's tacked on a number of conceits to help make dungeoneering a tad simpler. New players can turn to helpful Sheikah Stones for brief videos which show solutions to puzzles and boss fights. The Water Temple, the infamously confusing dungeon which likely sold more Ocarina of Time strategy guides than any marketing campaign ever could, is now easier to traverse thanks to its new color-coded paint job. Also, the Iron and Hover Boots are now assignable items rather than equipment, reducing your need for submenu diving.

Grezzo's every change and addition to the original range from sensible to astonishing, making their one major oversight somewhat surprising: Though the game's sights have been lovingly remastered, its sounds remain virtually unchanged, apart from some slight revamping to take advantage of the 3DS' stereo output. It's such a shame that Koji Kondo's unforgettable score adheres to the Nintendo 64's hardware limitations while the game's visuals receive the full benefit of the past 13 years-worth of technological advancements. Adding insult to injury, a fully orchestrated version of Ocarina's main theme plays during the closing credits, showing the player just how stellar the rest of the game could have sounded.

Despite its somewhat flat soundscape, Ocarina of Time 3D is a brilliant version of an already brilliant game, and is easily the strongest title on the fledgling 3DS platform. It sets a new standard for modern remakes of past-generation titles, proving that there's absolutely nothing wrong with a publisher capitalizing on gamers' nostalgia, so long as they can find a developer who loves the source material just as much as -- if not more than -- we do.

This review is based on a retail copy of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D for 3DS provided by Nintendo.