Retrospective | Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D

The Nintendo 3DS came out playing a very familiar tune in June 2011: to use another cheesy music-related pun, the highly-anticipated release of Ocarina of Time 3D was like a “cover song” that somehow replaced the original – in this case, showing you clearly how much older and frazzled the “original recording” on the Nintendo 64 seems by modern standards.

When the 3DS launched in March 2011, Nintendo did not provide a lot of favors with the first-party lineup. The result was troubling, with the brand-new handheld already starting to sweat as the summer was just heating up. Finally, June rolled around, and along with the joys of E3 announcements came the long-awaited release of the 3DS’s first killer app; Ocarina of Time 3D. This re-make of the classic Nintendo 64 title was crafted with love by developer Grezzo, and it was obvious from the minute I saw the game in action for the first time.

I tried to avoid it for quite a while, but the inevitable release of Ocarina of Time 3D meant that I eventually had to suck it up and drop nearly $300 in the same week for both an Aqua Blue 3DS and a copy of the game – but this worked out in my favor, because the four days between buying my 3DS and finally getting Zelda at the local midnight release were enough to make me realize how bored I would have been without the game.

Link’s timeless adventure was revived and truly felt like an experience to any veteran of the original; seeing the updated graphics and improved details brought life out of every corner of Hyrule that was just never possible on the dated N64 hardware. The unforgettable scenes and locations – Kokiri Forest, Death Mountain, Hyrule Castle Town, etc. – looked absolutely fantastic. The character models were completely re-designed, featuring more clothing details and facial expressions than in the original game.

As wonderful as the graphics looked, Ocarina of Time 3D was an important “first 3DS game” to have, because its sloppy use of the 3D effects made me realize very quickly that I didn’t need the 3D function to enjoy the hardware. It was pretty cool to use at first, but I felt like Ocarina 3D’s effects were far too sensitive and strong, not to mention keeping them on made the use of the gyroscope a lot more awkward and uncomfortable on your eyes. I quickly realized that the 3D function of the handheld was, in general, not my favorite part of the 3DS – I had no major issues with this, because turning off the stereoscopic effects actually made the frame rate much smoother, and the colors appeared more vibrant on the screen. I quickly grew to appreciate the other features of the handheld, such as the gyroscope (which improved the bow/arrow aiming tenfold) and the touch screen integration (which relocated the cumbersome inventory menu to an accessible system on the touch screen, with easy access to all equipment and items).

Finishing Ocarina of Time 3D was actually a bittersweet moment, because I was completely pulled back into the classic adventure, just as compelled as I was at the age of ten, when the original was released. Of course, this time I enjoyed special benefits, like the addition of Master Quest and a Boss Rush mode – both of which extended the value of the 3DS version tremendously.

Ocarina 3D was truly the Zelda game that the fans want to remember they played in the glory days of the Nintendo 64, but the sad truth about nostalgia is that it paints a prettier picture than reality.

A quick look at a side-by-side comparison of the two versions tells the tale:


Conclusion & Recommendation

Buy it if you haven’t already – no hesitation. You shouldn’t expect to find Ocarina 3D for less than $35 – new copies are still going for full price at most retailers – but this is truly a timeless game. Even after the last year of game releases increased the quality of the 3DS library, Zelda is still one of the best things to have in any Nintendo collection – it is definitely one of the most enjoyable, full-featured 3DS games to date.

If you have never played Ocarina of Time before, or you are unfamiliar with the Legend of Zelda series, do yourself a favor and consider picking up this version. As I have said before, this the definitive version of one of gaming’s all-time best works, and it deserves its rightful place within any 3DS owner’s library.

Expanded Critique

Concept: First, take the graphics engine of one of the best games ever released, and enhance every last detail. Then cram all of the bonus material that can fit onto a cartridge, and produce that game on a brand-new handheld, complete with glasses-free 3D gameplay. The result is an idea that sounds just as good today as it did when Ocarina 3D launched last June.

Presentation: Improved graphics, higher level of detail and enhanced effects brought out the life in all of Hyrule, also bringing out the vibrant colors within the environment more than ever before. It is really just too bad that the sound effects and music quality were left untouched – the difference in quality is glaringly obvious throughout Ocarina 3D.

Functionality: The 3D effects were disappointing, but turning them off allowed me to enjoy the enhanced graphics with an optimized frame rate. Meanwhile the gyro aiming controls and touch screen menu system were utterly fantastic, and made Ocarina 3D a smoother experience than the previous versions.

Replay Value: The story is long enough to last between 15-30 hours, depending on the player and the amount of time tracking down all the Heart Pieces, equipment, and side-quests throughout the game. Boss Rush and Master Quest make this one well worth the $40; anything less is a steal, even a year after the initial release.

Reviewer’s Tilt: I believe that Ocarina 3D still earns a spot on the short list of the “best 3DS games” out there; the evolution of the nostalgic graphics was enough to sell most of the hardcore fans long ago, but the addition of bonus features and the unique 3DS functionality are what make it one of the most well-designed re-makes published in years, for any console.

Recommendation | Ocarina of Time 3D is the definitive version of one of gaming’s all-time best works, and it deserves its rightful place within any 3DS owner’s library.

Final Score | 9.6 out of 5

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  • Reviewed On:

    Nintendo 3DS
  • Also On:

    Nintendo 64
  • Publisher:

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  • ESRB Rating:

  • Release Date:

    June 19, 2011
  • MSRP:


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