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Game Review

As technology improves in bounding leaps from year to year, there are always attempts to make our preferred classics feel new again. I, for instance, have purchased one favorite movie on VHS, LaserDisc, DVD and Blu-ray, as each of the formats appeared. (Hey, gotta have the clearest picture and latest bells and whistles!) Of course, the temptation to snatch up all that newness doesn't apply just to movies. Video games are part of the mix as well.

In an attempt to give a boost to its new 3DS handheld console, Nintendo has remastered and re-released The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time—a groundbreaking title that wowed the gaming community when it was first arrived back in 1998 on the Nintendo 64. It's still considered by some to be "the best game ever made."

So does 3-D make it better than the best game ever made?

Building a Better Link
The new three-dimensional sheen this RPG/adventure/puzzler now exhibits is kind of cool to watch. But I ended up deciding that the dialed-down 2-D version was much easier to play. And that play, for the record, is pretty much identical to the original.

A young elf lad named Link is living peacefully in a little village in the Kokiri Forest when he's tapped on the shoulder by a sparkling fairy who summons him to a meeting with a mystical, magical … tree. This talking Great Deku Tree makes it very clear that a malevolent force is mustering its strength to corrupt all those in the land. And only the brave Link, aided by the little fairy Navi, can save the day and rescue a kidnapped princess named Zelda.

That doesn't, however, mean that Link can simply grab a sword and head off to battle the princess's attacker. What so many have seen as the original Ocarina's charm is the many dungeons that must be explored for outfits, weapons and artifact-rich plunder. And the scores of puzzles that must be solved as Link builds his abilities to prepare for the moment of truth.

Besides the 3DS graphics boost, the refurbished 2011 game does pack in two new gameplay alterations. For younger gamers, and those who aren't familiar with the original, Ocarina now offers a clue-giving system that delivers short "future vision" clips with just enough of a hint to keep you going while leaving the fun intact. And then when Link finally conquers the end quest and saves the princess (You knew he would!), gamers can go back and play the whole thing over as a Master Quest—an adventure-boosted mode with tweaked puzzles, mirror-flipped dungeons and tougher opponents.

Blaggards, Battles and Bones
Slashing swords, slingshot projectiles, bombs, boomerangs and a few magic zaps all come along for the ride. Foes are mostly evil-looking beasties—plant monsters, skeletons, wolf-creatures and giant crab-like thingies. Some dungeon areas can get pretty creepy-looking. One shadow temple boasts what looks like torture devices, a guillotine and some scattered bones.

As I'm sure you've figured out by now, this fantasy world adventure also sports a bit of otherworldly mumbo jumbo. From the giant talking tree to fairies and ghost-like critters to three powerful spirit stone relics called the Triforce, the game is decorated with a light layer of Eastern mysticism. And in the case of a few fairy characters, that spiritual sprinkle also translates to a touch of sexuality. Though not clearly defined, these buxom creatures wear what looks like body-painted feathers or leaves, and little else.

Remember that it's rated E10+, though. So these images aren't explicit. And while 1998 wasn't exactly the Dark Ages, most popular games then hadn't reached the level of decay we see in so many big-name games now. Even in the dark spots and in the midst of battle (with the barest hint of blood), Link and his fairy guide keep things relatively cartoonish throughout. So The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time hasn't been so much updated as it's been gilded.

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June 19, 2011

On Video

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Bob Hoose

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