The N64 and the GameCube are stowed in a dusty box, and it has been some years since you've thought to dust off your old copy of 1998's The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. You've all but forgotten it … but now, in your hot little hands, you're holding a Nintendo 3DS. You tap on the game icon and, as the sound swells, you think to yourself, "... Ah."
It would not be unfair to say that Ocarina of Time brought with it some innovations that revolutionised gaming. It was the first game in the Legend of Zelda franchise to use 3D graphics; and it brought with it context-sensitive buttons, lock-on targeting, item-collection side quests, large, open-world exploration and a day/night cycle, none of which had been seen before — or, at the very least, seen to good effect.
In 1998, it was mind blowing. But how well does it hold up?
Actually ... it's bloody brilliant. Having played the original back in the day, it's a little hard to know how someone approaching the game for the first time now would feel about it, but as a returning player, it feels every bit as engrossing as it did 13 years ago.
Like all Legend of Zelda games, the staples are in place: Link, Ganondorf, Princess Zelda; an epic battle between light and dark for the Triforce; careless villagers keeping their money in unguarded clay pots; chickens can kill you; Like Likes, Keeses, Peahats, Stalfos, Wall Masters, Armos, Lizalfos, Dodongos, Skulltulas, Tektites, ReDeads and Poes populate the landscape and dungeons; and the dungeons themselves are complex puzzles to be intricately solved and survived.
Nintendo actually made a brilliant move by porting Ocarina of Time to the 3DS console. Compared to today's graphics capabilities and HDTV screens, the game appears dated on a television screen now. However, Nintendo has upgraded the graphics quite significantly — not enough, perhaps, to stand scrutiny and comparison on a TV screen, but certainly enough to look stunning on something the size of the 3DS.
Comparison of the same scene in the N64 version (left) and the new 3DS version (right). (Credit: Nintendo)
In fact, the game translates extraordinarily well to being pocket-sized. Being able to close the 3DS and open it to pick up where you left off (a feature, we probably needn't add, not supported by the DSi) makes it very pick-up-and-play. It also eliminates the need for excess time spent getting from point A to point B, as you don't have to restart at one of the game's two starting spawn points (well, except for dungeons, where you respawn at the entrance if you switch the game off).
And, of course, the portable console means that you can take this deeply immersive game with you on long trips or even just on the bus to work in the morning — it sure makes the trip fly.
There are other advantages, too. The 3DS's dual screens mean that you have access to more actions than you had on the N64. Your ocarina and two additional item buttons are displayed on the touchscreen, as well as a map, a quit first-person-view toggle and your HUD — leaving the top screen clean and able to give you a better view of the action.