This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Nintendo's 3DS remake of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, which reviewers describe as "a masterpiece." Ocarina of Time 3D currently earns a score of 94 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.
IGN's Richard George rates Ocarina of Time 3D at 9.5 out of 10. "Improving upon 'perfection' is not exactly an easy job," he admits. "Yet that's the task that falls before Nintendo and Grezzo, the co-developers of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D."
George explains: "The original Ocarina of Time, which debuted nearly 13 years ago, was universally hailed by critics (...) as one of the best games of all time. It was a milestone achievement, redefining how we viewed action games and how developers made them. 'Revolutionary' is by no means an understatement."
The remake's visual upgrade meets expectations. "Graphics will be the core focus of anyone buying Ocarina 3D, as it's the biggest alteration made and Nintendo's biggest showcase for the young 3DS's abilities thus far," George notes.
"Textures, models and animations are all built from the ground up, and have been significantly revised. You'll still recognize everything and everyone, but you'll see them as they were originally meant to be."
The controls have also been revised. "This new version goes a step further, using the touch-capable bottom screen of the 3DS to view maps and assign equipment," George writes. "The system's gyroscope also allows you to view the world around you by physically moving the system."
"If the graphical boost isn't enough - and let's be honest, we're already seeing some games on the 3DS that look better than this - you're not going to have much else to satisfy your interests," George warns. "It's clear this game is being released to find a new generation of gamers that are just discovering Nintendo's franchises. The rest of us will have to determine if it's worth re-visiting a Hyrule we've known for nearly 13 years. Rest assured, though, that doing so will not only let you relive a masterpiece, it will let you experience it in the best way possible."
Wired's Chris Kohler scores Ocarina of Time 3D at 9 out of 10. "For many gamers like me, Ocarina was pretty much the second 3D action adventure they'd ever played, the first having been Super Mario 64," he says. "Since it was still one of the earliest open-ended polygonal games, I didn't have the perspective to describe why Ocarina was so well-designed. All I knew at the time was that it was great; retaining the intricate, vast gameplay of previous Zelda games but doing it all with the new quantum-leap technology of 3D."
Kohler continues: "Playing Ocarina on the 3DS has given me a new appreciation for the game's design. This is remembered as one of the best games of that early era, and the 3DS version makes clear why that is more than just nostalgia talking. It's been pointed out in the past that because designers of early 8-bit games had so few pixels to work with, they had to wring as much meaning as they could out of each one, which is why those games could feel so well-designed compared to the more bloated, showy games that would come later."
The most important parts of the experience survive the transition to the 3DS. "On 3DS, Ocarina has received a thorough graphical overhaul, but the design of the world remains untouched," Kohler explains. "This contrast emphasizes the specific design choices that make Ocarina feel so much bigger than it is -- it looks like it should be a modern game, so you can see when it's not designed like one."
Kohler devotes specific praise to the game's soundtrack. "The greatest joy of going through this remake after all this time has been listening to those old tracks in their proper context again -- the up-tempo castanets and flamenco guitar in the Gerudo Valley gypsy camp, the reverent basso profondo in the Temple of Time," Kohler describes. "Looking at the graphics in 3D is actually quite nice, but the music is the thing that really pops."
Jeremy Parish at 1UP.com gives Ocarina of Time 3Da B+ rating. "Let's say, for the sake of an analogy, that The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is to action-adventure games what James Bond is to action-espionage films," he begins. "Like Bond, Ocarina revolutionized and defined a genre. It's been widely imitated and occasionally surpassed in various ways, yet it's never quite been equaled.
"But, like a classic Bond film, Ocarina is definitely a product of its time. Just as Sean Connery's bullying condescension towards women and Roger Moore's campy humor and terrible suits peg their respective movies as products of a different era, Ocarina too has its dated elements."
Parish continues: "Its 3D camera is clumsy. Its once-revolutionary lock-on targeting feels imprecise and limiting. The game's formerly sweeping vistas and complex dungeons now seem sparse and cluttered, respectively. It's a great game, but it was a pioneer of 3D design, which means that by its very nature other games have improved on it, building on the foundation it established with their own refinements."
The remake does little to address these core issues. "Unfortunately, Nintendo and co-developer Grezzo took a somewhat scattershot approach to this revamp of the game, tweaking a number of superficial elements while leaving the game's core largely untouched," Parish explains. "There's nothing inherently wrong with a conservative remake -- too many changes undermine the essence that made the original work such a classic to begin with -- but in playing Ocarina of Time 3D you can't help but shake the sensation that the changes that were implemented are more about creating a good impression than about improving the game itself."
"Ocarina, essential and unequalled as it was in its day, shows the signs of its age and could definitely be refined in ways that wouldn't have a negative impact on the heart of the game itself," Parish concludes. "It's still a great adventure, laden with atmosphere and crammed with content, but it sits uncomfortably between the 2D perfection of A Link to the Past and the more nuanced refinements of its own successors (especially Twilight Princess and, by all appearances, Skyward Sword).
"As a portable gaming enthusiast, I love being able to play a game of this quality on the go. I just wish as much attention had been paid to the nuts-and-bolts of the game as was lavished on appearances."