The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D Playtest – It Grows Up With You

By Ishaan . June 17, 2011 . 10:00am

Fair warning: This playtest is intended for people who have already completed Ocarina of Time. You’ll find lots of spoilers ahead.

A lot has happened in the years following The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’s release in 1998. Just within the realm of Zelda games, we’ve seen eight new ones, ranging from whimsical to touching to grin-inducingly hilarious. Within the realm of video games as a whole, we’ve seen a collective move toward emphasizing characters and stories through customization and dialogue trees.


Ocarina of Time doesn’t play host any of the above traits, however. If I had to describe it to someone, I honestly don’t know how I would. Perhaps what I would say, is that it’s one of those games that grows up alongside you. That’s how I felt while playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, which gave me a very different feeling this time around than when I originally played it years ago.


More than anything, Ocarina of Time 3D felt eerie, partly because I’m now an adult and subtlety has more of an impact on me than drama does, and partly because we live in a post-Twilight Princess world. I should explain both those points as best as I can if I want this playtest to make any sense whatsoever. Let’s start with the former.


Once you get past a certain point in life, you start to gain an appreciation for the slow, lingering effect of subtlety more than the shocking, immediate effect of drama. Back when I was 18, I didn’t care too much for the former. That’s probably why I enjoyed every minute of Gundam Seed (minus the singing) and even (don’t kill me) Gundam Seed Destiny. Today, I don’t know if I’d enjoy them the same way.


The same goes for games. Watching Xehanort wiggle his fingers dramatically and give a long-winded speech on the Keyblade War is good, entertaining fun, but it isn’t the kind of thing that stays with you. Ocarina of Time, on the other hand, does. That’s because it’s a game of less words and leaves a lot up to inference, which makes it a much more personal experience for everyone that plays it. Nintendo have said many times that the reason Link doesn’t have a voice is so that players can relate to him better. Ocarina is a great example of when this approach works, but it’s for more reasons than Link simply not having any dialogue.


More than any other Link over the years, the one in Ocarina of Time is all alone. Playing this game now makes you feel like Link doesn’t make a single true friend throughout the course of the story. He starts out as an outcast in Kokiri, a blank canvas, completely alone and with no background to speak of, which immediately helps you step into his shoes. As the game progresses, he meets one character after another, but none who ever sound like they understand him.


His only childhood friend ultimately moves on to bigger, Sage-like responsibilities. Princess Zelda shares more of a professional relationship with him than a true friendship. Sheik, perhaps the only one who truly understands what Link is going through, prefers to ignore idle chatter and focus more on preventing the end of Hyrule. Finally, Navi, who possibly gets to know Link best, abandons him at the end of the game. And this is without counting the Goron king Darunia — Link’s “sworn brother for life” — and the ditzy Zora princess who gives him her engagement ring. Those two are even further removed from Link despite their alleged connections.


Perhaps this is because of Miyamoto’s well-publicized desire to avoid delving too much into story or character development. Either way, the end result is that every “bond” in Ocarina seems so superficial. By the time Link learns that he isn’t a Kokiri at all, and is of Hylian origin, his quest to save Hyrule is about the only thing he’s truly got any meaningful ties to.


Link has no partner in this game either. Well, no talkative partner, beyond Navi who repeats the same few lines. No Midna to ridicule him or Spirit Zelda to cower behind his back and poke fun at him when they aren’t fending off haunted pieces of armour. Effectively, this means you spend more time focusing on Link than on his partner, unlike the more recent Zelda games. As a player, it helps you connect to him better. Perhaps you’ll find yourself getting the impression that this is a kid who’s had to grow up way too quickly, and the game does a genuinely good job of expressing that point without forcing it upon you. I never perceived it this way while I was younger, but I do now.


Link’s growth is depicted in other ways as well. As a child, he sneaks past royal guards, goes adventuring in Dodongo’s Cavern, and runs about in the belly of a giant fish. But when he grows up, he walks through the twisted hallways of the hidden Forest Temple, and save files start you out in the mysterious Temple of Time. The music in these new areas changes appropriately to indicate a relatively more serious atmosphere as well. There’s never any blood and guts, but the change in mood speaks volumes.


This brings us to Twilight Princess, the most recent console Zelda game. Following less-than-thrilling sales of Wind Waker, Nintendo set out to emulate Ocarina of Time by creating a direct follow-up to the most successful Zelda game they’d ever made. Twilight Princess took place in a very similar Hyrule, and told the story of what happened years after Ganon’s imprisonment at the end of Ocarina. If you’re willing to entertain a little educated fan-speculation, it also tells you what happened to Ocarina’s Link — he ended up bitter and regretful, and you had to help his spirit move on.


Having knowledge of the events of Twilight Princess somehow makes Ocarina of Time seem more foreboding and ironic. Consider the fact that Ocarina of Time is also where the Zelda universe splits into two very distinct timelines, and that fact gives it even more weight in the series’ lore. Finally, there’s one last thing that Twilight Princess puts into perspective — pacing.



As good as it was, Twilight Princess was an overly long and drawn-out game. It took me somewhere in the range of 50 hours to complete, and I didn’t do as much as I would’ve liked to in those 50 hours. Ocarina of Time is a more compact, better-paced game overall. You never feel like there’s no end in sight, or that its world is needlessly large. Moving from one objective to the next feels relatively quick and efficient, especially now that the game is in a portable format, which lets you play it in a much more flexible manner.


The 3DS gives Ocarina of Time a few other convenient upgrades, too. The ability to move the 3DS itself around for aiming the bow and hookshot is very convenient. You can still aim with the analog slider of course, but fine-tuning your aim down to those last few millimetres is so much easier if you use it in conjunction with the gyro-controls. Phantom Ganon was much less of a pain with gyro-aiming. Having items mapped to the touchscreen is a nice convenience to have as well, and you have the option of playing the Ocarina of Time either on the touchscreen or using buttons. Having the touchscreen is nice for certain songs that require you to play the notes very quickly if you want them to sound right (even though they work regardless).


I also much preferred the 3D effect to the duller, non-3D look. It feels as though you’re looking into a different world, encased in a crystal box. In fact, there’s a very deliberate effort to not have things popping out of the screen. The text looks like it’s trapped at the very edge of the screen, with everything else happening behind it. Areas like the Kokiri forest which have fairy dust and trails sparkling everywhere you go look gorgeous. It’s an effective and interesting use of the 3D, and it made me think about all the different styles in which developers can use the 3D effect in their games.



I personally kept the 3D slider turned fairly high up most of the time, save for some of the more hectic boss encounters and puzzles (or when I was low on battery and didn’t want to get up to plug the system in). Stylistically, Ocarina looks like a modern Nintendo 64 game. Objects and certain characters have intentionally been left looking a little blocky to emulate the Nintendo 64 style, but the new textures and lighting are a very different story. I thought it was an interesting way to approach nostalgia because it works well without the game seeming outdated or — the other end of the spectrum — losing its identifiable look.


Link himself looks much more like the concept art for Ocarina of Time, and Princess Zelda actually looks human. (Impa, however, looks like she’d love nothing more than to wrestle you to the ground and beat you with a chair) The updated — but not re-arranged — music fits very comfortably in, too. I had to go back and listen to some of the original tunes on YouTube to be able to tell the difference. The Forest Temple music in particular is one piece that really helped set the mood while it played.


Food for thought:

1. I always forget how much the Ocarina of Time adds to the feel of the game. Playing the songs is still one of my favourite parts of Ocarina.


2. Playing Ocarina of Time is only making the wait for Skyward Sword a little harder. Up until now, Ocarina was the very first Zelda game, chronologically, but Skyward Sword will soon be taking its place as the story that kicked off the long-running stories of Zeldas and Links. I’m very curious to see how that game sets up the rest of the series.

  • malek86

    I caved in and bought it, in place of my cancelled Child of Eden order. Let’s hope this time I’ll actually complete it. Last time, on the N64, I gave in at some temple… don’t remember which one.

    • Shadow Temple? That’s where I always stop playing because it’s too scary…

      Or maybe the Water Temple’s complicated puzzles? Speaking of which, I hear this dungeon’s puzzles are to be revised in the remake.

      • malek86

        Not sure, but I remember it was pretty labyrinthic, and the walls and floors were… organic? Or maybe it was just dark? The fights were more difficult than every dungeon before it, I think.

        I really don’t remember. I only know that I gave in because I wasn’t having that much fun with the game. But that was years ago. Maybe this time I’ll like it.

        • Organic? That sounds like Jabu-Jabu’s belly…and yeah, I hated that dungeon, too. Had to force myself through it. Forest Temple being next in line made it worth the effort though. <3

          Oh, and I swear, he has Metroids living in his belly! WTF!

          • puchinri

            I kinda liked Jabu-Jabu’s belly, even a little more than I did the Forest Temple. But maybe that’s because I was so amazed that I was solving puzzles in a giant fish-deity’s stomach. (Having Metroid in a giant fish’s stomach is just a bonus~!)

          • Come to think of it, the reason Jabu-Jabu’s belly was so wild was probably because it was the “final level” of the child Link part of the game. After that, the dungeons got more devious in general, but J-J was such a shocker, coming off relatively easy stuff like Dodongo’s Cavern…

            I stepped inside, saw all the ten billion pathways and wriggling electric tonsil things and Metroids flying about, and my first reaction was to want to get the hell out as fast as I could. I’d forgotten what the place looked like, even though I’d played it long ago on the N64… ><

          • puchinri

            @Ishaan:disqus  Huh, I hadn’t thought of that part. But yeah, good point~. I don’t know why I love it so much. It felt kinda creepy or weird to me in the same way some of the stuff in MM (the less terrifying stuff) and odd things in TP did (fridge horror stuff). It was just… Disturbing but so ridiculous it didn’t feel disturbing or weird. Too much…

        • Organic… Yup, the Shadow Temple all right; none of the other temples fit the bill. It is right beside a graveyard, after all.

      • I’m Hoping that the water temple isn’t revised at all, honestly. I’ve always heard horror stories from my friends about the Water Temple, and would rather get the true experience my first time playing then something dumbed down.

        • Exkaiser

          It really isn’t bad at all. I liked it.

      • Exkaiser

        For me, it’s always Spirit Temple where I run out of steam.

  • What?! Link doesnt say anything at all and no character development? I wasnt expecting this, as the reviewers mentioned in the original, to be of JRR Tolkien level masterpiece storytelling, I do not think, as my first real foray into playing a Zelda game ever, that I am as hyped anymore. I read the parts that didnt seem to have spoilers.

    So how long is the game if its not 50hrs? (no sidequests or nothing, I assume it has sidequests?).


    • Altritter

      Link has never said anything in any Zelda game.  He is, and always will be, a silent protagonist.  The thing is, Link doesn’t need to say anything; he’s simply the archetypical hero, the ultimate example of good while Ganon is the ultimate example of evil.

      About the length, assuming that this version is as long as the original, I’d say it will take about 15-20 hours to run through the first time, add ten or more if you want to 100% it.

      • Suicunesol

        I think that’s a little too modest of a number. >_> If by 100% you mean searching for heart pieces and gold skultullas, er… unless you use a strategy guide, I think it’ll take much longer. I certainly didn’t use a guide to nab everything until I started collecting heart pieces I had missed.

        Not that I believe anyone should be concerned with time. I personally don’t rush great games, just like I don’t scarf down a great steak.

        • Altritter

          Huh, I dunno.  I didn’t use a strategy guide when I first 100%’d the game but I don’t recall it taking me any longer than about 25 to 30 hours.  But I agree that no one should be concerned with the time they take with this game. It’s one of the best games of all time, no need to rush it.

          • Suicunesol

            100% in thirty hours? I’m inclined to not believe that you somehow got everything in 30 hours without a strategy guide. That you, somehow, finished the Biggoron Quest, collected all the skultullas, heart pieces, and finished all the fishing, castle town mini-games, and horse archery games without too much trouble.

          • Exkaiser

            I did all of that aside from the castle town minigames (which I never touched) without any trouble last time I played. Most of that stuff is a lot easier than it sounds, especially Biggoron’s Quest.

    • Unless you never played a Zelda in game in your life how is this new news? Link only screams, and moans. Character development is there  it’s just done in a way that doesn’t need more hours of CGI scenes than actual gameplay.

      • This would be the first Zelda game I would have ever played.

      • “Character development is there  it’s just done in a way that doesn’t need more hours of CGI scenes than actual gameplay.”

        • I love CGI scenes. That being said, I cant even remember the last time I played a game without tons of them, etc, even portable game shave them. It is an experience.

    • Dont be hyped or un-hyped for a game you have never played, i recommend you to stop reading stuff, and play it, it is really obvious this will be a new expecience for you, i recommend you to embrace IT! DONT BE SCARED, just get it, try it, and get your own conclusions, the game is really good, since you have no idea how it is, you make up your own bad or good conclusions by yourself.

      Just try it, if you dont like it, just sell it, but seriously, this is something you have to try for yourself like most of the games.

    • malek86

      To be honest, I’ve never seen any Zelda game (though admittedly I haven’t played all of them) having a Tolkien-level masterpiece storytelling, if that even means anything. It has a decent story and a good presentation, but for the most part, the dungeons and sidequests are the real meat of the game. I don’t think too many people actually play Zelda for the story (especially because the underlying plot is almost the same every time).

      Maybe reviewers have been a little swayed by the fact that this was an action game, considering that at the time of release, good storytelling was usually only limited to graphic adventures and the such. Playing it recently, definitely won’t have the same effect. Many games today have better storytelling than Zelda. It’s like playing Half-Life today and saying “I don’t see what the big deal is”.

      Still, don’t let it get to you. The story is not that important.

    • Suicunesol

      Just play it.

    • FireCouch

      If you are expecting Tolkien quality stories out of Zelda, I’d say quit now while you are ahead.

      • malek86

        I’m not even sure if people actually read Tolkien’s books, before they use it as as a generic measurement stick for writing quality.

        I mean, the Silmarillion was a snorefest of biblical proportions. LOTR was ok, but I’ve read much better books in my life. The Hobbit was probably the best one, but it wasn’t anything special and never felt ambitious (but then, it was a children’s book).

        • The series is amazing (havent read the Silmarillion one), but the Hobbit is my favorite, LOTR was just plain epic in all forms. Only flaw of the series…like every fantasy series, is that its a dull and anticlimactic ending.

        • FireCouch

          What’s impressive about the Tolkien books is how he makes it really seem like the world existed.  There is a humongous history for the world he created.

          • malek86

            Yes, the best thing about Tolkien is the universe he created, especially considering how it influenced almost evey single fantasy setting written later. But I find the books themselves (eg. the writing quality) aren’t particularly great.

      • Well thats the sole reason why I want to play this game. After reviews like this “What’s significant about this convergence of audio, graphics and gameplay is that you are COMPLETELY IMMERSED in Zelda’s world. Why? Because everything is meticulously thought out. Each character and event plays a role in a storyline that sprawls like a J.R. Tolkien masterpiece…It’s certainly the game of the decade.” 

        How can I avoid the game? The story must be epic indeed.

        • I don’t know who wrote that…

  • I look at the top picture of Link playing a song on the ocarina, and I immediately thought: “Oh god songs got complicated”.

    I miss the C-button songs. :(

    I do so want this game though. I hope I’ll have a 3DS soon.

    • Jeebs

      I know, right! C-Buttons made it simple.

  • “we’ve seen eight new ones, ranging from whimsical to touching to
    grin-inducingly hilarious.

    I assume this part refers to Link’s Crossbow Training?

    • Actually, that was Spirit Tracks. Zelda made me laugh a lot!

      • I kid, I kid.  I actually loved Spirit Tracks, it’s probably my favorite handheld Zelda

        • Same here, I think Spirit Tracks has the most personality of any Zelda to date. I’m glad they went crazy with it!

          • The only zelda i ever disliked was spirit tracks, i agree with Link having more personality (and comic oriented one xD), but i felt they put together all of the same from other games way too close…

          • The co-op and humour really made Spirit Tracks worth it for me. I didn’t like the train in the least, but everything else made me push on. I didn’t complete it though…

          • Neither did i xD, it has been the only Zelda game i havent completed in my life T-T, i must finish it! for the sake of all i think is worthy…!

  • Man, been pretty hyped about this. Aside from the joke about 3DS not having any other games, I was a PSX kid during those years and thus missed out on this title. Getting the 3DS version feels like i’ll be making up for lost time by jumping straight to the best release of it, so to speak.

    So umm, yeah. Get hype! :D

  • M47R1X

    Wait… I thought The Minish Cap was first chronologically.

    • I always take Zelda games as another reincarnation of Zelda and link xD

      • M47R1X

        Yeah, I like to think that too. But I think we can agree that Wind Waker is after OoT (as well as MM), and Zelda II is after the original LoZ.

    • Aara_Malik_Davoodi

      There is no set timeline, so interpretations vary

      • There is, Nintendo has already confirmed that there is a set timeline that only they know.

        • Aara_Malik_Davoodi

          Ok, let me rephrase that for clarity…the fanbase has no set timeline, so interpretations vary

    • Exkaiser

      You could make an argument for, say, the first game. It’s kind of silly.

  • Syltique

    Great preview.  I don’t think I’ll read a better one by anyone else.

    I don’t think Ocarina is the first game though.

  • karasuKumo

    So tempted to read but I haven’t played it! Played a little on an emulator and am loving it but don’t want to go any further so I can save the story for when I get it on 3DS (need to get a 3DS first lol).

  • Suicunesol

    What about Epona? Epona continues to be Link’s friend even through the end of the game, and into the next~

    Your article is interesting because I never thought of Link’s character that way before. When I first played, I put myself in his shoes. Since Link’s character itself rarely expressed itself in a way that showed his connection with other characters… my own character–me–filled those cracks. It was me instead who connected with the characters of the game rather than Link doing the connecting. It made the people you meet throughout the game stand out much more, and I found myself always wanting to see more Malon or Ruto or Zelda or Saria, and being disappointed when their in-game roles had ended.

    What’s even more interesting is how a lot of the character elements you mentioned might not even have been intended by the developers. Because the plot elements are so light, the player tends to attach their own feelings to the characters in the game, as opposed to other stories trying to force feelings onto the player (ie. a plot device that is specifically supposed to make the player laugh, cry, or care for someone). I suppose that’s one reason why people feel so strongly about the game.

    So, Miyamoto, despite not caring for plot as much as gameplay, unwittingly creates a great plot thanks to his players.

    • That’s exactly it. When I was a kid, I was far more able to put myself in his shoes, but playing it now, all these years later, it’s hard to invest myself in his character the same way. Instead, I find myself playing it more as an “observer” than Link himself, which is probably why I saw the game differently this time around.

      Yeah, I’m pretty sure a lot of the character elements were completely unintentional. Ocarina’s biggest advantage is that it’s so vague, you have to fill in the gaps yourself to form a picture of what’s going on, beyond the simple “defeat the bad guy” premise. It’s such an interesting approach…I don’t think it would even be possible in any medium other than games.

    • puchinri

      That sounds quite spot on to me.
      (Although when I was playing, I sometimes felt like I was playing as Link and other times felt like I was the one connecting with the characters.)

      And maybe that’s part of his genius~?

      • indeed you can make up your own feelings for this game, heck you dont even need to keep his name link

  • Revorse

    The Zelda timeline is what really throws the series off for me. To much going on, and with no real distinction as to what is what

    • OneOkami

      Thats why I just ignore the Zelda timeline and just play each game as if they are each their own, self-contained adventures.

      • Revorse

        That’d probably be best…

      • Aara_Malik_Davoodi

        Pretty much the same way I approach most Gundam series, too

        • Exkaiser

          But half the Gundam shows are their own, self-contained adventures.

          Pretending the UC shows don’t take place in the same timeline is just silly, though.

          • Aara_Malik_Davoodi

            Yeah, the many of the UC shows have actual continuity, hence the “most.” As for the others, though, many try to find (read: create) connections between shows for whatever reason. I don’t even try to find relationships between obviously unrelated series, like say G Gundam and 00. I just like to enjoy them outside of the others

          • Exkaiser

            Well, the people who try to link G and 00 have… issues.

            The best you could do is just say “lol black history.”

  • BelmontHeir

    Great review that managed to triple my anticipation for this game. Can’t wait to play it. :)

  • Vino (Tim N)

    This was a great read. I’ve always been a fan of Zelda lore and believe in the Ocarina giving us the split timeline theory.
    Some of this was new info for me because I admit, I haven’t been reading into much of the Skyward Sword and that it could possibly be where it all starts. And I didn’t know about the possible ancestor in Twilight Princess.
    I’m looking forward to entering the world of Ocarina of time again. With it’s new facelift and all.
    Oh, and I consider Epona to be one of his best friends because Epona stays with throughout ocarina of time and is still with him in Majora’s Mask.

    • Except Epona’s completely optional! You could get through the entire game without ever coming across her. ;)

      • meat0bun

        So are your closest friends; you’ll still live* and go through without ever having met them but that isn’t exactly a good thing.

        *Unless that certain friend saved your life.

      • Exkaiser

        Snake! You can’t do that!! The future will be changed! You’ll create a time paradox!!

      • Vino (Tim N)

        Don’t tell me that, makes me sad lol

        Optional in OoT? I thought Epona was needed to get into the desert?I needed Epona for MM cause I collected all the masks.

        • Nope nope, you don’t need Epona for anything. At first, I thought you needed her to finally leap across the gap to Ganon’s castle at the end, but you can just use the Hookshot for that, too!

      • timeline says they met because of majora’s mask

    • puchinri

      I feel the same about Epona~.

  • lurkingsalt

    I don’t remember how old I was but my first time playing through OoT I got stuck. Couldn’t find that damn hookshoot for the life of me. Ended up giving up, later I found out you found it at the grave yard!!! Thought it was the dumbest place to put a necessary item. A year later with the help of my older brother got through the hole thing. Every once in a while I like to listen to a Zelda medley to hear all the temple songs, this game really brings back a lot of good memories.

  • puchinri

    So Navi is still around? I guess I’m one of the only few that would miss her, but still.
    And I always got the sense of Link being a child that had to grow up too quickly. I think it actually struck me really early on.

    I’m really glad they managed to make the 3D work well and that it sounds to be great stylistically. I think usually with a remake (or port), either too much or too little is changed, and so a game sometimes ends up lacking part (or even all) of the charm that made it so wonderful. It’s nice that they seemed to have found a perfect balance as far as graphics go.

    Even though I know I won’t be getting a 3DS soon, maybe not even within the next year, I really want to buy this just to get the OST. So tempting…

  • Jeebs

    I’m loving the new textures.

  • Merulana

    It really hurts to know that I have to wait about two more days to get this game. </3

  • I disagree on the true friends part
    (especially when you add majora’s mask to it with zelda’s dialogue and the fact that Link went to look for navi after she left)
    also while it is a fan theory that the skelaton warior in twilight princess is link it is still just theory
    also remember this is legend of zelda, from the same mind of the guy from mario (its never actually gotten that dark)

    • also in the sequel game starring the same link he gains two fairy and one skull kid friends (and i think zelda sent him back to the past to let him grow up naturally and have his own life the second time around)

  • also Miyamoto gave insight into the dynamic of navi and link by revealing that navi was jealous of zelda and had feelings for link (something you would not get by just playing the game)

  • xflame10

    arghhh, i gotta go to florida so i have to wait till i get back to order this from amazon…….. WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • for me, wind waker is still the best zelda … and it continues the story from ocarina of time too … one of the split world …

  • Joanna

    Great playtest Ishaan~

    I’m so tempted to pick this up tomorrow. :3

    • I found its a good game. Cant believe I never touched the franchise before. Ultimately, the only fault I have with it is its difficulty and lack of auto-regenerated health. Im always on a quarter of a heart for boss fights.

  • Merulana

    I am currently dying to get the game, and I regret not pre-ordering it.
    It’s sold out everywhere!

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