December 03, 2002

Article at Tokyopia

Another viewpoint on URA Zelda...

Given that I just received my Zelda pre-order disc this morning and immediately tore through two dungeons, I thought I'd chime in with a set of impressions on URA Zelda. I had just recently played through the original Ocarina of Time on N64, so I have a slightly different take on the game than John's initial impressions...

Have to harp on the graphics first -- as you've read before, it's just the N64 game with a higher resolution. Nothing terribly wrong about that, and I wasn't expecting any more so I'm not really complaining there. But there are problems that didn't exist in the cart. For one, the higher resolution makes a lot of the textures -- already poor by 1998's standards -- look even worse. 2D sprites pasted on to the scenery at any point (like vines on a wall) look awfully out of place, with massive black or white lines sticking out. There are also slight issues with polygon seams showing in the environment (though this is rare) and there's a problem with slight "pauses" here and there. Whenever Link jumps into a hole, or just before he emerges into a large room, there seems to be an ever-so-slight pause that's really noticeable because of the music, which cuts and hangs awkwardly for a split second. And the sharper image makes Link's nose look like Michael Jackson's. Scary.

Mind you, it's nothing major. You probably won't notice or mind many of the niggles or glitches, and it certainly doesn't affect gameplay at all, but they are some of the minor differences between the original cart and the new version. The only things that might annoy were previously mentioned by John -- the ever-so-slight lag when the pause screen comes up (which will make the infamous Water Temple a bit more unbearable) and the age it takes to save. I like to save a lot, so it is rather irritating. The game also takes up a hefty 15 blocks of memory, so be sure to have lots of space ready.

I do have a problem with the control, though. The context-sensitive function is assigned to the big A button on the GameCube, relegating the attack button to the smaller B. It just doesn't feel natural or right for me. I have my thumb resting on A most of the time, and I keep instinctively hitting it whenever I need to attack, usually causing Link to roll straight into an enemy (d'oh!). It's a bizarre decision, especially since Kaze no Takuto has it the other way around: Attack is A, context-sensitive functions are on B. I don't have a problem with L-Targeting or using the C stick to emulate the C buttons at all though. It works well for playing the ocarina, and it certainly beats using the GameCube's Z button for anything...

As John noted, the game is essentially Ocarina of Time with reworked and remixed dungeons. To clarify, what that means is that the dungeons have the same structure and layout as before, but what you have to do and what you fight inside is different. A room in OoT might ask you to shoot a switch to open the door. URA's version might ask you to light a couple of torches instead. It's not that simple or clear-cut most of the time, but that's basically the difference. You'll also be taking different routes through the dungeons (though the first two are pretty bare, so there isn't much room to deviate from OoT thus far), so you'll also be unlocking different doors and approaching rooms (and thus puzzles) from a different perspective.

I should add that it's also harder. Not hard per se -- the first two dungeons certainly aren't taxing at all -- just harder. For example, enemies in the original version of the first dungeon weren't terribly threatening or numerous, and consisted of the likes of Deku Babas (plants that snap at you), Skulltullas (restricted to either limited sections of wall or hanging from the ceiling) and Deku Shrubs (firing seeds at you while rooted to the spot). Enemies with limited mobility and range. URA's version is populated mainly by lots of the very mobile mini-Ghomas (which appeared in all of two rooms in the original) and even enemies you previously only fight as an adult, like the Giant Deku Babas. One room in the dungeon features eight mini-Ghomas, a Deku Shrub firing away and a bat swooping down all at once. Admittedly, it isn't terribly difficult -- the fact aside that you can take out mini-Ghomas with one hit by destroying their eggs before they hatch, two mindless swipes of the sword will take one out -- but there is absolutely no point in OoT's first dungeon where you're threatened with a swarm of that many charging enemies at once.

There's also much less room for error. When you hit a switch, you don't have an age to complete a task before it goes off again. Puzzles with bomb flowers in the second dungeon have to be nailed nigh-on perfectly. And again, as John noted, they like to play with your expectations from OoT and trick you. There's a room in the second dungeon with two raised platforms in flames separating you from the other side. In OoT, you had to shoot a switch above the door to extinguish the flames on the first platform, hop on to it, then turn and fire at a switch recessed into the wall to reach the second platform. In URA, after locating and activating the first switch (not in the same location, naturally), I jumped on to the first platform, turned, raised my slingshot and... wait, there's no switch, just a bat and a bomb flower. In the few seconds that I stood there, puzzled, the flames reactivated. Turns out you have to jump in there to grab the bomb flower and use it to uncover the second switch... not otherwise confusing or taxing, but my experience with OoT rather fooled me.

It's been said that the remixed dungeons aren't as well designed as the original, and it's true to some extent -- the dungeons have been designed with the original path from OoT in mind so deviating has some awkward results which, at times, results in various rooms effectively being unused. To compensate, Nintendo chucked in myriad objects which you'll need to come back to later on -- a Skulltulla token too high to reach without a boomerang, boulders, etc -- which, depending on your perspective, is either good because it gives you a reason to backtrack, or bad because it's just sloppy. I'm leaning towards the latter myself, though I have to admit I am somewhat curious to see just what is hidden in some of those spots.

I've moaned a lot here, but it's mainly nit-picking. As a big fan of the original, it's worth pointing out the differences here, no matter how minor. At the end of the day, it's Ocarina of Time with a twist. It's great to be able to play one of the best games of them all again with a change that makes things slightly new -- no more rushing through dungeons from memory, now you have to think all over again.

Still, all it does is whet the appetite for Kaze no Takuto. Nintendo must be confident in that title, because with OoT sure to be fresh again in the minds of many it has a lot to live up to.