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Monday, July 1, 2013

"Not So Fresh" Review: The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons

Action! Puzzles! And Twinrova. Lots of Twinrova.
So you'll have to excuse my lateness- but I never got around to these games as a kid. If I had, my childhood may have been even brighter than it already was, though.

The Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons games just recently went up on the 3DS eShop, and for a slim price of $10.00. Factor that into my collective playtime- 42:38, and I'd say it's a deal pretty superior to a large amount of console experiences nowadays- all for a pretty low price.

The Oracle games always fascinated me- as an extremely avid fan of Minish Cap, another Capcom/Nintendo collaboration, I wanted to see where the concepts in that title got their start. Turns out, it was in Holodrum and Labrynna. So after playing both back-to-back using the code system and exhausting myself with 16 dungeons of content, I am ready to offer my impressions of the game.

PROS:

-If there's one thing Flagship really nailed with this game, it was presenting two very different styles of gameplay. With Ages' deep puzzles that span across rooms, floors, and time itself, the amount of variety is staggering- and while Seasons' focus on "action" isn't exactly  as solid a concept, there's lots of engaging combat situations and bosses, and the dungeons do have a more kinetic feel to them.

-Spanning across two extremely different overworlds, Ages and Seasons have tons of great nods to previous Zelda games, whether its the titular Oracles, classic bosses, or side-characters and species, both games have so much that is old- and new- to love.

-Its the little things that count- and having a ton of items to obtain and share across versions is a lovely treat. Both titles feature unique items, of course, and playing through one or the other first will allow you obtain certain rewards far easier, but there's so much to discover in this game, I didn't have enough time to invest before I thought this review would get really stale.

CONS:

-While some tracks in the game are thrilling and adventurous, others are repetitive and bland. While Link's Awakening skimped on a palette of dungeon themes, it had a vibrant overworld with changing music. These titles are the opposite, and there's quite a few tracks that grate the ears. Which is not to say the entirety of the soundtrack is awful, but it is lacking.

-While Seasons has a charming Subrosia, Ages merely has a somewhat dull Labrynna from the past- and with a title like Ages, you'd expect some traveling, but it really only goes from past to present, which is a bit disappointing in comparison with Seasons' awesome season-changing puzzles. And while Subrosia is smaller than Past Labrynna, Holodrum seems larger in general and features a more expanse terrain.

-Mini-games. I enjoy them as a supplement to gameplay and story, but the amount of strange challenges one must undertake in between a certain pair of dungeons is a bit silly. Likewise, Crescent Island's trading portion is extremely dull.

THOUGHTS:

Now, I know it seems like I favor Seasons much more than Ages- and it's true, I suppose. While both are wonderful examples of Zelda done just right, Ages has a few more pieces that don't quite fit together. However, it's not a bad game- in fact, both are absolutely great. But while Seasons tests the player with puzzles both inside and outside of dungeons with its clever Rod of Seasons, Ages lacks in the same area, as its past and present method of travel is aggravating when you don't position yourself correctly and never really requires deep complexity- and even then, it's often merely a bookend to the exploration for new territory, when the quite instead forces you into odd minigames or trading chains, as previously mentioned.

I know you could just download a ROM of this game, and that's understandable- but Restore Points really saved my ass in this title, and that's also why the 3DS version of this game is so great. Somehwere around the final boss of Seasons I got bored with trekking through areas when I just wanted to murder Onox and that ridiculous final form of his. And with such a low price, the game truly feels like a great investment- and it's nice to have them side-by-side for easy access to their linked abilities.

What can I say? I recently went back to my Zelda list, revising it now that I've played just about every single title in some way, and the Oracle games rank quite high. They're more polished, unique versions of what Link's Awakening did already- which was, bringing an epic adventure to a tiny handheld. I do hope that future handheld Zeldas adhere more to the concepts introduced by the Game Boy titles, like Minish Cap did, rather that attempting to increase variety via control scheme. Of course, we do have a return to the Hyrule we know and love in A Link Between Worlds, so we'll have to see if that game can match the quality and variety that these two large games packed in tiny cartridges.

Final Verdict: If you're looking for a more unique, quirky Zelda adventure with a mechanic not seen often in the series, check out Oracle of Seasons- it's a classic Zelda formula with a twist. However, if you're looking for a more traditional mechanic, Ages' time-shifting may be the right fit for you, even if it has more overworld exploration based on not-so-exploratory concepts. Either way, if you can pick up both, it's the best way to play- just give yourself a break between titles or you'll wear your sword- and patience- thin.

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