Review: The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages (Nintendo 3DS)

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Capcom
Genre: Adventure
Release Date: 05/30/2013

Initially released a decade ago, both The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages and The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons were released to the Nintendo 3DS’s Virtual Console, a service that allows you to play games from older systems like the Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, and Nintendo DS. Some really great games have come out on the service, and Season and Ages are but two of them. I originally received both as a gift in 2001 or 2002, and between the two, I liked Ages a little better. Ages seems to focus more on puzzles, which has always been my favorite part of the Legend of Zelda series, and seems to be a bit more challenging as a result; Seasons focuses a little more on action in its gameplay, making it a bit more straightforward in its presentation.

The story behind Legend of Ages is this: Link, on the request of the Triforce, is sent to Labyrnna, where he finds Impa, Zelda’s nurse, surrounded by monsters. Link defeats the monster and Impa tells him that she needs his help. Apparently Link doesn’t notice that Impa looks incredibly blue compared to what she normally looks like, because he agrees to help her and moves a stone with the Triforce’s emblem on it out of the way. They continue walking around until they run into Nayru, who is singing to some animals. Turns out Impa’s skin was weirdly-colored for a reason, as Veran quickly jumps out of her (she’d possessed Impa) and kidnaps Nayru, who is, as you find out from her somewhat annoying “bodyguard” Ralph, the Oracle of Ages, meaning she keeps time flowing properly. With her kidnapping, time goes wonky, and you’re tasked with rescuing the poor girl. This leads you to rescuing and then talking with the Maku Tree, who promptly wants to marry you, somehow.

The Maku Tree tells him that in order to defeat Veran, he’s going to need all eight Essences of Time–which will require him to of course traverse time–and she offers to help by way of information. Throughout the game, you’ll get telepathic messages from her, letting you know where to go next, and occasionally reminding you that she still likes you, heehee. If you linked your game with Oracle of Seasons, you’ll have the opportunity to get a new ending, beyond what you accomplish with just Ages. Other passwords you get in the game can lead to item upgrades and the like. This is where the 3DS is kind of handy, as it has a Notes feature on the console’s home screen where you can write stuff down. You won’t have to worry about losing that sheet of paper you probably don’t have on you with this.

The gameplay in Ages is the same as many other The Legend of Zelda games. Use the D-Pad (or Circle Pad, since we’re on the 3DS) to move around, assign weapons and other items for use to the A and B buttons through the menu. In order to travel through time (initially anyway), you need to play your Harp of Ages while standing on specially marked tiles; sometimes your actions in the past have repercussions in the future. You’ll learn three tunes throughout the game that will make travel easier: the first, the Tune of Echoes, allows you to activate the time portals I just mentioned; the second is the Tune of Currents, which allows you to go forward in time without a portal; the last is the Tune of Ages, which allows you to go back and forth through time without the use of portals. You’ll also get various weapon and item upgrades throughout the game, including the flippers and mermaid suit (the latter of which is oddly more difficult to use), and you’ll find that you actually need to use most of the items to figure out the puzzles, especially near the end.  The items and upgrades available will vary between the two games (this game gets the power bracelet upgrade and the switchhook), but regardless, you’ll have plenty of chances to utilize them.

Oddly enough, for some reason they don’t have the Advance Shop in this release of the game, which I would have included. For anyone who doesn’t know, the Advance Shop is a special store that only shows up when you’re playing on the Game Boy Advance. It sells a Gasha Seed (useful for getting items like a Piece of Heart, Magic Rings, potions, and the like), a GBA Time Ring (no real value other than for collection purposes), and another Magic Ring. It’s not an especially important shop to have, but considering we are physically incapable of playing this version of the game on a GBA, it would have been a nice bone to throw us.

Playing Ages again after so long definitely brought out the nostalgia. While you won’t be getting anything new out of this if you’ve beaten it before, if you haven’t played it in a while, this is a great trip down memory lane. I’ve always loved Oracle of Ages‘s presentation in terms of its graphical beauty and soundtrack, but playing it after so long almost felt like I was playing it for the first time. Ages isn’t my favorite Zelda game of all time, but it’s definitely in my top five. I recommend getting both Ages and Seasons and playing through to get the extended ending, and considering they’re only $5.99 each, it’s definitely worth buying.

Short Attention Span Summary

The Legend of Zelda: Oracles of Ages will be a blast from the past for people who owned the original Game Boy Color game and a welcome addition to any Zelda fan’s collection if they’ve not had the pleasure of playing the game yet. I would have appreciated having the GBA features in the game, but it feels like a minor nitpick for a game that offered so much when it came out. I’d recommend getting Oracle of Seasons as well and playing a linked game for the extended end.

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