Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages/Oracle of Seasons (GBC) Retro Review

Here's a retro review to start off the week. I remember getting The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons without knowing that I couldn't play them on my Super Game Boy. This meant I had to get a Gameboy Advance. The journies are still as favorable in my opinion than ever. Here's a retro review.

Two Tales, One Hero

The Legend of Zelda series is one of the most celebrated franchises in video game history. It constantly weaves new ideas with old to create a finely-crafted experience unlike any other. When it was announced that Capcom would be taking the reins of a duo of portable Zelda adventures, many fans were concerned with the quality Capcom would bring to the series. In 2001, fans found out with the release of the first-ever duo of Zelda adventures, The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages and The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons. Thankfully, the fans had no need for worry.

The stories of Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons are intertwined. Ages has our hero, Link, visiting Labyrnna whereas Link enters the land of Holodrum in Seasons. Both games start out the same with premise only with different oracles and villains. In Ages, the evil sorceress Veran captures the oracle of ages while Seasons has the tyrant General Onox kidnapping the oracles of seasons. In either game it's up to Link to gather eight sacred items in order to open the way to the villain's headquarters, vanquish the evil, and restore peace to the land.

It doesn't matter which title you play through first. When you beat one of the two adventures, you receive a twenty digit password. Once you enter this password in the other game, your linked journey officially begins. Characters from the first game will show up in the second game with bonus goodies to be given. Once the second game is completed, you get to face the ultimate evil who caused all of the trouble between the two lands of Holodrum and Labyrnna. ...Take a wild guess.

Ever since A Link to the Past, there's been gameplay gimmicks to each Zelda, and I say gimmick with the kindest intention. In A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time, it was going back and forth through time, in The Wind Waker it was sailing and changing the flow of the wind, and it's no different in Ages and Seasons. In Ages, Link travels back and forth between past and present Labyrnna. In Seasons, Link travels between all four seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. The developers did a terrific job of creating mind-bending puzzles using this mechanic. In Ages, when Link approaches a dungeon entrance, it caves in on itself. When he goes into the past, the dungeon entrance is much sturdier, so he can access it easily. Lakes that were impossible to cross in summer are frozen solid in winter.



From past to present.

There are eight main dungeons in each game, but you're not just going from dungeon to dungeon in each game. Link will be doing some work in between dungeons, too. He'll utilize a new item to reach the dungeons, help townspeople out, find hidden loot, and save fair maidens all in the process of reaching one of the eight dungeons. In Oracle of Seasons, Link will have to enter deep within the underworld of Holodrum, Subrosia, to activate the four seasonal beacons of the temple of seasons. This will give his rod of seasons more power and more seasons to alter.

The eight dungeons each give Link an item to add to his arsenal, and the arsenal is different between games. Link will utilize a switch hook giving him the ability to switch positions with whatever object or enemy it comes in contact with, the magnetic gloves which will pull polaritized blocks towards him, the Cane of Somaria which will create one block for Link to push upon buttons, and slingshots that will shoot pellets at far away switches and enemies.

Puzzles abound in Oracle of Ages.

Dungeons follow the same basic formula. Your progress is always marked by how many doors you have unlocked. You clear out room, beat down baddies, and solve mind-bending puzzles in order to find keys to unlock doors. Progress far enough, and you’ll acquire the dungeon’s special item such as the power glove or hookshot. Getting the dungeon’s item will allow to solve even more puzzles, unlock even more doors, and find your way to the big key which opens up the way to the boss. Beat Zelda staples such as dodongos, gohma, and gleeok in order to be rewarded with one of eight special trinkets that will open the way to the game’s final boss when collected. The item you collected in the dungeon will allow you to access new areas on the world map. It’s all your typical Zelda formula, and it still works well.

Each adventure will take anywhere from 15-20 hours to complete. Beating both games and facing the ultimate foe will take upwards of 40 hours. That’s not to mention all of the heart containers, health-boosting items, ammo upgrades, equipment upgrades, side quests, and rings to collect. Rings are the big collectible in both Zelda games. They’re scattered throughout Labyrnna and Holodrum, in chests, hidden in gasha nuts, locked away deep in dungeons, and so forth. They give Link abilities such has increased health from hearts, higher attack power, increased defense, and a multitude of other benefits. Completionists will definitely have a lot to do in both Zelda tales.

The switchshot is just one of many new
weapons in Link's arsenal this time around.

Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons boast impressive visuals for the Game Boy Color. The color palette has a wide range, areas are vibrant, and not too terrible on the eyes. Sound-wise, things are pretty grating even with classic and new Zelda tunes available, but that's to be expected with only one speaker and the tech of the time.

Between which two games I prefer, I like The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons the best. While Ages is more focused on puzzles, Seasons is more on combat. Not to say neither is lacking in puzzles or combat. I also liked how Seasons didn't use as many fetch quests to progress the story that Ages did. Many of these were just taxing on the gamer. Despite this, both games are wonderful Zelda titles that no fan should go without. The classic formula is here, and it's as strong as ever. Do yourselves a favor and scrounge up your copies of both games, or try them out for the first time for cheap. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages and Oracles of Seasons together are a terrific journey with familiar gameplay and all-new excellence.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.5/10]


Light Wolf said...

Now those are great games. Seasons was my first Zelda game, so of course I loved it. I then played Ages and did the link thing. And it was awesome. I played each game like ten times, maybe more. Now I wish my GBA wasn't broken or the DS had backwards compatibility, as I'd love to experience them again. Maybe if I get a GBC somewhere...

BTW, nice blog, I think I'll be following it. Sorry if my English is flawed.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Light Wolf, and your English is perfect. It's better than most internet users who grew up learning English for heaven's sake.

Hope to keep you entertained!