Another Link to the past.
Video games can be an expensive habit. It might not be as bad as crack cocaine or porcelain dolls, but at around 50 bucks a game, it's one addiction that can easily put a hurt on the wallet. Saving money requires being selective (with some help from us) and patient..
Yet once in a blue moon, there's a great bargain that takes all that pressure off your wallet, leaving you free to spend your money on secondary needs, like food, bills and rent. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is due for release at the end of March. As an incentive to pre-order, Nintendo is offering a Gamecube port of the original N64 classic, The Legend Zelda: Ocarina of Time, with an added Master Quest adventure.
At participating stores, The Ocarina of Time/Master Quest game bundle comes free for those who pre-order Wind Waker. Other stores are selling it for 10-15 bucks, which goes towards buying Wind Waker when it's out (save those receipts!). From a business perspective, this promotion has already generated some huge numbers for Nintendo. But it's also very good for consumers. Fifty dollars for what boils down to three Zelda games is one helluva deal.
Not only is Ocarina of Time one of the best games of its era, but the port has been handled excellently, with an improved resolution, smoother framerate and the addition of the Master Quest. Despite the fact that it's mainly just a promotional tool, the game is fully packaged, ready to sit next to the rest of your Gamecube games.
Playing through the Gamecube port of Ocarina of Time is like taking the exact same vacation you already went on a few years ago. The places and attractions are still vaguely familiar; the faint memory of what to do, where to go, and how to brave the dungeons (it's an odd vacation) still tingle in the back of your mind.
Of course, this was one of the best vacations ever made, so even though it can feel a little redundant, the original Ocarina easily stands the test of time.. However, as one of the many who completed it on the N64, I sometimes feel like I'm playing the game off of memory instead of the actual environments. I need to wait a few more years before I go back to Hyrule, or at least contract some Alzheimer's.
I suppose that's where the Master Quest comes in. It's an expansion pack that was originally intended for the domestically absent N64 Disk System. While the story and object locations are the same, the dungeons have been rearranged with new puzzles that twist things around. Usually the same maps will be used, but the new solutions can be radically different.
The Master Quest features just enough changes so that you can readily spot what has changed. It's also significantly harder, so newbies to the series should play the easier, polished original first, and then move up to the remix.
Obviously, the controls are different. The Gamecube stick must be pushed a little bit hard than the N64 stick in order to start walking. I don't know whether they made any compensations within the programming, but different analog sticks will intrinsically have different feels. Perhaps it's because of the physics: the further a point on a lever is from the axis, the less effort is required to move the lever. Thus, the stubbier Gamecube controller requires a bit more push in comparison to the N64 controller. At any rate, it's easy enough to get used to.
The C-button keys are now controlled with the C-stick. At first, it feels less intuitive to push a direction than to press a button, but it's no big deal. The X and Y buttons respectively duplicate C-left and C-right, ideal for more proactive controls such as the slingshot and the bow and arrows.
The Z-targeting of the N64 has been replaced with L-targeting. In order to keep the in-game's references consistent, they've even taken care of replacing the Z-trigger icon graphic with an L-button.
The game uses up 15 units of the memory card. When you select 'Save' from the pause screen, the game cuts away to a black screen for a few seconds while it accesses the memory card instead of the practically instantaneous speed of the original N64 version's built-in battery pack. Again, it's not a big deal at all, but hardcore fans of the original will notice the slight difference here.
As a port of an N64 game, Ocarina of Time obviously doesn't have Gamecube-specific graphics. Still, I'm very happy with how clean and sharp it looks. The edges are crisp and the textures maintain their original programmed resolutions - some of them look more detailed, others look more noticeably blurry. But overall, it looks more polished then the recent slew of Dreamcast ports. The resolution has been bumped up to 640 by 480 with progressive scan compatibility. The higher resolution holds up well with no major tears and the framerate is much smoother.
Despite the cheesy MIDI music, the strength of Ocarina's soundtrack has always been the composition. The melodies are memorable, though the little piping voices sound dated in comparison.
I think this is an especially great deal for people who missed the N64 Zelda. I also hope this port is the beginning of more quality N64 ports at affordable prices. Perhaps it can even set a precedence for future promotions, like a Mario 64 port with the next Mario game or Majora's Mask attached to the next Zelda.
Frankly, this is an excellent bargain. A port handled as well as this comes up practically as often as a deal like this. Bear in mind, it's still a port, and noticeably aged compared to brand new RPGs. But it's still a terrific game, and the added Master Quest will get old fans playing again...at least until Wind Waker shows up.