When launching the 3DS, Nintendo wanted to make sure that players understood the value
of the 3D effect right from the start.
Their plan was to rerelease classic games on the system so players could directly compare
how stereoscopic 3D changed the experience.
This left them with a narrow band of titles to draw from; games from the Gamecube or Wii
may have been too hard to run on the 3DS at launch, and sprite based games from the 2D
systems wouldn’t have made a good showcase for depth.
That left the N64 as the sweet spot, and of those games Star Fox 64 was the perfect candidate-
a spaceship game with lasers flying everywhere is a natural fit for 3D.
Ocarina of Time was a less obvious choice.
According to Miyamoto, the game was chosen to show off the more subtle immersive effect
that 3D can bring.
The game was first shown at e3 2010, at which time Miyamoto described it as still being
a tech demo.
If that were true, it would mean the game only had about one year of full on development,
which is not a lot of time to remake the highest rated game ever on unfamiliar hardware.
Nintendo partnered with Japanese developer Grezzo and used the original source code and
assets as a base to quickly build from.
Because the game uses so much from the original, some people will say it shouldn’t even be
considered a remake.
Semantics aside, the visual overhaul was massive: every character model was recreated using
the original art, with Link being the most dramatic improvement.
Yoshiaki Koizumi created his original model first and then Yusuke Nakano based his art
The idea of official art back then was to show players what the world and characters
were supposed to look like, since the hardware would inevitably mangle their vision.
In this case, the game had to run at 20 frames per second, sometimes 15, just the pull off
visuals like this.
In comparison, 3D Link looks like Nakano’s art walked right off the page; it’s hard
to imagine getting much closer on the 3DS hardware.
The difference isn’t as striking with non-playable characters, but the improvements are still
plain to see.
The ugly 2D walls around Hyrule field have been replaced with new stepped cliffs and
treelines, the sky is no longer a single low res texture rotating around and has layers
and depth, and the prerendered backdrops have been entirely replaced with models.
Despite being released in the same year as Resident Evil 2, Ocarina of Time’s backdrops
haven’t held up nearly as well and wouldn’t have worked with the 3D effect.
The new polygonal areas not only look much better but give the developers the freedom
to move the camera in new ways.
A lot of old effects like the fake specular highlights on certain objects have been recreated
with more modern methods while still feeling true to the original style.
The extra power of the 3DS is generally put to good use to expand and enhance scenes that
originally had a scant amount of detail.
The remake almost reminds me of a Retro studios game, where every little room has been given
enough detail to stand out and look interesting.
The textures are where the shortcomings of the hardware hold the visuals back the most.
N64 environmental textures usually maxed out at 64 by 64 pixels while the 3DS textures
vary from 128 to 256.
Doubling or even quadrupling the N64 resolution isn’t necessarily enough to make a big improvement,
and character textures are often the same resolution.
Regardless, the textures can appear deceptively detailed from a distance, and even when the
textures don’t look high res the more modern mappings and reduced stretching alone can
make a dramatic improvement.
The framerate was the hardest part of the overhaul and for the most part the game plays
perfectly at 30 frames per second.
Some animations have been tweaked or replaced, and a few all new ones have been added in,
like Link’s sword twirling.
The game could have used some more polish in this regard, though; characters tend to
look like they’re running in slow motion in the new framerate.
Rain still falls on the plane you’re standing on, regardless of whether land is there or
Stairs are still painted on with textures, and Link still spins around awkwardly to face
There’s almost a charming N64 crappiness to seeing these faults but it would have been
nicer to have them fixed.
And finally there’s the titular 3D effect, which I was one of the apparently few people
to actually like.
Some scenes showcase 3D so well it’s as if they were specifically made for it, and
in general the clarity added by the effect helped to offset the small, low res screen.
That being said, I prefer seeing the game in HD.
I’m not capturing this footage from a 3DS (gasps).
I dumped my copy to play in Citra, and as you can see, the game holds up surprisingly
well in HD aside from the textures, and maybe a few low res shadows.
If Nintendo and Grezzo have the textures in higher resolutions, they could very easily
put together an HD release that would look perfectly adequate on Switch.
The most common complaint against the game is that it’s far too bright and colorful.
Looking at the official artwork, it’s clear that the game was meant to have a more vivid
Disney-like style and I think the remake does a great job of realizing that.
The garish vibrance in castle town works especially well town by making the contrast between time
periods even more stark.
That said, there’s a solid argument to be made that the N64 limitations contributed
to the atmosphere of the original.
The dim lighting and fog required by the old hardware is practically a part of the forest
temple, which seems too clear and empty when those things are reduced on 3DS.
The shadow temple is also lacking a lot of the original grimness, and of course there’s
the infamous overbrightened Ganon.
The original look of this battle with Ganon silhouetted against the sky is still really
impressive, and it’s one of the few moments where the original just flat out looks better
than the remake.
Whatever they were going for with the lighting in the remake, none of the model and texture
improvements are enough to compensate for the loss of atmosphere.
There’s also a small amount of censorship in the music and visuals.
The original release had Gerudo symbols that were deemed too Islamic to use and were replaced
in later cartridges.
The original fire temple music was replaced for similar reasons.
Ganon’s blood was also changed from red to green, and thank god, because otherwise
this scene would have been violent.
The 3D version keeps these changes but goes a step further by also removing pretty much
all of the blood from the well, which diminishes the creepiness of the area even further.
In pretty much every case, I prefer the original uncensored version.
While changes like this are disappointing, it’s important to remember that the other
90% of the game looks dramatically better.
I made some similar nitpicks about Majora’s Mask 3D, but I don’t have a problem with
the overall look of these games.
In fact, it might be my favorite visual style in the series...
It just needs some tweaking here and there.
The music has also been overhauled and like Majora’s Mask 3D I don’t think it’s
necessarily an upgrade.
Higher quality samples are used, but the mixes and certain sounds are a little off: The difference
isn’t as pronounced as MM3D and you probably won’t notice unless you have good headphones,
but it’s worth pointing out.
They were originally going to recreate the tracks from scratch with modern samples, which
is what Wind Waker HD did.
But they abandoned that idea and mimicked the N64 sound instead.
With some tracks sounding worse than the original, I can’t help but wonder if they made the
Of course, if they had done a new soundtrack I’d be complaining that it was too different,
so... well played.
Beyond the audio and visual enhancements, the controls and UI have been updated as well.
The map, item, and gear screens are all moved to the touchscreen, which makes them faster
to navigate than the old pause menu.
This also leads to nice enhancements like moving the HUD to the bottom screen to reduce
clutter and the ability to review songs while playing the ocarina.
You’re technically losing an action button on 3DS compared to the N64, but the game makes
up for that by giving you two virtual buttons in the corners of the screen.
They’re not as reliable as buttons, but they’re perfectly fine for things like bottles.
My only complaint with the touchscreen is that it defaults to showing a pretty useless
map, which is made more redundant by the minimap that appears on the main screen, and switching
to the items menu still pauses the game like the original.
It would have been better to have the items displayed by default for real time selection,
which is how WWHD handled things.
But you didn’t come here for some touchscreen.
You came for GYRO AIM.
Ocarina of Time 3D was one of the earliest examples of modern gyro aim, and the game
pretty much got it exactly right from the start.
The aiming is very fast and responsive compared to an analog stick or the 3DS circle pad and
it generally makes short work of any targeting.
While this could potentially unbalance the difficulty, Ocarina of Time isn’t the sort
of game that emphasizes aiming much outside of the minigames.
It was designed for locking on and letting the game do the work.
Instead of breaking anything, gyro aim just lets you have more fun pushing how quickly
It was problematic on the original system due to the 3D effect, but it works much better
on the models with face tracking, and even better on an emulator with a stationary screen.
Nintendo toyed with the idea of using the gyro for full camera control, which I assume
might would have worked like Splatoon.
The problem was that they only had a few days to implement and test it, so they settled
for a limited view that can only be used when holding L. It’s better than nothing and
fans of the original will probably have no problem dropping back into the Z button camera,
but it’s the single most dated part of the game and the biggest potential turnoff to
Beyond the hardware related upgrades are a few gameplay specific changes, which is where
remakes really run the risk of screwing things up.
Luckily Ocarina of Time 3D is extremely conservative in this regard.
Most of the big changes are limited to just one location- the water temple, which is by
far the most criticised part of the game.
The challenge of the temple is to raise and lower the water level to access different
rooms while changing in and out of iron boots to sink and float, and both of those things
were handled poorly in the original game.
Using the iron boots required pausing the game and selecting them in the gear menu,
which was clumsy and became tiresome as the temple went on.
If I had to estimate, you probably need to do this 30 times before the dungeon is through.
The rooms where water could be controlled were also not marked in any way and the simple
triforce plaque didn’t make it clear what they were even for.
The remake has turned the boots into a normal item, so they can be swapped on or off at
the press of a button.
If you’ve never played the original, it’s hard to stress how much of a relief it is
to play this way.
Doorways leading to the water control rooms now have colored borders and symbols that
communicate what level the control will change to.
These are smart, surgical changes that don’t insult the player or give away too much of
They just reduce the frustration and make it much easier to actually enjoy the temple.
A boss rush mode was added in Link’s house, allowing players to easily replay any battle
and set time records.
The catch is that you can only use the items the developers have chosen for boss.
The master quest, which was previously only released in America on the GameCube version,
has been turned into a sort of hero mode for this release.
The whole game is mirrored, including Link himself, and enemies do double damage.
If you’re not familiar with the master quest, it basically rearranges the dungeon puzzles
and adds new obstacles.
I find it cheaper and less consistent than the normal game, but it’s a nice change
of pace if you want a different take on the game.
And finally new sheikah stones have been added to deliver hint movies to confused players.
I don’t have a problem with optional aids like this, but I do have a problem with the
Putting this goofy, bouncing stone in the temple of time brings down the solemn atmosphere
I get that they wanted it right near the starting point, but I wish they had stuck it out in
the town or field instead.
Navi has also been tweaked to interrupt with a few new messages, one of which suggests
visiting the new helper stones for advice while the other tells players to take a break
after an hour of play.
It would have been nice to give experienced players an option to disable Navi’s interruptions,
but I suppose having her bother the shit out of you is a part of the experience.
Beyond that, there really isn’t much to say.
There are a host of minor tweaks here and there, which I’ll rattle off now: The boomerang
can be recalled in mid-arc by pressing the throw button.
Bugs can no longer be recaptured after letting them out of a bottle.
Deku sticks no longer deal extreme damage.
The mask salesman’s shop now has his Majora’s Mask backpack and masks on display.
The lack of rumble on 3DS led to the stone of agony being replaced with a new item that
gives a visual cue when secrets are nearby.
The game no longer keeps track of how many times you’ve died, text scrolls much faster,
and so forth.
The only change that feels like a noticeable mistake is the roll after a steep fall.
Link would originally avoid fall damage by rolling as long as the stick was held forward.
This no longer works when falling above a certain height, and although I’ve read that
you can still roll by pressing A when hitting the ground, I’ve never gotten it to work.
The game still references this move, so it seems like a glitch that the developers didn’t
That said, it doesn’t come up enough to be much of an annoyance.
There was certainly room to push harder and update the game more dramatically.
The scale of Hyrule field was a technical achievement at the time, but now it’s a
dull, empty box without much to see or do compared to modern open worlds.
They could have added new content and treated it like a new game, but then you run the risk
of pushing too far and losing the original appeal, which I believe Majora’s Mask 3D
It’s clear from the interviews that everyone was on the same page with one shared goal:
don’t screw this up.
Ocarina of Time is the highest rated game in history.
While later Zeldas may have improved on specific aspects, no game has managed to be as consistently
good at everything across the board.
As the games got bigger, the worlds got emptier, the pacing became less consistent, and the
games struggled to find ways of standing out from Ocarina of Time while using the same
They’re all exceptionally good, but Ocarina of Time is still the best execution of that
Their goal with the remake wasn’t to reimagine it as a new game.
It was instead to protect it- how do we turn an N64 game into a 3DS game without losing
the appeal in translation?
They didn’t get everything exactly right, and it was made for handheld hardware that
dated so rapidly that it practically needs another remaster already.
But the important thing is what it didn’t do: they didn’t add in goofy scenes to mimic
a popular movie or wedge in mechanics that broke the original game design, they didn’t
carelessly port an unfinished beta version of the game and plaster comic sans anywhere,
and they didn’t treat it like a mistake that needed to be fixed.
They didn’t throw anything in the garbage.
But I’m throwing OBS in because it corrupted my captures while making this video, it’s
a piece of shit and it's got to go.
I bought Ocarina of Time when it launched on the Wii virtual console and ended up putting
it down pretty quickly.
Even back in 2007, time had not been kind to its blurry, blocky visuals, and it just
wasn’t the awe inspiring game I remembered it being.
But Ocarina of Time 3D made me feel like I was back in 1998 playing it for the first
time again; the visuals made it fresh and new again, but it still felt like the same
game I and pretty much everyone else on Earth loved.
A lot of people have described the remake as looking the way you mistakenly remember
the original game looking, and I think that’s just what it needed to do.
Remaking a game isn’t easy and it takes more work than people realize to get things
to feel the same as the original, let alone better.
Nintendo and Grezzo managed to make the most acclaimed game in history even better without
screwing it up.
That’s good enough for me.
It’s the version of the game that I picture when I think of Ocarina of Time, and I can’t
imagine going back to the original again.
In fact, the remake turned out so well that it immediately triggered a fan campaign for
Majora’s Mask to get the same treatment.
I can only hope that they show the same amount of care the next time the game gets released,
and maybe fix up the few shortcomings they had this time around in order to make it completely
They don't have far to go...