Recommendation for a First 3D Legend of Zelda Experience

Zelda U E3 2014

A while back, I was talking with some friends and one of the girls asked what our recommendation for a first Legend of Zelda title to play was. When talking about 2D, the answer was A Link to the Past. 3D titles had a little more debate, but the consensus was Ocarina of Time.

Why Ocarina of Time? Putting aside favoritism (and fear of the cliché), it really was the best game for introducing the series. The pacing was well done. It struck the perfect balance for hardcore and not so hardcore gamers. The gameplay was amazing and is timeless. The mood and tone were also perfect. The story may be somewhat simple but it’s good, right amount of content and cutscenes, and basically a standard for Fantasy titles. Now to address these points in contrast to the other games.

When we discussed Twilight Princess, one of the first objections was the slow start. This is someone’s first experience with Zelda. It cannot be slow and boring to start off with. While the game turns out to be an epic adventure, the beginning is more like a slow and boring folk tale. Ocarina of Time doesn’t suffer from such a start. The first moment is filled with excitement as you feel the air of the forest and soon grab a sword and run into the first dungeon. It also doesn’t suffer from a drop in pace toward the end, like Wind Waker. It has a consistent pace.

When it comes to games, hardcore players tend to prefer Twilight Princess (and Majora’s Mask, but for purposes of allusion I’ll use TP) and casual tend to enjoy Wind Waker. Part of it is the tone. Twilight Princess is considered dark, while Wind Waker is opposite. Ocarina of Time strikes the middle and is why it can be loved by such a massive audience that neither of the other two can claim. There is the optimistic and lively air of childhood (WW) mixed with the gloomy world of adults (Twilight Princess) thanks to the time travel mechanic. Thus, Ocarina really does implement the tones of the other two games and balances them well. Skyward Sword attempted the middle, but went down a different path. It’s a good game, and I liked the tone, but it didn’t strike fans the same way Ocarina of Time did.

Also, considering again this is someone’s first experience, it’s hard to say which style fans would prefer. There’s the realistic Twilight Princess or the cartoony Wind Waker. Both have great graphics, but it’s divisive. Ocarina’s style falls in the middle. It was realistic for it’s time, but now it is fantastical. It’s easy for fans of either of the aforementioned styles to appreciate. I think Skyward Sword also did a good job with the balance as well, though if you don’t care for Romantic or Impressionistic Art, you would have a different opinion.

Now for gameplay. I say all of the titles have good gameplay. That is one of the great things about the series. However, Ocarina is the base for all the others. One thing that can be said for Ocarina is that it’s gameplay is not diminished by lack of the features found in other games. There’s no transforming into a wolf or controlling a boat for hours. The gameplay is consistent and fun. The biggest variance comes from riding Epona which never seems to grow old. There is nothing that really prevents me from going back to play again (besides perhaps the water temple, but I actually didn’t have problems my first time through, and the 3D edition addressed it).

For a first experience, I can’t recommend Majora’s Mask. I think that game is a little too much on the hardcore side and the 3 day mechanic can be frustrating to a newbie. The purpose of recommending a first game is to give a great experience that will encourage someone to try the others later. So while Majora’s Mask takes a lot of the gameplay from Ocarina of Time in addition to adding quite a bit more, it’s too risky to recommend to someone who has never played a game in the Legend of Zelda franchise before.

Next is size. One problem with Wind Waker and Twilight Princess is how big they are. This leads to a problem in pacing. For those two games, you practically can’t wait to be able to warp. Riding Epona is still fun in Twilight Princess but it’s more of a necessity. In Ocarina of Time, you still get to warp, but riding Epona is just fun. The world is relatively big, but it’s not a hassle to walk when you don’t have your beloved steed. You could get through the game without Epona just fine. In Skyward Sword, riding the bird isn’t as much fun, especially with the mandatory aspect of it, like the boat in Wind Waker.

Never needed, but always fun

Rarely needed, but always fun

For story, we might think Ocarina of Time to be simple. Perhaps it is, but that also might be because we know it and talked about it so much. Either way, it’s still a good story. The cutscenes and dialogue were never too long for me. I probably actually wanted more cutscenes at first because I wanted to know more about the world created here. However, the length of the game hits the bullseye.

Controls for the game will vary depending on which system and controller you’re using, but they all work well. The 3DS version I say is the best due to the added gyrocontrols which made 1st person actions faster and more intuitive and due to the better menu system allocated to the bottom screen. The controls for the other games are not a problem. The only one that’s debatable is Skyward Sword . It’s generally a hit or miss if you get the controls to work well. I think the main problem for people is that they don’t know how the controller operates. It uses Wiimotion Plus and that alone. The IR is only used for starting the game up. Other than that, it works like Wii Sports Resort and resets automatically based off it’s position at certain times (if you played the archery in Wii Sports Resort, you should know that’s how it works). If I needed to manually reset the controller, I knew when it was the right time to do so.

Graphics are perhaps the weakest suit for Ocarina of Time. They were great then, but not so much now. However, that is addressed in the 3D edition for the 3DS. Not only are the graphics updated and polished, but gameplay mechanics are improved as well. The menu system is probably the best and the ability to go into sleep mode is a blessing. They also added a few more features such as boss battles and hint stones if you want to use them. They also included Master Quest, the more difficult version. This title is certainly a reason to get a 3DS.

There is so much more detail and lighting here

There is so much more detail and lighting here

The original back in the day

The original back in the day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When it comes to showing people what The Legend of Zelda is about, I can’t think of a better game than Ocarina of Time. I enjoyed all of the games, but the ease of entry and replayability, uncontroversial graphical tone, legendary music and core gameplay make this classic a great entry point. When this is the first experience, it’s easy to play any of the other 3D games as they all derive their gameplay from Ocarina of Time.

What’s your recommendation and how would you argue for it?

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About The Author

Feature Writer/Game Reviewer

Blogger in the IGN community and no longer for Always Nintendo. You can find him still blogging in the IGN community as FalconRise