At E3 2010, Nintendo announced that The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was getting the remake treatment for the 3DS. Although regarded as the highest rated game of all time, sending Ocarina of Time to bat to represent the Legend of Zelda franchise on a new platform at this point is simply a bad idea.
We all know Ocarina of Time is a beloved game, and despite it being re-released for the Gamecube in 2003 and again in 2007 on the Wii’s Virtual Console Channel, my issue has nothing to do with Nintendo’s choice to push recycled content on us once again. My problem with the 3DS release is that it shows once again that Nintendo has no interest in earning the continued, yet waning hardcore fan loyalty they enjoy today. They also seem to be missing a huge opportunity to show off their new 3D capable handheld.
Whether intended or not, the Zelda franchise has long served as a vessel to show off Nintendo’s new technologies. The Legend of Zelda was the first game to use an internal battery to enable game saving to the physical cartridge, eliminating the need for players to use codes to continue progress. A Link to the Past showed off four level parallax scrolling, Mode-7 scaling, and the highest resolution sprites of any Nintendo game at that time. Ocarina of Time showed off full use of the N64′s unique controller by moving to a 3D graphical engine, while Majora’s Mask utilized the N64 Memory Expansion Pack. Wind Waker demonstrated the power of Gamecube’s cell-shading processor. Twilight Princess took advantage of the Wii’s motion controls, and Phantom Hourglass brings the DS stylus into play. Recently, Miyamoto revealed that the reason Ocarina of Time was selected for 3DS release was because he always wanted to see it in 3D (which I don’t buy), and because of its linear progression and lack of complexity. With the reputation Nintendo has earned as a developer who has abandoned their hardcore audience in favor of the shovelware buying casual crowd, this seems like a missed opportunity to turn the tide.
Nintendo has said that they have encountered some issues in development of their upcoming Zelda title for Wii, Skyward Sword, pushing it to “sometime” 2011. Since there is only one team that develops the portable and console Zelda games, I could see how they just wouldn’t have the resources to make a new Zelda game for the 3DS launch. There is a solution, and it’s one Nintendo has used several times in the past. The solution is to let another developer come in and take the reigns for a while so the core dev team can focus on catching up. In the past, Nintendo partnered with Capcom to produce the excellent Oracle of Ages/Seasons games, as well as the Minish Cap. Considering their track record of high quality in their DS development, maybe it’s time to tap Capcom for their help again.
As a fan of the Zelda series from day one, I am excited to see Ocarina of Time and, much more so, Link’s Awakening getting released on the 3DS. An actual remake of Link to the Past using the Phantom Hourglass engine would be nice. I’d also love to see the other GBC/GBA games released onto the 3DS Virtual Console. Just sayin’…
Recently it’s been rumored that Ocarina of Time will include the 64DD and Gamecube exclusive “Master Quest“, which is a nice bonus for sure. Obviously, there will be a proper Zelda game released for 3DS, but just like Mario 64 was a cheap copout to get Mario on the DS, Ocarina of Time feels very much the same. This just isn’t how you show your fans that you care about retaining them. Regardless of the direction they ultimately take, the new 3DS Zelda game should take full advantage of the 3D capabilities in puzzle solving and exploration. Unfortunately, it should be ready and available at (the very lackluster) launch. I’d even be okay with a Luigi’s Mansion style offering for launch day. The Legend of Midna could be a fresh look for a tiring DS game engine while adding depth to the end game scenario from Twilight Princess, but that is a different story.