The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages- Review  

Time Lag
by Lucky Melchior

Less than 20 Hours
+ Excellent battle system.
+ Simple and effective menue system.
- Underwhelming story.
- Poorly implemented time travel system.
- Little Originality.
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   In 2001 Nintendo released two simultaneous Zelda titles for the fading Gameboy Color system, titled Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons. The games were unique in that you could transfer data between each game and that they were not developed by Nintendo, but instead by Capcom. This review is of Oracle of Ages.

   This game employs the famous Zelda battle system and more specifically mirrors the battle system in Link's Awakening. The overworld and dungeons are displayed from a top-down perspective. You encounter enemies in real-time in dungeons and on the overworld. You have a trusty sword, that you can hack and slash at enemies with; a shield to repel certain projectiles, both your sword and shield can be upgraded as you progress through the game, and a cache of other tools and equipment to use. These tools include classic Zelda staples such as bombs, the hookshot, etc. The only real twist to the tools is that magic powder is replaced by five different types of seeds. Each seed has it's own unique properties; such as ember seeds to light torches or burn trees, or gale seeds to warp to different points on the map. However, unlike most Zelda titles, except Link's Awakening, your sword and shield are no longer fixed to a particular button. Rather, you assign two items to either the "A" or "B" buttons. It is possible to have neither your sword nor your shield equipped, but two tools. As with most Zelda titles puzzle solving is also a key component of the gameplay. Another small addition to the battle system is that you can equip rings that give you special skills or effect certain attributes. One last additional gameplay element is that now you have friends who can help you. There are three different creatures that you can enlist as a partner at certain times during the game. You will eventually get a flute that can summon one of them. Overall, the battle system and gameplay are excellent as you would expect from a Zelda title.

Typical cache of tools. Typical cache of tools.

   The story is totally out of left field. As with Link's Awakening, the story does not take place in Hyrule. Instead the Triforce warps him to the strange land of Labrynna. There Link just happens to meet Zelda's hand-maiden, Impa. She just so happens to need Links help to move a stone with a Triforce marking on it. Behind the stone they find a girl singing who is the Oracle of Ages. Impa, it turns out, is possessed by the Sorceress of Shadows who proceeds to possess the Oracle of Ages and use her powers to travel to the past. Link must follow into the past and, in typical Zelda fare, collect 8 essences of time to save the day. The story is limited, in the style of action adventure games, and is below average overall.

   While the concept of time travel is not new to the Zelda series, this is the first time it is the center of the gameplay. Unfortunately, the time travel system is poorly implemented and under utilized. There are only two eras to visit, the past and the present, and time travel is very restrictive. Early on in the game you will only be able to use the harp of ages to open certain time portals, later in the game you will learn songs that can take you back and forth at will. While time-travel is the overall theme of the story arch, it does little to advance the plot as you progress through the game. The main purpose of time travel is to add more to the puzzles. Again, unfortunately it is implemented poorly and becomes tedious. Too often you have to go to the past to do something as simple as planting a seed to grow a vine to be used as a ladder in the present, or going to the present to find something that wasn't invented yet. It is simple and tedious, especially considering the restrictive nature of time travel in the first half of the game.

Use this to travel to the past. Use this to travel to the past.

   The visuals, while not bad, are very unassuming. The game boasts roughly the same set of sprites from Link's Awakening, but there are some new ones. The color scheme is not awful, but is below average. The soundtrack is average at best, which is unusual for a Zelda title. While the famous Zelda theme is present throughout the game, which is an enjoyable tune of course, the rest of the tracks are mediocre. The town theme in particular I found shrill and very annoying.

   The interaction and interface are excellent. Oracle of Ages has essentially the same menu system as Link's Awakening. It is simple and effective. Pressing start brings up the menu which is divided into two screens. The first screen displays your sword, shield and tools. You can select which items you want assigned to the "A" and "B" buttons. On the second screen your quest status is displayed. This will show all your unequippable items such as keys and how many artifacts you have collected do far. Moreover, it will display how many pieces or heart you have. Pressing the "select" button will bring up the map screen. Overall Oracle of Ages interfaces reasonably well with the player.

   The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages has a lot of flaws. It has an underwhelming story, numerous tedious puzzles revolving around time travel, unassuming visual and aural presentation and feels like a derivative of Link's Awakening. It has that cheap carbon copy sequel feel that so often Capcom games have. However, the excellent, addictive Zelda gameplay will ensure that RPGamers will at least have an average gaming experience.

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