The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages
The Legend of Zelda: Oracles of Seasons and Oracle of Ages have both just arrived on the Virtual Console for 3DS. The two games constitute two entirely independent experiences, but they also work together as a single whole. So we've followed suit, producing two entirely independent reviews and then combining them to see what comes of it. Alexander Beech: There are few franchises as ingrained in gaming's collective memory as The Legend of Zelda. From the storyline to the gameplay structure, each instalment follows the same reassuringly familiar pattern. While this inevitably means that the series is occasionally guilty of stagnation, its heritage and its polished blend of adventure and puzzling always ensures a nostalgic experience.

Vaughn Highfield: The Legend of Zelda has a heritage unlike any other action-adventure series.

The games provide a beautiful mix of puzzles and exploration as you triumph over evil and rescue the Princess Zelda. The key elements may rarely ever change, but each entry is a new attempt to create a legend.

Plot AB: Oracle of Ages begins with Link being transported to Labrynna. Immediately after arriving in the new land he's tricked by Veran, the Sorceress of Shadows, into helping her possess Nayru, the Oracle of Ages. Using the Oracle's powers, Veran travels through time in order to change history and plunge the world into darkness. With time crumbling around him, Link embarks on a quest to find the eight Essence of Times, rescue Nayru, and be generally heroic. VH: Venturing outside the series' template, Oracle of Seasons removes the titular heroine from the story.

This time around the legendary Triforce sucks our pointy-eared, green-clad hero into the world of Holodrum. Here he meets Din, the Oracle of Seasons, whereupon Onox - "The General of Darkness" - promptly kidnaps her.

With no Oracle, the seasons of Holodrum fall into disarray, and it's down to Link to restore the eight Essences of Nature and rescue Din.


VH: Exploring Holodrum and the subterranean fiery land of Subrosia is necessary and, thankfully, enjoyable. You have to revisit areas with new equipment retrieved from dungeons and side-quests in order to move the story forward.

AB: Oracle of Ages follows the Zelda formula perfectly, right down to the world map, with its mountain, ocean, graveyard, desert, and town in need of saving. Each area has an appropriately themed dungeon, offering a host of devious puzzles based around the equipment hidden within.

The Zelda games are so established in gaming history that their blend of puzzles, action, and charm prove utterly familiar. VH: A new path inevitably ends in exploring a new dungeon or uncovering a peculiar side-quest you didn't even expect to find.

But that's not where the interesting mechanics lie. Because of Din's disappearance, the crux of Oracle of Seasons's gameplay revolves around altering seasons.

Each alteration transforms the environment of Holodrum, affecting how you interact with the world.

AB: Oracle of Ages offers its own twist on this cookie cutter formula: the addition of time travel, requiring you think about puzzles and side-quests in four dimensions. Well, technically three dimensions. Since Oracle of Ages is 2D you can ignore the third, but you definitely have to consider the fourth. VH: Winter freezes lakes, bridges gaps with snow, and opens previously inaccessible paths by killing vegetation, while autumn causes leaves to cover the ground, hiding bottomless pits and enemies underneath.

Summer sees the growth of vines, providing access to higher ledges and hidden groves, and spring allows flowers to bloom and propel you up cliff faces.

Making use of your Rod of Seasons, you'll need to cycle between the four terms to navigate Holodrum successfully, finding everything you'll need to move forward.

AB: Though often used as part of Oracle of Ages's navigation, this time trickery really gets interesting when seeing what Veran has done to the timeline. You have to find problems in one era, and then use that knowledge to manipulate the laws of causality to put them right.

It's perfectly Zelda. The greatest complaint that you might level at Oracle of Ages is that it was designed to be controlled with only two buttons. The result is some fiddly item-management that will have you cursing your own lack of foresight.


AB: Though I suspect there will be generational differences in how people respond to any Game Boy Color game, Oracle of Ages looks great. It perfectly reproduces the Zelda universe within the limitations of the technology on offer, with each little sprite's measured allotment of frames conveying as much personality as any modern game.

So much is achieved with so little that it is hard not to be impressed, communicating the two different timelines perfectly with only some subtle colour changes and graphical tweaks.

VH: It must be said that the Game Boy Color visuals look absolutely beautiful on the 3DS screen. They're sharp, bright, and have a pleasing chunkiness to them that adds charm to the world you're exploring.

The spectacle of the changing seasons, bathing the screen in colour, is never less than beautiful.

However, some things haven't aged too well - the menu system remains cumbersome, with a rather clunky layout that hinders rather than helps.

Thankfully, time can't sully the pleasingly jaunty tunes that your 3DS will spew out as you uncover secrets and thwart evil across Holodrum.

Summing up

AB: Zelda's timeless nature means that playing Oracle of Ages is like putting on a favourite album: it doesn't matter how old it is - it still feels as fresh as the first time you played it. VH: While you'll really need to play Oracle of Ages to get the full package, including the hidden ending gained from continuing your save across both games, it's great to see that nothing can shake the greatness from Link's legendary journey. AB: Though there are some irritating hangovers from its Game Boy Color origins - and the fact you'll have to play Oracle of Seasons to get the 'true' ending - Oracle of Ages's gameplay and charm do more than enough to earn it a place in history. VH: While it's hard to say that this is as golden as it once was, especially with the innovations that later entries have brought, it still remains a must-play title for both fans and newcomers alike.

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages

In both the past and the present, The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages, is a charming and well-crafted game
Alexander Beech
Alexander Beech
After seven years living in Japan, pocket gaming isn't so much a choice for Alex as it is a way of life. True, he could have woken up at 6am each day to play with friends online in the UK, but he was never a morning person. Instead, he preferred a succession of meaningless encounters with Japanese teenagers. Now, he is hooked.