(Game Boy Color)

Game Review

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Patrick Elliot

A song for the ages

Ever since The Legend of Zelda released on the NES, Nintendo has played the franchise relatively close to its chest. Series creator Shigeru Miyamoto has had a hand in almost every release to date, and before the new millennium, Nintendo EAD handled development of each and every Zelda title. But when Nintendo wanted an all-new Zelda trilogy for the ageing Game Boy Color, it reached out to Flagship, a Capcom development team specialising in creating game scenarios and story development. It was the first time a third-party developer was entrusted with the official Zelda canon.

Hence Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons were born. Originally conceived as a trilogy, each title was to be based on a single piece of the triforce: Power, Courage and Wisdom. The games would each have a unique world and story, but could also be played together — in any order — via a code system, revealing an over-arching storyline and extra boss battles. Implementing such a code system across three games proved too cumbersome, so a time-strapped Nintendo had Flagship scrap the Courage game, transforming the remaining two into the Oracle games. All these years later both titles arrive on the 3DS Virtual Console, with that code linking system intact.

Based off the Wisdom element of the Triforce, Oracle of Ages remains one of the most puzzle-heavy games in the series. That's because like Ocarina of Time before it, the story jumps between two timelines but, unlike Ocarina, Ages’ time mechanic is central to gameplay, requiring the player to constantly shift between past and present to solve puzzles and advance the game. This makes the simple act of navigating the world all the more entertaining, as you'll be manipulating time in order to change landscapes and alter the present day.

The power to do so comes from the Harp of Ages, an instrument Link receives when Nayru — the Oracle of Ages herself — leaves it behind after becoming possessed by the evil sorceress Veran. In order to stop Veran from using Nayru’s body to travel into the past and alter history, Link must use the harp to flip-flop between eras, enabling him to traverse areas that might have become impassable due to the ravages of time, but are easily overcome in the past.

Like any good Zelda game, Link’s powers are limited at first, allowing him to only activate portals to the past by playing the Tune of Echos. This means in order to navigate across dual timelines, the player must seek out more portals, which are frequently hidden. This gives the player a solid reason to partake in one of the most beloved Zelda pastimes — cutting grass. Beside netting the player hearts and rupees, mowing the lawn also periodically reveals portals, a necessity for advancing the game. Portals become increasingly harder to find, giving the game a strong emphasis on exploration. Thankfully, Oracle of Ages' zany characters and diverse world make that a very good thing.

The cast of characters that drive the plot are lovably finespun. Staples like Zoras and Gorons offer the expected levels of levity, but it's the characters unique to Oracle of Ages' story that really shine through. One of the best has to be Nayru's overly-idealistic bodyguard Ralph, who regardless of being painfully ineffectual is still seen frequently rushing into the next area ahead of Link. Then there's Queen Ambi, the leader of Labrynna's past whom Veran seeks to control, seen transforming from a forlorn romantic into a deranged tyrant. Finally, there's the pesky Maple, daughter of Syrup who both steals items from Link and doles out some of the best treasures in the game. Dutiful adventurers will discover even more connections between characters, as new items open up areas that can fill in even more of the story.

While mainstay items like the boomerang and Master Sword return, the game can actually be completed without the player ever even obtaining them. That's because aside from acquiring items from dungeons and treasure chests, you also can complete games and trade with NPCs to gain new equipment. There are all-new items for Link to use, like the ricocheting Seed Shooter, which can angle off walls to solve puzzles and activate distant switches. But if Link hopes to receive and upgrade each weapon in the game, he needs to explore the game's side-stories across both eras.

On top of that, it implements a ring system that can augment Link’s power, adding an extra level of strategy to the game. Rings can increase attack power when life is low, boost your defence and even transform Link into a Like-Like. Some will actually decrease your powers though, so make sure to get your rings “appraised” by the game’s quirky, snake-training ring collector Vasu. While many rings can be obtained from treasure chests, the rare ones are gained by playing games and planting Gasha seeds (which grow treasure-bearing trees in the future), giving you even more incentive to explore Labrynna.

Aside from items, the Oracle games also introduce all-new mounts for Link to ride. Instead of Epona, there’s Ricky the boxing Kangaroo, Dimitri the swimming Dodongo and best of all the lovable Moosh, a big blue bear with comically tiny wings that grant him limited bursts of flight. These mounted segments are confined to just a few scenarios — some of which can be missed on a single playthough — but they serve both as comic relief and a way for the game to shoehorn in additional puzzles. One instance has you rescuing Moosh from the Lost Woods, then using him to traverse a previously impassable area to gather up some lazy carpenters, enabling them to finish a bridge and get you access to the next area.

Graphically, the game certainly wasn’t blazing any trails in 2001; borrowing from the engine used in Link's Awakening DX, Oracle of Ages shares many visual similarities with the GBC remake. Enemy sprites are reused and the colour spectrum is rather limited, but nevertheless the game still delivers an engrossing world thanks to the careful design of Labrynna and the powerful dichotomy between time eras, with past Labrynna's dreary upheaval clashing with the colourful and cheerful present day.

Zelda games are well-known for their boss battles, and Oracle of Ages doesn't disappoint. The bosses here are varied, intricate and — for the most part — fantastic. The first few may be a breeze, but later in the game you'll have to use a slew of items and equipment to win. The limited interface can make this endeavour a bit muddled, especially when you need to use multiple items in succession, as frequently pausing to remap your buttons really breaks up the action. Regardless, the strategies required to defeat later bosses may have you stumped for a bit, but figuring out the formula and overpowering your opponents feels as rewarding as ever.

Once you've finished the game, you're treated to some pixel cut scenes and teased to play the other game in the pair, which you'll hopefully have nestled on your 3DS SD card. The story of Ages is all wound up and comes to a satisfying end, but it's hinted that another villain may have play a role, and to stop them you'll have to play Seasons as well, linking your next game with the code you receive at the end. If you beat Oracle of Seasons first, the same would happen vice-versa.

Conclusion

Oracle of Ages somehow feels both new and familiar at the same time. While many beloved Zelda tropes remain, the game still takes plenty of chances, many of which really pay off. Link may have already done some time-travelling in Ocarina of Time, but in Oracle of Ages it becomes the central aspect of gameplay, making way for a puzzle-heavy adventure nuanced by colourful characters, interesting items and a plot much unlike those previously seen in the franchise. Link's Awakening may have given birth to its game engine, but Ages feel like a game all its own. While it may not be the most traditional Zelda game out there, that's certainly not a reason to avoid it: if anything, it's revival on the 3DS provides the perfect opportunity to experience what it has to offer.

Sponsored links by Taboola

More Stories

User Comments (64)

Squashie

#1

Squashie said:

I haven't yet completed Link's Awakening, so I will pick this and Oracle of Seasons up when I do (providing I get the time to).

RaylaxStaff

#2

Raylax said:

Just started playing this. Love it~ Never got to play this one first time around, played the heck out of Seasons though.

Tornado

#3

Tornado said:

"Ever since The Legend of Zelda released on the NES, Nintendo has played the franchise relatively close to its chest. . . . before the new millennium, Nintendo EAD handled development of each and every Zelda title."

The CD-I titles say "hi." :-)

SLiM

#4

SLiM said:

Enjoying this a lot right now! I will most likely download Seasons after I finish it.

ikki5

#8

ikki5 said:

well, I started with Seasons for the moment, will play ages once I am done :D

DarkNinja9

#9

DarkNinja9 said:

grrrr so wanted to get these 2 and i thought they were going to be for wii u but guess not -_- i have money on my account not able to spend

bezerker99

#10

bezerker99 said:

Ages is so good!!! It even gives A Link to the Past a run for it's money as far as best 2D Zelda game.

6ch6ris6

#11

6ch6ris6 said:

i still regret buying link's awakening. zelda games are just not for me i guess

Late

#12

Late said:

I started with Ages. I like it but I'm kinda stuck at the moment in third dungeon. I'm not entirely sure what I'm supposed to do but I guess I'll figure it out on my own after a while.

Tornado

#14

Tornado said:

@OldMan-Tech I'm well aware the CD-i games are "non-canon," but "non-canon" isn't the same thing as "doesn't exist." The intro to this article seems to claim they don't exist. In other words, the claim that Nintendo always kept an uber-tight rein on the Zelda series pre-Oracle just isn't true.

But more pertinently--yes, these are great games. I liked Ages more than seasons--the time travel element was a better mechanic than the seasons-changing mechanic, IMO--but both solid, excellent titles. Never beat the Cave of Heroes at the end of the linked game--that was TOUGH (was playing the Seasons version). Good replay value in these titles, too.

ikki5

#15

ikki5 said:

@Tornado

um... the Zelda CD-i games were not done by Nintendo, they were done by Philips and it was done because the negotiations with Nintendo and a decision not to have Philips create a CD. However with these Negotiations, Philips got the rights to use some Nintendo Characters and so they made the Zelda Atrocities.

Tornado

#16

Tornado said:

@ikki5 I'm well aware of the history. And you've proven my point. Which is that this article's claim:

"Ever since The Legend of Zelda released on the NES, Nintendo has played the franchise relatively close to its chest. . . . before the new millennium, Nintendo EAD handled development of each and every Zelda title."

... is just plain incorrect.

AbuJaffer

#18

AbuJaffer said:

@Tornado "It was the first time a third-party developer was entrusted with the official Zelda canon."

By separating your quote from the rest of the article, you may give the illusion of being correct. But if you'd read the rest of the paragraph, let alone the rest of the article, it would become painfully clear that you're in the wrong here. If the quote was in a much later part of the article it wouldn't be that big of a deal, but it was literally a sentence away; you spent all that time writing responses to other people, when you couldn't spare the 10 seconds spent in reading the next two lines?

Tethers

#19

Tethers said:

For me this game is way better than "The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening" and deserves a 10/10.

Tornado

#20

Tornado said:

@AbuJaffer: "It was the first time a third-party developer was entrusted with the official Zelda canon" is a different claim than "Before the new millennium, Nintendo EAD handled development of each and every Zelda title." One claim is correct. The other is not.

Phantom_R

#21

Phantom_R said:

A 9/10? As in, there is something wrong with this game? Leave this website, Nintendolife. Never come back.

-Crystalline-

#22

-Crystalline- said:

QUESTION, GUYS:

Once I purchase both titles, and whatever I feel like buying afterwards, will I be able to take all that data into a new console, should that be necessary? Do things get stored in the memory card?

If so, then will this only work if I'm using a console bought in my region?

Thanks a bunch!

Pichuka97

#23

Pichuka97 said:

If you buy a new console from whatever region your 3DS is from, then you can transfer it to another console but not one from another region. Great review, I love this game.

ouroborous

#24

ouroborous said:

Never played Ages all the way through but LOVED Seasons. Played it during the GameBoy SP days. I own a copy of both original carts. Glad to see these games which were pretty much totally lost to time resurfaced. I think they came out toward the very end of GameBoy Color at a point which nobody really cared, which was just unfortunate timing because they are still great games.

LinktotheFuture

#25

LinktotheFuture said:

Looking forward to playing both Oracle games for the first time.

I can't wait for the day that A Link To The Past is available on the 3DS VC, so I can have all of my favorites on the go.

DerpSandwich

#26

DerpSandwich said:

I can't even express how much I loved these games as a kid. Combined, they provided the most epic, rich gaming experience I'd ever had. There's just an enormous wealth of content in these little games, and trading passwords back and forth to get items and progress the story is incredibly satisfying.

I'm not sure if anyone's mentioned it yet, but interesting fact: there is a building in each of the games that could originally only be accessed if you played them in a Gameboy Advance.

Blizzaga

#27

Blizzaga said:

@DarkNinja9 Why on Earth did you think that? No offense, but the news has been out for quite some time now that Oracle of Ages and Seasons were coming to the 3DS eShop.

EarthboundBenjy

#28

EarthboundBenjy said:

These two were my life for a long time as a small child. Walking around every inch of Labrynna, Holodrum and of course Subrosia. There's just a crazy amount of stuff to do in these games.

My only complaint is that you can't visit every square of the map on your first playthrough. There's this one tiny square in the ocean that Link just can't get to without playing a linked game that started from Seasons. Drives me crazy. :/

biglittlejake

#30

biglittlejake said:

I will get this later this Summer, when I get I also will get a 3 ds later this Summer. It looks really fun.

evanescent_hero

#31

evanescent_hero said:

I consider these two to be one game (that's how they're meant to be played), and that game is my fourth-favorite Zelda and my absolute favorite top-down Zelda.

Personally I like Ages more.

Also, the CD-i games don't count. Stop arguing about them. They're not official Zelda games, Nintendo never discusses them, and we all wish they never existed.
These are the first real third-party Zeldas.

FOURSIDE_BOY

#32

FOURSIDE_BOY said:

A 9???? this is a perfect masterpiece of dungeon-making, the fact that it has mermaid's cave or jabu jabu's belly should be enough to get a 10.

RR529

#33

RR529 said:

Never played either of these before. Hope to grab them next week!

ecco6t9

#36

ecco6t9 said:

Now the waiting game for "This game is too hard!" to appear on the internet,

mikeyman64

#37

mikeyman64 said:

I went ahead and got them both (why not?), but I will say that Ages was my favorite of the two.

alvieao

#39

alvieao said:

The other of the two interlinked Zelda games developed by Capcom subsidiary Flagship for Game Boy Color in 2001, Ages is the most puzzle-heavy out of the duo. Ages’ storyline is compelling but not more interesting than Seasons. Still, there are some memorable characters including those from Majora’s Mask (especially Tingle!). They both make great standalone titles, but playing Seasons and Ages together culminates into a massively epic Zelda adventure. That said, Nintendo and Capcom did a fantastic job with Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages. Despite these Zelda adventures being overlooked after 12 years, they remain timeless Game Boy Color masterpieces.

mralloverit

#40

mralloverit said:

@Phantom_R
A 9/10 does not mean that there was anything wrong with the game. It basically says that no matter how good the game is, there is always room for improvement. So, by that logic, no game should ever get a 10 because there is always something that can be done to make a game better.

Boyoshi

#41

Boyoshi said:

I have a real copy of this game and just purchased seasons. I loved the story and the puzzles were challenging and engrossing. I am very much enjoying the hero's mode on seasons and looking forward too the 'ultimate story' at the end that the games promised :)

Mikau94

#42

Mikau94 said:

If you play them together (the way they are meant to be played) you have a unique and amazing adventure. I'm disappointed with the scores for both.

Hyperfyter

#43

Hyperfyter said:

i had these games waaaay back, i remember beating ages but not seasons, unsure if i should buy them for my 3ds though.....but i should decide now cause its 5 dollars till the 20th of june

k8sMum

#44

k8sMum said:

i downloaded Ages last night and am loving it. i didn't play handhelds much til the ds and onwards. i was mostly console gaming. my kids played them all, tho.

i like Ages much more than i do Link's Awakening. i do want ALTTP tho, as it's my son's favourite.

it's neat that i can now play games that they loved back in the day, lol.

BlackStar9000

#45

BlackStar9000 said:

@6ch6ris6 go and sit in a corner, then again, if you didnt play these back in the day they would seem awfully dated i assume unless you are a old school fan.

AbuJaffer

#46

AbuJaffer said:

@Tornado God forbid they separate a statement into two sentences. [facepalm]

Would taking away the big bad period and putting the two sentences together make it all right? Or do you consider compound sentences two different "claims"? Get over it, just admit you didn't read the second sentence and were making a fuss over nothing. Apparently, it's much easier for you to believe the writer of the article has a split personality than it is for you to have overlooked a sentence.

squirrelguys

#48

squirrelguys said:

got this thursday and haven't really put it down. Planning on getting OoS when I finish this one.

But I do have the cartridges of both of them.

GamerZack87

#50

GamerZack87 said:

I think the graphics of both this and Zeldamon: Power Version are the best the GBC has to offer by far. :o

Also, I never really liked Moosh all that much. Just riding him in the sneak-peek at Yoll Graveyard frustrated me. I must have fallen into pits 20 times! Give me Dimitri or Ricky any day. ;)

CanisWolfred

#51

CanisWolfred said:

Worst Zelda after Zelda 2, in my opinion. The puzzles sucked and were too hard, the story wasn't as good as Season's, and I didn't find the world and mechanics that interesting or memorable.

@Tornado They are the same damn claim, and you know it. The later sentence was a clarification of the previous one.

Ray-Man

#52

Ray-Man said:

Whoops, there's a typo, Nintendo Life! The score says "9 out of 10" instead of "10 out of 10". That's okay; everyone makes mistakes. ;)

Luffymcduck

#53

Luffymcduck said:

@CanisWolfred
The funny thing is as this was the first Zelda I ever completed I found the puzzles to be boring in Link to the Past.

For me this is among the best of 2D Zelda´s, other favourite possibly Minish Cap.

electroworld

#54

electroworld said:

I keep getting stuck on the puzzles. As a long time zelda fan, I'm so glad I started with Ages.

Oscarsome

#56

Oscarsome said:

I, unfortunately, never got a chance to play the Oracle games. I don't remember why. I was a Zelda fan already, but I think I just was too young and didn't have money lol. But now I am playing through Ages and wow! This game is PACKED with content. I love it. Though the swimming is so annoying, especially when you get to a certain dungeon. You have to keep pressing the direction pad and it's tiring. Water "temples" always suck!

Dpishere

#57

Dpishere said:

Seeing as I always wanted to play these as a kid but was never able to, it seems like a no-brainer to get them now! Especially at just 5 bucks a piece!

Hairmanban19

#61

Hairmanban19 said:

@Stormer234 when you press start it will go to your inventory. Once you are in your inventory you press Y button and it'll go to the submenu. If you press Y button again it goes to other menus.

DarkCoolEdge

#64

DarkCoolEdge said:

I'm playing it these days and it's a great game. When I finish it I'll restart Seasons to see the true ending.

Leave A Comment

Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...