(Game Boy Color)

Game Review

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Patrick Elliot

Battle seasoned

The central combat mechanics of The Legend of Zelda series has seen several iterations over the decades. The classic top-down gameplay of the original was morphed into a faster, action heavy side-scroller in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, only to be abandoned itself for a return to form in A Link to the Past. While the promise of 3D worlds and Z-targeting eventually led Nintendo to abandon the classic top-down approach on consoles (Four Swords aside), traditional Zelda design lived on in the handheld realm. From Link's Awakening to Minish Cap, Link's overhead adventures continued, and sandwiched between the two were the interlinked Oracle games on the Game Boy Color.

Now arriving on the 3DS Virtual Console at the same time, Oracle of Ages serves to highlight the puzzle elements of this classic design, while Oracle of Seasons zeroes in on the action. Based off the Power element of the Triforce, Seasons goes for a much more straightforward adventure, keeping puzzles light and pitting Link against tougher enemies much earlier in the game. If you play this game second out of the two, you'll notice right off the bat just how much more aggressive and durable your enemies are compared to those found in Ages.

While the battles won't really compare with the slick scuffles of Link's 3D quests, Oracle of Seasons combat certainly feels more challenging than its handheld cousins, especially when compared to the tap-and-attack gameplay of the DS entries. While the touch controls of those portable adventures felt refreshing, it's always nice to return to that classic Zelda action, with a trusty sword mapped to one button and your item of choice mapped to the other.

Yet while combat is enjoyable, the story may fail to impress, especially when compared to the tale found in Ages. Set in the town of Holodrum, Link is summoned to the land by the Triforce, where he stumbles upon a girl named Din and her group of travelling performers. Soon after, an evil General named Onox appears, revealing Din to be the Oracle of Seasons and casting Link aside as he steals her away. Din's absence plummets the land's seasons into chaos and Link is again tasked with setting the world back to normal. But after that introductory narrative ends, the game fails to really develop the story much further.

Seasons is a battle-centered game, and as such never really captures the kind of wit and charm found in Ages' storytelling. While both share some lovable characters — such as the comically antagonistic Maple and lovable mounts Dimitri, Moosh and Ricky — Ages' yarn spun across two timelines, pitting Link with a lovesick Maku Tree, pairing him with colourful foil Ralph and intertwining the plot across the ages.

Comparatively, Seasons' story falls a little flat. The overly to-the-point Maku Tree serves mainly as a device to say "go here next," there are far fewer main characters and the folks you do meet feel less developed. If you decide to play the games as a pair, Seasons is recommended second, as the over-arching narrative between the two games will help enhance its lacklustre standalone story.

This brings us to the most unique aspects of the Oracle games: "linking." Upon completing one game, the player receives a code that can be entered when starting the other. This not only adds a new final showdown, but also slightly alters each story. For example, in a linked Seasons game, the traveling troupe is revealed to be a disguised band of Hylian Knights, sent by Zelda to protect Din. This link functionality is included in the 3DS releases, which makes the temptation to buy both all the greater.

Storytelling aside, Oracle of Seasons does have an upper hand over its linked counterpart in the visual department. The world of Holodrum is far more vibrant, thanks to each screen having four distinct versions depending on the current season. From white-washed winter blues to saturated summer greenery and auburn autumn colours, the visual variety is fantastic. Changing seasons causes slight environmental changes like vines that grow in summer or snow that piles up during winter, but these differences don't create as many puzzling effects as the time shifts in Ages. Still, they offer a nice visual range that gives you plenty of incentive to fully explore each area.

To gain more control over the seasons, you frequently return to Subrosia, a hidden underground land that serves as one of the more interesting aspects of Seasons' otherwise dull plot. After Onox captured Din, the Temple of Seasons disappeared — or so everyone thought; it really just sank underground into Subrosia. Here, Link powers up the central item of the game: the Rod of Seasons, meaning you'll spend a lot of time interacting with Subrosians, the comical bunch of creatures that inhabit the land. These weirdos enjoy eating and bathing in lava, find politeness to be rude and obsess over secrecy. These interspersed visits help to break up the narrative, and offer some much needed comic relief.

There are diversions aside from the main quest to explore, like ring collection and item trading, but oddly you can gain the final item from Seasons' trading sequence another way, making it an optional part of the game. However, playing a linked Seasons game will open up the opportunity to gain a very powerful ring that augments Link's attack, and allows for other weapon upgrades that help immensely against the game's harder boss fights.

The final boss battles of the game — especially the brawl with General Onox — are very tough without some sort of leveled-up equipment. You take more damage per hit, your attacks are less effective and you will likely be losing more frequently than you're used to in a Zelda game. If you don't have the patience to acquire the upgrades, expect to be challenged. The final showdown is still surmountable with ho-hum equipment, but should only be approached as such by folks seeking a genuine old-school challenge.

Conclusion

If you're looking for a straightforward Zelda adventure, this battle-heavy quest is about as straightforward as it gets. Oracle of Seasons streamlines the franchise's formula to let challenging classic combat take centre stage, but adds in enough originality to keep it from feeling monotonous. There is much incentive to play the Oracle games together, and if you do, tackle this one second. Doing so adds in interesting plot twists that enhance the barebones storytelling and allows for crucial weapon upgrades that help immensely against the challenging end boss. It may not be as engrossing as Ages, but Seasons still offers up an old-school adventure that will feel fondly familiar to long-time fans of the franchise.

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User Comments (46)

EarthboundBenjy

#1

EarthboundBenjy said:

The two games feel so closely tied together that I don't really think it matters to talk about which one is "better". You can't have one without the other, so just get both and enjoy the massive adventure. :D

Nardar

#4

Nardar said:

According to Zelda Dungeon on Facebook, You cannot 100% either Seasons or Ages. Because, "You cannot get the GBA Time Ring or the GBA Nature Ring! These were only available in the 'Advance Shop' in each game." They also said the Advance shop is not in the 3DS version.

Zeldalover

#5

Zeldalover said:

@Nardar I couldn't acquire these myself when I played them back in the day because all I had was a purple Game Boy Color!

biglittlejake

#6

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.

EarthboundBenjy

#7

EarthboundBenjy said:

Well, if the advance shop is not open in the 3DS version, then there's no reason to play them over the GBC carts. I'm actually very disappointed with this news. ;(

Morpheel

#8

Morpheel said:

@Nardar, you don't really need these, they are completely useless. So, unless you're some kind of completionist freak that can't enjoy a game knowing you can't get two useless items by normal means, you can consider you 100%'ed these games without getting these rings, it's not like they marked some important achievement or anything, they're just kind of there.

Nardar

#11

Nardar said:

@Morphtorok
Your right they are useless. Don't get me wrong I am not a completionist. I just didn't see that in the review and thought I should mention it but thanks to @Wildvine53, that probably has been cleared up. Sorry, if I made everyone freak out about this.

DerpSandwich

#12

DerpSandwich said:

I was actually happy that I played this one first because of its lackluster story. I thought the awesome story of Ages led much better into the finale. But I'll definitely be playing Seasons second this time around to get the different experience.

TheAdrock

#15

TheAdrock said:

I was under the impression that Nintendo was updating these games for 3DS (re-rendered), not just on VC with stock 16-bit graphics. Clearly I had bad info. My interest in these games went from 60 to zero in 1.2 seconds.

bofis

#17

bofis said:

@theadrock13 - the new 3D top-down Zelda title will be a full on 3DS Retail release and is a direct sequel to the SNES Link to the Past...these two GBC games were made by Capcom towards the end of GBC's life so I entirely missed them until now and am sure I'm not alone in that.

Dreamcaster-X

#18

Dreamcaster-X said:

Another vote for Seasons being better than Ages. Both are great by all means but I liked Seasons more.

evanescent_hero

#19

evanescent_hero said:

Definitely agree that Ages is better than Seasons. I like it better in nearly every way. I've always played it Seasons->Ages, but I'm doing it vice versa this time. The Hyrule Historia says Seasons canonically comes first though.

FOURSIDE_BOY

#21

FOURSIDE_BOY said:

Ok, first ages gets a 9 and then seasons an 8; this game at least deserves a 9, sure, it isn't as legendary as ages but seasons was my first oracle and I remember explorer's crypt being one of the best dungeons I've ever played.

Klinny

#22

Klinny said:

Just downloaded both of these last night. For me, Oracle of Seasons was always my favorite, (probably because I played it first when I was a kid, haha).

ueI

#24

ueI said:

@Kolma Wow, the password system really is a genius idea!

I think that Patrick's a little hard on Seasons myself, but at least he recommends it.

EarthboundBenjy

#26

EarthboundBenjy said:

Passwords should work. Unless they altered the actual game to change passwords (like they did with Wii virtual console version of Kid Icarus)

alvieao

#27

alvieao said:

One of the two interlinked Zelda games developed by Capcom subsidiary Flagship for Game Boy Color in 2001, Seasons is the most action-based out of the duo. For me, I always thought Seasons' storyline was more interesting than Ages, and it still had some memorable characters including those from Ocarina of Time. Both are great standalone titles, but playing Seasons and Ages together culminates into a massively epic Zelda adventure. That said, Nintendo and Capcom did a brilliant job with Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages. Although these Zelda adventures were overlooked for 12 years, they remain timeless masterpieces on Game Boy Color.

Blizzaga

#28

Blizzaga said:

A little harsh on the plot there. And lol at taking a whole star away as a result.

KeeperBvK

#29

KeeperBvK said:

Rating this worse than Ages? Really? In my book Seasons is slightly better, and in all honesty, it would only have been fair to rate both the same. I also never felt like one was more puzzle focused with the other putting more emphasis on the action.

GameCube

#30

GameCube said:

Seasons is objectively a better videogame than Ages, so it's hard to take both of these reviews seriously. Both games are great and well worth playing, however.

Blizzaga

#32

Blizzaga said:

People are pitting the 2 Oracles games against each other. Why? What purpose does it serve other than giving folks just one more thing to unnecessarily argue about? Sheesh.

Linkuini

#33

Linkuini said:

I couldn't decide which game to play first, so I just shuffled their gift boxes back and forth on the home menu until I'd forgotten which was which, then played the first one I opened.

Sabrewing

#34

Sabrewing said:

I really can't believe that they didn't think of a way to change the code system to just scanning the other game's actual save file, similar to using the Link Cable in the original release.

CanisWolfred

#35

CanisWolfred said:

Easily one of the best in the series. Interesting world and characters, great dungeons, fair puzzles, exciting combat. It had it all.

Kat

#36

Kat said:

I love both of these games. For me, Ages had a better story, sure, but Seasons was just so much more fun. I also feel that Seasons' music was better; Dancing Dragon Dungeon and Ancient Ruins are so catchy [and I have the Level 8 music from Ages in my head as I type this... go figure]. Like many have already said, there's no point in playing one and then disregarding the other. I see them both as being one game that was too big to fit on one cartridge!

Tornado

#37

Tornado said:

It's worth noting the connection between this game's bosses and those in the original NES Legend of Zelda. I liked that touch in this game.

Ray-Man

#38

Ray-Man said:

"8 out of 10"? For Oracle of Seasons? Are you feeling okay today, Nintendo Life? :|

AlmightyDerek

#39

AlmightyDerek said:

I agree that Ages is slightly better. I don't care about the GBA rings but there was supposed to be an improved color palette if you played if you played it in the GBA. I wish we got that.

grumblegrumble

#40

grumblegrumble said:

Totally rad game! Love both Ages & Seasons, though I purchased "Seasons" as a kid and still love it more ;) Thanks for releasing these, Nintendo! Great 10 star games!!

DdFixen

#42

DdFixen said:

I just bought Seasons yesterday from the Eshop. It's awesome this far! But does it like differ a lot from Ages? Or is it more like two seperate Pokemon versions, if you get my point? Just wondering whether or not I should by Ages as well.

NintendoCat14

#45

NintendoCat14 said:

I truly think Seasons is the better Oracle game. Ages' color palette gives me a headache, and its map is a bit confusing. Seasons is just a little better.

Espurr

#46

Espurr said:

I like ages better. However, if they made the third now they have the technology...

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