James goes back in time with the N64 original!

Last year's E3 conference was full of 3DS announcements, but one moment that still sticks in the memory after a year is the revelation of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D for the console. With less than a month until the game hits shelves worldwide, Nintendo UK invited Nintendo Life to a special preview event to take Link's remastered adventure for a spin.

The London venue was decked out with images of the Master Sword, Hyrule Shield and a tree, with tunes from the game setting the aural backdrop. Several stations were available to try the newly three-dimensional game, as well as an area to try out the N64 original.

The contrast between both games is far more noticeable than you may realise: viewed with 2011 eyes, Ocarina's N64 debut isn't as pretty as you may remember it, with a choppy frame rate, blurry textures and simplistic polygon models. For its time it was revolutionary, but compared to its new 3DS incarnation it's very much the ugly sister.

And playing the new 3D release

Grezzo Co. has done a commendable job of rebuilding Ocarina's 64-bit world for the modern age: with sharp edges, clear textures and fidelity to the original artwork, the 3DS version looks how you remember the N64 release looking in its time, but viewed side by side the new handheld revamp is streets ahead of its predecessor.

It's also received a few new tweaks elsewhere, with the bottom screen displaying a small overworld map as well as details on equipped items and quick access to the inventory, keeping the top screen pleasingly uncluttered. Everything is just a few taps away, and navigating menus is quick and instinctive, with the all-important tunics and the ocarina itself easily accessed. Some may be surprised the ocarina doesn't respond to breath like the Spirit Pipes in Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, but purists will be instantly familiar with the button set-up.

The other major control scheme change appears in the first-person mode, where you can aim with the Circle Pad or the 3DS console's in-built gyrometer, moving the console around to aim your hookshot, arrows, slingshot or just have a look around. The method is responsive and functional, but in heated moments it's not hard to foresee difficulty staying in the 3D 'sweet spot', so players may want to stick to the Circle Pad.

The 'great' Deku Tree!

We were also able to try the new Sheikah Stones, a hint feature that uses quick glimpses of video to help baffled players conquer puzzles or battles. Far from Super Guide-like hand-holding, the hints are brief flashes intended to put lightbulbs above player heads: a short shot of an enemy's weak spot, a clip of Link pushing a block into place. Hints are sorted into location and given extremely short descriptions, and are unlikely to spoil anything for first-time players.

Regrettably the more difficult Master Quest mode and new Boss Challenge were not available to try out at the preview event.

Ultimately, our impressions of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D are largely the same as when we played it back in January: it's Ocarina of Time, in 3D. It looks far better than its predecessor and offers more content, while still carrying the indescribable quality that typifies the series. With just a few weeks until the game's released to the world, we won't have too long to wait and see whether the full quest carries the same impact as it did back in 1998.