There's little remaining to say that hasn't already been said about The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. A true masterpiece and a genuine game-changer; what was once revolutionary is today simply one of the greatest action/adventure games ever created. Now available to download from the Wii U eShop, this latest release ensures there are now two options available for Wii U owners interested in re-visiting N64's Hyrule - either the Wii Virtual Console version (with Wii U in Wii mode) or this latest Wii U release. Additionally, if you do already own the Wii version on your Wii U you can 'upgrade' for a discounted price. There are a few notable differences between the two, so please read on. Note – some of the below applies to the PAL versions only.
For Wii U in European territories, Nintendo has made the decision to release the 50hz PAL version due to the language options, which are English, German and French. While it's understandable from an accessibility point of view, it's still a slight shame after playing Super Mario 64 in all its NTSC 60hz glory. To be perfectly realistic though, unless you're a devout speed runner (in which case you probably have other options anyway) or you're incredibly pedantic, the slight speed loss doesn't actually matter too much in this particular game.
Thankfully the screen has been optimised for the Wii U iteration and everything is presented in beautiful 4:3 ratio, full screen. The Wii version has small black borders at the top and bottom, so in this respect the Wii U version is a touch better. However, there are noticeable differences regarding the overall visual delivery.
You may have noticed there's been a fair amount of online debate recently around how the Wii U version looks much darker compared to the Wii / original version. Running both together (through a Wii U) it's immediately clear that the brightness and contrast is set differently between the two. Yes, it is darker on Wii U and it's quite shocking at first, especially when making comparisons. However, play for an hour or so and you'll soon forget about it - it's genuinely not an issue. Ocarina of Time has always been rather grungy and dark-looking anyway, so ultimately it comes down to a personal choice. Here's a quick tip - try adjusting your GamePad to the top brightness to see if you prefer it that way.
Additionally (although it may be our old and wise eyesight) we thought the Wii U version was possibly running a touch smoother and sharper than the Wii version, but there's not a lot in it. Both versions look a darn sight sharper than the N64 ever managed to output.
So what else do you need to know about the Wii U version, specifically? You can of course play the entire game on the GamePad screen, which is a huge plus point over the Wii version (while you can display the Wii screen on the GamePad, the control inputs don't work). Additionally, the rumble feature works, which makes the secret-assisting 'Stone of Agony' actually usable again; on Wii it didn't operate due to the Classic Controller not being equipped to rumble. Rumble in general works much more naturally on a Wii U Pro Controller though – the GamePad vibration effect often feels like your controller is about to fall over and die.
Virtual Console save states really come into their own when tackling long dungeons due to the in-game save option returning the player to checkpoints upon re-loading. It's nice to be able to literally quit whenever and wherever you like and not lose even a smidge of your progression.
The controls feel fine using any of the three options (GamePad / Pro Controller / Wii-remote + Wii Classic/Pro controller) and any reports of lag are over-played. If there is lag, it's just not of any consequence to a normal play though. You may wish to re-map some of the buttons; for example we found swapping over the functions of ZR and R to make for a much better experience. In many respects, it's much more comfortable once configured than it ever was, even more so than an original N64 controller.
In a nutshell, if you don't own either version, we'd recommend the Wii U iteration without question; the added ability to play on the GamePad combined with the enabling of the rumble feature gives it a slight edge, even if it is a little darker graphically.
So what about the actual game? It's easy for a newcomer to take a look nowadays and be derogatory at how old and smudgy everything looks, especially compared to the more modern Zelda titles. But the story, the charm and feeling of immersion is all still present and correct. Indeed for all but the most miserable of gamers this is still essential gaming and will always remain so. To discount Ocarina of Time for reasons such as 'the world isn't open enough' or 'the controls are too restrictive' is really missing the point; this is how it's meant to be and it's perfect BECAUSE of those design decisions.
If you're the type of person who enjoys getting utterly lost in a beautifully crafted world, surrounded by wonderful creatures and enchanting characters all woven together in a timeless tale of good and evil AND you're prepared to appreciate the artistry involved within the limitations of the source hardware, you shouldn't hesitate in downloading this right away. Ocarina of Time is practically the blueprint for how to 'do' 3D adventure games properly.
The revolutionary controls and targeting system, the camera work, the pacing… We could go on, but you get the picture. It's possible the Wii U version is the best home console version yet (not including the incredible 3DS remake), because while it may have a few controversial points (mainly with regards to brightness) the other additional features complete the overall package in ways that even the original didn't manage.
So is the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time deserving of a perfect score even today? It's definitely as captivating and magical now as it's ever been; indeed re-visiting it is an instant reminder of how great it really was/is. When all you want to do is continue playing a 17 year old Nintendo 64 game for hours on end, you know it's still got it. One of gaming's perfect experiences, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is an adventure to be cherished and not to be missed.