It took a few months, but I finally finished up Oracle of Ages. I then jumped right into Oracle of Seasons. I’m also working on Majora’s Mask again. Hopefully I’ll have this series replay finished up in the next few months. Though Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword are both lengthy endeavors, so that could slow things down again. And I guess I’ll be adding A Link Between Worlds to the list, since I am sure to get it by the end of the year. Now, on to Oracle of Ages.
If anyone remembers, assuming that anyone actually read it, I was not too impressed with Link’s Awakening. I thought it was too simple and hampered by the limitations of the Gameboy. Playing Oracle of Ages has helped me appreciate just good Link’s Awakening really is. Because this game has many of the same flaws but is all around less charming. Most of the problems have actually grown worse. It is still a Gameboy games, the limitations of the system are still in place.
Still, Oracle of Ages manages to have some really good dungeons. Many of them are simply great. They are complex mazes that require both skill and logic to complete. Any time you are in one of the eight dungeons the game is simply great. The available tools are very limited, but they are all good for multiple uses. The game also trusts the player to figure it out on their own, which is always good in a game well enough designed that the player can figure it out.
Where the game falters is in the overworld. That is one of the most tedious, boring things ever put in a Zelda game. There are some interesting characters, Ralph, Queen Ambi and Nayru, but most of them are just generic villagers. To get into each dungeon the player needs a key and to get it the player must solve some problems in the world, usually by warping back and forth through time. A lot of it is needless filler just there to pad out the game. It is what made me put down the game for so long and by the time I finished I began to dread completing a dungeon because I would have to go do stupid stuff like dance with Gorons or barter with Lizards to get my tools back. It is not fun.
What it feels like is Oracle of Ages is an attempt to bring the 3D style Zelda game to 2D, without the creators realizing that just like some things had to change to make the game work in 3D, so must some things change to make it work in 2D. I found myself voicing a lot of the complaints that many people have about 3D Zeldas, ones that I don’t tend to agree with, while playing Oracle of Ages. It really feels like a game made out of the worst parts of the Zelda series.
Still, the game isn’t that bad. It’s passable. Uneven is probably the best descriptor. When the game is good, like in the dungeons, it is really good; when it is bad it is truly bad. Link’s Awakening looks better in comparison, but it is still an enjoyable experience. If the first half of Oracle of Seasons and my memories of Minish Cap are true, this is the weakest Zelda on a Gameboy.