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The Ocarina of Time/Master Quest Bonus Disc

Developer: Nintendo | Publisher: Nintendo
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 02/28/03 | Genre: Action/RPG

It’s A Classic
In 1998 it was hailed as Game of the Year by practically ever gaming publication. In 2000, some publications went as far as to call it Game of the Decade or Game of the Century. What many consider being Nintendo’s best game ever has been re-released as a “special editionâ€? of sorts. Those who pre-order The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker receive this Zelda Bonus disc for free. The bonus disc includes complete versions of The Ocarina of Time, and The Ocarina of Time: Master Quest, as well as some preview movies. Both games are direct “no frillsâ€? ports from the Nintendo 64, but hey, we can deal with that because it’s free.

So how does one review a free game? Especially in this case, the games are ported directly from the Nintendo 64, and they intentionally have only minimal improvements because the game is free. Nintendo did not want to spend too much money on something that they are giving away. Well, I have decided not to review it, because it makes little sense to review this game on the same scale that other GameCube games are rated on. The graphics, sounds, and to some extent, the controls (because of the different controller), would not measure up to current AAA GameCube games, and it is not fair to judge this bonus disc on the same scale because it is a free bonus. If you would like to know more about the original game in detail, I suggest that you search the Internet. You’ll be able to find plenty of reviews of the original game. The Ocarina of Time is considered one of the best games of all time, and it has received perfect scores from several publications. That’s a very high honor indeed. Instead, I will describe the pros and cons of this special bonus disc, and I will give my suggestion as to whether or not it is worth the time to play the new Master Quest, or even play it for the first time if you never have. If you’re just interested in the technical aspects of the port or the differences in Master Quest, skip down a couple sections past the pictures. If you’d like a little bit more background about both games and a look at the package, stay with me.

For those of you sorry (or young) gamers that have never played this masterpiece, let me give you a quick synopsis of The Ocarina of Time (TOoT). TOoT is the first Legend of Zelda game to bring the adventures of Link to us in 3D. It is about a young adventurer, Link, who is basically on a mission to save the world during a fantasy medieval type of time period. It includes the main staples of all Zelda games. There is a huge overworld with countless amounts of activities and side-quests. However, the progression mainly takes place through dungeons. Dungeons are generally large, complex structures filled with all kinds of enemies and puzzles. Of course, there is always a huge boss to face at the end of each dungeon. The Zelda games have always been known for their extremely well designed dungeons. Throughout Link’s adventure, he will collect a wide variety of items and magical spells. Link can get any kind of item that the developers can imagine, from bombs to blow stuff up, to magical boots that allow him to walk on thin air. It’s the intelligent incorporation of these into the gameplay design, coupled with enchanting music, and atmospheric visual design that make TOoT, and the whole Zelda series, so loved.

Master Quest?

So what is the deal with this Master Quest? Well, going way back to the mid-90’s, Nintendo was developing an add-on piece of hardware for the Nintendo 64 called the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive. It was attached to the bottom of the N64 and it used magnetic disks (like a large floppy disk) as its media. The idea was that the large, quickly rewritable disks would allow for new gameplay features such as the ability to have complex level editors, game worlds with more complex “memoryâ€? (i.e. footprints, carcasses, bullet holes, etc. would never disappear, the game would remember the locations of objects that have been moved around for the entire duration of the game, etc.), highly customizable characters, and more. The Ocarina of Time was originally being developed for the N64 DD. At some point in time, Nintendo moved the project over onto the regular Nintendo 64, but they still planned on making a N64 DD Zelda game. That game was called Ura Zelda. Work on Ura Zelda was actually completed and the game was ready to go. However, it became apparent that the N64 DD was a failure, so Nintendo never released Ura Zelda. This agonized Zelda fans. To know that there was a completed Zelda adventure that they have not played, and that they could never (or so they thought) play, tortured them. However, at the time, no one knew exactly what Ura Zelda was. Many people thought that it was like an expansion for TOoT. People speculated that it would be a new adventure with a new story, new items, and new dungeons. This is partly why fans were so excited when Nintendo announced that it would be releasing this bonus disc with both the complete versions of TOoT, and Ura Zelda on it. In the US, Ura Zelda would be called Master Quest.

Well we now know that Master Quest is not in fact a completely new game, but it is a "remix" of TOoT. The story line, items, characters, and overall game progression is the same, but each of the dungeons have been “remixedâ€? and made anew. All of the puzzles and most of the enemy and item locations have been changed in some way. This not only makes the old dungeons feel like new challenges again, but in many cases, the level of difficulty is increased. This really is a treat for gamers who have already played TOoT. Before we get into that though, let’s take a look at the aesthetics of the whole package.

The Package
This Zelda bonus disc may not necessarily be a collector’s item, but it is still something special, or at least it could’ve been. As you can see, Nintendo didn’t put much effort into the packaging. For a game as grand as TOoT, some kind of nice box set or something would have been really cool. We do have to remember that this is a free bonus, but Nintendo could’ve put a little more effort into the box art. Magazine ads look better than this:

Honestly, it would have been relatively easy for Nintendo to slap some of their own official artwork on the box instead of the dull cover they have now. They have the TOoT artwork spread throughout the manual. Why they couldn’t make the box look a little nicer baffles me. Look what Zelda fans have been able to whip up in their spare time.(Zelda fan box art site no longer exists, link removed) Nintendo should be able to match that at least. The manual is equally disappointing. Take a look:

Aside from the boring cover and the standard cautionary pages, the entire manual is printed with just orange and black ink. It’s very ugly in my opinion. I understand that, again, this being a free bonus, they didn’t want to waste money on something that they were giving away, but they could have at least used green instead of orange. Of course, these are the pickiest of complaints. The fact is, we are getting one of the greatest games of all time along with a second, previously unreleased version of it. Besides, this next item almost makes up for it. Included with the bonus disc is a full-color preview booklet of The Wind Waker. It is over 10 pages, and it includes cool artwork and information about new characters, items, and locales in this latest Zelda adventure without spoiling too much. Just check out the neat artwork on the back cover:

Okay, so the packaging was nothing special, but it’s better than a paper sleeve and a loose black & white manual that the Japanese got. Plus, we get that cool preview booklet of The Wind Waker. The game disc also has preview movies of The Wind Waker, 1080 ° Avalanche, F-Zero GC, and more. What about the actual game? Overall, I’m happy to say that TOoT has aged fairly well.

It’s Still Got It Where It Counts

The games’ age really shows when examining the technical aspects of the game. I remember back in 1998, when my friends and I were amazed by some of the first lighting and shading effects we have ever seen on the console. Link and Hyrule simply looked awe-inspiring. The first time you cleared that initial ridge and Hyrule castle came into view was one of my most memorable moments in gaming. I remember thinking how big Hyrule field looks and how far you can see. Fast-forward to 2003 and I’ve still got the memories in my head, but the reality of what I see now pales in comparison. Nothing about the graphics has really changed; time has just passed them by. The low polygon count and poor texture quality are the first things you’ll notice, especially if this is your first time playing the game. I wouldn’t say that it’s disappointing; it’s just an easy way to see how far graphics have come. What was amazing 5 years ago is an almost an eyesore today. I say “almostâ€? because the visual design is still amazing. Any true gamer knows that design is always more important than the technology used to implement it. For that, TOoT still delivers. Once you get wrapped up in the game, you won’t really notice the old graphics anymore. The virtual painting and architecture of Hyrule is just as atmospheric as ever, once you get into the game and stop worrying about polygon counts and silly things like that. From Lon Lon Ranch to the overbearing Desert Colossus, TOoT still has that ability to get your imagination and excitement going. On a more technical note, the game now runs in high-resolution mode, and it is noticeably sharper on even on regular TVs. Activate the progressive scan mode on an HDTV and Link’s sword will almost cut through your screen. Yeah, that was cheesy, but especially with the low polygon counts, things really do look sharp. One disappointing note is that the framerate was not improved at all. This is because it is most likely that the Nintendo 64 hardware was emulated on the GameCube to play TOoT. Improving the framerate would mean doing some actual work and fixing/changing some programming in the game. With this being a free bonus (and a short production time was also necessary), this type of work was just not done. It’s not so bad. In fact, I hardly noticed it back then, but now, you’ll definitely be able to see the rough spots when there are a few enemies on screen or a large area in view.

Like the graphics, the sound is also dated. Both the musical samples and the sound effects are not up to the quality that we are used to today. However, also like the graphics, there is nothing wrong with the design. The composition of the music is just as moving as it ever was, and the variety in sound effects matches the huge variety of locales and situations that Link finds himself in. A classic game wouldn’t be complete without a classic soundtrack, and that’s not a worry with TOoT.

Overall TOoT is still the same game that many of you know and love. You get both the original version, and Master Quest, and I’ll discuss the differences in just a little bit. The gameplay has not changed a single bit, and why should it? It’s considered one of, if not the best games of all time. Naturally the controls are a little bit different. On the Nintendo 64, there were four digital C-buttons used for items and Navi (hint system), and ‘A’ button used for context-sensitive actions, a ‘B’ button used for sword attacks, the ‘R’ button was for using the shield, and the ‘Z’ button was used for the revolutionary “Z-targetingâ€? system. Z-targeting allows Link (and the player) to allows face a target (like an enemy), which eliminates almost all of the frustrations of dealing with a 3D camera. Obviously the controls on the GameCube are a little different. There are some slight annoyances. The only changes are with the targeting button and the C-buttons. Since with the GameCube, your left index finger is now positioned to the ‘L’ button instead of the ‘Z’ button, the targeting is now called “L-targetingâ€? but everything works the same. The only other difference is the C-buttons. The GameCube now has an analog C-stick. Pushing this up, down, left, or right corresponds to pushing each of the four C-buttons. Alternatively, the ‘X’ ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ buttons on the GameCube controller correspond to C-left, right, and down, respectively. This works well for most cases. To talk with Navi, you can only push the C-stick up. The only major annoyance is playing the ocarina. If you haven’t played the game yet, I’ll let you know that Link gets a flute-like instrument called an ocarina. Throughout the game, Link learns how to conduct magical spells by playing special songs on his ocarina. You will use the ocarina hundreds of times throughout the course of the adventure. The ocarina was originally played by using the four C-buttons and the ‘A’ button. Now, you must use the C-stick, and it is very annoying and slow most of the times. The stick must be pushed completely in each direction to play the note, and it can be very easy to mess up. This is my only real complaint about the controls in the GameCube version. Also, it makes it difficult to screw around and play songs for fun too.

Is It Worth the Time… Again?
Now you may be wondering, if you have already played TOoT, is it worth the time to actually track down one of these bonus discs, and is it worth the time to complete Master Quest? First of all, many fans would simply enjoy playing through TOoT again even if there was no Master Quest. Outside of the dungeons, Master Quest is the exact same as the original version of TOoT. All of the items, heart pieces, gold skulltulas, and side quests are all the same. However, inside the dungeons, you’ll find significant changes. I think that gamers who played through the original game will really enjoy the remixed dungeons. They have a strange sense of familiarity while being new at the same time. It’s like feeling challenged all over again because you walk into a room, and you think you know what you have to do, but the puzzles are completely different. All of the same rooms are still there, but all of the puzzles and enemies within the rooms have changed. Many of the item locations have even changed. In many dungeons, you progress through the rooms in a completely different order than you did before. Some of the new puzzles are slight variations of the old puzzles. These are fun because you think you know what you have to do, only when you attempt to do it, one “pieceâ€? of the puzzle is missing and you will be confused for a little while. Then, there are other rooms in which the puzzles are completely different. Master Quest really is a treat for someone who has already completed TOoT. Also, you will see that many people describe Master Quest as being more difficult. While I agree, I believe that at least some of this increased difficulty comes simply from the fact that you are expecting things to be one way, but they turn out another way. You want to think you know what’s going on in a certain dungeon room, but you have to treat it like you’re playing for the first time again. In fact, I’m sure everyone one of you that has already played TOoT will be surprised by one of the first things you attempt to do in the first dungeon. You’ll be surprised when it doesn’t work this time around. The new solution to the puzzle is fairly simple, but the initial surprise and slight confusion gave me a little kick.

Is Master Quest worth playing again? That question deserves a big “Yes!â€? I’ve heard that in certain areas of the country, it can be kind of hard to find the TOoT/Master Quest bonus disc now. If you haven’t pre-ordered The Wind Waker yet, rush out and do so right now! This bonus disc is a limited edition only, and Nintendo has not made any plans to create any more. Once they’re gone, they’re probably gone. Besides, you should have The Wind Waker pre-ordered anyways. It’s shaping up to be one of the most epic games of this generation.

In a recent interview, Miyamoto was asked if this bonus disc promotion could be repeated with upcoming games like F-Zero GC and Star Fox Armada. He said that he hadn’t actually thought about it before, but that could be a possibility. Show Nintendo that there is a demand for these types of freebies! This is an awesome way for classic games to live on.

By Andrew Thivyanathan - 03/20/03
ESRB Details: Violence
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Screenshots for The Ocarina of Time/Master Quest Bonus Disc

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