Never Played: LEGEND OF ZELDA ORACLE OF AGES
Oracle of Ages was a game developed by Capcom (and of course published by Nintendo) for the Game Boy Color. It released in 2001 with its counterpart Oracle of Seasons. The two games are very similar but feature slightly different mechanics. Think of it like Pokemon Red and Blue but with even more differences between the two. The story in each intertwines and a player would need to play both to get the full scale of the plot. In both games Link must use various tools to acquire 8 specific items to stop forces of evil and save the land and its people.
There’s nothing too special or impressive about the cover artwork of Oracle of Ages other than I do like the use of background overlays. I’m especially not fond of the art on the label, which shows no characters, only the logo placed against a background that is basically the same color as the logo, giving no sense of depth or contrast. The label looks like a blue smear with some words in the middle that you can read if you focus really hard. The game itself though is visually stunning compared to any other Game Boy Color game I’ve ever seen. Oracle of Ages almost looks as good as most Game Boy Advanced games. The opening cut-scene alone was beautiful for a game this old, so Oracle of Ages had me impressed from the very start. The game is vibrant, pushing the GBC’s color capabilities to the limit. The character sprites are well drawn, the dungeons are dark and creepy, the bosses are large and more detailed, it’s quite well done. The sound on the other hand I wasn’t too impressed with. There weren’t many tracks I enjoyed and it also didn’t sound very crisp. At times the music almost is clouded, it just feels a bit unpolished.
Game-play itself was solid. Its your typical Zelda fare: go to these different dungeons, find these specific items, rescue the girl, save the world. I did enjoy the dungeons and bosses a lot in this particular Zelda game though. Some of them were quite challenging, many of them quite fun. I personally kinda prefer the top down version of Zelda games that the NES and handheld versions use over modern day 3D play. Another thing I liked about Oracle of Ages is it is better at directing the player than most other Zelda games. One of my peeves about the series is the games don’t always do a good job of steering you in the proper direction. Sometimes they almost just expect you to wander around until you find the correct location. Some people may love that sense of exploration. I personally have always found it a tad annoying. I don’t need a giant arrow pointing to where I should go, but at least tell me outright through an NPC interaction where I should be going and what I should be doing. I also liked that this wasn’t another typical Ganondorf story, there’s a unique antagonist and some other key characters.
One thing I didn’t care for that just seemed to be unnecessarily tacked onto the game was the ring system. I feel like Zelda games have enough things to keep up with as it is. The rings just felt like an extra thing to think about that really didn’t add much of interest to the game. I also thought the game was a bit long in the tooth, but that’s the way I honestly find most Zelda games. I’m a fan of puzzles, I’m a fan of the dungeons. But a lot of times I feel like Zelda games go a step too far. I need this rope, I’ll need to travel back in time to get it, but to travel back in time I’ll need to be able to swim to this island, but to be able to swim I have to first help this whale do a chore, but to do that chore I first have to figure out how to get to this specific spot, getting to that spot requires me to get an item from a shop, but before the shopkeeper will sell it I must first do him a favor, by this time I’ve forgotten why in the hell I’m doing any of this in the first place and I’m quickly losing interest in the overall plot and flow of the game. I was obviously exaggerating a bit with my scenario but I’m truly not too far off from how Zelda games can be and sadly Oracle of Ages was guilty of it from time to time. Just give me a concise quest that gets me to the next dungeon so I can enjoy the best part of a Zelda game and also continue trying to save the world.
Minor gripes of sound and typical Zelda game annoyances don’t stop this from being a great game that just might be the best game on the entire Game Boy/ GBC line-up (aside from maybe Pokemon Red/Blue) . Its worth a play if you’ve never had the pleasure.