The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages
Game Boy Color
It can be cheerfully reported that the two new Legend of Zelda games, released for the Game Boy Color, are not only the system's swan song with the impending crush of the Game Boy Advance, but are also two of the best games released for the system. One of these titles would have been enough, but with two of them released on the same date, both interactive with each other, it might be said that this might be the best time ever to own a Game Boy Color. Certainly, Zelda fans can rejoice that both titles are excellent, and if one is better than the other, the edge would have to go to this one right here; The Oracle of Ages.
The Oracle of Ages is a beautiful conglomeration of everything that makes Zelda games unique, with plenty of now-historic creatures, items, and characters showing up, as well as a bevy of brand new toys for Link to play with and baddies for him to fight. Each great Zelda title has brought with it this spirit, and The Oracle of Ages keeps up that tradition, taking something as intrinsically simple as the top-down adventure game and molding it into a work of art.
The chief new item, omnipresent and integral to gameplay, is the Harp of Ages, a magical instrument that will carry Link through the streams of time. It takes the brilliant world-changing gameplay of A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time and puts it one step further, shooting Link off to multiple time periods in search of the various harp tunes that will help him finish his quest. Each age is rendered differently and impressively, giving them all a very distinct feel. And the way that the harp helps unfold the game, presenting players with new locations that they previously might have been able to get hints of but not get to, is divine. It brings with it that just-right pace which may occasionally stump you, but will always keep you on your toes and open the door to new worlds.
Of course the traditional top-down Zelda gameplay is in full effect, and the combat has changed little from that classic NES title released so many years ago. Old enemies, like Octoroks, Moblins, and Darknuts fill the screens, as well as a host of new vile creatures thrown in your path. There are eight dungeons that have to be conquered, and within those dungeons, both sub-bosses and full-fledge bosses lurk. Special items, like the jumping feather and shot-hook, also wait for Link, and most of these items are tied hand in hand with the difficult and satisfying boss battles that await him.
In The Oracle of Ages, the bosses are tricky, and they're pretty much puzzles in and of themselves. But don't imagine that these creatures are the only brainteasers that Link will have to deal with. This game is filled with them; they practically bust out of the labyrinths. None of them are so maddeningly hard that you'd have to be a member of MENSA to complete the game, but there are a handful that are positively devilish, and for those that love adventure puzzles, prepare to be floored by this title. Puzzles can utilize almost any and every item in the game, including and especially the Harp of Ages. Prepare to get a more mental workout in here than in The Oracle of Seasons.
It is this great combination of puzzlement and excitement that makes The Oracle of Ages great, however. The way everything blends together is perfect, and nothing feels like a burden. Rather, when you figure out a way to get around that trap or beat that boss after finding his weak spot, you feel rewarded, as if completing these tasks was something that had to be earned. In this respect, this title is firing on all of the right cylinders.
If the above elements were alone in The Oracle of Ages, it would be a great game, but several other factors go into it being darn near perfect. The seed system is present here as well as in The Oracle of Seasons, and it is a simple yet ingenious hook, giving players both the ability of various extra weapons with different effects and a bit of a side quest in horticulture as they travel through time to see what their seeds have sprouted.
Then add to that the rings, of which there are many, and you have your own bona fide collection game in The Oracle of Ages as well, ala Pokemon. There are tons of rings about, and they can be found almost anywhere. In addition, each of the two Zelda games released have rings unique to their quests, and the only way to possess them all is to play though both and transfer them back and forth. This is yet another interesting layer added to an already outstanding heap of gameplay.
Finally figuring in the fact that both games are linkable is almost enough to bowl one over. Each game would be plenty good on its own, and giving players the ability to change the quests slightly in each game, find different and powerful items, and reach their true endings with link-play is a stroke of gaming genius. Each game adds just the right amount to the other, and you'll more than likely find yourself wanting to beat both multiple times so you can get their full experience. In terms of visuals, The Oracle of Ages has that distinct Legend of Zelda look, and its graphics prove to be as crisp and clear as any game that has come before it. They are comparable to Link's Awakening DX, yet more robust and chock full of inventive spirit. The different ages have distinct looks in and of themselves, and everything is tied together with an amazing consistency. The music is some of the best you'll find on the Game Boy Color, and although that isn't saying a whole lot, it rarely gets on your nerves enough to turn it off.
All in all, this may well be the best game made for the Game Boy Color, followed closely behind by The Oracle of Seasons. The way the two games link together adds that extra kick that really makes them both shine. Every GBC owner, and certainly every fan of the Zelda series, owe it to themselves to pick up these last two great games, in memory of a dying system, and as a hopeful preview of handheld software to come. ~ Jon Thompson, All Game Guide
It would be hard for a portable game of this generation to look much better. With beautiful, crisp colors, lush designs, and a consistent, yet diverse, feel, the visual package is astounding. ~ Jon Thompson, All Game Guide
The music, while suffering from the usual tinny sound, is still very nice, and the set of sound effects are perky and diverse. ~ Jon Thompson, All Game Guide
If you love adventure at all, you'll love this game. Chock full of puzzles, items, dungeons, secrets, heroic actions, strange locations, and enough extras to choke several horses, this game has enjoyment to spare. Here, have some. ~ Jon Thompson, All Game Guide
How could you not replay this game? With all of the various things to find, secrets to explore, and incentives to play through it again, this title and The Oracle of Seasons offer some of the best replay value for your dollar, period. ~ Jon Thompson, All Game Guide
Typical of Zelda games, the instruction booklets are full of information as well as colorful and assorted illustrations. ~ Jon Thompson, All Game Guide