We have such a strange attitude towards our past as gamers. Our neophilism is such that re-releases are often regarded as brazen attempts at daylight robbery. It's a bizarre mindset that isn't to be found anywhere else in entertainment. ("Remasted Beatles albums? But I already heard Abbey Road.")
Of course, there's a right way to go about it. Stick five ROMS or PC ports on a disc without bothering to construct so much as a new menu screen - I'm looking at you, Dreamcast Collection - and you deserve all the bollocking you get. But remakes - proper remakes, undertaken with fidelity, respect and enthusiasm - those are a different matter altogether. This is still a young industry, and up until very recently, technological restrictions often prevented games from being all that they could be. Remakes have the potential to realise a game's vision in a way that wasn't possible when it was first made.
That is exactly what The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D does. This is a better version of Ocarina of Time that's worth every penny of its modern-day price tag. Really, that should be all you need to know.
It looks glorious. New models, animations and textures breathe life into Hyrule, a world originally constructed in just 32 megabytes. It's no longer as angular and the insides of buildings no longer look like GIFs, but the style has been perfectly preserved. The improvement really is astonishing. It never even looked this good inside my head, never mind in reality. (Indeed, it looks so much clearer that one or two of the game's scariest creatures appear to have been slightly redesigned so that they look less disturbing in this higher resolution.)
The 3D, of course, adds a whole new level of visual sumptuousness. Motes of glittering dust float around in the Lost Woods; Navi flies excitably in and out of the screen to highlight points of interest; the view from Death Mountain really does stretch off into the distance. I find myself turning the 3D on for exploration and turning it off in dungeons so that my brain can concentrate on working itself around the puzzles without being distracted by enemies and the occasional unwelcome pillar leaping out at me.
There are subtle and not-so-subtle adjustments to the gameplay. Navi calls out less frequently, which makes her less annoying; the maps are clearer and easier to see; the item and inventory screens are down on the touch screen. Aiming the bow and arrow, catapult, hookshot or boomerang can now optionally be done by moving the 3DS around instead of using the analogue stick. I found the new motion control method considerably more accurate.
The dungeons and locations themselves don't seem to have changed at all, but these improvements make them feel modern and easier to play. Eiji Aonuma was right: being able to swap in and out of the Iron Boots with a prod of the touch screen does make the Water Temple less of a drain on your patience.
A lot of the innovations that Ocarina of Time made - the day-night cycle, the context-sensitive action button, the open-world exploration - have since become so standard that they no longer make much of an impact, but the sheer elegance and quality of the dungeon and world design is still breathtaking. It's a game designed across two complete timezones, a world subtly gated by a complex system of item collection and improvement. These are principles that haven't aged and that still outpace almost all modern games in their ingenuity. Wait until you get to the Spirit Temple, you'll see what I mean.
Ocarina of Time relies heavily on your intuition and curiosity, two qualities that I personally feel have atrophied over the past decade as games have become increasingly terrified to let you work anything out for yourself. Ocarina needs you to ask questions of the world around you - What's over there? Why is this chicken here? What does this symbol mean? How do I get up there? - if you want to progress at all, let alone find all its secrets.
It's a wonderful thing, but as a result it's relatively easy to get lost or stuck, even if you've played it before. The modern answer to this is the inclusion of Shiekah Stones, giant Gossip Stones that appear in the Temple of Time and other start points. (There's still no autosave; turn the game off and you'll resume at the start of whichever dungeon you're exploring, in little Link's treehouse, or in the Temple. Instead of saving and quitting, it's much more convenient to close the 3DS lid.)
These offer video clips that show you where to go next, or illustrate the answers to tricky puzzles, usually stopping short of simply showing you the solution. It's an elegant way to offer help without forcing it down your throat, cutting out unnecessary hours of exploration. But often, getting lost is a pleasure in itself.
That's another thing that has been largely forgotten since Ocarina of Time first came out: the joy of traversal. If you want to go somewhere in Ocarina's Hyrule, you have to walk there on your own two feet or ride there with Epona as the sun rises and sets, with no fast-travel, no helpful narrative segue that conveniently deposits you exactly where you need to be. You're supposed to wonder, and to wander. You're invariably rewarded for it.
This lack of intrusion from cut-scenes and incessant objective-marking is what makes Hyrule feel like a place. That sense of immersion is even more striking now than it was in 1998, and the 3D effect certainly adds to it - with all the advancements that we've made, there are still so few games that really feel like worlds.
Playing the whole game through again, there's no one moment that defines Ocarina of Time. There are too many: playing ocarina songs to frogs outside Zora's Domain; Link's expression as he wonders at his suddenly adult body after pulling the Master Sword from the stone; those first steps into the catastrophically changed Hyrule; dancing with Gorons, jumping the fence with Epona, the underground cow, exploring beneath Kakariko Village's graveyard, the entirety of the Spirit Temple.
If you've played it before, there are so many of these moments that you'll have forgotten, and seeing them like this is a wonderful and really quite emotional experience. It's the realisation of a long-held dream. If you haven't – well, I'm deeply envious.
Great art means different things to you at different points in your life. Ocarina of Time means something different to me now than it did 13 years ago. But the fact that it still has so much meaning is an affirmation of something I've long suspected: that this game is one of the greatest things that video games have ever achieved.
10 / 10