The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages – Game Boy Color
Platform: Game Boy Color
Release Date (NA): May 14, 2001
Genre: Action / Adventure
Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10
This game has been some serious hell trying to review. Not that the game itself is awful or anything of the sort, but Murphy’s laws of game review writing have generally cursed its entire existance. Everything under the sun has interfered so far with the writing of this review: flooding, internet outages, depression, puppies destroying written notes, procrastination, more depression, broken teeth, broke-ness, etc. But for those of you who have been at least some-what patiently waiting for me to churn this crap out, it’s finally here!
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages is one of two games from the Oracles series, or as it was originally called Mystical Seeds. According to speculation and the manga, this game is generally considered to take place after Oracle of Seasons, rather than before it. Although you can play the games in either order to reach the linked ending, the Oracle of Ages linked game ending has link sailing away from Labyranna, which the next chronological game, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening and DX, starts with. I also thought it would be best to review it second because I played it after Oracle of Seasons, and didn’t even get my own copy of the game until I got my first job.
Oracle of Ages starts just as Oracle of Seasons does, with Link being sent by the Triforce to a far away land that is being threatened by one of Ganon’s minions. This time the land is Labyranna and the minion is the sorceress Veran. When Link arrives, he meets up with Impa who requires his assistance to move a large stone which only those with part of the Triforce have the ability to move. Behind the stone, the Oracle of Ages, Nayru, is busy singing to a group of animals and childhood friend Raoul. Everything is seemingly peaceful until it is revealed that Veran has possesed Impa nad used Link to reach Nayru. Veran then takes possession of Nayru and sets off to the past to begin a chain of events in the past Labyranna in order to light the Torch of Sorrow and revive Ganon.
Like its partnered game, Oracle of Ages has Link travelling the land in search of eight essences from eight different dungeons so that he can finally face Veran. This time, Link’s looking for the eight Essences of Time with the help of the region’s female Maku tree, who provides him advice in the same way that Holodrum’s male Maku tree does in Oracle of Seasons. In Labyranna however, Link must travel back and forth through time in order to find the eight dungeons, as the avaliablility of the dungeons changes between time period. This gameplay element actually proves to be really fun, while also lending itself to the puzzle-oriented nature of this title in the Oracles series.
One of my favorite examples of this is during the preparations for the third dunegon, Moonlight Grotto. In the past, the dungeon is still sunken into the ground and surrounded by a lake of water. However, in the present, the dungeon is now completely above ground and only acessible inside of the maze of trees that surrounds it. In order for Link to reach this dungeon, he must get access to a specific portal tile on the island in the past that he can use with the game’s key item, the Harp of Ages, that will transport him directly into the maze in the present time. That process of going back and forth through time to reach dungeons is a pretty big part of the game. Travelling through the two time periods, however, is also necessary to simply explore certain parts of the world, as well as complete the game’s trading sequence to receive the Lvl 2 sword.
Although I stated in the Oracle of Seasons review that that game was graphically more extensive than Oracle of Ages, both games really test the limits of the Game Boy Color. The two time periods of the game, past and present, are really completely seperate entities. Unlike how in Oracle of Seasons the map only changes slightly depending on the seasons, the differences between both the past and present maps are huge. They’re so different that the in-game map screen actually treats them as completely seperate maps, like Holodrum and Subrosia. This also adds to the game’s puzzle theme, as progressing through the game involves a lot of trial and error to figure out how the two maps translate into each other. Once again, this is similar to the portals between Holodrum and Subrosia in Oracle of Seasons, but way more extensive.
Once again, like Oracle of Seasons, Ages borrows the same game engine and palletes that The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX uses, with a few tweeks. Oracle of Ages brings back some of the same pieces of equipment found in the original and DX as well, including Roc’s Feather, the Power Bracelet (along with an upgrade), the Bow, Boomerang (also weaker), Shovel, an expanded Seed Satchel, and two items new items that appear to be loosely based off of ones from DX. Oracle of Ages introduces the Switch Hook (and Longshot upgrade) as well as the Seed Shooter, which work similar to the Hookshot and Magic Powder, respectively. Link also gets an item from A Link to the Past, the Cane of Somaria, which works about the same way, just without using magic (as the game lacks a magic stat).
As with Oracle of Seasons, in Oracle of Ages Link gains an animal companion that will help him traverse the landscape of Labyranna. Although this title’s default companion is the blue bear Moosh, players can also find and obtain the flutes for the kangaroo Ricky and dodongo Dimitri before meeting Moosh. If you imported your Oracle of Seasons file into Ages, your companion will be carried over from that game, and vice versa if you export your Ages save to Seasons. Depending on your choice, a piece of the in-game landscape will change to match the abilities of your companion. For example, if you choose Moosh, the area will be filled with lines of holes to glide over, if Ricky, the area will have numerous cliffs to jump up, and if you choose Dimitri, the area will be covered with water and waterfalls. No matter which companion you choose, Link is never at any sort of disadvantage as his equiptment will assist him with traversing the rest of the land without help.
The Ring shop also makes an appearance in Oracle of Ages, in the present. Link will gain items called “Magical Rings” throughout the game that will need to be appraised for a small fee. What’s neat is that the appraised rings effects vary from a disguise as an enemy to a buff from a specific type of damage. While Link can only have one of these rings equipt at a time, he can hold several at a time in his ring box that can be swapped between at will. Should you be inclined to collect them, the rings also transfer in new linked games, enabling players to add to their collection each playthrough. However, not every ring will be avaliable in each mode, some, especially the more effective ones, only appear in Linked Games and thus require both games to have a complete collection.
If I haven’t made it obvious enough, I absolutely love the Oracles series! While Seasons is my favorite, I’ve always enjoyed the amount of variety that Ages included in its levels, as well as the amount of returning characters to meet. The Oracle games will always stand as a sign that non-Nintendo developed The Legend of Zelda games are possible, given that they’re in the hands of a great developer. Capcom clearly outdid themselves with both games, which is why the team responsible for this series went on to develop more Zelda games on the handhelds, including Game Boy Advance title The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. Y’know what, I think I might go play that now while I’m at it…
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