When Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons were first released on the Game Boy Color, they were both critical and financial successes, with both games averaging around 90% by reviewers and selling almost 4 million copies each. Now that they have been re-released on the 3DS Virtual Console, thousands of gamers have the opportunity to enjoy them, in many cases for the first time. This writer loves the games so much that he own them both twice – physically on Game Boy cartridges, as well as digitally on his 3DS, and would highly recommend them to every Zelda fan with either a Game Boy Color, Advance, or 3DS. If you aren’t already sold on the games, here are five reasons why you should absolutely pick up both games.
1- Large, connected, open worlds to explore
Every Zelda game features a large variety of different areas – deserts, forests, lakes, graveyards, etcetera. In most cases, the only thing keeping you from exploring these areas are the items at your disposal. This is also the case with the Oracle games, where your progress is frequently limited by heavy rocks, pits and cracked walls that require specific items to overcome. Unlike in other Zelda games, though, you always know exactly where you are in the world and what you have left to explore because of the grid-based world map at your disposal. It fills in every time you walk into a new part of the map, and encourages you to explore every nook and cranny.
Exploring the map to find the secrets hidden in Holodrum and Labrynna is made easier through the world map.
In a lot of ways, the overworlds in the Oracle games are similar to labyrinths. Each area is like a maze that presents you with a new set of obstacles and puzzles that you must overcome to progress in the game. As you make your way to a new dungeon, you’ll find paths that connect to areas that you’ve already explored, and you’ll open up new ones with each item you get. These paths help bring the world together so it feels much less like a bunch of separate areas and more ubiquitous than other entries in the franchise. The world is perfectly sized: small enough that you can get around relatively quickly without feeling overwhelmed, but still densely packed with things to do.
Only in The Legend of Zelda can your quest to rid the world of evil be stalled by shrubs.
2- Plenty of secrets everywhere
The great fun of exploring Ages and Seasons’ overworlds comes from all the secrets waiting to be found. Some of these are important parts of the story, like finding hidden gems to open up a new dungeon, or venturing into a forest to find Mystery Seeds. Others are optional side-quests that grant you rupees and upgrades or hidden items like “pieces of heart” that increase your health and are a staple of the series.
Of course, hidden items and secrets are commonplace in Zelda games, but the ring system in the Oracle games is an element that is unique to these entries in the franchise. These rings are scattered throughout the game and will give Link special powers when he equips them, such as the ability to turn into an Octorok or to recover health automatically. These items aren’t integral to completing the game, but they make it more entertaining and strategic, and lengthen the amount of time you’ll spend immersed in them.
It might be kind of useless, but crawling around like an Octorok sure is fun.
3- Unique game elements
All Zelda games bring something new to the table that fans of the franchise haven’t seen before: sailing across the ocean in Wind Waker, controlling Link as a wolf in Twilight Princess, and the three-day time limit in Majora’s Mask. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages and Seasons also stand out for their unique means of gameplay. The most outstanding mechanic in the games are the abilities to change the seasons and time in Oracle of Seasons and Ages respectively. These elements play a huge role in solving puzzles to progress through the world. In Oracle of Seasons, you may need to freeze over a lake by calling forth winter in order to progress, or grow vines in the summer so you can climb the face of a cliff. In Oracle of Ages, there is an instance early on where a dungeon in the present crumbles to pieces, and you must travel back in time to visit it while it is still intact. The manipulation of seasons and time are integrated into the games in a variety of interesting and unique ways, and to a much larger extent than the main mechanics in other games, like the Dark World in A Link to the Past.
This opening is unreachable in the Spring, but in Winter the snow piles up so it can be entered.
Because the Oracle games are built on the same engine as Link’s Awakening, they both feature 2D side-scrolling areas and boss-fights, which are really unique and well-implemented. In a series in which players have become so accustomed to playing from a top-down perspective (speaking of the 2D games, of course), side-scrolling elements add an interesting twist to the Zelda formula. As well, there are a few items in the Oracle games that offer up new opportunities for puzzles and combat, as well as for some pretty neat boss fights that will not be detailed here to avoid spoilers. Areas like Subrosia, an underground city that is linked to Oracle of Seasons’ overworld through portals, and Crescent Island, a portion of Oracle of Ages where all your items have been lost in a shipwreck, make for some new gaming experiences that keep the games feeling fresh right up to the end.
Also, you can’t ride a blue winged bear named Moosh in other Zelda games.
4- The Linked Game
After you finish either Oracle of Ages or Seasons, you receive a special password that can be used when you start up the other game in order to continue the story and to see the “linked ending” after you’ve played through both of them. This new ending involves Twinrova, two witches who must light the three Flames of Destruction, Sorrow and Despair in order to resurrect Ganon, The Evil King.
This cutscene plays as the introduction to Oracle of Ages after you have beaten Oracle of Seasons. Here, Twinrova are explaining how General Onox’s work in Holodrum has been manifested in the Flame of Destruction.
Linking the games adds more than a few new boss fights and cutscenes. You can also carry over the rings you’ve unlocked from the previous game, and take on new quests where you must relay “secrets” (passwords) to specific people in the land of the game you’ve previously beaten. Completing these quests can grant you new items that you would not get otherwise, and that cannot be seen by only playing through one of the games. You also start the game off with an extra heart, so those who wish to end the game with the maximum of 14 hearts can finally do so. Both games can be beaten without linking them together, but doing so extends the gaming experience and makes it far more entertaining.
All the games in the Zelda franchise look and sound great, but there are a couple details that make Oracle of Ages and Seasons particularly charming. The sprites are all adorable, the world is full of bright colours, and the music is catchy and upbeat. Since both games have to do with the manipulation of nature, it makes sense that they would be so bright and full of colour. In fact, the games use colour to their advantage – in Oracle of Ages, all the seasons have different colour palettes, and in Oracle of Ages the past and present look and sound very different. Not much more can be said about this part of the game –it’s something you’ll need to experience for yourself to fully understand.
The four seasons, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, all feature different colour palettes
There are so many things to love about Oracle of Ages and Seasons, from the way it looks and sounds to the experiences it presents that no other Zelda game can offer. Even if you don’t treasure them to the extent that I do, you will still find well over 20 hours of adventuring and puzzle-solving to enjoy in the lands of Holodrum and Labrynna, and I can guarantee that if you like other games in the Zelda franchise you won’t be disappointed.
Just in case Moosh didn’t sell you before, you can also ride around in the pouch of a boxing kangaroo named Ricky.
Alexandre Trottier absolutely loves Zelda games, especially Oracle of Ages and Seasons. In fact, he claims that they are the best 2D Zelda games. If you disagree with him (and chances are you do), you can send him angry tweets @NF_Alexandre. As well, you can head over to the NintendoFuse forums where there is a very special thread about these two games. Be sure to use the fancy “share” button below to spread the word about these incredible games, and leave a comment to tell us what you think!