The Gameboy Color is still going strong with the latest addition to the Legend of Zelda series. Oracle of The Ages is 1 of 2 games released that combine together to form a complete adventure. Capcom had a real task programming and making the new Zelda games and their effort shows! Originally planned as a trilogy, Capcom had to scrap the idea as implementing the Password feature and linking 3 games would have been a programming nightmare!
In Oracle of The Ages, Link travels to the magical and mysterious land of Labrynna. There he meets Impa, who seems a little weird. She tells Link she needs to ensure the safety of the Oracle of the Ages upon Princess Zelda's request. After Link helps her into the forest sanctuary, they meet the Oracle of The Ages, Nayru and marvel at her heavenly voice as she sings to the animals and her friend Ralph.
Things go awry when Veran, Sorceress of Shadows appears from the possessed Impa and, in a blinding light, takes control of Nayru and uses her powers to traverse time itself. Veran travels to the past to begin creating a new age, an age of shadows. Soon people and things in the present start disappearing or changing mysteriously.
Link thus begins his adventure to harness the power to travel through time. Using the magical Harp of Ages, Link literally enters a race against time to gather the Essences of Time, warping between Past and Present to do so. Link will eventually have to save Nayru and stop Veran's diabolical plan from reaching completion.
Gameplay is relatively unchanged in some ways from similar Legend of Zelda titles. Link uses his trusty sword and shield as usual, together with trademark items like Roc's Feather, Power Bracelet, Bombs and other special items to grant him new abilities and exploration options that allow him to progress deeper or access previously inaccessible locations.
Oracle of Ages is the more puzzle-intensive of the titles, so expect massive and brain-wrecking puzzles and a lot less monster bashing. Bosses in the game are less obvious in the methods to defeat them, and simple brute force will end your adventure that much earlier. Expect to use special items you have gained as well as observing boss attack patterns and objects in the battlefield, as they may offer clues that are the only way to find their weakness.
New items or equipment are purchased either from shops or found throughout the game's main 8 dungeons. Link will have to dig, slash around and warp between Past and Present to get certain items or to progress further.
Oracle of The Ages does not have an 'underworld' like Oracle of The Seasons, but the time travelling more then makes up for it as the map for both Past and Present have significant differences. Link will have to travel back and forth through time to progress as the landscape in the Past may be blocked off, but is accessible in the Present and vice versa.
Throughout his journey, Link will meet many NPCs from both Past and Present that will provide help and information. Link will also have a chance to meet 3 different animal friends who will help him traverse difficult terran that they specialize in: Moosh the winged bear, Dimitri the Dodongo, and Ricky the marsupial. Depending on how Link progresses, he will have the chance to make a lifetime companion of 1 of the animals through a special flute.
All in all, Link will have to master magical rings as well. Magical rings grant Link special bonuses like added attack power or better chances of finding something. Link will also plant Mystical Seeds in several special locations in the game that will sprout and eventually reward Link with a special item. All these new elements plus the standard fare mentioned earlier make this game very deep and engrossing; a real challenge to master and also a unique experience all in one.
The most unique feature has to be the special Password Linking feature. Upon completing Oracle of The Ages, players will be given a special Password that will allow them to start a Linked Oracle of The Seasons game. While playing the Linked Oracle of The Seasons game, players will stumble upon NPCs that recognize Link from his previous adventure in Oracle of the Ages and award him with special Passwords. These Passwords can then be used in the completed Oracle of The Ages game to unlock special mini-games and events that will give the Oracle of The Ages Link great new power-ups and a new Password. The gained Password can then be used in the Linked Oracle of The Seasons game to give the Link in that game a similar power-up! This is definitely one of the cooler features implemented for a handheld RPG and really makes things that much easier in their second game.
The music in the game is simply beautiful. Simply pushing the Game Boy Color's sound chip to new levels, though you'd probably be best off with an amplifier to really enjoy the trademark Zelda tunes in this aural pleasure of a game.
Sounds are simple enough; you'll probably be hearing your fair share of beeps. However, certain sounds are implemented in puzzles and hint on treasure or certain combinations to execute a puzzle, even more so for the puzzle rich Oracle of The Ages. Thankfully the sound is crisp and clear enough to ensure you won't miss a beep.
The graphics in the game are simply colorful and really push the Game Boy Color's palette range into overdrive. Playing this game on an old Game Boy or a Game Boy Pocket is simply out of the question. Oracle of The Ages' graphics range is simpler then Oracle of The Seasons; the Past has a more dull and 'faded' palette assigned to it while Present is more colorful and bright. It's quite an ingenious way to tell the player, visually, which age they are in. Link and most characters are represented in small, simple sprites. The exception goes for the bosses, though, as they are more detailed and significantly larger. The game also offers some rare anime-style cut scenes. Most notably in the introduction and certain plot events.
The control is simple enough to master. Link simply has to assign an item to Button A and one to Button B. Switching between items is also easy enough due to the simple and detailed menus. You can practically save anywhere, but loading a game will place you at the entrance of the location, so you'll have to hike all the way to the spot you stopped at previously. This can be a nuisance at times, but allowing character data to be saved anywhere is quite a plus in this challenging game.
Controlling Link is a breeze, though the restrictive size of a Game Boy Color or Advance may make trickier action a real pain to pull off. Control in this game is just as important, as certain puzzles require point-blank precision aiming to solve!
In conclusion, playing just Oracle of the Ages is simply playing just half of a complete and large adventure. It is highly recommended to have Oracle of the Seasons as well to experience the real ending to the game. RPG players with a knack for puzzle solving and a spare supply of Aspirin will love the deep, complex puzzles of this game.