Note: This review is based on the Japanese version of the game.
The Legend of Zelda has long been one of the most highly regarded series for any console. The gameplay has always been deep, although the story, sadly enough, never gets beyond being quite shallow. What happens, though, when Capcom takes the reins and Miyamoto (and Nintendo) become secondary players in development? The product of that little experimentation is The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages for the Game Boy Color.
Just as Link lays his hands on the Triforce (once again) a bright light flashes and our pointy-eared hero lays unconscious in the strange land of Holodrum. He awakens in a clearing among a band of troubadours and a red-haired dancer. The dancer, whose name is Din, beckons you to join her.
After a short cinema, a tornado appears and carries everyone off. You’re knocked out again and awake to find an old woman named Impa hovering over you. She urges you to seek out the Maka Tree to save Din and Holodrum. Din is no ordinary girl, you see. She’s actually the sorceress of the Seasons in Holodrum and with her power sealed away, the course of the seasons gets really wacky.
Gameplay has always been the area where the Zelda series shines the most, and Seasons is no exception. There’s always a wealth of areas to explore and tons of secrets to discover. Seasons introduces a few new ideas to the fray however.
First is the rings you find throughout the game; equip these and they’ll give you various advantages, such as more power, more luck, or the power to regenerate life. Next are the few animal friends you find in your travels: Ricky the Kangaroo, Dimitri the Dodongo, and Moosh the Bear. To be honest, you’ll use them maybe once in the entire game (and you can only summon one again after that one time) and their addition really doesn’t add much to the play in Seasons.
Seasons, other than the new add-ons, plays similarly to the previous Zelda GBC titles. Link attacks enemies with his sword and solves puzzles. Nothing revolutionary, but Seasons is another quality installment to the classic Zelda formula. Gameplay here is the purpose, not the means.
Control has always been an issue with most Game Boy Color games, and Seasons is no exception. Every aspect of the control, from directional to the A-B buttons, is unresponsive. And with how combat intensive Seasons can be, the control problem is definitely an issue.
Everyone knows the Game Boy Color doesn’t possess the most advanced musical ability, but the compositions and sound effects for Zelda are anything but enjoyable. Many times I found myself turning down the sound to listen to some J-Punk (Penpals rule!) so I wouldn’t drive myself mad. If there’s an OST for Seasons, it better be arranged; I don’t see how anyone could stand to listen to it otherwise.
Story, sadly enough, is always an area in which Zelda has severely lacked. It’s a shame too, because the game holds so much imaginative potential. Miyamoto must live by the ideal, “If it’s isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons, despite all of its flaws, is a must buy for the Game Boy Color RPG enthusiast. The game is one of the better-developed handheld titles out there, and when used in conjunction with Ages, provides a lot of depth in a small package.
Also, be sure to check out Expert Gamer’s August 2001 issue for the Oracle of Ages guide, written by yours truly.