Does The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time hold up in 2022?
Ocarina of Time is my favorite game of all time. Maybe it was because it was the first game I beat before my older brothers, or perhaps because it was the first game I tackled on my own, but what a game to have that honor. That's not saying I didn't play other games before it, and I don't love games that have followed. There's just something different about Ocarina of Time, and I'm apparently not the only one who thinks so since it often lands the number one spot on many best games of all time lists.
So when Nintendo announced that Ocarina of Time would be included in the new Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack, I was more than a little excited. However, I did have major concerns. I wasn't so worried about the game not living up to my nostalgia expectations since I regularly return to the 3DS version and sometimes even pull out the ol' N64. I was a little skeptical on how it would translate via emulator, as any version I've ever tried hasn't been, well, the greatest. So, how does the Nintendo Switch version hold up?
Unfortunately, the answer is that it doesn't. As soon as it was available, I threw money at Nintendo to get a chance to play my favorite game, and what I got was definitely not worth what I paid. While playing the game on the latest Nintendo console was nice, there were more than a few issues.
Still an incredible story with amazing gameplay
Before I dive into the horrors, let's talk about what is good first. The game itself is still as great as ever. The story is sprawling, the characters are compelling, and the music swells beautifully. Granted, the graphics aren't nearly as cutting age (they are a potato), but this is not a remaster (if you want better-looking graphics, check out the Nintendo 3DS remake). I wasn't expecting much of an upgrade, but the images are a little sharper despite a few flaws, like missing fog and, somehow, worse-looking water.
Still, the game hits the same grand notes as it did when I was young. Of course, a few things annoy me now, like the dialogue that moves too slowly, but I didn't mind when I was tearing my way through dungeons. One thing is for sure; I was happy to be back in this version of Hyrule. From the moment the dialogue began to scroll, I was hooked.
Another plus for the emulator is the save states. While Ocarina of Time is relatively forgiving with its save system, it was nice to stop mid-dungeon, create a save state, and return right where I was. No backtracking through a dungeon.
Also, when they work, the game's mechanics are still great. The targeting system, inventory management, secrets, and exploration all solidify what made this game one of the best of all time.
What's not so great about the port
However, the big issue here is how well it translates on the Nintendo Switch itself. The first thing players will notice is the lag and latency issues. If you're looking for fluidity, you're going to have more than a few hiccups playing Ocarina of Time. While it doesn't completely break the game, it is jarring when it happens. And if it happens at a crucial moment, say in the middle of a boss battle, it can be incredibly frustrating.
I've already mentioned how the graphics are not the greatest, but I wasn't expecting a game that came out in the 90s to look like Breath of The Wild. Still, the emulator issues mentioned earlier with the fog and water do detract a bit.
The worst part of the experience, however, was the controls. I could deal with occasional lag and older graphics, but I cannot handle bad controls. I first tried playing using the Switch Joy-Cons. It was fine at first, but the way the C toolbar was mapped (you have to hold down ZR and then hit one of the ABXY buttons to access C buttons) had me breaking more than a few Deku Sticks. The worst part is that I tried to change where the sticks were mapped, and somehow, I still managed to pull them out when I didn't want them.
This all comes down to poor mapping capabilities, and of course, the horrible inverted controls stuck on the slingshot and bow. Again, this could all be forgivable, but you can't remap the buttons nor opt-out of inverted controls. It's hard to enjoy an experience when you are fumbling around the controls — how are you supposed to play the game? When I first played through the original Halo with my partner, I almost quit before I noticed my controls were inverted. (He enjoys inverted controls like a monster.) People should have the option to play as they see fit, which is why remappable controls are so important.
Thank you, N64 controller!
If you are willing to shell out some more cash, there is something that can make your experience with Ocarina of Time much better: the N64 controller. Unboxing this controller did bring a little tear to my eye. Holding it was just a nice memory since so much of my childhood is tied to the N64. It fit so comfortably in my hands, and it made playing the game so much smoother.
However, there were a few times when the controller was a bit sticky, but I blame that on newness and a bit of lag in the game. Also, the slingshot and bow were still inverted (oh well). Regardless, it was a vast improvement from just the Joy-Cons and the Pro Controller. Still, it did cost $60. Also, I managed to snag one, but unfortunately, this option isn't open to everyone right now. These controllers are pretty much out of stock until 2022. Some third party options are available, but they may not map as well.
Is this just my nostalgia talking?
So, to be sure that I wasn't just letting my nostalgia do the talking, I decided to play different versions of Ocarina of Time. I played the Nintendo Switch Online version, the original N64 version, and the 3DS remake. (I skipped the Wii U virtual console one.) Honestly, no matter which version I played, I was sucked right in. Yes, aside from the remake, the graphics aren't up to standard, the text rolls super slowly, and I despise that owl. But yes, this game is still outstanding.
However, if you're looking to play Ocarina of Time for the first time and get a fantastic experience, you probably shouldn't go with the Nintendo Switch Online. If that's the only way you have to play it, I do suggest you play; but maybe see if you can get one of those N64 controllers first.
Get your game on
If you're not ready to commit to the Online Expansion Pack, this eShop card is good for so much more. Get games or get the subscription, or hand it off to a Nintendo-loving friend.
Stick with this subscription
You don't have to go with the Expansion Pack, but you can go cheaper with Nintendo Switch Online. You can play NES and SNES games, enjoy online play, and certainly get your money's worth without shelling out too much.
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Sara is the Freelance Coordinator, writer, and editor at iMore. When not editing or writing away, she's glued to her Nintendo Switch, Xbox, or PS5, though she's a retro gamer at heart.