The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages

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The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages
The title of the game printed over the silhouette of a tree on a red background. Above the text is a drawn image of a character in a green cap holding a rod.
The cover for Oracle of Seasons
Developer(s) Capcom
Flagship
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Director(s) Hidemaro Fujibayashi1
Producer(s) Noritaka Funamizu
Designer(s) Hidemaro Fujibayashi
Yoichiro Ikeda
Su Chol Lee
Artist(s) Yusuke Nakano
Composer(s) Minako Adachi
Kyopi
Series The Legend of Zelda
Platform(s) Game Boy Color 3DS Virtual Console2
Release date(s) Game Boy Color
  • JP February 27, 2001
  • NA May 14, 2001
  • EU October 5, 2001
3DS Virtual Console
  • JP February 27, 2013
  • NA May 30, 2013
  • EU May 30, 2013
Genre(s) Action-adventure
Mode(s) Single-player

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of AgesJPN are two action-adventure games in the Legend of Zelda series, developed by Flagship (a subsidiary of Capcom). They were released on February 27, 2001 in Japan, May 14, 2001 in North America, and October 5, 2001 in Europe for Nintendo's Game Boy Color handheld console. Both games were re-released on the Virtual Console for the Nintendo 3DS in Japan on February 27, 2013 and in North America and Europe on May 30, 2013. The games feature a brighter color palette when played on a Nintendo Game Boy Advance in order to make up for the darkness of the screen, and a special shop is also made available.3 However, this shop isn't available on the Virtual Console version of the games. After experimenting with porting the original The Legend of Zelda to the Game Boy Color, the Flagship team, supervised by Yoshiki Okamoto, began developing three interconnected Zelda games that could be played in any order. The complexity of this system led the team to cancel one game.

The player controls Link from an overhead perspective, with the same control scheme from The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening for the Game Boy. In Seasons, the Triforce transports Link to the land of Holodrum, where he sees Onox kidnap Din, the Oracle of Seasons. In Ages, the Triforce transports Link to Labrynna, where Veran kidnaps Nayru. The main plot is revealed once the player finishes both games. Link is armed with a sword and shield as well as a variety of secondary weapons and items for battling enemies and solving puzzles. The central items are the Rod of Seasons, which controls the seasons in Holodrum, and the Harp of Ages, which lets Link travel through time in Labrynna. Before he can infiltrate Onox's castle and Veran's tower, Link must collect the eight Essences of Nature and the eight Essences of Time, which are hidden in dungeons and guarded by bosses.

Taking roughly three years to develop, the game was a critical and commercial success, with the two games together selling eight million units. Critics complimented the gameplay, colorful designs and graphic quality, but criticized the inconsistent sound quality.

Plot

Oracle of Seasons

Seasons begins as the Triforce calls out to Link from within Hyrule Castle. Link approaches it, and is transported to a dark forest where he encounters a traveling group led by a dancer named Din. After Din welcomes Link to Holodrum, the sky becomes covered in black clouds. A voice from the clouds calls Din the Oracle of Seasons and refers to himself as Onox, General of Darkness. A funnel cloud drops from the sky, taking Din into its dark heights. As the tornado dissipates, the seasons of Holodrum fall into disarray and change rapidly.4

Din's attendant, Impa, tells Link that they were headed for Hyrule; she instructs him to see the Maku Tree in Horon Village, the capital of Holodrum.5 Link finds a sword in a cave and makes his way to the tree. The Maku Tree tells Link he will need the eight Essences of Nature and gives him the Gnarled Key, which unlocks the dungeon holding the first Essence. Link retrieves the eight Essences, hidden in eight dungeons throughout Holodrum and Subrosia, and brings them to the Maku Tree. The Maku Tree uses them to create a Huge Maku Seed, a sacred seed that cleanses evil, which allows Link to enter Onox's castle.6 Link enters the castle and defeats Onox. He rescues Din, who tells him that he is now a true hero and must face a new trial soon.7 Twinrova, watching the scene remotely, states that the Flame of Destruction has been powered by the havoc Onox has wrought.8

Oracle of Ages

As with Seasons, the Triforce calls out to Link. Link is transported to a forest in the land of Labrynna, where he hears screaming. In a clearing, Link finds a woman encircled by monsters. When the monsters see Link, they scatter in all directions. The woman is Princess Zelda's nurse, Impa, who asks Link to help her find a singer in the forest.9 Continuing through the forest, the two find Nayru, a young woman with blue hair singing on a tree stump, surrounded by forest creatures. A shadow emerges from Impa and reveals itself as Veran, Sorceress of Shadows. Veran soars into Nayru's body and possesses her. Nayru was the Oracle of Ages; her abduction causes a disruption in the time flow of Labrynna.9

Link receives a sword from Impa and makes his way to the Maku Tree in Lynna City, the capital of Labrynna.10 The Maku Tree is killed in the past on Veran's orders; Link uses a time portal to travel to the past to prevent this. The Maku Tree tells Link he will need the eight Essences of Time to defeat Veran. Link sets out to retrieve the eight Essences, hidden in eight dungeons throughout Labrynna's past and present. After getting the sixth Essence, Link is told he has the opportunity to save Nayru. He invades Queen Ambi's castle and removes Veran's spirit from Nayru, but Veran then possesses Queen Ambi. Link gathers the remaining Essences and brings them to the Maku Tree, who uses them to create a Huge Maku Seed that allows Link to enter Veran's Black Tower.11 Link ascends the tower and defeats Veran. He rescues Queen Ambi, and Nayru tells him that all has returned to normal.12 Twinrova, watching the scene remotely, states that Veran has lit the Flame of Sorrow.13

Linked ending

If one game is played as a sequel to the other by a linked password, Twinrova captures Princess Zelda, lighting the Flame of Despair.14 Link enters a warp point by the Maku Tree and faces Twinrova, who is attempting to use the three Flames to revive Ganon, the primary antagonist in the Zelda series. Link defeats both Twinrova and a mindless, poorly resurrected Ganon.15 He frees Zelda, whose sacrifice would have been the full resurrection of Ganon; together, they exit the crumbling castle. After the credits, Link is seen waving to a crowd from a sailboat off the shore of a land with a castle in the background.

Gameplay

Four screenshots of the same area of the game in different seasons. Plants are light green in spring, dark green in summer, red and yellow in fall, and white and pale blue in winter. A tree blocks a passage in all seasons but winter, where the leaves have fallen and it is smaller.
In Oracle of Seasons, the environment changes with the season. From top left going clockwise: spring, summer, winter, autumn. Gameplay is sometimes affected by the seasons; during the winter for example, a path opens up that cannot be accessed during any other season; or during spring, the flower can be used to access unreachable ledges.

The gameplay of Oracle of Seasons and Ages is similar to that of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, copying basic controls, graphics, and sounds from the Game Boy title.1617 Like most The Legend of Zelda titles, exploration and combat take place from an overhead perspective. Link uses a sword for his primary attack, complemented by secondary weapons and items. Basic items, such as bombs and a boomerang, are common to both games. Some new items are exclusive to one game, usually with a counterpart in the other, with similar uses (e.g. the slingshot in Seasons and the seed shooter in Ages both shoot seeds, while the magnetic gloves in Seasons and the switch hook in Ages are used to access otherwise unreachable areas via special targets). Unlike most Zelda titles, a sword and shield is not always equipped when the player possesses them; they can be assigned like any other item into either of two available slots. Most of each of the games is spent finding the eight Essences (Essences of Nature in Seasons and Essences of Time in Ages), each hidden in a dungeon—a large, usually underground, area containing enemies and puzzles. Each dungeon culminates with a boss that guards the Essence.1819

When not in a dungeon, Link explores the overworld. In Seasons, the overworld consists of Holodrum and the subterranean world of Subrosia. The two worlds are linked by several portals. In Ages, Link travels between present-day Labrynna and the past, connected by Time Holes. In either game, some areas of one world are accessible only from portals from the other and vice versa. Holodrum, Subrosia, and Labrynna contain optional side quests and upgrades for Link and his equipment. One such side quest is ring collection; rings provide Link with various bonuses and abilities, such as improved defense. Some rings do not have any practical uses, such as those that transform Link into an enemy creature, or do not have any uses at all, such as the secret GBA rings. Another side quest is the optional trading game, in which Link receives and delivers special items to certain people throughout the land. Once completed, Link receives an upgraded sword.

In both games, there are many circumstances when a previous item can be upgraded into a more useful form. The latter three dungeons in both games will hold a more powerful version of an item received earlier in the game. Both the sword's offensive power and the shield's defensive abilities can be upgraded twice,20 once through passwords and again through side quests. If Link swings an enhanced sword at full health, a sword-shaped beam will escape from the sword as a ranged attack. The number of bombs and Mystical Seeds that can be held can also be increased through the same ways as the shield and sword. Roc's Feather and the Power Bracelet are special cases, as, while the two are in both games, the former can only be upgraded in Oracle of Seasons while the latter only in Oracle of Ages.

The central item of Oracle of Seasons is the Rod of Seasons. By standing on a stump and swinging the rod, Link can change the season and affect his surroundings.21 For example, to cross a body of water, Link can change the season to winter and walk on the ice. Changing the season to summer causes vines to flourish, which Link can use to scale cliffs. When Link obtains the rod, he initially cannot use it.22 In the course of the game, Link visits four towers that house the four spirits of the seasons; each tower Link visits allows him to switch to an additional season.22

In Oracle of Ages, the central item is the Harp of Ages, which Link uses to manipulate time and travel between the past and the present.23 In the course of the game, Link learns three tunes to play on the harp. The Tune of Echoes activates Time Portals at fixed locations; the Tune of Currents enables Link to travel from the past to the present without a Time Portal; the Tune of Ages allows Link to switch between the two time periods at almost any location on the map.

Interaction

Although the two are built on the same game engine, Oracle of Ages concentrates on puzzles, while Oracle of Seasons focuses on action.16 Each is a complete game capable of interacting with the other, via passwords24 or a Game Link Cable.24

Upon completing either game, players receive a password that can be used to play an alternative version of the other.24 In this version, some characters mention passwords that can be given to characters in the first game in exchange for an item or upgrade. Then, by taking a new password back into the linked game, the item or upgrade can be transferred.24 Rings can be traded by this password system or randomly created by connecting two games with a Game Link Cable.25

In the alternative version, plot points are changed or expanded upon to allow the game to serve as a sequel. It also features an extended ending (See plot summary above). After the extended ending, a password is given to the player which allows them to obtain the Victory Ring.

Development

In early 1999, Yoshiki Okamoto, then head of Capcom's screenwriter subsidiary Flagship, proposed his idea of remaking the original The Legend of Zelda for the Game Boy Color to Shigeru Miyamoto, the game designer at Nintendo who created the series.1262728 As his offer was declined, Okamoto threatened Miyamoto with creating an identical competitive product with a new title and different charactersverification needed, and was eventually asked to develop six Zelda games for the Game Boy Color: two based on earlier installments and four original entries into the series.2629 Okamoto wanted to release them in quick succession of four to five months, and held on to his concept of bringing the first game to the handheld console to make young children experience the merits of the original Zelda, but also as a test for the development team to move on to a more ambitious sequel if it turned out to be successful.13031

Contrary to Miyamoto's design mentality of creating the gameplay system first, development started out with the scenario writing, which Flagship was in charge of.31 Some of the staff members, the team led by director and designer Hidemaro Fujibayashi that was responsible for tasks other than the storyline, wanted to skip the remake and create an original Zelda title right away.12931 As the first installment in the series was deemed too difficult for the new generation of players, more and more changes were applied to the point where it had an entirely different world map.26 As a result, the team ran into problems because the scenario and the maps had to be reworked constantly to make all the modifications match.31 The Game Boy Color's screen presented an additional hurdle when attempting to rework the earlier Zelda title as it is narrower than that of a television; players could not view an entire room without scrolling which made it easy to overlook stairways or clues on walls.31

Dismayed by the rate at which the team had been spending money for a year without results, Okamoto asked Miyamoto for help, who then came up with the idea of a whole trilogy of games, each with a different focus on gameplay elements.2631 This trilogy was referred to as the "Triforce Series",32 named after a fictional holy relic known as the Triforce33 that plays a major role in many Zelda titles. The Triforce is composed of three parts: the Triforces of Power, Wisdom, and Courage; each game in the trilogy was to be associated with a piece of the Triforce, one of the titles being the conversion of the original The Legend of Zelda.3334 The first game of the three was demonstrated at Nintendo's SpaceWorld trade show in 1999, under the working title Zelda no Densetsu: Fushigina Kinomi – Chikara no Shō (ゼルダの伝説 ふしぎな木の実 ~力の章~).35 This action-oriented game concerned Ganon's theft of Princess Zelda and the "Rod of the Seasons", which threw the seasons of Hyrule into chaos3637—a precursor to the plot of Oracle of Seasons. In the playable demonstration, Link solved puzzles by using the Rod of the Seasons to manipulate the environment and change the current season. Chie no Shō, which focused on color-based puzzles, and Yūki no Shō, which used the times of day to solve puzzles in a mechanic similar to the use of seasons, were not shown.3233 In the US, the games became The Legend of Zelda: Mystical Seed of Power, Mystical Seed of Wisdom, and Mystical Seed of Courage.38

The games interacted with each other: players could begin with any of the three titles and have the actions of the first game affect the story of the other two, a concept conceived by Okamoto.2639 More than ten of Flagship's scenarists, among them Resident Evil writer Junichi Miyashita, worked simultaneously on the three stories.264041 The developers considered using a cell phone adapter to transfer data, but later decided on a password system.32 The limitations of this system and the difficulty of coordinating three games proved too complicated, so the team scaled back to two titles at Miyamoto's suggestion.3142 Condensing the games into a single cartridge was never considered, as the prospect of multiple endings and the added replay value afforded by the ability to play the titles in either order was very attractive.31 Oracle of Seasons was adapted from Mystical Seed of Power, Oracle of Ages was adapted from Mystical Seed of Wisdom, and Mystical Seed of Courage was canceled.32

These sweeping design changes pushed the release dates closer to the upcoming release of the Game Boy Advance (GBA), the next system in the Game Boy line that is backward compatible with Game Boy Color games. The team considered adding special functionality to the game triggered only when played on a GBA, but was afraid that the additional development time required for the addition would cause the games to be released after the GBA.31 When the release date of the GBA was postponed, the team was able to incorporate GBA functionality and still release the games approximately a month before the GBA was released.31 Staggered releases were abandoned in favor of releasing the two games simultaneously. This made it easier for the team to test the interaction between the games and keep the style consistent.31 Each title was shipped on an 8-megabit cartridge.4344 The music for the games was composed by two employees of the Japanese music and sound effect production company Pure Sound, credited under the pseudonyms "M-Adachi" and "Kyopi".45 Nintendo artist and series regular Yusuke Nakano designed the characters for the two titles, and incorporated previous creations from Ocarina of Time into Oracle of Seasons and characters from Majora's Mask into Oracle of Ages.4546

Reception

Reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 91.50% (Seasons)48
(based on 21 reviews)
91.89% (Ages)49
(based on 18 reviews)
Review scores
Publication Score
Electronic Gaming Monthly 9.0/10 and 9.5/1050
Famitsu 31/40 (Seasons)51
30/40 (Ages)52
GamePro 4/55354
GameSpot 9.2/101617
IGN 10/105556
Nintendo Power 5/54344

Oracle of Seasons and Ages were critical and commercial successes, selling nearly 4 million copies each.5758 Reviews were strongly positive: Chris Carle of IGN said that Seasons and Ages were "the best games ever made for the Game Boy Color",55 and Craig Majaski of Gaming Age called them "the two best games ever to grace a handheld system".59 It was rated the 34th (Seasons) and 39th (Ages) best games made on a Nintendo System in Nintendo Power's Top 200 Games list.60 In August 2008, Nintendo Power listed Oracle of Seasons and Ages as the fourth and fifth best Game Boy/Game Boy Color video games respectively.61 The games placed joint 57th in Official Nintendo Magazine's 100 greatest Nintendo games of all time.62 Game Informer's Ben Reeves called them the 10th best Game Boy games collectively.63 The interconnection was seen as one of the highlight features of the titles. The ability to play the games in reverse order after completion increases the replay value, as does trading passwords between the two. GamesRadar listed The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons / Ages as one of the titles they want in the 3DS Virtual Console,64 both Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons were later released on the 3DS Virtual Console on May 30, 2013.65

Critics enjoyed the graphics; GamePro called Seasons "bright and colorful" with "surprisingly expressive and well-designed" animations,53 and Gaming Target said Ages is "beautiful and creative", with "meticulous attention to detail".66 Gaming Age called both games "the pinnacle of good graphics on the Game Boy Color system".59 Although the two share graphics to a large extent, Seasons is distinguished by swapping the color palette to reflect the current season. IGN felt that the expressive colors used for the changing seasons made Seasons the more graphically impressive of the two.55

Reviews of the audio were mixed. Reviewers noted that the sound was hampered by the poor quality of the Game Boy Color's speakers,53 although it fared favorably compared with other games for the system.54 The selection of songs was praised for complementing familiar Zelda songs and sounds with new music. The Zelda theme and the traditional sound effect played upon solving a puzzle were considered welcome additions,59666768 but other sound effects were criticized as simplistic "beeps".676970

Gamebooks

Two game books were released based on the games as part of the Nintendo You Decide on the Adventure series by Scholastic. Both were written by Craig Wessel and based on the events in the games with few minor differences. The first one based on Oracle of Seasons (ISBN 0-439-36709-3) was published in October, 2001 and the second one based on Oracle of Ages (ISBN 0-439-36710-7) was published in January, 2002.

See also


Notes

^ The games are collectively known in Japan as Zeruda no Densetsu: Fushigi no Kinomi (ゼルダの伝説 ふしぎの木の実?, lit. "The Legend of Zelda: The Mysterious Nuts"). Oracle of Seasons was given the additional subtitle Daichi no Shō (大地の章?, "Chapter of the Land") while Oracle of Ages was subtitled Jikū no Shō (時空の章?, "Chapter of Space-Time").

References

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