Geek Squad’s back from Spring Break with even more Zelda-mania! Last issue I talked about two of my favorite underrated Zelda games (The Minish Cap and Spirit Tracks) with the promise of one more on the way. Well, I may have stretched the truth a bit, because this week I’m doing it like Billy Mays and doubling that offer! Why? Because it’s almost impossible to talk about just one of these two games without mentioning the other, so let’s get down to it!
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons/Oracle of Ages (GBC)
First, a little behind-the-scenes information: these two games stand out from most other Zelda games in that they weren’t actually developed by Nintendo. No, the Oracle games were instead created by Flagship, a subdivision of Capcom, who also went on to make The Minish Cap. Because of this, these three games are the only ones in the series to have not been developed by Nintendo (there’s also the three games that appeared on the Philips CD-i, but I try to forget those ever existed). Another fun little tidbit is that Flagship intended on making a third game along with Seasons and Ages, but the linking system (which I’ll get into later) proved too difficult. But enough about all that, let’s jump into these two awesome games!
Both games start the same because the idea is that they’re supposed to happen at the same time in two parallel universes – weird, I know. Link goes to check out the resting place of the Triforce, approaches it, and gets magically whisked away to some far-off land where surely something sinister is afoot that he has to take care of.
If you’re playing Oracle of Seasons (my personal favorite of the two), you get dropped off in the land of Holodrum, where you meet Din, the titular Oracle of Seasons. Enter Onox, the General of Darkness (quite the title), who kidnaps Din and sinks the Temple of Seasons underground, causing all of Holodrum’s seasons to go out of whack. It’s your job to retrieve the Rod of Seasons (which allows Link to change the seasons at will), traverse eight dungeons to collect “Essences of Nature,” save Din and kick Onox’s dark booty.
If you’re playing Oracle of Ages, you get dropped off in the land of Labrynna, where you meet Nayru, the once-again titular Oracle of Ages. Enter Veran, the Sorceress of Shadows (really now?), who kidnaps/possesses Nayru, causing the time flow of Labrynna to go out of whack. It’s your job to retrieve the Harp of Ages (which allows Link to travel 400 years into the past), traverse eight dungeons to collect “Essences of Time,” save Nayru and kick Veran’s shadowy booty. Seeing a pattern here?
Okay, so the storylines of both games are pretty much the definition of cookie-cutter, but it isn’t really the story you should be looking at. Both of these games struck a brilliant balance of old and new – these were Zelda games through and through, but at the same time they introduced a whole slew of new characters, features, items, game mechanics, and more. There’s a ton of stuff unique to these two games. You’ve got the ability to befriend one of three animal buddies, who you can then ride around on and thoroughly stomp face with. There’s a ring collecting system where you obtain rings from a number of different methods, get them appraised, and wear them to give yourself new abilities. Items like the Roc’s Cape or Switch Hook expanded on old favorites while introducing new challenges.
Point being, these two games are massive. We’re talking a whopping sixteen full-length dungeons between both games.
And while they are indeed two separate games, they were always meant to be played together, as evidenced by a robust linking system via password. On top of using passwords between the two games to unlock new items and quests, beating one game and using its password on the second unlocks the true final boss, a certain villain that usually ends up behind most of these evil plots.
As separate games, Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages stand as full-fledged entries to the Zelda series, each with their own merits. But when you take full advantage of the password system and play the two in sequence, you’ve got what’s easily the biggest and most diverse Zelda adventure to date.