Release date: October 2001 (GBC), May 2013 (eShop)
Developer: Nintendo, Capcom
Format: Digital download (eShop)
Other platforms: NA (originally released on Nintendo Game Boy Colour)
Price: $7.80 AUD
Back in 2001 Nintendo released two Zelda games for the Game Boy Colour: Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons. In 2013, they brought both games to the eShop for the 3DS. Since I loved them to bits as a teenager (they were my favourite GBC games), I bought both as soon as I got my 3DS. Though these games are now more than a decade old, I can honestly say they are among my favourite games on any system, and they stand the test of time to feel fresh and original even today. This review is only for Oracle of Seasons; I will review Oracle of Ages separately at a later date.
Oracle of Seasons begins with Link awakening in the land of Holodrum, where he is soon discovered by a woman with flaming red hair: Din. Din leads Link back to a campfire where they dance with her troupe. However, as they finish, the game’s antagonist – Onox, General of Darkness – shows up and reveals that Din is the Oracle of Seasons. Onox then kidnaps Din and submerges the Temple of Seasons below ground, throwing Holodrum’s seasons into chaos. Naturally it’s up to Link to restore order to the land by recovering the Essences of Nature from within the eight dungeons.
The overworld in Oracle of Seasons is huge. While many areas change to a different season every time Link visits, some areas are locked by default to a particular season, such as the Woods of Winter where it is always (you guessed it) winter.
To counter this seasonal chaos, Link needs the Rod of Seasons, which gives him the ability to summon each season at will. When you first get the Rod, you can only summon winter but as you progress, the Rod will be upgraded, allowing you to call any season. The Rod is a core component of Oracle of Seasons’ gameplay, as the terrain changes depending on the season.
The changing seasons add an interesting puzzle-solving component to the game. For example, a lake that’s impassable in summer becomes frozen in winter, allowing you to walk across and access new areas, while in summer some bodies of water dry up, revealing hidden underground entrances. Giant flower bulbs are rock hard for most of the year, but in spring they open up and allow Link to use them to launch him high into the air to reach platforms he couldn’t get to otherwise.
As you journey through Holodrum, you’ll encounter some adorable and helpful animal companions. Moosh is a winged blue bear who can fly over large chasms. Dimitri is a friendly Dodongo (a lizard enemy in previous Zelda games) who can swim. Ricky is a boxing kangaroo who can jump over small gaps and packs a punch when fighting enemies. Eventually you get items that allow you to pass most obstacles without the skills of your animal companion, but at some point during your adventure, you’ll receive a special flute that can call one of the companions to you wherever you are. The flute you receive (and therefore the companion you can summon) vary depending on your actions, but by default, the companion you’ll become friends with in Oracle of Seasons is Ricky.
There are lots of different enemies to fight in the world of Holodrum, and most (if not all) of them will be familiar to anyone who’s played previous Zelda games. Familiar faces include Like Likes, Moblins, Keese and Octoroks, and while most of these are easy to kill in one or two hits by mashing your Sword button at them, some enemies like Lynels and Ball & Chain Troopers can be difficult to attack and do a lot of damage to Link if they hit you.
At various points in the overworld, you will come across strange swirling portals. Jumping into one of these will take you to the subterranean realm of Subrosia, full of bubbling lava and inhabited by strange little hooded creatures. Down here the currency used is ore chunks, which, like rupees, can be found by harvesting grass or digging holes in the ground. At the Subrosian Market you can purchase some key quest items as well as Gasha Seeds, while at the Dance Hall you can take part in a dance contest to win a Boomerang and other random prizes (if you win enough times, you can also get Dimitri’s Flute if you haven’t already got another companion’s flute).
Plenty of familiar items from the series return in Oracle of Ages, along with a few new ones. Old favourites include Bombs, Sword and Shield, Slingshot, Roc’s Feather, Power Bracelet and Boomerang. Some items – like the Boomerang – are exclusive to Oracle of Seasons, such as Roc’s Cape (a powered up version of Roc’s feather which lets you fly rather than just jump over single-square gaps). Another item that doesn’t appear in Oracle of Ages is the Magnetic Gloves, which allows Link to pull light metallic objects towards him or draw himself towards heavy metallic objects.
The Seed Satchel allows Link to collect various seeds (which can later be used with the Slingshot). Seeds can be found by cutting grass or smashing pots but the easiest way to find them is to cut them from their respective Seed Trees. Ember Seeds can light torches and burn shrubs, while Pegasus Seeds make Link run faster and freeze enemies. The Gale Seeds are one of the most useful; once you get these, you can warp to any of the Seed Trees around the map, saving a lot of time walking between far-flung locations.
A new feature exclusive to the Oracle games is the Gasha Seeds. Found in chests around the world, they can be planted in soft soil and will eventually mature into a tree with a Gasha Nut. Cutting it down will reveal the contents; sometimes it’ll just be rupees or other everyday items, but if you’re lucky it will be a ring. You can’t do anything with it at first, but once you take it to Vasu the Jeweller, he’ll appraise it for a small fee and tell you what the ring does. Some rings are relatively useless or will only be helpful in a (very) few specific situations, but many give you advantages like increased weapon damage, faster swim speed or less damage taken from certain enemies. It’s definitely worth growing Gasha Seeds when you find them as equipping the right ring can make things that much easier.
No Zelda game would be complete without dungeons, and Oracle of Seasons has plenty. The eight dungeons in this game are full of puzzles, and though some have obvious solutions, some will probably have you stumped at least for a little while. As usual you’ll have to search for small keys to open various doors along the way, as well as the all-important Boss Key. As well as the enemies, there are often dangerous traps throughout the dungeons, and most dungeons have at least one area that involves 2D platforming, which can require fairly well-honed reflexes.
At about the halfway point in each dungeon, you’ll be faced with a Mini Boss, with a final Boss waiting at the end of the dungeon. While some of them are relatively easy to beat and can be taken down in under a minute, some require careful strategy and the use of particular items (in many cases, the item will be one you have found in that dungeon). Sometimes you’ll need to shoot a Boss’s weak point with your Slingshot, while other Boss Fights will have heavy items you need to pick up and throw with your Power Bracelet. Some of the Bosses can do a lot of damage with one attack and these attacks can be hard to avoid, so taking them down can be a real challenge.
Like most of the older Zelda games, Oracle of Seasons is primarily a top-down game, though some small sections consist of 2D-platforming. It’s not a short game – from memory it took me about 20-25 hours to finish – but it never felt like a drag. Another bonus is that once you finish this game, you can continue the story in Oracle of Ages. After you beat the final boss, you’ll be given a password that you can enter at the start of Oracle of Ages, which, in addition to opening up more NPC encounters and quests, you’ll also get access to more boss battles and a scene with Princess Zelda, which is essentially the ‘true’ endings of both games. Likewise after you beat Oracle of Seasons, you can enter the password in Oracle of Ages and play that one with added content.
Even with the limited graphics of the Game Boy Colour era, Oracle of Ages is still a beautiful game. Aside from the gorgeously rendered cut scenes, the environments themselves are bursting with colour, which is emphasised all the more when you travel between locations with different seasons. Some of the music is also familiar from older Zelda games, while other tunes are new. Being a Game Boy Colour game, the music isn’t particularly complex, but the melodies are usually pleasant enough to listen to (even if they might start to feel a bit samey by the time you’re close to finishing the game).
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons was an amazing game in 2001 and it’s still amazing in 2017. Even if you already played it on the Game Boy Colour, it’s worth getting again on the 3DS because it still has the same magic it did 16 years ago. If you never got to play it back in the day, you need to pick it up as soon as you can. This (along with Oracle of Ages) is not only one of the best Zelda games, it’s one of the best games in general.