Last year Nintendo proved that the classic 2D Zelda formula still holds up with the release of the Link’s Awakening remake on Switch. Nintendo went all-out on a gorgeous new art style, but the world and gameplay remained nearly identical after 20 years. The result was a critically acclaimed adventure that filled millions of players with a childlike sense of joy. Exploring Koholint reignited my passion for traditional Zelda gameplay, and now I’m craving more. I’ve previously argued that Nintendo should create new games using the classic formula, but I also think there’s good reason to continue with remakes as well. In particular, I’m desperate for remakes of Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons.
The Oracles and Link’s Awakening
Although they released on the same day, these games are not identical twins in the same vein as Pokémon. Each one is a unique journey set in a distant land plagued by evil. One game involves manipulating the seasons and focuses on action, while the other revolves around a time travel mechanic and heavily features puzzles. Players could also use passwords to unlock extra content in one game after beating the other. Beating both games unlocks a secret ending with a challenging final fight against a resurrected Ganon. The duo of games formed an ambitious vision that pushed the Game Boy Color to its limits. And if Link’s Awakening is any indication, these games could be even more fun with a fresh coat of paint.
The timing seems perfect, as it would be a case of history repeating itself. Before last year’s Switch remake, Link’s Awakening previously received an upgrade on Game Boy Color. Link’s Awakening DX launched in 1998, paving the way for the all-new GBC games to launch a few years later. As such, these games have always looked and felt quite similar, and there are even story connections. Nintendo’s official timeline (there aren’t enough asterisks in the world) in the Hyrule Historia indicates that A Link to the Past, the Oracles, and Link’s Awakening all feature the same Link. Some events in the games themselves make this claim… dubious, but hey, that could change!
Nintendo wouldn’t even have to invest the time and resources building a new graphics engine. Link’s Awakening justifies its toy-like art style by setting the game in a dreamland, but a remake of the Oracles could certainly recycle the look. The games begin with the Triforce summoning Link into their presence before teleporting him away, which is one of the more bizarre openings for any Zelda title. The lands of Holodrum and Labrynna also feature many characters and locations that have Hyrulean counterparts, much like Majora’s Mask. The mixtures of foreign and familiar give the pair of games a surreal tone that would fit perfectly with the dream-like visuals of Link’s Awakening.
A unique Zelda experience
Good timing and a re-usable graphics engine aside, these games are just flat-out good. They’re some of the best and most unique Zelda experiences around, and it’s a shame that they aren’t as widely celebrated by modern audiences as other Zelda classics. It’s nice to take a vacation from Hyrule every now and then, and after Koholint, I’d recommend Holodrum and Labrynna. Where else can you befriend a boxing kangaroo, a flying bear, and an expert swimmer Dodongo?
These games are densely packed with engaging content. They may each feature a map around the same size as that of Link’s Awakening, but that’s only true at a glance. The time travel mechanic in Ages lets you explore Labrynna twice over. Likewise, many areas of Holodrum can be explored multiple times over thanks to the different seasons of…well… Seasons. Holodrum also connects to an underground world called Subrosia, giving you even more to explore.
While you traverse these new lands, you’ll find some of the most unique items in the franchise. One of my personal favorites is a set of Magnetic Gloves. When activated, they can pull objects towards Link, or vice versa, which generates numerous puzzle and combat applications. The lands of Holodrum and Labrynna also hide a total of 64 magical rings. These rings can grant Link powers like increased attack or defense power, but some are a lot more creative than that. You can find a ring that gives you solid footing on ice, a ring that helps you locate rare items, or even a ring that transforms you into a Moblin.
The Oracles also feature some of the best and most difficult dungeons in the series. Ages stumps players with complicated puzzles and clever level design, while Seasons tests their might with waves of combatants that include aggressive bosses. In total, the games offer 16 dungeons with a wide variety of challenges, and you’ll really feel like the Legendary Hero after you’ve conquered them all. But why stop there?
Room for improvement and expansion
The Link’s Awakening remake was extremely faithful to the original, but it also took steps forward. Without compromising the core gameplay, it made numerous quality of life improvements (like a more robust map and better controls) and even added in the new Chamber Dungeon feature. The Oracles are similarly ripe for a tune-up.
In particular, an Oracles remake could more thoroughly explore the games’ “linked” story and ending. If you beat one of the games, then input a password and begin the second game, it actually changes some events in the story. Princess Zelda shows up in either Holodrum or Labrynna (depending on which game you played first) and Ganon’s evil minions begin to plot his return. Once you’ve beaten both games, you can unlock the true final fight against Ganon.
Unfortunately, this secret linked ending is short, but it doesn’t have to be. Why not flesh out the secret linked story, both in the base games themselves and in the final, linked ending? After all, these games were originally planned as a trio, each one revolving around one piece of the Triforce and its respective Oracle. Din and Nayru are the stars of Seasons and Ages respectively, but Farore has a much smaller role. Farore controls the game’s “secrets,” which are passwords for unlocking linked content. With her stitching the two games together already, it would make sense to give her a bigger role in the linked ending. There’s potential here for so much more than just a pair of boss fights.
Nintendo could even use this opportunity to connect the Oracles to A Link Between Worlds more cohesively. The latter starts with Ganon “sealed away” and in possession of the Triforce of Power. But based on when A Link Between Worlds is meant to take place, that frankly makes no sense whatsoever. It’s always been a puzzler to timeline enthusiasts, and the truth is that Nintendo probably isn’t all that concerned with forming a coherent timeline. But an extended and revised linked ending to the Oracles could actually be used to make sense of this discrepancy.
Fujibayashi’s debut 20 years ago
When players think about the creative force behind The Legend of Zelda, they often think about legendary creator Shigeru Miyamoto or perhaps longtime producer Eiji Aonuma. However, Miyamoto has taken several steps back. Aonuma is still heavily involved, but even he’s not quite as hands-on as he was in the 2000s. The director calling most of the shots these days is Hidemaro Fujibayashi. 16 years before he wowed the world with Breath of the Wild, Fujibayashi made his Zelda debut as the director of the Oracles.
In 1999, Nintendo gave Capcom the go-ahead to begin development on multiple Zelda games. The third-party developer would remake the first two NES Zelda games with modern children in mind, then create their own original title. Early on, Fujibayashi was just a clerk tasked by Capcom with gathering up developer ideas to organize them into pitches for Shigeru Miyamoto. However, development plans changed over time, and eventually, the remakes were dropped. Nintendo tasked Capcom with creating a trio of connecting games under Fujibayashi’s direction. This would prove too ambitious, and the third game was canceled, with many of its elements being divided up among the other two: Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons.
After the success of these two games, Fujibayashi would return to direct The Minish Cap and write for Phantom Hourglass. After proving his talents in these handheld games, he finally directed his first full-fledged 3D Zelda: Skyward Sword. The Wii title received critical acclaim, but its sales were lackluster, and its linear style left many fans feeling like the series was in need of a change. And that’s exactly what Fujibayashi delivered in Breath of the Wild, the highest-rated Zelda since Ocarina of Time, and the best-selling game in franchise history. It’s been a long journey, and it hasn’t yet brought the widespread recognition he deserves, but Fujibayashi has no doubt cemented himself as one of the central creative forces behind the series.
Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons first released in 2001 on Game Boy Color and the only re-release they’ve seen was in 2013 on the 3DS eShop. They deserve to be played by a wider audience, and Switch can deliver exactly that. Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of those games, as well as the 20th anniversary of Fujibayashi’s debut. It’s the perfect time to re-introduce the games that arguably kicked off the modern era of Zelda.