The Game Boy Color Zeldas Are Still Two Of The Best Games Around

It's always fascinating, as a video game fan in 2013, to pick up old games and see how well they've aged. Sometimes you're disappointed. You discover all the warts and blemishes that somehow looked oh-so-lovely a decade ago. You find that Xenogears, which you consider a masterpiece, has text so slow you'll start thinking about how short life really is. You realise that buying one item at a time in the original Final Fantasy is just as tedious as it sounds. You start to really appreciate just how much user interfaces have improved over the past few years.

But sometimes, as I discovered last night while revisiting Zelda: Oracle of Seasons, you'll go back to a game and find it's just as stellar as your memory says it is.

Some background. Zelda: Oracle of Seasons is one of two Zelda games designed for the Game Boy Color. The second is Zelda: Oracle of Ages, and although their names share a bunch of words they're actually totally different games. Both are top-down 2D Zeldas in which you get a sword and a shield and bombs and a boomerang and you do all of the things you'd do in any Zelda: explore, slash, solve puzzles, rinse, and repeat. Each game has its own set of unique items, too, and its own gimmick: in Seasons you are given a rod that controls the seasons; in Ages you wield a harp that lets you travel through time.

Both Oracle games were released for the Game Boy Color in 2001, and again on the 3DS eShop yesterday. (For the special discounted price of $US4.99 each, on sale until June 20 when they revert back to... $US5.99 each. Thanks a lot, Nintendo.) I played them both for the first time when they came out back then, and then again yesterday.

You can play the two games in any order. When you beat one, you get a password that you can use to switch things up a bit in the second. When you finish both, you get to fight the real final boss. This time I went with Seasons first, because in 2001 I started with Ages, and I thought I'd switch it up a bit.

Three dungeons in, I'm sold. The top-down world feels vaguely familiar yet constantly surprising. It's fun to hack away at tiny, washed-out versions of classic Zelda enemies like moblins and Like-Likes. It's even more fun to enter a brand new dungeon and slowly piece together its secrets, letting everything click together one puzzle at a time.

But the best thing about both Oracle games, which were developed by Flagship, a former Capcom subsidiary that also made the excellent Zelda: Minish Cap for Game Boy Advance, is that they're just straight-up full of stuff. Walking around the world map for even 30 seconds will inevitably lead you to a kangaroo who lost his boxing gloves, or a palace full of nasty Moblins, or a random encounter with a ditzy witch. Everything is very dense.

Compare this to, say, the seemingly-endless oceans of Zelda: Wind Waker, or the vast skies of Skyward Sword, in which navigation feels like an uphill battle and sidequests often make you wonder whether they're worth the time you'll have to spend travelling. In the Oracle games, travelling is a pleasure on its own.

Not to say that either Wind Waker or Skyward Sword are bad games: each is excellent for different reasons. But the Oracle games deserve just as much praise.

I'll have more to say about both games — which most definitely count as Japanese role-playing games, since they are action-RPGs made in Japan — as I spend more time with them. But for today, if you are wondering whether you should get them on your 3DS, I am pleased to announce that yes, Zelda: Oracle of Seasons and Zelda: Oracle of Ages get the official Random Encounters Recommendation. They've aged quite well. Go check them out.

Random Encounters is a weekly column dedicated to all things JRPG.


    Never speak ill of Xenogears again...

    I find that most Nintendo games age well. Compare Mario to Sonic.

      The Megadrive Sonic games have aged pretty good, they still look and play great.

    I hadn't played any of the Gameboy Zeldas apart from Minish Cap, but I picked up Link's Awakening and quite enjoyed it, so grabbed these ones too for $6.50 each (damn Aussie prices). I'm 2 dungeons into Seasons and I'm loving the game. It holds up well apart from the limited buttons forcing you to constantly go to the items menu to switch.

    Played these games quite a bit on the GBC, and later GBA. Unfortunately, my carts have had their batteries run flat. Thankfully I can now play the games again on my 3ds.

    Link's Awakening is the only Zelda game I have enjoyed. Yes I am a terrible person.

      Try A Link to the Past.

      Last edited 02/06/13 5:28 pm

    Ignoring the many.. many issues in the article, I strongly recommend these games. Especially if OoT was your first Zelda.

    These were great. Back then, everyone thought they'd pull a Pokemon and just mildly rehash one game into two packages but they're totally different, complementary games with their own environment mechanic.

    Two of my Favourite Link to the Past being my top pick. Got them both Friday night, still though love how it's $4.99 in the States and $6.50 here for a digital copy. Still we don't get $7 50 hr minimum wage.

    Hands-down, the best handheld Zelda titles. I adore these games on a very personal level.

    yeah they really were amazing. I remember saving so much pocket money to buy seasons. Probably should have bought ages instead though, was the better of the two I though after playing them much later. I wish they were on the e-Shop for the 3ds. oh wait they are! :D

    Last edited 03/06/13 2:07 am

    When I was younger my brother and i played one each. I played Seasons and he played Ages. God these games were so much fun! These were actually my first Zelda experiences.

    Don't forget Link's Awakening DX. That was fantastic, also the only Zelda game I've played fully

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