History of Zelda: Part 07 – Oracle of Seasons

The History of Zelda – Part 7

The Legend of Zelda. Indeed, this name is as recognisable in Video Game fame as Mario, and even Final Fantasy. Close to thirty years ago, Nintendo hired a man who would, of all things, design concepts for toys. Little did anybody know that this man would write history, influence hundreds of games, oversee the development of even more and define an entirely new genre. Shigeru Miyamoto devised the first iteration of The Legend of Zelda in the mid 1980s, and since then, The Legend of Zelda has become one of Nintendo’s very best properties.

This series of articles will look at each Zelda title in chronological order of release, describe the groundbreaking achievements and show the essence of the Action Adventure RPG.

Chapter VII – Oracle of Seasons (GBC)

An Oracle is described as a person serving as infallible though mysterious guide, test or indicator, who is authoritative, profoundly wise and is a judge or prophet in that respect. The people of Holodrum were seen over by Din, the Oracle of Seasons. She commanded the power to alter the seasons and here power was invaluable for the resurrection of the evil Ganon. After a deceitful trick foreseen by the Triforce to capture her, Link travels to a once again new and intriguing land in search of the power of the elements.

Dark forces were advancing on the peaceful land of Holodrum. Headed by the evil Onox, General of Darkness, evil creatures were rising everywhere. As a result, the seasons were being thrown into absolute chaos. The Maku tree, the guardian spirit of Holodrum, sensed the ever rising evil and requested Link search for the eight Essences of Nature in order to overthrow the evil that existed. And so, a new element was introduced to The Legend of Zelda; the ever changing seasons.

The world of Holodrum is a land filled with season sensitive elements such as spring blooming flowers, snow covered caves as well as summer sapped shallows of water and pits clogged with autumn falling leaves. The element of the changing seasons and the eventual ability of Link to learn how to harness them is an entirely new mechanic to the series, providing an exceptionally enjoyable and sometimes brain teasing experience. It would take many attempts and returns to certain places in order to advance, something that is a staple to Zelda adventures.

The adventure borrowed heavily from Link’s Awakening in terms of game engine, graphical effects and items. But that’s where the similarity ended. Encased in a story stretching across the seasons were all new bosses, enemies, equipment and puzzles. Making returns were Roc’s feather, bombs, shovel and boomerang. Mixed in with the old are the new flutes, Roc’s cape, seed satchel and Seasons exclusive Slingshot and Rod of Seasons. Oh, there is the sword and shield, naturally.

Sometimes, progression wouldn’t be possible, by your own skills that is. That’s why, fortunately for you, Seasons (and Ages) introduced animal aid. If there was a crevice too wide to jump, a river with current too strong, Ricky, Moosh or Dimitri would be there to help. Ricky was a kangaroo, offering jumping and punching (?) techniques. Moosh was a winged bear, with the ability to fly some distance and ground pound. Dimitri was a Dodongo, who could swim in strong currents and even up waterfalls. Link even had the ability to carry Dimitri with the power bracelet. Depending on how you progressed, you acquired a flute to summon a particular friend. This is a continuation of the horseback riding introduced in Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. It constructively extends on the mechanic for the need of new abilities to progress to new locations, which is an essential part of any adventure in the series.

There is also the expansion of the two tiered system, with the incorporation of not only the different seasons, but an ‘other’ world, Subrosia. Subrosia was complete with a village, lava rivers and pools, market, sign maker (in charge of all the signs in Holodrum) and a ‘plaza’ of which is later learnt to be the Temple of Seasons. (Nintendo, or Capcom, implemented a very devious trick with the sign maker. After destroying a certain number and speaking with the specialist, he threatened to reset the game without saving, and brings up the ‘Nintendo Capcom’ intro. Sneaky devils. A creative Easter egg.) There were events that needed fulfilment in Subrosia in order to advance in Holodrum and vice versa. The two fitted together well, and delivered a different feel and atmosphere for the game. It was quite comical to see Subrosians bathing in lava with a bath towel resting on their heads.

The other side of the tiered system was the element of the Seasons. After the kidnapping of Din, Link needed to find an item that would be at his side while on the rescue. That item was the Rod of Seasons, and, after learning how to command each season, Link was prepared to command and control the elements of summer, autumn, winter and spring. In the tradition of The Legend of Zelda, not all areas are accessible from the start. In order to progress, Link had to master each season and use it to his advantage. Methods involved the drying up of a river in summer heat, or creating a path across a gap by filling it with snow. Each method used is an ingenious result of intelligent and creative thinking. Even a turn of spring weather might see the sickest of seedlings flourish into a splendid vine, perfect for climbing or scaling walls. The implementation of the seasons system fit the mechanical realm of Zelda so well.

Along the way, you’d run into Maple, an apprentice witch, flying on a broomstick (and in later quests, a vacuum!), who would drop many items, important and pathetic, if you happened to collide with her. This is a little addition that gives an element of surprise to the whole adventure. There were many more similar in both Seasons and Ages, such as Vasu and the collecting of rings. These rings gave new abilities or attributes to Link that were mostly helpful, but sometimes ridiculous. A simple mission of collecting each and every one was a quest on its own and in order to do so, you had to link with Ages, which is another part of the linking system, as described in the next article.

The musical score was exceptional, even for the Game Boy Color. Although tunes were very basic midis, they were suited to the adventure. While the famous Zelda theme is heard in the overworld, each dungeon had its own mix of tunes both eerie and depressing. Sound effects were borrowed heavily from Link’s Awakening, but that was by no means a bad thing, with top notch sprite effects such as smoke, snow and cut leaves/grass. Plug in headphones, and voila! Stereo sound! Seasons made exceptional use of the limited capabilities of the GBC.

Game play also remained intact, with traditional enemies such as Pea Hats, Leevers, Like Likes and Tektites. To combat them was the near flawless button setup, with Link controlled by the D-pad and the A/B buttons used for item configuration. There was still the fear of surviving on half a heart while in a mad attempt to find replacements. This was the continued thrill of survival as experienced before in predecessors of the legend. Familiar faces also include Zoras, Dekus and Gorons.

Overall, Seasons is evidence that Nintendo made the right investment when entrusting the series to Capcom for the portable outing. Seasons focuses on the adventuring elements of the series, with anticipation of new areas and how to get to them. The exceptional effort displayed in the title isn’t experienced until each Seasons and Ages is linked up and only then have you played the ultimate adventure. This element of linking and transferring data for a new quest is what makes these titles so unique from other Zelda adventures, while providing the same feel and look of the series. But what is so astounding about the two is their ability to remain so unique and different from the other. That in itself is a real breath of fresh air.