It’s hard to talk about Oracle of Ages without also talking about its companion game, Oracle of Seasons. Developed by Capcom, both are 2D Zelda games in the general style of Link’s Awakening. Despite this, the two are quite distinct for Zelda games. Oracle of Ages is somewhat more focused on puzzles than Seasons, which favors action, though both games have plenty of both. Of the two, Ages feels more like a traditional Zelda, largely due to its dual linked world design.
Both Oracles games have new and interesting items, though the Mermaid Suit of Oracle of Ages might be the wackiest of the bunch. There are a lot of cool ideas here, some (like the Seed Shooter) used very effectively, and others (like the Switch Hook) which aren’t quite as well-realized as they could have been. Almost every item is used to solve various dungeon puzzles, which can actually get a little frustrating later in the game when it’s not at all clear what you need to do.
Oracle of Ages doesn’t pull punches with its puzzles, leaving me doing laps in several dungeons trying to figure out what to do. That is Zelda tradition, but the game also features some bosses that seem invincible due to rather obtuse mechanics. The fights aren’t generally as challenging as in Seasons in an action sense, but you can waste a lot of time just figuring out what you need to do.
If you like environmental puzzles, this is the game for you. Many dungeons feature looping and backtracking, and Ages even revisits the water level changing of Ocarina of Time’s Water Temple. Not only that, there are two world maps (one for each Age), and by the end of the game you can freely warp between them, much like the Light and Dark Worlds of Link to the Past. The game does put a few plot restrictions on this power, but generally you’re very free to explore. That said, as with most puzzles of this type, it’s easy to get lost or forget how to get back to somewhere you’ve been.
The link system between the two games is another aspect well worth discussing. While either game is a complete Zelda experience on its own, you can continue the plot from one game to the next, which allows access to “secrets” that grant special upgrades when searched out in the other game. While the secrets themselves can be annoying to transfer due to passwords with weird characters in them, the experience is very cool and adds a lot to the game.
As 2D, portable Zelda games go, Oracle of Ages is a solid entry in the series. With 8 dungeons per game, playing both games back-to-back may actually result in Zelda overload, if anything. Capcom deserves credit for making Zelda games that don’t feel out of place, and these are well worth the effort of picking up if you like the 2D Zelda style.