Oracle of Seasons is known for being the more combat-focused and less puzzle-focused of the two Oracle games. While I agree that the boss fights are quite a bit more challenging, and the first couple of dungeons’ puzzling doesn’t go much beyond the original Legend of Zelda‘s, I didn’t find Oracle of Seasons to be lacking in the puzzle element. Sure Ages has most of the more complex puzzles, but they hit many of the same notes, especially with dungeon navigation. Both games are also packed with new and unique dungeon items which make for some fun puzzles. So let’s get into them.
8) Gnarled Root
So I knew the Oracle games started out as a remake of The Legend of Zelda for the GBA, but when I got to this dungeon I thought, hm, this feels familiar. You cross a bridge to get to a very gnarly looking tree, which is actually the entrance to the dungeon. And the first room in the dungeon looks just like the first room in the original Legend of Zelda dungeons. When I got the dungeon map, I noticed the layout was very similar to Level 1: The Eagle. The two dungeons even share the same boss, one of my favorites, Aquamentus, who is a tad more difficult here than in the original. He now charges at you sometimes, and you have to attack his horn to do damage.
Despite the similarities, the rooms themselves are different enough so it feels like a nice callback, and not a one-to-one remake. Most of the rooms require you to defeat all the enemies and maybe push a block, which does feel very original Zelda-y. And while I usually don’t enjoy ‘defeat all enemies to progress’ rooms, I didn’t mind it here, probably because they’re all easily defeated. Gnarled Root also contains the first minecart track puzzle, where you have to ride on a cart, then find a lever to switch the tracks, then go ride the tracks again to get to a new area. It’s a pretty simple puzzle, but it’s a nice, fun change in navigation. And the last dungeon feature I haven’t discussed yet is the dungeon item, the seed satchel, which comes with 20 ember seeds. You need it to solve the classic ‘light the torch’ puzzle, so you can access the boss room.
7) Snake’s Remains
This dungeon’s got a funky look to it – and here I was thinking I wouldn’t be talking about dungeon color anymore. I immediately noticed the purple floor and its tile design. It’s memorable, if nothing else. I also noticed the pots lying around the first room, so I knew this was the power bracelet dungeon. But we’re not just using the power bracelet for lifting pots, we’re also using it to push rollers around to navigate through rooms. There are more ‘defeat all enemy’ and ‘push the block’ puzzles, but I like the block puzzles more in this dungeon than Gnarled Root. You can actually tell which block you’re supposed to push by looking at the block pattern, instead of it just being a random block. There are also several more bomb puzzles, not just at cracked walls, but also at cracked blocks and one fully intact wall (with a giant arrow pointing at it). And we get the first appearance of a turnstile in the series, which moves you in a different direction depending on which direction you enter the room from. Overall the puzzles are a little more complex, but still very simple.
Facade returns (from Link’s Awakening) as a mini boss in a very similar battle; you’ve just gotta bomb his face, but this time he’s summoning beetles and shooting fireballs at you. And Dodongo returns as another familiar boss, but the battle is once again updated. Not only do you have to throw a bomb in his mouth, you also have to pick him up (with your power bracelet) and toss him onto some spikes in order to deal damage.
6) Poison Moth’s Lair
First off, this dungeon entrance is really cool. It’s a dang moth. Secondly, poison moth? Mothula??? Is my favorite boss from A Link to the Past back? Of course the answer is yes, but Mothula looks a bit different in this one, more cutesy and less dangerous looking. But not less dangerous. Now he’s got little moth minions to send out at you, and you’ll have to avoid falling into the pits which will restart the battle. Like with the Power Bracelet in Snake’s Remains, it was obvious to me that this was the Roc’s Feather dungeon, because of the many holes in the floor. But what I didn’t know is that I’d get to jump on some trampolines! Seriously, this was a fun dungeon, if only for the trampolines used to get to the floor above. The Omuai, three Octorok-like enemies, are the mini-bosses You have to lift them out of the water with the Power Bracelet and throw them onto the floor where you then slash at them with your sword.
Overall this dungeon is still fairly weak in puzzles, but the trampolines take it a step above for me. While the first two dungeons felt very much in the spirit of the original Legend of Zelda, this one takes it to the next level, literally, with the element of verticality, proving that height isn’t just for 3D Zelda. This is the dungeon where Seasons starts to feel less like a remake of The Legend of Zelda, and more like the next iteration of 2D Zelda.
5) Dancing Dragon
Dancing Dragon is kind of this game’s water dungeon. No, there’s not any changing water levels, but you do need your newly acquired flippers to get around the dungeon, and you need to dive to find the boss key. It’s also another obvious reference to a dungeon from the original Legend of Zelda, Level 6: The Dragon. Both dungeons contain lots of wizzrobes and they share a boss, Gohma. Even the dungeon item, the Slingshot, is similar to The Dragon’s Magical Wand, as they both shoot projectiles. The Slingshot basically takes the place of the bow and arrow in this game. I like that it’s capable of shooting different projectiles, and in this dungeon it’s used in combination with minecart puzzles to light lanterns and hit switches from a distance.
Both this dungeon’s boss and mini boss battles are pretty challenging fights. Agunima (sounds a bit like Agahnim) is this dungeon’s mini boss, and he’s a wizard who creates two clones of himself and shoots energy blasts at you (behaves like Agahnim too, I guess). You have to light two torches to reveal the real Agunima’s shadow and deal damage to him. The dungeon boss is the toughest Gohma I have ever faced – until I realized an easier strategy. He’s got a claw and he can do some serious damage if you let him grab you with it. He’s fast too, so getting out of the way can be difficult. You can actually slash at his claw to get rid of it before going for the eye, but I found it easier to just equip my shield so he can’t grab you at all, and then use the Slingshot to get his eye whenever there was an opening.
4) Explorer’s Crypt
I really enjoyed this dungeon, minus a few rooms/puzzles. Roc’s Cape is a fun upgrade to Roc’s Feather that lets you glide around, but I found some of the puzzles required a little too much precision for my taste. I got stuck in one room for a bit that has you using the Magnetic Gloves and then switching to Roc’s Cape. I couldn’t quite master this and kept falling through the floor. Another puzzle shortly afterwards has you gliding to specific tiles to step on switches, and it can be somewhat difficult to get the timing right with Roc’s Cape. Other than that, it was a pretty fun dungeon. It’s got more of those great trampoline puzzles, some of which send you up two floors.
The mini boss and boss fights were a step down in difficulty, but they were still fun fights. The Poe Sisters who you’ve encountered a couple times through the dungeon show up one last time to try to stop you as mini bosses. The challenging part of the battle is trying to keep the torches lit, but the Poe Sisters themselves are easy to defeat. One of my favorite bosses from the original Legend of Zelda, Gleeok, returns as Explorer’s Crypt’s boss. The battle starts like the original fight, with you slashing at its heads until they detach from its body, but once you’ve gotten both, they disappear. Then Gleeok will start slamming into the floor, stunning you before charging at you and dealing a lot of damage. This is really easy to avoid by using Roc’s Cape, and then you just slash at him to defeat him.
3) Unicorn’s Cave
Unicorn Cave’s dungeon item, the magnetic gloves, are a very unique item in the Zelda series. I’ve brought them up first and foremost, because so many of this dungeon’s puzzles revolve around the gloves, and they’re really the one thing that makes this dungeon stand out. They’re used to pull around magnetic balls, push or pull Link across chasms, and navigate the side-scrolling sections. I love when an item other than Roc’s Feather gets some use in the side-scrolling areas, so that’s a huge plus for me. Unicorn’s Cave also contains both minecart puzzles and turnstile puzzles, which along with the Magnetic Gloves, make it a very distinctly Oracle of Seasons (or Ages) dungeon, filled with navigational puzzles that force you to be very aware of the dungeon’s layout.
This dungeon’s mini-boss is Syger, the Sabertooth Tiger, who almost feels out of place in a Zelda game. But I’m all for the Zelda series trying out new and weird things – make Zelda weird again! Syger rolls around the room with its fangs exposed, and you’ll spend a lot of the battle trying to avoid him. For a very brief moment, his weak point on his tail is exposed, so you’ll have to quickly attack to defeat him. Like many of the other bosses in this game, Digdogger is an upgrade in difficulty over its Legend of Zelda version, and a tough boss fight to get the hang of. I loved the use of the Magnetic Gloves to manipulate a magnetic ball, and use it as a weapon.
2) Sword and Shield Maze
That’s right Pokémon fans, Zelda did it first. This dungeon is a song of fire and ice with its icy first floor, shaped like a shield, and its lava-filled basement, shaped like a sword. It reminds me a bit of Majora’s Mask‘s Snowhead Temple, which is an icy mountain with lava at the bottom. But what makes this dungeon so great is the interconnectivity between floors. Link needs to navigate through the basement, but can’t get through the lava. So he has to find chunks of ice on the floor above and throw them through pits on the floor, which solidifies the lava and allows him to progress. We’re certainly not unfamiliar with solidifying lava in the Zelda series, but in this game it’s used in a satisfying conjunction with the dungeon’s verticality, as well as a navigational element with an Oracle staple, the minecart puzzle. Link not only has to find ice chunks, but also has to ride around on minecarts whose tracks have to be switched so Link finds himself in the correct rooms. The dungeon’s item is an upgrade to the Slingshot, the Hyper Slingshot. It will now shoot three seeds in different directions at the cost of only one. It’s not my favorite item, because it’s pretty limited in the type of puzzle it solves – shooting three things at a certain distance apart at the same time. But I like that it has added functionality without sacrificing the integrity of the original Slingshot, rather than just being a more powerful or longer ranged item.
Both the mini-boss and boss keep up the fire and ice theming of the dungeon. Frypolar (a great name), has an ice form and a fire form, and you’ll have to either attack with your ember seeds or the icicles he shoots at you, depending on what form he’s in. Medelock is a Medusa-head-looking boss who shoots fire and ice attacks at you. You can avoid most of her attacks by simply flying over them with Roc’s Cape. To defeat her, you just shoot her with Pegasus Seeds and then slash at her with your sword. I think they probably should’ve switched the mini-boss and boss based on difficulty, but they did a great job keeping up with the dungeon’s theme.
1) Ancient Ruins
I was excited to play this dungeon the moment I stepped inside. If nothing else, Ancient Ruins has my favorite dungeon theme in the game. But it doesn’t stop there. The Magical Boomerang is a fantastic upgrade – I love the ability to control where it goes, and it makes for some fun puzzles. This dungeon has excellent theming – it’s like the Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider/Uncharted of the Zelda series, full of traps like arrows shooting at you from the walls, and statues coming to life when you open the chest with the Magical Boomerang. To get the boss key you have to make your way through a large room while the walls are closing in on you.
Vire was an okay mini boss. He’s one that you have to wait to attack, and I’m not a fan of those types of battles. Once again, a boss from the original Legend of Zelda returns as this dungeon’s boss. But the battle against Manhandla is completely different – a lot more challenging, and a lot more fun. Sometimes I get frustrated with difficult bosses, and it took me several tries to beat Manhandla, but I got better with each attempt, and I felt accomplished when I finally beat him. And it might be my favorite use of the boomerang in a boss fight.
Thanks for checking out my Oracle of Seasons dungeon ranking, next week I’m checking out this game’s partner game, Oracle of Ages.