Many games take inspiration from classic Nintendo franchises, but who could blame them? Some of the most successful games in terms of sales and critical reception are indeed Nintendo games. Super Mario, Metroid, Zelda, all of Nintendo’s classic franchises have helped shape the modern gaming world as we know it. Sometimes though, a game might go a bit too far in terms of imitation, and on the surface, I got that feeling about Oceanhorn. Everything I saw from this game screamed “imitation Zelda”, and I was worried that the game would go a bit too far in being a love letter to the classic Zelda games. So how does Oceanhorn fare?
Oceanhorn tells a simple tale involving a boy trying to locate his missing father. Awaking to a simple note, your unnamed character sets out to find his father and defeat a large sea monster named Oceanhorn that could be involved with your missing father. The game doesn’t have a deep story, so those expecting an interesting narrative will be a bit disappointed, but the story serves as a gateway to keep the game flowing along.
As you set out to explore the world around you, one thing becomes very apparent: this is a pretty straight forward Legend of Zelda clone. The inspiration of A Link to the Past can be seen in just a few seconds upon moving around the world. Your character moves in a very “Link”-like fashion, and the game uses an extremely similar control style to classic Zelda games. Hold down the button to charge up your sword and do a spin attack, break pots to find coins and hearts (yes, there’s a heart meter as well), and so on.
Notice how my subheader in the title was “A Link to the Waker”? That’s because not only does the game take heavily from A Link to the Past, but there is some Wind Waker thrown in as well. Your character traverses from island to island in the game via a boat, which can be upgraded and given new abilities.
Obviously, the developers of the game were huge fans of the Legend of Zelda series, and some other review outlets have docked the game because of how similar the game is when looking at it next to the Legend of Zelda classics. In my opinion however, imitation is the biggest form of flattery, and as long as the game does the imitation well, what’s not to enjoy?
Thankfully, Oceanhorn does do a fine job of imitating a Zelda game. The game has a great visual style with very clean graphics and bright colors. It’s simplistic, and there are times when your character will end up in an object that for some reason is hollow, but it looks great on both the TV and the Nintendo Switch tablet mode. The music is whimsical as well, feeling something out of a Zelda game, and there is even solid voice acting in the cutscenes.
Oceanhorn is paced similar to a Zelda game as well. Travel from island to island, enter and complete a dungeon, get a new item to advance further in the game. There’s achievements that the game offers you as well, so it’s not just a mad dash to the end of the game. The enemies are a bit stock and can be a bit boring, and the AI in the game is a bit lacking, with enemies often getting stuck or avoiding attacking for some reason. Overall though, the combat is solid and engaging, and very familiar if you have played Zelda games before.
Oceanhorn is an interesting game that some people will enjoy and some people will hate. The inspiration drawn from Zelda oozes all throughout the game, and that can be a bit off-putting for some. For myself however, I think Zelda-clones should end up becoming a new thing. Considering the amount of years we have to wait between Zelda entries, why not embrace games that capture the spirit of a classic franchise? Oceanhorn isn’t original, it isn’t perfect, and it isn’t necessarily memorable, but not every game can be. It’s a simple, fun Zelda-clone that will bring fans of the franchise great enjoyment in between sessions of Breath of the Wild.