If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Zelda is one of the most honored franchises in history. The Legend of Zelda has been imitated so many times, there is now a sub-genre of gaming called Zelda-likes. Ocean’s Heart is the latest Zelda-like to hit the market, and it wears the Zelda influence proudly. Even at a quick glance you’ll see the heart containers in the top left corner, a magic meter, and an item screen that screams Link’s Awakening.
Ocean’s Heart begins with a minor quest for our protagonist Tilia, a Volunteer Navy member who looks strikingly similar to the Hero of Time from Breath of the Wild. Tilia goes on a quest to get some whiskey for her father who runs a bar in a village called Limestone. In typical tropey fashion, Tilia needs a sword to cut down the tree in front of the cave to retrieve the whiskey. While she’s in the cave, pirates attack the village and kidnap her friend Hazel.
Tilia’s father then sets off to find Hazel and doesn’t return for a while, so Tilia takes it upon herself to go on an adventure to find her friend and her father. Eventually the story develops into a race between you and the pirate captain Blackbeard to acquire the Ocean’s Heart.
Once you leave Limestone, the game becomes much less linear. There are different exploration areas that are colorful and give you a lot to explore. You travel by foot discovering new areas, and every time you discover a new town, you unlock a fast travel boat that makes side quests and back tracking much less tedious.
Aside from the overworld, you also play through some dungeons which has the usual reliance on obtaining new items to progress through the dungeon. The puzzles in the dungeons did a good job of straying from obscure or obtuse tasks while still giving enough of a challenge to make it enjoyable.
Weapons such as your sword and bow, as well as your arm, can be upgraded at the blacksmith in each town. To upgrade the sword and bow, you need coral ore and 50 crowns (crowns are the currency in Ocean’s Heart) and for armor upgrades you mostly just need crowns. This little option makes for a fun way to customize Tilia based on your play style.
Ocean’s Heart does rely on Zelda a bit too much through the gameplay aspect though. You acquire items such as bombs to destroy walls, a boomerang that freezes enemies, and a bow that can be equipped with regular arrows, fire arrows or bomb arrows. Later, you can even upgrade your sword for a charge attack. This took away from a lot of the puzzles or battles because it didn’t feel fresh if you’ve played a 2D Zelda game.
Overall, the gameplay is fun and familiar. I did have a few minor annoyances with the button mapping though. The A button is used to roll, many times I found myself standing in front of an NPC wanting to talk to them using the A button but would roll off the dock into water or roll straight into a wall. Additionally, your swords’ hit detection was very good against enemies, but with breakable items you had to stand directly next to it, otherwise it won’t register, but this is a very minor annoyance.
Ocean’s Heart really encourages the player to explore, and they reward you nicely through side quests throughout the game. Side quests are found all throughout the towns, or by stumbling upon them in the woods, and they always reward you well.
Some side quests had their own mini stories where you choose to pick a side and then finish the quest based on who’s side you chose. I highly encourage players to seek and complete as many side quests as possible so you can unlock powerful spells and even new weapons.
Final Score: 3/5
Ocean’s Heart leans a lot on Zelda throughout the game. While this can be fun at times, the lack of originality is the game’s biggest downfall. Beyond that, the pixel art, the music, humorous dialogue, and the exploration make the game fun to play and worth a try. Much of what is offered in the game has been seen before, or executed better in other games, so don’t expect anything unique from Ocean’s Heart. However, lovers of classic Zelda titles will find this game to be familiar and fun.