Yeah Link's Awakening is good, but the Oracles take the style of LA and pump it full of awesome steroids. Twice.
I'm looking forward to finally beating the linked dungeon in Ages. I got stuck in a tile puzzle room years ago, and couldn't solve it. Ran across the ridiculous solution by accident on TV Tropes a couple of months back.
@Pokefreak911 Honestly, to me they feel a bit like fan games. It feels like the developers didn't know what kind of game they wanted to make. There are references to Zelda 1, like the bosses in Oracle of Seasons and the burnable trees with coin-giving moblins behind them. Then there are random characters from the N64 games, like Malon and Talon, and the hand in the toilet from Majora's Mask, and the mask salesman, and Tingle. And then there's completely original stuff, like the Magnetic Gloves and the Switch Hook, or the Subrosians and the Tokay. Overall, my biggest issue is that this mish-mash of elements make it feel like the developers didn't know exactly what direction they wanted to go, so rather than pick one, they just threw everything at the wall to see what sticks.
The games are solid, and you're probably right that the dungeon design (particularly in Oracle of Ages) is better than Link's Awakening -- the dungeons certainly do some interesting things not seen before in the series. I recently replayed the first four Zelda games, and I recognize that Link's Awakening is dated, and the dungeon design is a step back from A Link to the Past. But to me, Link's Awakening had so much emotion, and so much quirky originality, while the Oracle games just feel like a fan's love letter to Zelda.
I've said this before, but it always intrigues me how different people view the Zelda series. Unlike most series, there's not one clear favorite. Wind Waker is my favorite, while others love Ocarina of Time, and others still love A Link to the Past, and all for vastly different reasons. The Oracle games certainly aren't terrible games, and maybe saying they're the weakest is a bit of an overstatement -- I still enjoy them, and I'm planning to replay them very soon. But when it comes to what I value in the series, they most certainly fall short.
Nice, I really enjoyed playing through these with a friend on the Game Boy Player for GCN. To me they felt exactly as sequels of Link's Awakening should: They didn't have the same freshness, but they took things up a notch in a lot of ways.
I have to agree with your LA vs. Oracles assessment. LA might be the most charming game in the series, packed with personality and heart, while OoX feel kind of like a mishmash of a bunch of elements thrown together. These were the first games in the series that I can remember that really made no sense timeline-wise (I can accept Link and Zelda being named after heroes, but why is there another Ingo??), and the reuse of tons of LA's sounds and visuals didn't help.
That said, I still actually really like them a great deal, and they're easily my favorite non-LA, non-Pokemon, non-Donkey Kong GB games out there. The worlds in both games are massive and packed with stuff to do, the rings are a great gameplay element that makes the Oracles particularly addictive, and there are plenty of little sidequests and secrets all around, especially considering the linked games. The story and world-building are the weakest points, but I've always found the core gameplay and design particularly strong.
Still not sure if I'd get them on the 3DS since I still have the original carts, but it's nice to know that they're coming.
This (these?) is the only Zelda game I've always regretted never playing, so I'll probably take the plunge if they come out here on the e-Shop. Ages for me, because I love me some time-related game/stories.