Review by TheWindWarrior
"The Greatest Masterpiece of the N64"
Nearly a decade ago, when I was just a child, this game was sweeping off the store shelves and it was incredibly popular among my friends and pretty much everyone who had an N64. Back then, the N64, while propelled by the success of Super Mario 64, was in need of another great classic, a great game which, even years later in the face of fancy next-generation graphics, would be called the greatest game of all time. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was that game. The day it came out, my friends and I were clustered in a basement room playing it. But by the time I had a turn at it, we were already half-way through the game and I hadn't caught half of the action. Though I only got to play about ten minutes of it, I was already intrigued by the game, which took the Zelda series in a fresh new direction with its flawless 3D universe and compelling story. The next day, I got myself a copy; I didn't even think about renting first, and believe me, this is one game that is a must have for every N64 collection.
So, I bought the game and rushed home to play it. And from my first moments of controlling Link in this new 3D interpretation of the acclaimed Legend of Zelda series, I knew this would be unlike any game that had been released. And from what I can tell, the gaming community is in almost universal agreement. And truth be told, video gaming has never been the same since.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has one of the most compelling storylines in gaming history. You are Link, a young boy of about seven or eight who lives amongst the Kokiri, forest-dwelling beings that live under the guardianship of the Great Deku Tree of Hyrule. The Kokiri are all accompanied and assisted by fairies, but Link is notable as the only Kokiri who does not possess one. However, one night, Link has a terrible nightmare. He is standing before a drawbridge, watching a woman spiriting a terrified young girl to safety as they are hounded by a man astride a black horse. This is a recurring dream that Link was having, and immediately after having it again, the Great Deku Tree calls for him, with a request and a mission. He sends the fairy Navi to assist Link in his quest. He reveals that he was poisoned and infested with monsters. As a dying wish, he asks Link to cleanse the inside of his trunk of these evil creatures and there our story unfolds.
The story in this game is unlike any that has ever been released. It is dark; darker than the usual Nintendo fare. There are moments that shock even the most vetted gamer. There are plot twists, many of which are completely unexpected. There are funny moments, but also sad and mournful moments. Also, the story keeps you, the gamer, constantly engaged. This is where Ocarina is a step above its predecessors. In the past, there would be a few cutscenes in the beginning to get things moving, and at the end to wrap things up, but rarely were they interspersed within the gameplay. That's not the case with this game. There is a wealth of cutscenes woven into the game so seamlessly that it is an epic, cinematic experience to play this game. It really brings the story to life.
My overall rating of the story is 10/10. It captures the imagination of gamers like no other game before it, or any games that came after it. Combined with excellent cinematic cutscenes, the story becomes incredibly immersive. There are games which look incredible but have ridiculously awful storylines. There are also games with incredible stories, but with much to be desired visually.
I've divided sound into two categories: Effects and Music
The sound effects and ambient sounds produced in this game are very good. They fit the environment very well. Again, I bring up the concept of immersion because I believe the sound in this game contributes to that. The sounds of swords clanging, of Link and his enemies roaring and screaming as they enter battle, and of the heavy footfalls of Epona's hooves are among many effects that sound clear and crisp. There is little voice acting in this game. However, the characters are so expressive, it's almost as though it isn't needed. The creator, Shigeru Miyamoto also gave the reason that he wanted gamers to form their own ideas of what the characters sound like. At any rate, I don't find the lack of voice acting troublesome, as the developers more than compensated.
One thing I really enjoyed was the ambient sounds in the game. In Hyrule Castle Town's marketplace, you can hear the chattering of the townsfolk as they barter for goods in the open-air market. In Lon Lon Ranch, you can hear the sounds of chickens (Cuccos), cows, and horses. In Zora's River, you can hear the soft, gentle water flowing by. The Lost Woods are navigated by examining how loud the background music is in each path. Sound plays a huge part in the immersive experience, and Miyamoto pulls it off superbly.
Music plays a tremendous part in Ocarina of Time. Link is given the eponymous ocarina with which he can play songs, each of which have a different effect. For example, Zelda's Lullaby, a tune known only to members and confidantes of Hyrule's Royal Family, allows Link to prove that connection to those who might have reason to doubt him. The Song of Storms makes it start to rain. Epona's Song summons Link's steed to him wherever he is, and so on. And the songs aren't that bad either. In fact, some, like the Serenade of Water or the Requiem of Spirit sound quite beautiful.
The music also fits the locations that they represent. The Market theme sounds positively medieval with its light staccato melody on guitar. The Lon Lon Ranch theme evokes images of pastoral grazing grounds. The Goron City theme has an almost tribal feel to it, emphasizing the nature of the Gorons.
My rating for sound is 10/10. The sound effects are clear and are of a high quality, and they add to the immersive, cinematic experience that this game offers. The music quality is also excellent. The music is instantly memorable, again, is of excellent quality, and the music-related theme of the game is not at all tedious.
The most important factor of a game's quality is gameplay value. It may be excellent in all other capacities, but if it's a pain to play, then it's just eye candy, nothing more. Ocarina of Time, however, does not leave me disappointed and the gameplay more than lives up to my expectations.
For example, not once have I ever stopped and thought to myself, Wow, I'm truly stuck and there's no place I can go to progress. Either the story will offer clues as to where one must go, or the ever-irritating Navi will. Some gamers would tell me, But WindWarrior, don't forget that dreaded Water Temple! Well, I have news for you: even with the Water Temple, and all other dungeons in the game, you always have a way forward. Each dungeon is designed in a non-linear manner. What does that mean, you ask? Well, it means that each dungeon has a bunch of different paths, let's call them A, B, C, D, and E. There will always be one area unlocked from the beginning. Say you go through path A. Once you get to the end, there will be a treasure chest with a door key. You use that to unlock any one of the other paths, which also contain door keys at the end. Therefore, there's no set path. As long as you don't ignore anything, you will get to the end.
Also, the controls are very simple and also somewhat revolutionary. The A button is for any action, such as rolling, pushing blocks, climbing on ledges, etc. The B buttons is for sword attacks. The left, right, and bottom C buttons are for secondary weapons and items. Up C is for talking to Navi (no one ever does this willingly, mind you), the R button is for using the shield and the L button toggles the map on and off. The most innovative addition is the Z-targeting system. It targets the nearest enemy with a reticule that allows for accuracy. It also makes the camera lock behind Link. So, no more awkwardly pressing the C buttons to find a manageable camera angle. Just tap Z, and there you are. The controls are easy enough that even someone who has never picked up an N64 controller will feel right at home.
Overall, the gameplay scores a 10/10. The game is designed well, offering challenges (many, many of them) but still being simple enough for gamers to finish. The controls are simple, effective, smooth, and innovative. The camera is almost never awkward and is easily remedied with Z-Targeting when it is.
Alright, this is the one subject I disdain having to cover, but it's the one many gamers, ironically, care about most these days. However, I have nothing bad to say about Ocarina of Time. For a game released in 1998, its graphics are relatively advanced. The water looks like water and you can see to the bottom, the environments, such as forests, look as real and life-like as the N64 can manage to make them. The draw distance is fantastic and often, you can see very tall objects on the opposite side of Hyrule Field. Also, Link's face is expressive, even with the lack of voice acting. When he's surprised or scared, you can tell. And in Hyrule Castle Town in particular, you can see so many of the townspeople all at once. N64 games before this one were often bare when it came to NPCs, but Ocarina of Time is loaded with them.
The graphics get a 10/10 from me. Listen, they're clear and crisp for an N64 game. They're a major step up from the MS-Paint-like textures of early N64 games. You won't be disappointed, but bear in mind that this game is ten years old. Back then, this was huge.
There are plenty of things to do in this game once you've completed the main storyline. For example, you can go on an elaborate and somewhat challenging sidequest to get the powerful Biggoron Sword, or you can do errand work for the Happy Mask Salesman. There are also thirty-six Pieces of Heart to collect. Collecting four will give you an extra heart on your health meter, and if you've finished the game, you'll eventually end up with twenty hearts. But believe, there's plenty of reasons to pop this game back in even after you've defeated Ganondorf and his evil army. It gets a 10/10 from me.
In conclusion, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is one of the best, if not the best, game ever to grace Nintendo's impressive resume. I won't even tell you to rent first. If you can still find a copy of the N64 original, get it. If you have a Wii, get on the Virtual Console and get it. You'll have no regrets.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 08/05/08
Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (US, 11/23/98)
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