The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Review by Archmonk Iga
"Become the Hendrix of ocarina players and you can save the world!"
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was not the first Zelda game I've played. It was, however, the first Zelda game I completed on my own. Before then the only playtime I'd given OoT was at friends' houses, and even then I didn't really realize the brilliance and beauty of it. What did I discover when I finally did it all on my own? I discovered why it's one of the few true gemstones of not only Nintendo, not only action-adventure games, but of videogames as a whole.
The Zelda series is known for so many recurring people, places and things, but there are three people that stand out more than anyone else: Link, Zelda and Ganondorf. While OoT's story is nothing superb or even unique, it's these three characters that have always pulled us in for the long haul. We will always remember waking up in the treehouse as our hero, Link. We will always remember meeting the inquisitive Zelda in her castle's courtyard. And we will always remember that first eerie time we see Ganondorf, who catches us looking at him through the window. Link's mission is to beat Ganondorf to three stones spread throughout Hyrule in order to open the Door of Time. Why does the bad man want to open the Door of Time? Well, to control time, of course! And since he's bad, Link needs to stop him at all costs. And from there? Well, unless you've been living under a rock for the past 10 years, I'm not going to tell you what happens. But you will indeed be journeying not only across the beautiful and vast land of Hyrule, you'll also be journeying through time.
I think it's important to mention another significant character who will forever be cherished to all Zelda fansLink's loyal companion, Navi. This fairy finds Link and introduces him to all the trouble facing Hyrule, and from that point on she guides him every step of the way. Where would we be without Navi?
The Zelda series' stories are unique in the fact that so many things we'd expect of other games' storylines we don't expect from these games. One of them is character development. The three main characters pretty much remain the same throughout the entire length of the game. Zelda certainly grows up physically, and of course she's wiser when we see her in the future, but emotionally? Not really. It's similar with Ganondorfevil, through and through. And of course with the silent Link, well, he pretty much does what he's told and nothing else. But for this series these trivial issues don't matter. Despite the lack of any development, we still grow attached to these characters. And the fact that OoT is far from the first time we interact with these characters only makes them that much better. In a way it's fascinatingthree characters with so little depth, yet we all love them so dearly. Aside from a couple other Nintendo series, Zelda is the only one I know of that can have such cookie-cutter characters that have changed both its fans and the gaming industry so significantly.
Ocarina of Time may not have a plot that breaks any boundaries, but it's still in a league of its own. It's an adventure filled with beauty, horror, charm, humor, and sadness. It's nothing special, but at the same time, it totally is.
There's no doubt that, aside from perhaps Super Mario 64, Ocarina of Time revolutionized three-dimensional graphical engines in gaming. As a full, 3-D, polygonal Link, you can freely explore almost any area you can see. Change the camera angles, move it to first-person view, everything that we see today in three-dimensional games was first done by OoT.
And what about the details? Environments, even today, are very impressive. From the beautiful view we get of Hyrule Castle from outside in the fields, to the menacing volcano, to the beautiful yet depressing Deku Tree, the sights to see in OoT are unforgettable.
And if that's not enough, you have the unsurpassed character designs. Everyone is insanely detailed, from our hero to the common townsperson. What's more, the cutscenes (presented in wonderful real-time), give us new angles and perspectives of the characters, andwhat's this? Facial expressions! Again, something that most games do today was originally done for the first time in OoT.
Graphically, OoT is a milestone. There's just no other way to explain it. It's beautiful and original, and while every game since has improved upon it, nothing will ever seem to have the same effect.
The Zelda series is known for recycling past tracks, and OoT is no exception. But there's really nothing wrong with thisevery track is gorgeous. From the rumbling Goron City to the catchy (and never too irritating) Lost Woods to the unforgettable shop music, OoT's soundtrack is both familiar and unusual. In a word, it's timeless.
Sound-wise, OoT is spot-on as well. Sword-collisions, wood breaking, rocks crumblingthey all sound believable yet still maintain that cartoony effect that we'd expect from a Zelda game.
And of course the voice acting. While it's not fully voiced, we still hear little grunts and cries from all of the main characterssomething that we have grown quite accustomed to with all the Zelda releases following OoT. While the N64 was certainly powerful enough to fit voice-acting into the game, I kind of like it better this way. All the voices fit perfectly and we never get that overwhelming spoken dialogue that so many games today are plagued with.
As Link, you've got quite a lot of work to do. OoT just screams exploration, and if that's not something you're interested in then there's no way you'll ever be a Zelda fan. Dungeons and towns are vast and have countless nooks and crannies for you to explore in. The towns have lots of citizens to converse with, some of them asking for your help with whatever they need helping with. Whether it's carrying chickens into a coop, finding a lost dog, or buying a souvenir for a man's child, Hyrule's people sure do love to sit around while you do their dirty work. Thankfully they reward you graciously, whether it's a heart piece (four of which give you another health-heart) or money. Unfortunately, almost all these little favors you do are fetch-quests. It ends up with Link running around back and forth until you finally give the person what he/she wants, all for some money or health. It may seem worth it to some folks, but a lot of the time it gets tedious. Luckily it's mostly optional.
The residential areas also are chock-full of minigames. And let me tell you, these minigames will potentially consume your soul. You can fish, you can play a sort of ski-ball game, and more. They'll end up using up a bunch of precious time but damn! You won't give up until you get what you want from them!
The dungeons, however, are ten times as in-depth as the residential areas. These levels are part of why people love this game so much. Monsters, puzzles, traps, bosses, everything adds up to quite an adventure in each separate level.
First off, let us discuss the monsters. The variety of monsters is quite nice, ranging from bats, to blobs, to centipedes, to crazy tree stumps, to squids, and more. What's great about these monsters is that they all require a different strategy to be defeated. Maybe you have to deflect their projectile back at them. Or maybe they have a soft spot that you have only a short opportunity to strike. While the strategies eventually become second nature for most of the enemies, it never really gets old for most of them. Sure, you'll get tired of fighting the same easy foes again and again, but you can also always expect something new for every level.
The bosses in OoT are something that will never be matched. Really, the boss battles here are the turning point in gaming in any action-adventure that came after. Why? Because every boss takes more than just Link swinging his sword over and over again. The strategies to beating each boss are much, much more than that. And the best part of it all is figuring out the strategylooking in the FAQs will make it boring and too easy. But you have the time of your life running around trying to figure out what it is you need to do to make each boss fall. There will be game overs galore, but you won't mind at all. Of course, this is for the first-timers only. But hell, the bosses are fun on your second, third, twentieth playthroughs. Nothing, not even future Zeldas, will be able to do what OoT has done with boss battles.
Obviously Link needs equipment to defeat all these baddies, right? Well, he's got his sword and shield of course. But he'll also get a slingshot, boomerang or bow and arrows for those far away attacks. And he's also got the hookshot to keep a safe distance from the more confrontational foes. Not to mention all the other stuff you can pick up on your adventuredeku nuts, flammable sticks, and even magic attacks are at your disposal as well. All these weapons add up to a lot of variety. If there was a problem, I would say that most of the time you don't really need anything but the sword and shield for the normal monsters. Simple walk up to them and hit em a few times and you're good to go. Of course, your equipment can be used for much more than just combat
Puzzles! The dungeons are their each individual puzzlethere really aren't any Wild ARMS-esque puzzles, where you simply do something to get into the next room. With OoT, all the pieces matter. I can't emphasize it enoughan entire dungeon is its own puzzle. This means a lot of confusion, a lot of backtracking, and of course a lot of frustration. You may get quite pissed offI know I did. A lot. But you need to be patient and just think, and you'll be fine. If you're not into the puzzle thing, however, then OoT is understandably not a game for you. And don't even get me started on the Water Temple. You might just want to shoot yourself in the middle of that place. Even on multiple playthroughs, everything can easily be forgotten since your last time. I won't get into the specifics of what the puzzles can involve (your weapons, your ocarina, platforming, etc.). I'll just say that they're toughbut they're part of what defines OoT.
Perhaps one of the greatest things about OoT is freedom. You can go all over Hyrule and complete whatever is on your mind before proceeding with the main story. Play songs on your ocarina to uncover secrets, explore hidden areas to find all the skulltulas, whatever. Doing the stuff that doesn't determine the fate of Hyrule can be just as rewarding. And fun.
OoT is by no means easy, no matter who you are. But there's no doubt that this challenge proves to be worthwhile in the end. It's got this sort of personality that no other game has ever had. About as huge and as thorough as a game can get on the N64, everything that it offers is completely one of a kind. Oh, and you get to play the ocarina, so that's pretty cool.
It's timeless. It's Ocarina of Timeless. Oh, I crack myself up. The story itself lasts quite awhile, unless you're real goodI bet you can even beat it in less than 10 hours if you know it that well. Adding in all the optional stuff puts on so many more hours, too, because there's SO much of it. For some, this may be a one-time gig that will be remembered nostalgically for what it was to them. For others, it is a tradition to come back to again and again. OoT's lasting appeal doesn't necessarily mean you have to replay it a lot to get a good score. If you don't know what I mean by that then you probably haven't played through it.
LASTING APPEAL: 10/10
A videogame for the books. There's nothing to be said about Ocarina of Time that hasn't been said a thousand times before. I may not love it as much as some, but I can't help but agree that it's easily one of the most influential and important games of all time.
Thanks for reading =)
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 09/25/08
Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (US, 11/23/98)
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