Review by HeMan1980

"A Personal View of the Classic N64 Title"

June 14, 2005 – There are few things I could say about The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time that have not already been mentioned by critics, fans, journalists and Nintendo enthusiasts in some form or another at some point in time. The reason being is that Ocarina of Time IS (whether you love it or hate) one of the most praised, well-respected and highly regarded video games in the history of the industry. The game also remains my favorite video game of all-time. It is my intention to discuss certain aspects of the game that I find enjoyable, as well as a few of the facets of the game that I did not take pleasure in. This narrative is more of a personal reflection of the game than a critical review. Please keep that in mind while reading. Let's get stared!

The production/creation of this title was no easy task for our old friends over at Nintendo. Not only is there pressure enough in creating a title from the Legend of Zelda series, as a great portion of the gaming public hold the franchise in very high esteem and expect much for each new title, but the series had to also evolve and incur a drastic change from the familiar and successful 2-D realm to the (at the time) very new and unpredictable world of 3-D. Fortunately, Nintendo had some prior success in this transition process as their most famous and beloved mascot, Mario, had made the “jump” from the traditional and beloved 2-D platforming to the realm that is 3-D. Super Mario 64 launched with the Nintendo 64 console in the U.S. on September 25, 1996. The result? Most video games fans and critics, alike, refer to it as one of the greatest video games of all-time.

It worked for Mario, would it work for Zelda?

Mr. Miyamoto and his development team put a tremendous amount of time and effort into the completion of this game. It took some three years and a staff of over 200 folks to complete this daunting task. It had been 6 years since a Legend of Zelda console game was released (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past SNES-1992) and the Zelda fans were starving for a new title. After all the screen-shots, after all the articles and features, after all the hype and after many delays, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was finally released in the U.S. to the masses on November 23, 1998.

Was it worth the wait? You better believe it.

Critically and publicly acclaimed, Ocarina of Time literally changed the face of the gaming world and completely altered the rules, the mechanics and the overall style and structure of video games as we know it. The 3-D realm seemed a perfect fit for the style of gameplay fans of the Legend of Zelda franchise have come to know and love. It remained as faithful to its 2-D predecessors as it possibly could and enhanced, refined and completely polished the Zelda series and, in essence, brought the franchise into the future of gaming. It remains a truly magnificent accomplishment and an absolute most welcomed edition to this extraordinary series.

It is my strong belief and conviction that the quality of gameplay has always remained the most redeeming quality of any video game. In this day and age of progressively scanned imagery and (soon to be) high-definition quality graphics, along with orchestrated music, full-blown original/compiled soundtracks (comparable to those of major Hollywood motion pictures) all presented in glorious, THX certified (some do) digital surround sound (a lot do), I have always been of the opinion that the quality gameplay mechanics, which are the foundation for the success of the industry, of games would, in a way, “take a back seat” to the aforementioned aspects that seem to be dominating ALL forms of our entertainment.

Don't get me wrong. I'm as much of a tech nut as the next guy. I just don't want the gameplay quality to suffer as a result of “dolling” up the game. The game must be enjoyable. The game must be fun. I don't care how it looks, how it sounds or what the content is - if playing the game is not entertaining, if the controls are stiff, unresponsive and hinder the experience, if the overall gameplay mechanics are not up to par, I don't care how many copies of the game sold, it will be a flop to me. I firmly believe that Nintendo understands this concept. They believe the fact that solid, innovative gameplay is the key to a truly rewarding and fun gaming experience and they trust enough in their fans and the general gaming public to recognize this. Needless to say, Ocarina of Time is one of the best examples of perfection in terms of quality gameplay mechanics on any console to-date.

Playing Ocarina of Time is a joy from start to finish. It's the perfect blend of solid 3-D action/adventure/RPG elements with a superb fighting system, spectacular environments, nearly endless amounts of exploration, quirky and fun NPCs, challenging dungeons & puzzle solving, awesome boss battles, an incredibly well structured story and wonderful in-game sound effects and catchy, hummable songs that are enjoyed by me and others to this very day. *Hugs OoT Soundtrack*

It is a grand and epic game that completely immerses you in a way that no other that I have ever played. This sense of immersion occurs, whether you are exploring the brilliantly designed and unique dungeons, riding your loyal steed, Epona, across the immense Hyrule Field or gazing upon the magnificent and majestic Hyrule Castle. You feel right in the middle of the action and excitement. You become part of the journey; you become part of the quest. You, in essence, become part of the legend.

Gameplay

The controls and the overall gameplay are as close to perfect as I have ever experienced. Two essential innovations that require specific mention are the camera system and the lock-on targeting system. What can I say? They are revolutionary. Most in-game cameras can often become a nuisance. They obstruct, rather than help. The in-game camera in Ocarina of Time never misses a beat. It never hinders the player's progress or perspective and serves as a tremendous aid during your adventure. Bottom line: I have never played a console game with a better camera system than Ocarina of Time.

In conjunction with the camera, the lock-on targeting system proves essential to your enjoyment of the game and will prove very useful while controlling Link in battle against the assortment of different enemies you will encounter during your quest. You simply tap a button on the control deck (Z-button) and this action allows you to “lock-on” to any particular enemy (or NPC) you are looking to engage (or talk to). The camera will stay on your target, retaining its over the shoulder position and allows you to circle your enemies and slash at them while side-stepping, back-flipping and shielding yourself from the attacks. It makes for a much more enjoyable and satisfying experience. The lock-on targeting does NOT make the game easier or minimize the difficulty. It simply serves as an important “weapon” for the player that allows them to strategically outline an attack plan and tactically take on multiple enemies in an efficient manner.

Both are most welcomed and most appreciated additions to the series. I must warn you though - after experiencing the Ocarina of Time camera and lock-on targeting, you will truly be spoiled for the rest of your gaming career.

In addition to the camera system and lock-on targeting, Ocarina of Time also managed to redefine the controls of the 3-D adventure with their introduction of the context sensitive (B) button. There a many actions Link will need to utilize during his quest. You will need to: pull, push, crawl, read, dive, climb, jump, talk and myriads of other actions. The context sensitive (B) button allows you to perform all of these tasks effortlessly. When you happen upon a specific task that requires a certain action, the system will automatically recognize the action needed by flashing the word of the action on screen for you. For example, if you walk up to a sign, the action button, (B), will flash “read” on-screen. You need only to hit the (B) button, and you will be able to read the sign. Simple, yet very effective and very intuitive. All games should work like this. It's brilliant.

Lastly, I would like to give some mention to the overall feel of the game. I like to call it the, “go anywhere, do anything” feeling. If you see something during your travels, chances are, you can go to it and interact with that part of the environment in some manner. This gives the player a tremendous feeling of freedom and adds a new dynamic to the overall gaming experience. Great detail was put into the creation of the magical land of Hyrule, and it shows.

Now I get to nitpick

As much as I love Ocarina of Time, there are a couple things I may have done a little differently. These are incredibly minor, minor problems that I have had with the title. First off, I was a little disappointed that the original Legend of Zelda Overworld theme was not included in the game. It was substituted for the Hyrule Field theme. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the Hyrule Field theme, but, I feel that putting the original Overworld theme in the background while traversing through Hyrule Field would have been perfect. Lastly (yup, only two) I wish there was an option to turn Navi off. At times, I found her incredibly annoying and her constant “whisens” always seem to come at the most unwanted times. But I digress, as Navi served an important role in the adventure. Because of her, we are able to “lock-on” to our targets. Navi flies over to the target and floats over their heads, allowing Link to “Z-Target”. So, I guess we have no choice but to put up with here constant “whisens.” Again, very, very minor stuff.

Final thoughts and comments

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is the ultimate gaming experience. It successfully combines many different genres all wrapped into one gold cartridge (if you were lucky) to deliver one of the finest gaming experiences of all-time. As of this very writing, gamers, fans and critics, alike, still refer to it as the greatest video game of all-time. Whether you love it or hate, you HAVE to respect its craftsmanship. This game still remains my most favorite single-player adventure of all-time. No game I have every seen, nor played can touch Ocarina of Time in terms of the combination of presentation, structure, story, gameplay, music, controls and fun factor. There may be games out there that may be superior in ONE of these categories to Ocarina of Time, but no game has done a better job combining them ALL.

It's a purely magical experience that is immersive, challenging, intelligent and simply a lot of fun to play. It's a grand, epic experience that is one of the greatest achievements in the history of video gaming. It's a true masterpiece that any self-respected gamer should make a priority to play through at least once. It is a game that will be revered and admired and copied and studied for years to come. Whenever I am asked what the greatest video game of all-time is, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time will be my answer.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 06/15/05


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