Review by NeoTS

"Link: Almost Better Than Ever!"

When I bought my GameCube last summer, I had never fully played a Zelda game. Sure, I had roamed around a dungeon or two back when I was little, but most of the experience had been lost in the shadowy recesses of my mind. So, I popped in Wind Waker, essentially my first Zelda game, and I was enthralled from beginning to ending. Surely, no game could ever top such inventive boss battles, such cool gadgets and the downright awesome world, sparse though it was. It came as a surprise that I found Ocarina of Time available for GameCube players, and I snatched it as soon as I could. I expected to find an excellent game, but nowhere near the same quality as what I found in Wind Waker. This wasn't the first time that I'd been wrong.

Hidden away from the rest of the world are the Kokiri children, inhabitants of the Kokiri Forest that never grow old. Each child is assigned a fairy by the Great Deku Tree, a talking tree of a Sage, who knows all of the histories and secrets of the world. Everyone has a fairy, all but one boy named Link. But on one fateful day he is awoken by Navi, a fairy sent to him by the Deku Tree. It seems a great evil will soon befall the world, and Link may be the only one to stop it. He leaves the forest, and travels to the Kingdom of Hyrule, where he meets the Princess Zelda, and the magician Ganondorf. But Link's plight to save the world will take him to far more exotic places than a castle. From deep inside the pit of a volcano to the heart of a mammoth desert, he will have to put every ounce of his courage to the test. You say he does that every game? Maybe, but not with such flair.

Where to begin, where to begin. Ocarina of Time is an adventure game that will force Link into solving puzzles and battling enemies. Navi is your guide, and he turns out to be quite useful. Using the left shoulder button, you can target things that Navi flies to. This means that you can locate objects of interest quickly, and if you're in combat, you'll lock onto the nearest opponent. Now you're ready to fight! Quick, draw your sword and hold up that shield! Get used to this position, because you'll be seeing it the most throughout the game. Link is extremely mobile from this position, able to attack whenever he needs to, and can dodge to the sides and leap backwards. The only negative aspect of the combat is the camera, which is not very stable at all. There will be points in battle, or even in normal game-play where Link or his enemies will be completely hidden by a wall or something in the environment. Thankfully, this doesn't happen too much in the boss fights, which are downright spectacular.

Throughout the game, it will be necessary to attain all sorts of gadgets to complete the dungeons, and these are also used against the bosses. While you may get used to this pattern, the bosses are all very different and extremely unique. They all have a fundamental weakness that can be exploited by a certain gadget. The enemies are quite large, ranging from an invisible giant trying to beat you into a drum, water that lives to a pair of witches, the battles are incredibly fun. Back to the gadgets. They range from very small and weak, like Deku nuts to blind your opponent, to large and deadly, like the Megaton Hammer which with you can smash your foes. There is a bow & arrow, hookshot (grappling hook), boomerang, a lens to see invisible platforms, among many others that are a lot of fun to use. Most of the gadgets can be used in first person view, to allow you, which allows for precise aiming. The amount of cool stuff Link can receive is not limited to hand-held stuff. He can get iron boots for walking under water, and different tunics to stave off environmental hardships like intense heat. He can also find and use powerful magic. And of course, each of these gadgets is vital to completing the game.

Most of the game will be spent within the dungeons, and it is obvious the developers spent a lot of time making the world feel as realistic as possible. Traps are devised in many sinister ways, but they are never so frustrating to make you want to quit. The dungeons aren't massively long either, so if you're itching to get on with the story, these usually won't hold you up too much. The Water Temple stands out from the rest, due to the ingenious device used. You'll have to lower and raise the water level to complete the dungeon, and while this may not seem difficult, it is very challenging, and will have you giving your brain cells a work out. Traveling from village to village, across the empty plains of Hyrule, may seem like a chore, but as the game progresses, you'll be able to warp to different areas, and even ride a horse. How do you warp? With the Ocarina of Time, of course.

This is easily the most important gadget in the game, and it is used in every single dungeon, and can be used at any time during the game. It can be used for all sorts of situations, from opening a door, to changing the time of day... and maybe even traveling through time. Playing the Ocarina is done with the C-Stick, and it is very easy. It does get a little tiresome playing the same old tunes, but it's a great addition to an already fantastic game.

The graphics, while now dated, still have a brightness to them. Sure, there are some downright terrible seams here and there, but it does little to harm the overall presentation. With the exception of Hyrule Field, the environments are extremely detailed, from big statues, spider webs, torches and trees. The water effects are very cool as well, especially when walking around on the bottom of a lake. The characters are a tad blocky, but the still look great for the most part. Again, the best looking part of the game is arguably the bosses. They are all bright and vivid, no matter what time of a creature it is. The graphical power of the engine may not impress you until the very last boss fight of the game, which essentially places Link in a hellish and terrible place, the perfect setting for a showdown.

The sound is about what you would expect from a Zelda game by now. The tunes are upbeat and lively, classic and triumphant. The Ocarina has some very nice tunes that you will be well acquainted with by the end of the game. Sadly, there is no voice acting here, which would have truly made this an awesome game. Each of the characters just has their distinguishing grunts and the like so you can tell them apart. The sound effects are cool especially, the chains of the drawbridge rattling when the Castle draws it up at night time. It's kind of there to remind you that no matter how far away you are from safety, it's still there waiting for you. And then again, I could just be a big geek who's reading too much into it, right? To each his own.

With plenty of sidequests to do, Ocarina of Time could easily be played through more than once. There are mini-games, pieces of heart to find and fairies to talk to. If you do everything there is to do in this game, it will take you quite a while to complete. When I finished this game, I was so overblown by the fact that this game accomplished nearly everything Wind Waker did almost 4 years earlier, I was tempted to tell you that this game is better. But having gone back and messed around with Wind Waker, I cannot tell you that. The controls in Ocarina of Time, while quite good, are very poor compared to the excellent camera in Wind Waker, and the sound combat. Granted, Ocarina of Time has to be one of the very best games for the Nintendo 64, and it's probably even one of the best for the Nintendo GameCube. It is a great game that will forever live on in the hearts of Zelda fans as the best game in the series. And I won't tell them that they're wrong.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 08/10/04

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