Review by Kimari

"Nearly ten years later, 'Ocarina of Time' is still a masterpiece"

I'll admit that in 1998 before the release of ‘Ocarina of Time' I wasn't a Zelda fan at all. I had never played any of the previous games and didn't even know what they were really about. I was slowly but surely hearing big things about this next “masterpiece” coming from Nintendo, and masterpiece was certainly the best word to describe it.

Nearly ten years after its November 1998 release, ‘The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time' still stands as one of the greatest games of all time for countless reasons. The game was beautiful, large, challenging at times, extremely engaging, and most of all, incredibly fun.

You take control of Link (or whatever you decide to name him on your game file) and you travel the kingdom of Hyrule in hopes of saving the world from the evil Gannondorf. Your journey takes you into eight different temples, a staple of the Zelda series, in which you battle fierce monsters, acquire a new weapon or item, and destroy a boss to obtain either a Spiritual Stone or rescue a….well, to avoid spoilers, I'll let you play through and see how your mission changes as you go on.

All in the World

I'd say a big reason as to Ocarina's success was the world in which the game took place. At the time, it was one of the biggest ones in the gaming community, and it's not just empty fields to waste space. Every area has a purpose, from the vast stretches of Hyrule Field to the back alleys of Castle Town Market.

The centerpiece of the adventure takes place in Hyrule Field, a large, seamless area that connects many of the world's locations. At the center lies Lon Lon Ranch, one of my personal favorites of the game and where you can learn to ride a horse. Hyrule Field really gave scope to the game; its size was realistic for a kingdom that included castles, mountains, forests, and deserts. The day/night cycle also ran as you traveled through the field, and you can encounter different enemies depending on the time of day.

The Hero of Time

For story reasons that I won't give away (but really, it's been ten years, you should know this by now shouldn't you) you become adult Link and travel to Hyrule seven years in the future. The world has changed- it's much darker, some places are abandoned and destroyed, and you can do different things as adult Link.

It's a natural step in the storyline, and you'll spend slightly more time as an adult than as a kid. Gone is your slingshot as you acquire weapons such as the Hookshot and a bow and arrow. The changes are there, but not too many to seem unfamiliar. It's a refreshing change of pace after about one-third of playing as a kid.

A major facet to playing as adult Link is the ability to ride Epona, the horse from Lon Lon Ranch. After a little bit of time playing around in the future Hyrule, you can get the horse on your side and be able to call it for faster travel in some areas such as Hyrule Field. The controls for riding the horse feel natural, and you can increase its speed as you see fit or slow it to a walk or slow gallop. The added benefit of being able to fire arrows from your bow while riding makes defeating enemies a bit more fun.

Dungeons Are Where It's At

As I said before, a staple of the Zelda series are the dungeons, and there are eight main dungeons to be found in ‘Ocarina of Time'. These do not include some of the “mini-dungeons” you'll find and have to complete before moving on to one of the big eight, or the final area of the game.

For those who don't know, a dungeon in a Zelda game is a big labyrinth of multiple rooms, puzzles, and monsters. You'll usually find a map and a compass somewhere within to make your way through it a little easier. The dungeons increase in difficulty as the game goes on (except in one instance of this game, which I'll explain later), and you'll find a new weapon or item which becomes important to solving the rest of the dungeon's puzzles. At the end, you'll fight the dungeon's boss, and when he or she is defeated, you've completed the dungeon.

The dungeons in ‘Ocarina of Time' have a nice variety of locale and difficulty. You'll start off with the usual forest-type dungeon, and then you'll move on to a cavern, and then stray off into a giant fish's innards. Afterwards, it's on with adult link as you tackle five temples, and this is where the difficulty really picks up. However, the risk-to-reward is very well-balanced, because though the puzzles become more difficult, so do the new weapons and sense of accomplishment you get for completing them.

There is one temple that seems to give many players trouble, and that's the Water Temple. It's all about changing the water level in this one, and it makes for arguably the most difficult dungeon in the entire game.

The weapons you find in these dungeons are very fun to play around with as well. There are the usual slingshots, bombs, and bows and arrows. But then there are tools like the Megaton Hammer, or the Mirror Shield, which you can use to reflect light and solve puzzles. You'll use each of these to make your way further into each dungeon, so be sure you know how to use them.

The Extra Stuff

Sure, you can play along with the main story, conquer each dungeon, and beat the game. But one of the greatest things about ‘Ocarina of Time', and the reason I'll still, to this day, pick up the game every now and then is because of the numerous extras there are sprinkled throughout.

There are two main collectibles scattered around Hyrule- Pieces of Heart and Skulltulas. Collecting four Pieces of Heart gives you an extra heart on your life bar, and to have a full life bar, you'll obviously need to find them all. Hunting down all of the Skulltulas nets you extra rewards, such as bigger wallets so you can carry more money. You'll literally spend hours searching Hyrule high and low for these extra goodies, and for those perfectionists out there, your adventure just isn't complete without them all.

Oh, but then there are plenty of mini-games too. As kid Link, you can head into Castle Town Market and play in a bunch of different mini-games there. Some of them actually reward you with a Piece of Heart.

There are also multiple “mini-quests” in Hyrule. One of them requires you to hunt ghosts in Hyrule Field as an adult. Another has you running across Hyrule in a timed race to eventually get a giant sword. The other, and my favorite, starts in the Happy Mask Shop where the salesman asks you to sell his masks throughout the world for a very unique prize.

These mini-games and quests too fast-paced for you? Then you can relax and go fishing. Head over to Lake Hylia and enter a sort of fishing simulator. It's very realistic, for as realistic as a Zelda fishing experience can get at the time, and it's sometimes a nice way to pass the time when the pressures of saving Hyrule are just too much.

Legendary Masterpiece

Are there any bad points to this game? Quite frankly, no. I can't think of anything major changes that Nintendo could have made here to make it a better game. They really went all out, and no other Zelda game since then has met it's match.

‘Ocarina of Time' is just plain beautiful. Hyrule is a big world and there are so many things to do, whether it's making your way through a dungeon, riding your horse through the fields, or hunting down the dozens of Skulltulas. It's a challenging game for sure, but not too difficult that you'll end up throwing the controller at your television.

‘Ocarina of Time' was a landmark game in 1998, and it still is today. It is the epitome of an adventure game, and there's nothing else quite like it. Every gamer owes it to themselves to play this game and experience one of the best the industry has to offer.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 04/28/08

Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (US, 11/23/98)

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