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Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Review

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Developer: Nintendo Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: November 23, 1998 Also On: None

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, heralded by many as the greatest video game ever made, holds up well under the test of time. It’s been 8 years since the classic launched on the Nintendo 64, and when it did, it sparked something in the hearts and minds of gamers all over. Selling millions of copies, Ocarina of Time set the bar so high for other Nintendo 64 and future Zelda games that many wondered if it would ever be reached again.

Ocarina of Time’s story is truly a memorable classic, and I could retell the tale like it was my own. Link, a Kokiri boy, meets the fairy Navi and is told the legend of Hyrule’s creation by the Kokiri elder of sorts, the Great Deku Tree. He quickly learns that he’s far more important to the world than what one would think–he’s the Hero of Time and the only one that can uplift the Master Sword from its pedestal in the Temple of Time. By doing so, Link is thrust forward 7 years–and during those years, the evil Ganondorf has taken the land by storm. He’s thrust Hyrule’s protectors, the sages, into temples scattered high and low around the land and it’s up to Link to right his wrongs and defeat the evil thief, saving Hyrule and all of its inhabitants. Along the way he meets unforgettable characters like Shiek, the windmill guy, and that crazy professor at Lake Hylia, and none can deny that Ocarina of Time’s character development design was strengthened by the time-traveling mechanic and, quite simply, interesting stories and involvements in Link’s quest.

Hyrule was a sprawling place, with a gigantic field connecting different locations like Lake Hylia, Kakariko Village, Castle Town, Gerudo Desert, and Kokiri Forest. In Zelda fashion, all of these places were absolutely loaded with secrets, some that couldn’t be uncovered until very late in the game. Exploration, as always, was the key to finding the 36 Pieces of Heart, the nocturnal Gold Skullutas, and devious Poes. Ocarina of Time also had a gripping trade route mechanic where players interacted with NPCs, trading items that eventually led to earning the game’s most powerful weapon, the Biggoron Sword.

Not one of Ocarina of Time’s dungeons is forgettable. Every puzzle in the game requires you to take advantage of the game’s dozens of weapons and items, and some of them had me scratching my head the second time around. Who could forget the Water Temple? Seriously, that place could go down in history as the most frustrating, complex, and difficult labyrinth in gaming. I can still remember how much better of a person I felt the first time I walked out of that place a victor. Each dungeon led to a boss fight that forced the gamer to use the dungeon’s weapon prize to win; for example, to defeat Ganon’s Phantom in the Forest Temple, one had to use the Bow. To put a stop to Twinrova in the Desert Temple, one had to absorb and deflect magic with the Mirror Shield.

The 2D gameplay of Link to the Past couldn’t hold up in a 3D design, so Nintendo had to design a brilliant targeting and camera system. They did this with “Z-Targeting,” a mechanic that locked the camera onto an enemy or important object with the press of a button. Link’s movement would then pan around that object or enemy, allowing the player to maneuver Link quite easily, strafing, jumping, and even doing backflips to avoid taking a blow from the sword of a Stalfos or the lantern of a Poe. Nintendo had an interesting predicament when it came to platforming; since earlier games featured some sort of jumping item, jumping puzzles were common. Ocarina of Time featured no such thing, so the jumping was done automatically if Link reached the edge of a high platform. Many players found this annoying (some still despise it in Twilight Princess), but I found it to be extremely easy to use. I like how the focus was taken off of jumping puzzles and put on puzzles that require to you manipulate the environment and use your items in 3D.

Ocarina of Time, more so than Nintendo’s latest masterpiece Twilight Princess, was the 70-hour game. It had 11 dungeons, 12 if you included the “mini-dungeon” well in Kakariko. It had mini-games aplenty, and all of those Hearts, Skullutas, and Poes to collect. In some ways, it outlasts Twilight Princess. For example, NPC interaction was severely lacking in Twilight Princess, while Ocarina Of Time gives you an almost endless amount of interactions. I can’t remember a single useless character other than some of the bystanders in Castle Town. If you saw a character, chances are, they had at least something for you to do or something to say.

Over the years, the game was remade–twice, in fact, in the form of Ocarina of Time and Master Quest, and in the Zelda Collector’s Disc. Both of these discs were featured on the Gamecube around the time Wind Waker came out. The former was a remake of the game, and Master Quest was the same game with more difficult puzzles in each dungeon. Master Quest was a Director’s Cut of sorts and put me to the test so much that I couldn’t beat it. The Collector’s Disc, which also featured the original Legend of Zelda, Zelda II: The Adventures of Link, and Majora’s Mask, is truly a collector’s item. Both Master Quest and Collector’s Disc go for prices as high as $100.00 on Amazon.com.

Not all holds up so well in time. Ocarina of Time had the same problem that many N64 games did; the cartridge format didn’t allow for the greatest textures and sometimes yielded blurry graphics. Of course, by 1998 standards, Ocarina of Time was a visual masterpiece. It still doesn’t look bad by any means, and the higher resolutions of the Master Quest and Collector’s Edition Disc made everything look a little better. No one could deny that the art and character designs were brilliant, and the temples and enemies are as daunting as those in visually-impressive games like Twilight Princess. The music is as unforgettable as the story, and with the limited format space I am understanding of the lack of voice or dialogue. The sound effects were familiar and paved way for those in Wind Waker and Twilight Princess.

Ocarina of Time deserves the masterpiece title that it’s earned over the years, and if you in some way have managed to avoid playing it in some form, do it now. Ocarina of Time is memorable and will long be remembered for its greatness in storytelling, character development, and level design. Though Twilight Princess and even Majora’s Mask outdo it in some ways, it stands the test of time better than any game out there.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 10
Gameplay: 10
Creativity: 9.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 10
Final: 9.7
Written by Cliff Review Guide