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The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

ゼルダの伝説 時のオカリナ

Developer / Publisher: Nintendo
21 November 1998
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time [ゼルダの伝説 時のオカリナ] - cover art
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3,087 Ratings / 7 Reviews
#42 All-time
#2 for 1998
A young Hylian boy named Link is set out on a journey to help the equally young Princess Zelda in stopping the wicked Ganondorf from acquiring the Triforce. However, when Ganondorf successfully claims rule in Hyrule, Link must use the power of the Master Sword to travel back and forth in time, between his child and adult self, and bring an end to the evil man's destructive reign.
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All 3D roads lead to Ocarina
Zelda: Ocarina of Time is one of those videogames that completely repurposed the aesthetics and meaning of videogames from gamble-related moneymaking to something else altogether: not quite art, but almost there. Certainly architecture and engineering, and a fine graphical artwork. Its craft and functionalities continue to inspire both visionaries and copycats to this very day, majors, indies, and amateurs alike. It is one of the most influent videogames of all time, setting the path for nearly any other videogame to come in the 3rd Millenium.

The 1990s were the golden age of videogaming: no other epoch introduced so many innovations in terms of programming, features, aesthetic, and purpose, from cinematic feeling to detailed plots to innovative features to stunning graphics, to customization (and even virtual reality, albeit that was an unsuccessful experience at the time). "Ocarina" was perhaps the summa of all those experiments and the crowning achievement of the time.

In the 1990s Squaresoft (now Square Enix) had pushed the purpose and aesthetics of videogames to nearly-cinematic terms, most notably with Final Fantasy VI (the other 20th Century masterpiece, and the masterpiece of 2D gaming). The fortunate guessing of Nintendo was wedding that forward-looking "artsy" aesthetic of videogaming and coupling it with the most stunning innovations and forward-looking features in the 3D context. Indeed, Zelda and its franchise was the perfect candidate: the 1986 game was one of the pioneers of the open-world gaming and one of the masterpieces that changed RPGs (albeit a bit inspired from the Enix games, notably the 1985 game Dragon Warrior, which in turn inspired Final Fantasy 1 from 1987). The feat was repeated again with the 16-bits consoles with Zelda: A Link to the Past (1991), yet another very influent masterpiece and open-world, which introduced time travel in an open-world setting. Zelda in this sense was an open-lab in which the lastest technologies and features were experimented by the most talented engineers and artists (yes, artists) at Nintendo. Mesmerized by the heights (and financial success) reached by Final Fantasy (particularly, the "III" or better "6" as it turned out to be for us unacknowledged in the E.U. and the U.S.A.), Nintendo sought to topple their "rivals" by producing an equally moment-defining videogame that would stand as the masterpiece of 3D gaming as that title stood for the 2D.

Thus, Ocarina was born as the game of 3D games, a showcase and flagship for the potential of the N64 console: it was the period of the console wars, and Nintendo needed to showcase its full potential needed for its own survival against the fierceful competition of Sony, whose PS1 console had a wider selection of titles in an order of 10 to 1. Therefore, Nintendo had to pull of a stunt toward quality rather than toward quantity (from there comes its "best games" slogan).

The game is revolutionary for its times (1998) and it is flawless: characters show complex facial expressions, graphics are the best of the best of the times and are nearly PS2-quality (perhaps even better than the 1994 movie Toy Story, for that matters), there are reflexes, accurate uses of lightning and shadows (even surpassing the graphics of Unreal from 1997, which at that point was considered to be the most graphically appealing videogame engine of that time), high-res polygons... A quality that neither Sony nor Sega ever dreamt of, even better than the visual appealing Crash Bandicoot games (especially the third one). Yes, there were a few games on rather experimental (and very costly) consoles that achieved better feats, yet Ocarina added even more than just graphics.

Its open world is perhaps its most enduring legacy: it has day/night mechanics (the fields), mini-maps embedded in-game (predating even the modern shooter videogames), you can ride the horse Epona later in the game (thus riding in the overworld), there is a wide array of weapons, objects, spells/Ocarina songs, and so forth that can be crafted and combined in a lot of ways, providing a lot of customization that was unseen since the days of Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy. Then, there is the musical department: the songs are in a wide variety of styles, even venturing into the Ambient/Avant-Garde fashion in vogue at the time (hear for example the Forest Dungeon track with its atonal soundscapes overlapping in disturbing settings). Most of the times it is instead a charmy selection of memorable folk-chamber tunes that would have been very imitated in the following years. The Ocarina and its sound function even adds a meta-musical gaming experience that was lacking at the time (rhythm games had timidly started the same year with Parappa the Rapper, yet they did not feature this complex gaming experience).

The animations are very advanced for the times, and the cutscenes are rendered in real-time with innovative camera angles, akin to Metal Gear Solid (same year). Whereas MGS had a (great) voice acting crew, this game (unfortunately) lacked complex voice acting (but not totally: matter of fact, the annoying fairy following you speaks a few words in-game) due to space-limitations, yet, the facial epxressions add a degree of drama that is not found in other games of the time whatsoever. "Grand Theft Auto" seem an amateur game in comparison (and yes, both GTA 1 and GTA 3 were "urban" transpositions/copycats of Zelda titles).

Ocarina is extremely varied in ambientation, settings, mapping, and level planimetry and geometry (and puzzles) are extremely innovative, and perfection the (timid) puzzles introduced by Tomb Raider (which in turn were derived from "Prince of Persia 2: the Shadow and Flame"). It reminds of games like "Half Life", but in a combat-RPG setting.

All the 3D games you praise are, unknowingly or not, indirect or direct hommages to this one.
It's a game that redefined what (3D) videogames are and should be, along with Metal Gear Solid.
Therefore, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is one of the masterpieces of the 20th Century videogaming, perhaps the very best, a crossover between functional architecture, stunning visuals, poignant cinematics, and engagement. It has aged very well and it is perfectly appealing as it was back then 20+ years later.

5/5 (or, 9.5/10) Masterpiece.
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80C 2021-06-29T20:20:07Z
2021-06-29T20:20:07Z
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I went to the store in '98 with another game in mind, which I can't remember, that a friend had recommended. My mum convinced me to pick something of my own volition instead. Ocarina had just released and I was captivated by its golden box. The game still plays fantastically, and was innovative and influential as hell, but is a little too cryptic in hindsight. Still, it remains an adventure that holds up to this day and is an astounding representation of the N64's capabilities.
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ColdVein 2021-08-13T22:53:28Z
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Here it is, ladies and gentlemen: the Citizen Kane of gaming. For an extended period, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was once the undisputed champion of gaming. Lists of the greatest games of all time felt obligated to list Ocarina of Time at the prominent spot at the top. The lists that did not hold Ocarina of Time as their #1 game were shockingly blasphemous, or at least that’s what it felt like because it was seldom not crowned as the king of the medium. When I was a kid, Ocarina of Time was the one “old game” with a star-studded, respected reputation well over all other games released before I was born or before I started playing video games. Its high repute and unparalleled regard created a great sense of intrigue for me, for the N64 era was an alien period of the recent past, and the console was no longer in stock. Ocarina of Time still holds that same aura of intrigue as time moves forward, but now it is met with a sense of incredulity. Those who did not experience Ocarina of Time in its prime see this game and ask themselves: how can this wrinkled, blocky game hold any consideration as the greatest game of all time? With two decades of radical progress, it seems a little silly now to still revel over Ocarina of Time the same way we once did. We can no longer evaluate Ocarina of Time and earnestly pretend it’s up to snuff with the expansiveness of modern gaming. It’s similar to the recent reflection we’ve come to regarding Citizen Kane, the so-called “greatest film of all time.” A piece of art can only sustain itself for so long, especially when a medium is rapidly growing and changing. After decades of exceptional adulation, the public has reasonably knocked Ocarina of Time down a few notches, but there is, unfortunately, a new crop of people that have sprouted up to kick Ocarina of Time into the dirt. The overzealous critics that have risen over the past decade or so have attempted to use Ocarina of Time’s age to diminish its impact retroactively. While I think it's best that we’ve started to reflect upon Ocarina of Time’s legacy, it is still a magnificent game that has retained most of its magic.

We are now at the point where one has to explain why Ocarina of Time was revered for those who did not experience it first hand, similar to explaining the impact of The Beatles or the aforementioned 1941 film directed by Orson Welles. In an age where video game graphics are practically indistinguishable from a Hollywood film, it’s easy to forget that 3D graphics were once a daunting experiment. The video game industry confidently declared that 3D graphics were the new gaming mainstay with the fifth generation of consoles, even though they were simultaneously figuring out how to develop games in this newfangled dimension. In many ways, shifting the course of progress to 3D gaming was a regression from the prior 2D era. Developing on a 3D axis was an entirely different process, and developers needed to settle on this uncharted territory. Franchises that made a name for themselves in the pixelated 2D era had to be reworked to fit a 3D environment. Super Mario 64 may consist of recognizable properties from the 2D games, but the gameplay was different as night and day. Nintendo knew that Mario’s jump to 3D could not be an effective, literal translation of the 2D sidescroller gameplay. They had to rewrite the Mario formula entirely, and this drastic deviation in gameplay comfortably ushered in the 3D platformer genre for the new era. The Nintendo franchise whose jump to 3D was still on the trajectory of a clear evolution was Star Fox, only because the first game on the SNES was a quasi-3D game anyways and didn’t belong on the SNES. 3D gaming made developers wipe the slate clean and start anew with cruder controls and visuals than the refined pixel art on fourth-generation consoles. The novel idea of 3D graphics was impressive enough for gamers at the time, so they didn’t mind the cracks in the crude, primeval foundation. Ocarina of Time, however, was the exception that made it stand out above the rest. Unlike in the case of Super Mario 64, Nintendo did not tear up the proverbial floorboards with Zelda’s leap into 3D. Ocarina of Time managed to carry on what A Link to the Past established, and the 3D graphics did not make for a less refined Zelda adventure.

Nintendo did have to alter quite a bit of the standard Legend of Zelda design for the jump to 3D, and the most obvious of these changes are the 3D graphics. To summarize the full extent of 3D graphics in the early 3D era, they looked a little…unnatural. Physical features of characters and structures were depicted with the simplest components to the point of looking cartoonish, even with games intended to look gritty and realistic. For example, Mario in Super Mario 64 looked like a marionette doll made of modeling clay, and the foregrounds resembled the same kind of unrefined craft. The graphics in Ocarina of Time aren’t a drastic improvement that deviates from this general aesthetic, but a slight sense of refinement is noticeable. Link does not have a mustache to cover his mouth, nor does he have a fat, round head to give the developers an excuse not to buff out the scratches of early 3D visuals. Link’s more prominent facial features like his elfin ears, pointy nose, less touseled hairstyle, and lankier frame could not have been displayed in 3D with the same level of amateurish quality seen in the earliest of N64 titles like Super Mario 64. These features are on full display, and Link looks as refined as possible with these primitive graphics. The graphics of the familiar foreground of Hyrule are still reasonably blocky, but the developers make an effort to make the game look as refined as humanly possible. Prerendered backgrounds, a staple of early 3D visuals, are often used inside of buildings and for specific screens on the outside. Prerendered backgrounds lived and died in the early 3D era, so looking at them now makes the overall aesthetic of Ocarina of Time look dated. However, the prerendered backgrounds are used sparingly, coexisting well with the 64-bit graphics to create an artful, albeit archaic, aesthetic. The prerendered visuals like the view of the Temple of Time from the outside look like it could be a painting, and it does not distract from the game's general look. The 64-bit graphics on the system have been refined to the point where the blocky visuals are endearing. The developers have worked around the primitive nature of the system, making for one of the best-looking games of the early 3D era. The visuals are so charming that I almost want another Zelda game that looks like Ocarina of Time.

I couldn’t find clemency with the dated graphics if the controls were as stiff and unresponsive as Super Mario 64. Fortunately, The Legend of Zelda left behind any platforming traces with Zelda II, so Nintendo didn’t have to make Link a three-dimensional acrobat as they did for Mario. Link’s movement has always been relatively restrained compared to his fellow Nintendo associates, so translating his general movement into 3D proved to be a smoother transition. He moves like a human being instead of an android, attempting to replicate the motion of organic beings like a newly three-dimensional Mario. However, the top-down perspective of A Link to the Past was unbecoming of the new 3D generation, and the developers had to implement more frills for the new 3D viewpoint. The player still can’t make Link jump manually with a button on the controller, but Link still does plenty of jumping while traversing through Hyrule. Whenever Link comes to an edge, he will leap forward with the same trajectory and some aided momentum. The jump is automatic and is the same distance every time. A 3D environment naturally gives more leeway to jumping controls than 2D, but The Legend of Zelda was never intended to be a platformer. Instead, the A button triggers a roll move that propels Link forward, increasing his speed, or at least that’s what every player believes it does, considering everyone (including myself) constantly rolls on the field to make Link move quicker on the field. Unfortunately, the camera has pretty stiff controls, similar to Super Mario 64. However, Ocarina of Time finds a way around this by centering the camera directly behind Link at all times. This way, there is a consistent view for the player. This unorthodox system has the perfect compromise to hold the same amount of restraint and make the most of the primitive 3D environment without being marred by primitive 3D controls.

The combat controls are also somewhat fluid, but the quality varies depending on a few circumstances. Accuracy has always been relatively vital in the Zelda series, but this had never been so pertinent until Nintendo shifted the franchise into 3D. Link can no longer flail his sword at enemies haphazardly on the map, nor can the player shoot a beam of magic from Link’s sword for a broader range of an attack. Doing this will cause the player to hit their intended target rarely, thusly showing the cracks of the spatial awareness that comes with a 3D game. Fortunately, The Legend of Zelda has always been a series known for stark innovation. The new stride in gaming with its first 3D outing mitigates the accuracy problem entirely: the Z-targeting. Holding down the Z button on the N64 controller will target any enemy Link comes across, zeroing in on the target with a yellow indicator and squaring Link up against it with a windowed screen like a western duel. Blocking and sword swipes become much more precise, Link can strafe around enemies, and Link can even perform a lunge attack with his blade. Link can also use every projectile weapon from arrows, Deku nuts, the Hookshot, etc. The targeting system ensures a hit with almost pinpoint accuracy. The Z-target system is a godsend, and the game would practically be unplayable without it. My only wish is that the Z-targeting system was consistent. I understand that using it during the shooting gallery would make it too easy, but the imprecise natural controls feel far too stilted.

Of course, this fluid combat mechanic comes with the caveat of having to put up with Link’s floating, blue, miniature companion. Navi is a notorious thorn in the sides of even the most emphatic Ocarina of Time fanboys. Her barging into Link’s wooded home is the catalyst to adventure, and she sticks by Link’s side throughout the entire adventure by hovering over his shoulder. In some cases, Navi’s assistance is helpful as she is the one who allows Link to Z-target and gets information on the enemies. On the other end of the spectrum, Navi’s trademark “hey, listen!” catchphrase has been cattle prodded into the collective consciousness of gaming, with those who haven’t played Ocarina of Time still being aware of Navi’s negative reputation. Upon my first playthrough, I thought the irksome nature of Navi was exaggerated as she didn’t interrupt the game too frequently, and the player at least has the option to zone her out. While playing this game again for this review, I started to catch the anti-Navi bug that sickened so many players. I’ve come to realize that Navi is a hotbed of condescension. She aids in locking onto enemies but always insists on providing the same information about said enemy after countless times of locking onto them. She squawks her trademark phrase in Link’s ear while he’s in the field to give the same vague trajectory of what the player is supposed to be doing at the moment. Navi would be much less vilified if the player simply had the option to listen to her input of their own volition, but the pixie girl insists that she be heard even if it makes the player want to take her in Link’s slingshot and fling her into the sun.

Navi is overall indicative of a problem Ocarina of Time has compared to the previous 2D Zelda titles, and that problem is the game’s tendency of handholding. Like introducing a Lakitu as the cameraman in Super Mario 64, the developers assumed that these new polygons would be too scary for 2D gamers to comprehend, so they made the player take baby steps into the realm of the third dimension. Mario is already engineered to be accessible, but doing this for The Legend of Zelda is counterintuitive to the freedom each game exudes. Ocarina of Time is comparatively more linear than the 2D games. Navi and the bloviating owl constantly try to keep the player on the intended path, like overbearing parents that want their kid to become a doctor or a lawyer. The order of dungeons was numbered in A Link to the Past as a suggestion, but Ocarina of Time sternly maintains a direct path. There aren’t too many side quests, and the few presented here are either brief, or their reward and impact are far too minute in the grand scheme of the game like the Biggoron Sword quest. 3D was intimidating at the time, and the developers felt it would’ve been sadistic to make the player get hopelessly lost in it. Judging from how far open-world games have come since then, jaded players who are used to massive worlds with tons of side-quests tend to be laughably underwhelmed by the small scope of the open area presented here.

Not only is Hyrule no longer a challenge to traverse through (not that it ever was in the first place), but the iconic fantasy setting is vastly empty in its first 3D depiction. The hub of Hyrule is a barren, grassy field with practically nothing of importance. The hub can be circled in no time flat, minimizing that time on horseback to only one minute. Using Link’s horse companion Epona is optional, but saving her from Lon Lon Ranch comes highly recommended because of the sheer boredom of walking through the arid plain that quickly grates on the player. I almost welcome the constant onslaught of stalchildren that ambush Link at night because it gives Link something to do on the field. Hyrule is so sterile and lifeless here is not due to the developers holding back ambition because of the jump to 3D, but instead because Hyrule feels more divided. Familiar areas like Death Mountain and Lake Hylia seem like separated districts, with different races of creatures existing in homogeneous societies with the field separating each of them. The map in the menu accounts for all of these areas and makes them seem cohesive, but the player gets the impression that the districts are subareas that branch from the central area hub. In the 2D games, Hyrule was one big hub area, and the various dungeons acted as deviations from the hub world. I could argue that having these subareas adds an extra layer to the world that the series hadn’t seen before, but the vacant Hyrule Field that connects all of them is not an adequate nucleus that holds them together.

Fortunately, the subareas make up for the hub in spades. Each district of Hyrule is unique and maintains a geographical consistency with the rest of the world. Kokiri Forest is a woodland area that rests in the corner of Hyrule, blanketed by the dim lighting that seeps through the cracks of the trees. This area is Link’s homeland, whose design wonderfully serves as a small playground for players to understand the 3D control. The grounds of Hyrule Castle are lively and offer plenty of minigames and stores for the player. Kakariko Village feels much cozier in 3D, as does the looming Death Mountain due to the civilization of pudgy rock creatures known as the Gorons. Zora’s Domain is a capacious water cave with winding rocky paths and cascading waterfalls, exuding an immaculate atmosphere that is still awe-inspiring even with the dated graphics. More importantly than the level of variety, the subareas uphold the series key initiative to explore off the beaten path to uncover the land's secrets. Fairy fountains are hidden beneath cracked crevices and not only restore Link’s health as always but grant him upgrades like an enhanced magic meter and magic spells like the room-clearing inferno that is Din’s Fire. The fairies in this game also look like 64-bit hookers, but that’s neither here nor there. Heart containers seem more abundant in Ocarina of Time and can be obtained through a myriad of clever ways. The one method that sticks out to me the most is planting beans in soft soil holes that will sprout and be used as moving platforms to reach the heart containers once Link becomes an adult. The more substantial collectible in Ocarina of Time is the Golden Skulltulas that appear throughout these subareas and Hyrule dungeons. Defeating the noisy arachnids and collecting the tokens will help lift a heinous curse for the boys in a dark house located in Kakariko Village. They will give the player a reward for every ten Golden Skulltulas they destroy. Unless the player is a completionist, they will have less incentive to collect all of these as the game progresses. Bombarding the player with many enemies in closed spaces isn’t a prerogative to warrant collecting a ton of heart pieces, and the whopping 100 Golden Skulltula tokens aren’t worth the hassle once the player earns the biggest wallet around 30 Skulltulas defeated. The aspect of these collectibles that I admire is the developers' lengths to implement them. It must have been quite the challenge to scatter each of these various collectibles and put them in places that require the player to use their observational intuition to unveil despite the primitive foundation. Even in a primitive 3D environment, the developers can still encourage the player to explore the land and make doing so gratifying, like in the previous games.

The same level of rich design can be said about the dungeons in Ocarina of Time. An engaging hub world is important, but the dungeons are the cream of the crop for any Zelda title. The dungeon order is reminiscent of how they were composed in A Link to the Past. As Young Link, three dungeons house three differently colored amulets, now fashioned as “spiritual stones.” The player must survey these dungeons to defeat their boss and acquire the stone. A pivotal change after obtaining all three spiritual stones occurs, and the rest of the game's dungeons take place in another realm and can be beaten in a non-linear order. One would worry that the leap to 3D would have the developers compromise on the spectacularly intricate dungeon design seen in A Link to the Past, but that is fortunately not the case. In fact, I’d argue that the dungeons in Ocarina of Time are even more impressive than ones from any other Zelda game before it, both in aesthetic and design. While the dungeons in A Link to the Past all offered different enemies and obstacles, the towering palaces all had a fairly similar aesthetic. The discerning factor regarding each palace’s look was a simple color change or minor theme alteration. The rudimentary 3D graphics at least make each dungeon look unique. Locations for these dungeons offer various themes and layouts, including the inside of a colossal tree, a cavern, a tomb, a well, etc. While it isn’t my favorite dungeon, Inside Jabbu Jabbu’s Belly takes place in the fleshy, pink insides of a giant fish. It’s the most offbeat setting for a dungeon the series has seen, and I’m impressed that they thought to include it in the series' first 3D game.
The developers meticulously considered the 3D space when crafting these dungeons because they utilize the area to a great degree for puzzles and complex design. For example, falling to a lower floor was a common traversal method in A Link to the Past for most palaces. Large square-shaped holes appear throughout the palace floors and have noticeable patterns below that let the player know it’s safe to fall through them and not plummet to oblivion. This dungeon trope translates marvelously in Ocarina of Time as the very first dungeon puzzle in the game uses this to a much less obvious degree. At the Great Deku Tree entrance, a hole in the center is sealed by a giant spider’s web. Walking across the web will make it wobble, giving the player the impression that this is malleable. With these minor hints and a literal leap of faith, the player will have Link hurtle from the top floor of the tree, fracturing the web on impact and unlocking the rest of the dungeon. Right away, the first puzzle of this game astounds me. It illustrates the potential of what could be accomplished with the new 3D environment with a familiar puzzle that can now be employed to its fullest degree. Mentioning the infamous Water Temple will send a pang of disgust through the bodies of most Zelda fans, but I am a fervent defender of it. The one tower in the center of this dungeon is the support column that serves as the footing for all branching paths between three floors. Raising the water level between the three floors is the essential key to traversing through this dungeon, and so is using the iron boots and Zora’s tunic to travel through the underwater sections. Admittedly, I did get stuck on this dungeon as everyone else did, but I commend the dungeon for it. The dungeon has a complex but competent means of traversal that could not have in any of the 2D games, which is why the Water Temple is a standout dungeon in this game instead of a deterrent. Unfortunately, this measure of engagement isn’t consistent throughout each dungeon in the game. I like the Shadow Temple for its ghastly, macabre atmosphere, but its underwhelmingly narrow, linear progression is indicative of what people feared from translating Zelda into 3D.

Besides the trademark sword and shield usually found in Link’s hands, many recognizable items were also transferred into the 3D space. Series staples such as bombs, arrows, the Hookshot, the boomerang, etc., are again essential tools in Link’s inventory to expose hidden areas in both the overworld and the dungeons and to use as alternatives for his sword. New items like the Megaton Hammer and Lens of Truth provide the same utility as the old ones, but their implementation still makes them fresh. Truly, the apex of the new items presented in Ocarina of Time can only be the game's namesake: the ocarina. Link receives an ocarina from his friend Saria after leaving Kokiri Forest for the first time and stumbles upon the fabled ocarina of time after the pivotal moment that divides the game’s narrative. Playing specific songs on the ocarina that Link learns from various sources results in different outcomes. Performing “Zelda’s Lullaby,” for instance, does a smattering of things that require a suspension of disbelief from the player, like moving water and accelerating a grim-looking boat in the Shadow Temple. “Sun’s Song” and “Song of Storms” alter the weather and the time of day, and the “Song of Time” can both manipulate blue time blocks and warp Link back to the Temple of Time. Several other songs function like the flute of the previous games that warp Link to a specific destination on the map. Using a musical instrument in a Zelda game is not a radical point of innovation for the series, but rather it is the way the instrument is played. With the usage of the A and action buttons and the left and right triggers, the player has control over what is essentially a fully playable ocarina (my crowning achievement in this game is figuring out how to play “Smoke on the Water” with the ocarina like everyone does when they are learning a new instrument). The select songs required to progress through the game are simple and easy earworms for memorization. Still, the outlying range of possibilities the developers give the player with this item is an astonishing, unparalleled level of innovation.

The ocarina itself is a stark realization of how musical the Zelda series has become over time. The flute from the 2D games was a tool with a simple melody and even simpler function, but the uses of music in Ocarina of Time have made it a crux of the series’ identity. However, this is not a simple case of using a musical instrument as a weapon or solving puzzles like the other tools in Link’s arsenal. The music usage in Ocarina of Time is deeply woven into the game's narrative and is the structure of the subtle depth that it bestows. On the surface, Ocarina of Time is another story of Link saving the world from Ganon’s malevolent clutches, but the cinematic flair of 3D has allowed the developers to present something more profound with the typical Zelda tale.

Ocarina of Time is the typical Zelda arc of defeating Ganon with a coming-of-age story involving Link’s growing into a man. It’s similar to what was explored in Earthbound with the Magicant section, minus the obtuse psychedelic elements. Link starts the game as an impressionable yet determined young lad. He has never left his cozy wooded home of Kokiri Forest or associated with anyone other than his neighbors here. Navi calls him to adventure as the chosen one to save the land from darkness, and while he does perform heroic feats, the game makes it seem like he is merely cosplaying as the fabled hero, like a boy dressing up as Superman for Halloween. The NPCs never take Young Link seriously as he is just a boy, telling him that he’ll grow into himself when he gets older and becomes an adult. In a way, their patronizing attitude is somewhat justified. Link’s arsenal at this point is made up of less volatile, makeshift weapons and items that resemble the Zelda staples like a slingshot with Deku seeds instead of using a bow and arrow. The Hylian Shield can be purchased as a child, but he uses it as a protective shell like a turtle because he is incapable of holding it. Instead, he uses the vastly inferior Kokiri Shield made of a cruder material that disintegrates with any sort of contact with heat. Link’s “Goonies” items give the impression of a young boy playing adventure rather than the quest of a capable hero. The game is also more facile in the beginning section, fitting for someone so young. Keys are omitted from the first three dungeons to make for easier traversal, and the familiar bosses like Gohma and Dodongo are painfully obvious to defeat for any Zelda veteran.

This ease of difficulty all changes during a pivotal movement that divides the two sections of the game. After requiring the three spiritual stones, Link encounters the dark lord Ganondorf, a human version of Ganon that exists before the events of A Link to the Past in the evermore convoluted Zelda timeline, as he chases after Zelda on horseback. Link unsheathes the Master Sword from the Temple of Time and travels seven years into the future. He is a young man who is physically capable of fulfilling his destiny, but he must do a few things first. The future section begins the various temples with elemental themes (fire, water, shadow, etc.), and it’s when the difficulty curve is kicked up a notch. The first of these dungeons is the Forest Temple, a dizzying, surreal grove located in the depths of the Lost Woods. This dungeon features enemies that both inflict and absorb more damage, keys that make the dungeon harder to navigate, a bevy of more complicated puzzles, and a boss battle with Phantom Ganon that demands a hefty standard of accuracy to defeat. I heavily critiqued the Dark World from A Link to the Past because of the heightened difficulty curve, but the narrative of Ocarina of Time supports the game getting harder once the second section begins. Link is an adult now, so more is expected of him and what he is capable of accomplishing. Other dungeons follow suit with the difficulty curve and act almost as “grown-up” versions of Young Link’s dungeons, like the Fire Temple with Dodongo’s Cavern and the Shadow Temple with the Bottom of the Well. Dead Hand, the nightmare fuel of a boss in the Bottom of the Well dungeon, is relegated to a mini-boss in the Shadow Temple to show the scope between Young and Adult Link. The Spirit Temple further shows this dichotomy by splitting the dungeon between the two Links, with the Young Link section acting as a remedial sampler of what to expect as an adult.

Music plays an essential element in this division between both Links to convey the powerful feeling of nostalgia. Hyrule had seen better days in the seven years between Link’s accelerated path to manhood. Ganondorf has usurped the throne of Hyrule Castle and erected a foreboding, intimidating tower in his image that reigns over the land. Once the player steps out into the familiar world, Ganondorf’s negative influence is felt throughout Hyrule. The happy Hyrule market in which people used to dance and be merry now looks like it is experiencing the fallout of nuclear winter, with Redeads being the only sentient things in the wreckage. Lake Hylia has been drained, Zora’s Domain is frozen over, and Lon Lon Ranch is now under the ownership of that jerkwad Ingo. The once bountiful kingdom of Hyrule now has a permeating sense of dread and melancholy that can be felt everywhere. The process of Link’s physical growth may have taken only a few seconds, but the stark contrast between Hyrule in the past and Hyrule in the future makes the player feel the heavy weight of time. Music plays a role in this dichotomy because Link's songs on the ocarina recall a happier time. “Zelda’s Lullaby” is so effective at moving so many elements and structures across the land because it was formulated in a time when the royal family was so prosperous. Epona acts quickly at the sound of “Epona’s Song” because it recalls sweet memories of her past at the ranch. All of the minuets Shiek teaches Link have a refrain that relates to the passing of time and the growth that comes with it. The seven-year transition is also an alarming realization Ocarina of Time explores becoming an adult. As a kid, your potential is limited. You feel as if you are treated as a second-class citizen, but becoming an adult makes one appreciate the fleeting moments of childhood as they find that adulthood is a terrifying challenge. Indulging nostalgia is comforting, but one must stick with the present to improve the future.

Link’s acting on this sentiment culminates into Ocarina of Time’s grand finale. Once Link rescues all six sages, he returns to the Temple of Time as Shiek, who everyone, including the player perceived as a male Sheika, reveals “himself” as an adult Princess Zelda. Over the past seven years, Zelda, under the guidance of the Sheika sage Impa, made herself a new identity to hide from Ganondorf (a would-be shocking spoiler for me had I not been introduced to the character by playing Super Smash Bros Melee as a kid). Her revelation exposes herself to Ganondorf, who whisks her away and holds her captive in his castle. The six sages erect a bridge to Ganon’s settlement for Link to rescue Zelda and defeat the dark lord at the apex of it. Ganon’s castle is a meandering dungeon with six non-linear paths that vaguely correlate with the elements of each sage. The puzzles in each section are some of the most shrewd puzzles the game offers, even making clever use of the awful bombchu item. After completing each section, Ganondorf’s shielding cloak dissipates, and Link climbs a winding staircase to the top of Ganondorf’s chamber. The first phase of Ganondorf’s final boss encounter plays exactly like the fight against Phantom Ganon, only with the added element of light arrows thrown into the mix. This phase is a tad underwhelming, but the sheer spectacle of the second phase is incredible. Ganon’s tower starts to crumble, and Link must escape with Zelda intact in a brief amount of time. On the yard of Ganon’s once-proud estate, he reveals his proper Ganon form we’ve all come to know and traps Link in a fiery arena without his trusty Master Sword. After stalling him with light arrows, Link plunges his sword into Ganon’s cranium and defeats the evil beast with a jaw-dropping final blow. Peace has been restored across Hyrule, and everybody celebrates. However, there is still a conundrum that must be solved. Zelda feels responsible for what has happened to Hyrule and her burden on Link. She grants Link all the vital years he accelerated through by sending him back in time in a bittersweet conclusion that gave me a lump in my throat.

At this point, there isn’t much about Ocarina of Time that any gamer hasn’t already said over two decades. It was the juggernaut title in a series that already had plenty of generation-defining juggernaut titles under its belt. The fact that it could reach yet another feat of excellence in a period when developers were buffing out the cracks of early 3D development is staggeringly impressive. Unlike Super Mario 64, Ocarina of Time was not a 3D beta-test to see what worked and didn’t work for a familiar Nintendo franchise making the leap into the third dimension. Ocarina of Time managed to carry on what had been established in A Link to the Past without reverting to more simplistic design and mechanics. Ocarina of Time was not the novel idea of putting The Legend of Zelda in 3D: it was the direct evolution of all of the ideas the franchise had accumulated with the base of 3D as an added perk. Is it perfect? No, and even something considered “the greatest of all time” across any medium should never be expected to uphold that unrealistic standard. Even with the wrinkles of time protruding in its primitive foundation, Ocarina of Time still has a hidden depth in many of its facets that have retained its initial quality. If one still insists on framing Ocarina of Time with more technical aspects, I ask them to consider the game's impact. If you like 3D gaming, you certainly have The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time to thank for ascending the novelty aspect 3D gaming once had when the medium was still expanding and growing, thus making it the industry norm indefinitely.
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Erockthestrange 2017-07-21T20:07:27Z
2017-07-21T20:07:27Z
9.5
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Nintendo is just the Disney of video games, and that's strictly a positive thing.
I'm thoroughly convinced everyone who still gives this any score higher has not played another game in their life, not even future Zelda titles, because both Majora's Mask and Twilight Princess are much, much better games, not even mentioning stuff like Okami. Despite being one of the first games I ever got to play, I thankfully avoided the ruby quartz prescription lenses, and don't subscribe to the idea that games can coast forever on "well it was cool at the time". OoT prototypes a lot of mechanics and concepts that have extend to today, and many of them are reviled, but for whatever reason people don't acknowledge those simply because it was the first one to do it. That said, I wont pretend the game isn't enjoyable, cause it certainly is far and away better than a lot of games you could dump dozens of hours into (assassins creed) but there's also plenty of MUCH better games you could also be playing, including ones that have aged far more gracefully than this game. If you want a good comparison, OoT is the video game equivalent of the OLD classic disney movies like Snow White or Cinderella. There's a lot to like, and it was groundbreaking at the time, but in the grand scheme of things you're really just there to see how things used to be.
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Pinks 2021-09-20T17:01:59Z
2021-09-20T17:01:59Z
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A Noble Remake
I don't really consider this 3DS port the same thing as the original, and you shouldn't either. It is a noble, respectful, accessible remake. People who have been playing Ocarina Of Time for over 20+ years will certainly notice every difference and may miss all the rough edges. But many were fervently demanding a Zelda remake and Nintendo decided that the 3DS was the best venue. It works for me, personally, because I choose on-the-go gaming in general, but those who want the authentic experience should look towards other options. Either way it is kind of a delight to see this game get a facelift for just once.
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Antb 2021-11-28T00:03:24Z
2021-11-28T00:03:24Z
4.5
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Pretty much flawless
Damn near perfection. I'm not even personally attached to this game, but it's legacy is well-earned.
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polyestergiant 2021-08-31T00:41:17Z
2021-08-31T00:41:17Z
5.0
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Xalechim ゼルダの伝説 時のオカリナ 2022-09-28T01:13:42Z
2022-09-28T01:13:42Z
4.5
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Gabi2908 The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D 2022-09-27T20:35:36Z
3DS
2022-09-27T20:35:36Z
4.5
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shrubman ゼルダの伝説 時のオカリナ 2022-09-27T14:57:16Z
2022-09-27T14:57:16Z
4.0
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water_sheep30 ゼルダの伝説 時のオカリナ 2022-09-26T20:31:30Z
2022-09-26T20:31:30Z
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action fantasy
Ca_Game The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 2022-09-26T16:06:08Z
N64 • US
2022-09-26T16:06:08Z
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Action-adventure
lukejohnwild ゼルダの伝説 時のオカリナ 2022-09-26T03:05:16Z
2022-09-26T03:05:16Z
5.0
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DavidSS ゼルダの伝説 時のオカリナ 2022-09-26T02:15:22Z
2022-09-26T02:15:22Z
4.5
2
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bup02 The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D 2022-09-25T23:32:22Z
3DS • GB
2022-09-25T23:32:22Z
4.5
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boekplate The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 2022-09-25T22:00:32Z
N64 • US
2022-09-25T22:00:32Z
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PashaAlex ゼルダの伝説 時のオカリナ 2022-09-25T08:44:30Z
2022-09-25T08:44:30Z
3.0
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Subcon_Onirico ゼルダの伝説 時のオカリナ 2022-09-24T21:14:59Z
2022-09-24T21:14:59Z
3.5
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B1nary_En1gma The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D 2022-09-24T11:29:08Z
3DS • XNA
2022-09-24T11:29:08Z
4.5
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  • Previous comments (62) Loading...
  • Stabbed 2022-07-22 23:02:16.366112+00
    the credits is the best part of this game (and i mean this as a massive compliment)
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  • RomanDogBird 2022-07-22 23:58:04.645863+00
    Can Hyrule's destiny really depend on such a lazy boy?
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  • afterceasetoexist_ 2022-07-31 21:19:46.097978+00
    the part in the credits where link steps down from the pedestal while church bells ring in the background sends chills up my fucking dicktip man
    such an incredible game
    reply
    • jake7 2022-08-01 19:39:21.701478+00
      sends chills up your what????
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  • CircoBondi 2022-08-02 14:37:05.397303+00
    Yeah, it's pretty good
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  • afterceasetoexist_ 2022-08-03 07:52:24.868918+00
    @jake7
    did i fucking stutter
    reply
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  • dzhakh 2022-09-05 13:22:30.698268+00
    This is a game I can easily respect for both its design choices and its influence, but it never left a really strong impression on me. I played it after I had played Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, and the GBA port of a Link to the Past, so maybe that influenced my feelings that it's kinda generic. The whole game is more or less LttP made 3D, and I never have come away after finishing the game with a feeling other than 'yep, that was a 3D Zelda game.'
    reply
    • Gayvyn 2022-09-24 06:48:41.324666+00
      Weirdly enough that's how i felt with twilight princess
    • dzhakh 2022-09-26 13:36:36.909883+00
      Twilight Princess is basically Ocarina of Time 2 for the people who didn't like Majora's Mask or Wind Waker
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  • hachedoso 2022-09-17 17:18:26.447015+00
    In this game, as a kid, the environments and music are mostly friendly, all your loved ones are fine, and it seems like your adventure will meet a happy ending. Even tho you'll meet something horrifying every once in a while, its mostly fine. Then you become an adult and everything has gone to shit and the people you love are either suffering or dead.

    Its just like real life !
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  • babyclav 2022-09-25 03:38:30.911122+00
    besides the ganon lighting the 3ds version is obviously better
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