Widely regarded as one of the best games ever made, Ocarina of Time is a piece of everyboies cherished chidhoods I first played the game in around 1999 borrowing the console off of Scramble’snbrother. I had the game for about a week but I didn’t get much beyond the Fire/Water Temple as adult link. It was a mixture of I got stuck, but also,It wasn’t Final Fantasy VII, which at the time I thought was a far superior game. In fact it wasn’t until the Gamecube came out and I bought the Zelda Collection in around 2004 that I finally beat the game (though I did get stuck on the fucking Water Temple, and ever since then Ocarina of Time has been the game I play over the Easter Weekend. 4 days to just sit in my pants and playthrough. But as this is the first time in around 5 years I have bothered to play it, I thought i’d bite the bullet and do it for the site.
I guess you know what a Zelda game is? Well, Ocarina of Time was the first 3D Zelda game and with this leap in dimensional planes it led to some innovations at the time. Dungeons suddenly got larger, with multiple floors, movement in rooms had a vertical element, and also enemy movement moves along the new plane of existence. To make things easier “Z Targeting” was introduced here, Navi your helper fairy will lock on to the enemy or highlight areas of the environment you can interact with. This allows you to track the movement accurately and spot that slightly differently textured wall. This can be a little fiddly at times as pressing Z will also face the camera from your view, so if Navi hasn’t locked on you’ll face away from the enemy and take some damage. It isn’t game breaking, but it is frustrating and takes getting used to on every playthrough.
The technology on the Nintendo 64 allowed for some other innovations that where a step up on the earlier games too. For example, Ocarina of Time is much more cinematic than it’s predecessors,. These “cinematics” would be in game footage with panning cameras over a text crawl. It felt like a nice touch at the time, but also emphasises the clunky dialogue and that these cinematics aren’t as interesting a pre-rendered one found on the PlayStation.
Here is my band playing Saria’s Song years ago.
Sadly a lot of the game does get bogged down though with slow play. This is seen in the text crawls, but also in all aspects of gameplay. The opening of treasure chests is painfully slow, and the exposition dumps at the end of dungeons, that most enemies in the game the mechanic to hit them is stand and wait for them to arbitrarily turn around.
Ocarina of Time is the game where the story starts to become convoluted. If you look at the overarching timeline and story it is this game where all the latter nonsense about differing timelines comes into to play.
However, the story to Ocarina of Time is “simple”. Fairyless Child Link is awoken by the Great Deku Tree who gives you Navi an annoying helper fairy because evil is afoot. You are tasked with going to Hyrule Castle to speak to Princess Zelda where she tasks you with getting the Three Spiritual Stones (Forest/Fire/Water) to unlock the Temple of Time.
Entering the Temple, you find the Master Sword, however lifting the sword freezes you in time for 7 years because kids can’t be the hero of time.
During this time Ganondorf does evil stuff, takes over the world, and Link emerges from stasis just in time to awaken the 7 sages in 6 dungeons.
Once you beat the dungeons and the sages are released you storm Ganon’s Castle and bang Princess Z.
Because of the latter games things get complicated, with timelines based on differing outcomes within the game, which would surely make a lot of the sequels none canon. So for example, if you don’t complete the game the story leads on to Link to the Past. Beating the game and returning to childhood (the actual ending of the game) leads to Majora’s Mask, and succeeding and staying as an adult leads to Wind Waker.
I personally feel this is all a little retconned and shoehorned in to account to force a grand narrative.
Some dungeons are simply badly designed. Ignoring the Water Temple for now, which causes the ire of many, but Jabu-Jabu’s Belly is possibly the worst as you have to deal with the single most irritating NPC character ever conceived in Princess Ruto. She makes Ashley in Resident Evil 4 and Sheva in 5 look like assets to be enjoyed in their respective games.
The Forest Temple is also bloody annoying, in that one of the fucking keys is outside the dungeon. It is these small design choices thaty reek of early 90s game design. It is designed for you to have to have bought Nintendo Power as who would think you need to climb a magic wall outside a temple to get a key that is a requirement to complete the game?
The boss fight in the Forest Temple makes up a little for the preceding bullshit, as to be honest. It is a fantastically novel idea for a boss fight and it is easily the highlight of the first three quarters of the game.
Now, the god damn fucking Water Temple. It is truly abysmal. I honestly thought I’d be able to play the game and look past the flaws. But, oh boy. I didn’t want to do this…
Having played through it you suddenly have an appreciation for everything else. Jabu-Jabu is terrible, but once you hit the Water Temple all the preceding pain pails in comparison. Everything about this dungeon is a blight on the game. The needless amount of backtracking. The constant switching of boots using the clunky menu system. The hidden paths. The water rising and lowering by playing the ocarina. All of it is bad in it’s own right, but what makes this unbearable is the combination of all these things that make the Water Temple such a chore. If you break it down, it is realistically a 15 minute dungeon, that is needlessly stretched out into a couple of hours. Sure a pro can do it in 45 minutes, but unless you’re following a guide expect this to take 3-4 hours as the poorly designed, poorly laid out dungeon will overly punish you for not knowing every single twist and turn in a very precise order. You HAVE to do this in one sitting to, because leaving and re-entering will require you to play through almost the entire dungeon again as you reset switches, to make your way back to where you were. It os honesty, awful.
It does get better
That all said, Ocarina of Time does start to come together. Sure it takes a while, but once you hit the Shadow Temple and the Spirit Temple the game comes alive. Bosses are more interesting with Bongo Bongo and Twinrova being the highlights on top of the Ganon fights. Puzzles are more than box pushing, and dungeons start to use a reliable equipment loadout reducing the amount of boot and item swapping as earlier dungeons (bar some feather boot swapping) with the Spirit Temple taking advantage of the age swapping mechanic. The world is finally opened up too, with all the items in hand you can fully explore Hyrule. It is only really at this point does it feel like you’re exploring a world, and not just searching every nook and cranny to tick arbitrary boxes to open the next door in the dungeon. So personally for me, I do my exploring at the end of the game and just try to plough on through the tedium of the dungeons.
So, is Ocarina of Time still one of the best games ever made? Not really. Don’t get me wrong it’s still a fun and enjoyable game for the most part, but the mechanics have aged badly, the game is ponderously slow at times, the “huge” open world is pretty empty, and more than three quarters of the dungeons are poor, with a shit cherry on the cum trifle in the Water Temple. But some charm remains, once you have slogged through the Water Temple and you have a significant proportion of the items the game opens up. You finally feel like you’re exploring and discovering things other than simply going into every room looking for secret doors.
So yeah, Urrrhm, Ocarina of Time is like your favourite Disney Towel as a kid. You still use it, you like to look at it, but it is threadbare and coming apart at the seems. Depending on the severity of your nostalgia goggles this is either the best game ever made, or an OK game that is just about holding itself together and we feel we are being kind with the score.
Pros: The music is top-notch, once the world opens up exploration is enjoyable.
Cons: The dungeons, how slow everything is, combat is lame, first three quarters of the game aren’t that great
Back in the Day:
Boy did Ocarina of Time win a lot of awards, it frequently tops best games of all time lists and holds an incredible score of 97% on Metacritic. It even managed to sell 2.5 million copies in 1998, and it was released late November of 1998. People would gush describing it as flawless with perfect level design. So I assumenobody who reviewed it ever played the dungeons.
Also available on: GameCube, and all Nintendo Virtual Consoles since the Wii, and a 3DS remake in 2011