As a self proclaimed Zelda fan, it feels wrong not to review this game as my first. As a Nintendo follower, as somebody who has played The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, even as a gamer in general, I think that what is critically acclaimed as the “best game of all time” should be my initial review.
Ocarina of Time, commonly known as OoT in the Zelda community, was released as an N64 game in 1998, and has been re-released in the Collector’s Edition set, as a pre-order gift with The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (another great game), and on the Wii Virtual Console. It also recently came out on the Nintendo 3DS. In other words, if you haven’t played it, there are numerous ways to find it.
If you couldn’t tell, I like this game a lot. With a game so old, fans are usually looking through nostalgia glasses when such a game is praised, but seeing as I had never touched Zelda until a few years ago and only played this game for the first time last summer, I hope I can be taken as unbiased.
Ocarina of Time is the age-old tale of a boy’s coming of age. You play as Link, one of the Kokiri; forest spirits who take the form of children who never grow up and wear green clothes and hats, and who each have a guardian fairy (writing this, I now realize they bear a great semblance to Peter Pan). Link, however, never had a fairy. Link gets woken up by Navi, a fairy who tells you to go to the Great Deku Tree, the “father” of the Kokiri. The game leads you through a typical RPG village tutorial, and you go to the Deku Tree, a massive oak with an 80’s-style afro of leaves and a gigantic moustache. He asks you to clear the curse inside of him, and you are introduced to the first dungeon of the game. After saving him, he asks you to go to the Castle Town and speak to Princess Zelda; she needs your help. Before you leave, though, he announces the curse has already taken its toll; the safety bubble that is Kokiri Forest is broken with his dying request for Navi to accompany you on your journey (Navi refuses to leave you alone for the rest of the game).
And so you are released from the “rail” of RPGs and dropped into the expansive Hyrule field. Much of it is blocked off now, but it truly gives you a feel of the scope of the game. Ocarina of Time is an epic game.
You can explore and find sidequests, but eventually must confront Zelda who shows you that the evil Ganondorf is trying to take over the kingdom of Hyrule. He was the one who poisoned the Deku tree, and has been causing mischief across the land. Zelda asks you to find a series of gems that, in conjunction with a tune played with the mystical Ocarina of Time (ocarinas are a type of potato-shaped flute-like instrument), can open the door to the Sacred Realm, where the power of the Goddesses (known as the Triforce) lies. Essentially, it’s a race of good versus evil to unlock this power.
And so you begin the bulk of your epic journey across the expansive world, helping the races of Hyrule by conquering dungeons. Through solving one problem of theirs or another, you collect their spiritual stones.
In this task the game reveals its most impressive feature, the dungeon design. Aside from being fun and relatively intuitive in design, they have this sense of spatial organization that is rarely seen in video games; a great importance is placed on which room is above which other room, or where a path begins and ends in relation to the dungeon. The dungeons give a feel of an elaborate puzzle where each room, door, or button is a piece to fit into place.
Ocarina of Time also perfected the backtracking system introduced in its predecessor, A Link to the Past. In each dungeon one finds locked doors and impassable obstacles, the former of which are gradually opened up as keys are found, and the latter of which can only be bypassed with a certain item found within the temple. Ranging from a simple slingshot to magical bows, massive hammers and gloves that let you lift mountains, these items literally open up new opportunities for you, in a way any fan of the Metroid series would recognize.
Ocarina is the epitome of epic games. The world is at stake in the war of a lone boy against the power of an evil army. You must explore massive temples and defeat colossal bosses. You’re fighting against armies of monsters for the power of the Gods (goddesses, rather, but that’s not the point).
So, if you’ve never played Ocarina of Time, pick it up and give it a try. If you played it a long time ago, give it another go whether your nostalgia is good or bad. Between encapsulating puzzles and dungeons, sharp combat, gripping story, and charming retro graphics (unless you’re playing on the 3DS; they gave it a complete visual overhaul with the 3DS’s powerful graphics capabilities), there’s little to dislike about The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time