The 'Shroom:Issue XXXIX/Non-Marioverse Review
This month we’ll be reviewing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64, often considered the hallmark Zelda title. We'll pick apart a classic game and discuss its impact and why it deserves to be so acclaimed.
First previewed in 1996, Ocarina of Time had come a long way since its predecessors – for its time, the graphics were exceptionally beautiful, and quite a departure from the simplistic sprite graphics previously seen in A Link to the Past and the NES Zelda games. Even today, the graphics – which would be further refined two years later for Ocarina of Time's semi‐sequel, Majora’s Mask – still hold up quite well. Another big improvement Ocarina of Time made on its predecessors was in the area of combat mechanics. Now the standard for the series, gameplay was challenging and surprisingly realistic, allowing Link to roll, slide out of the way, and perhaps most importantly, lock onto objects and characters with Z‐targeting (sometimes renamed L‐targeting in later games). Nearly every 3D adventure game after Ocarina has used this mechanic.
The game begins quite calmly – you are a young boy from the forest, destined for so much more. After something bad happens to the Great Deku Tree, the mighty overseer of the forest, Link sets out to investigate with his fairy friend Navi. This begins an enormous quest spanning the past, present, and future, where Link must use his own courage to prevent the demon king Ganon from ruling all of Hyrule. The way the plot ties together in this game is simply brilliant. If you’ve read enough about Producer Shigeru Miyamoto, you’ll know he’s usually against writing big stories for games, so the developers kept a lot of the plot details “hidden” within the character dialogue. The ocarina, an instrument, is crucial to the game, and eventually became a symbol of the entire series. You play it by pressing the C button “ocarina holes” on your Nintendo 64 controller, another example of ingenuity in the game’s design.
Ocarina of Time is a game you’ll be glued to for a while. With about 10 vital dungeons to explore, even those that are skimming through the game will spend a lot of time on it. And for the obsessive Zelda completionists— well, it’s probably one of the most difficult to beat.
Link also meets many characters in his adventure across Hyrule (and beyond): Saria, his childhood friend who gives him the Fairy Ocarina; Malon, a young girl from the farm; a whole colony of Gorons; and the Sages, to name a few. Plus, maybe most famously, Sheik – a mysterious character that teaches Link new transportation songs, who famously ends up being (spoilers) Princess Zelda!
There are a few aspects to the gameplay some may find unpolished today, however – controls are sometimes clunky or unresponsive, and those with short attention spans probably won’t get far in Ocarina of Time. One could persistently play the game for months and still have dungeons left. It's also definitely not for very young gamers, as the difficulty/frustration levels really spike in some areas of the game.
I think my main complaint with Ocarina of Time is that I don’t have as much emotional attachment to it as I do The Wind Waker, nor do I think it’s as fun (or easy) to just pick up and play when I’m bored. It also lacks personality – but it’s full of that Zelda magic.
While Ocarina of Time may be viewed as a generic Zelda game these days due to its impact on the rest of the series, it remains very unique for what it is. The series, and maybe the gaming industry as a whole, simply wouldn’t be the same without it.
I rate this game a high 9.7/10.