A Brief Introduction
Well, we’ve finally made it to the big one: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. In truth, I wasn’t really sure what to expect when it came time to review Ocarina of Time, largely in part because I never actually played it up until now. I’ve been a masterrace elite PC gamer since I was a young ‘un and didn’t own a console until my mom got me a Nintendo Wii for my 11th birthday in 2007. Furthermore, the game’s heyday (late 90’s) occurred just a few years before I was really old enough to be into gaming anyway. Consequently, Ocarina of Time ended up being one of those games everybody always raves about that I just missed. I gave the remastered version on the 3DS a few tries but I only recently sat down and played it through. I figured since Since the Nintendo Switch and Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild are on their way, I figured a review of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was suitable.
Not-So Legendary Storytelling
The story of Ocarina follows a pretty standard model, especially for Zelda games. Unsurprisingly, this is my biggest gripe and because the plot is so basic, I’m not going to delve to deep for a summary. I’m guessing people won’t be playing this game for its writing. While Ocarina‘s story is effective enough to drive the game forward, it mostly boils down to “move from Point A to Point B to Point C to collect magical artifact 1, 2, and 3.” Zelda also gives Link the Ocarina of Time, which is this Zelda game’s magical instrument used to jump through time, call storms, and more. While it’s fair to say this pattern is pretty standard in these games, with Ocarina it’s especially conspicuous. The problem is, I’m more forgiving of a basic storyline if you can fill it with interesting characters but Ocarina doesn’t really do that. Then again, this type of thing is subjective and not everyone is here for the story.
“Meehhh! Link doesn’t need to be a real character because player immersionnn!”
Let me nip this in the bud real quick. Yeah, I understand Link is supposed to be closer to a blank canvas. The whole “Link” to the player shtick. However, it’s hard for me as a player to project myself into someone who lacks basic human expression.
Anyway, Link is a total bowl of oatmeal. Your fairy companion, Navi, is mostly just background noise, though not as much of a nuisance as fans would have you think. Also, her role in the end of the story is unexplained and confusing. Zelda is just the princess that needs saving and the dark prince Ganondorf is angsty and cliché. Sheik, Link’s occasional ninja helper and musical instructor, had the potential to be totally badass but instead rarely makes an appearance. The ninja’s hidden identity is a heap of missed potential, which is a shame because I really like me some ninjas. Overall, the inhabitants of Hyrule are just sorta bland, which makes the game less engaging. Now, that’s not to say Hyrule doesn’t have anything to offer. Ocarina is just more about the journey than the destination.
Ocarina is like a grand, fairy-tale adventure.
When it gets into the swing of things, Ocarina is actually quite a blast. It plays like a grand, exciting fairy tale where the story bits are a nice little side-dish. Miyamoto said his inspiration was playing in the woods as a boy and that’s definitely reflected in Ocarina. One moment you’re exploring the intestines of a giant fish and the next, you’re underneath an active volcano. It’s a Zelda game, so exploration and items work in conjunction. Ocarina is riddled with secrets and sidequests. My personal favorite is the Longshot, since zipping around with it makes me feel like Spider-Man-Link.
It’s worth noting that while the different “biomes” of Hyrule are cool, Hyrule Field, the most visited area in the game, is completely empty. When you’re trekking from say, the Goron mines to the Zora springs, the in-between bits feature lots of empty fields and spamming A to roll forward faster.
Anyway, as you poke around and complete sidequests, you accrue treasures and items, which in turn grant you new skills that help you further explore. Although, I’ll never understand why simple glass bottles are such a rare commodity in Hyrule. For the most part, the dungeons are solid. Aesthetically, they’re fairly basic (forest, fire, water, etc.) but the puzzles inside stumped me repeatedly. Everybody bickers about which Zelda games are “harder” than others and I personally found Ocarina’s puzzles to be damn hard compared to the other games.
The Water Temple is Terrible
Please note, The Water Temple is the exception to anything positive said about Ocarina of Time. I realize I’m repeating what others have ranted about for the past 20 years but everybody should get a turn. The temple’s design is just terrible. It’s a submerged pagoda inside an underwater cave and it looks pretty cool, except you hardly spend any time in the actual pagoda. Instead, you spend most of your time exploring tight, confusing corridors the walls of the cave. The tunnel layout is pretty symmetrical and without any distinct landmarks, which makes navigating confusing as hell. The player also needs to repeatedly alter the water-level in order to more forward, which is all kinds of tedious. The whole thing is cramped and bland. Also, there is a Like Like, a monster that can permanently steal your water-breathing tunic, in the middle of the water temple. If you do lose the useful suit and you’re interested in getting another one, you actually have to exit temple and purchase one in the nearest mountain village. Finally, the boss is a complete letdown. Sorry, I’m just not impressed by an an animate, noodle of water.
It’s understandable why Ocarina left such a legacy. It was one of the best, earliest 3D games and the first 3D Zelda entirely. When it came out in 1996, the graphics, gameplay, and overall spirit of adventure blew people away. Jump to today – do I think it still holds up? Mostly, though I certainly don’t think it’s in contention for the best game of all time. If you’re looking for detailed characters or an exciting plot, Ocarina of Time isn’t the place to look. Instead, Ocarina‘s a game that clearly knows what it’s about – sheer fun, explorative gameplay. It’s got a bright, adventurous overworld where you can sneak into castles, conduct magical storms, and receive blessings from fantastical (and kind of creepy) fairies. The puzzles are challenging and the secrets are plentiful. Hyrule has plenty to do, just don’t always expect muchs explanation as to why you’re doing it. I certainly enjoyed Ocarina and I’m confident other Zelda fans will enjoy it as well, assuming there are somehow Zelda fans who still haven’t played it besides myself. All in all, I’ll say The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is…