The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is an important Zelda game as it marked the series’s transition to 3D and it introduced many gameplay innovations to the franchise that have become mainstays to this very day.
Sorry to disappoint fans of the older Zelda games, but Ocarina of Time is one of my favorite games of all time. I am so fond of it because I grew up with it on the Nintendo 64. The issue at the time was that I was too young to figure out how to make any progress in the game so I never finished it. It was not until over a decade later that I picked up the Ocarina of Time remake for the 3DS and was finally able to complete the game in its entirety. With all things considered, I was hooked to this game and I could not put it down once I started playing.
I believe the game is a monumental success because it retains all of the stuff that make any Zelda game great such as the puzzles and exploration, and turns that good stuff all the way up to the maximum level. If that wasn’t enough, Ocarina of Time stirred the Zelda fanbase to look deeper into the lore of the series as a whole which soon lead to the creation of the notorious Zelda timeline. Whether you love or hate Ocarine of Time there is no denying that it left a mark on gaming history and contributed a great deal to the genre of open-world action-adventure games.
The game begins in a place called Kokiri Forest where Link begins experiencing terrible nightmares in his sleep. The Great Deku Tree, the wise leader of Kokiri Forest, takes notice of the boy’s nightmares and instructs a fairy named Navi to tell the boy to come to him. Navi then heads off to Link’s treehouse to wake him. After Navi dispenses with the formalities, she instructs Link to meet with the Deku Tree and the game then officially begins, thrusting you into a rich, open environment.
Environment is a key aspect of Ocarina of Time as each level is rife with distinct characteristics that make each one feel like a miniature world. For example, Kokiri Forest is filled with verdant trees and inhabited by childlike beings called Kokiris, Death Mountain has a lot of rocky terrain that is precarious to traverse and is inhabited by rock creatures called Gorons, and Lake Hylia is a gorgeous lake occupied by the aquatic Zoras. Every location is completely open ended and contains obstacles that, like in any other Zelda game, must be overcome by obtaining a certain item or learning a certain skill.
Gameplay in Ocarina of Time is top notch with Link doing what he does best: gathering items, solving puzzles, fighting his way through dungeons, and exploring. There was never a dull moment in the game and it manages to balance the difficulty exquisitely with nothing being too hard or too easy. All of Link’s items can easily be equipped through an inventory screen that doubles as a map. Moreover, he can equip up to three items at a time so he can always pull out any item he needs in a pinch whenever he needs them the most.
Even though most items are an absolute blast to use, my favorite part of Ocarina has to be the dungeon crawling. All the dungeons, like the environments, require you to solve puzzles to progress; each one also has a theme that corresponds to a natural element like water or fire which determines what kind of puzzles Link would encounter in that particular dungeon. Let’s take a look at the Water Temple for instance. In this infamous labyrinth, Link must raise the water level in different sections of the dungeon to reach new areas. Nintendo could have easily made the dungeon crawling into a rinse and repeat formula, but it is clever design choices like in the Water Temple that prevent any of them from getting repetitive.
Ocarina of Time‘s combat system and controls are smooth like butter with no delays whatsoever. Unlike the Zelda games that preceded it, combat in Ocarina of Time is little more complex as Link can perform jumping and crouching sword attacks in addition to the standard vertical and horizontal slices. The game also lets you use these sword attacks tactically to get the upper hand on enemies. Let’s say you are going against a monster that takes a lot of hits to go down and the standard swings are too slow for you. Well you can take that foe out twice as quickly by using a crouching sword poke or a jump strike for extra damage.
A feature called Z-targeting is what really gives combat its edge. Z-targeting is exactly what it sounds like, by pressing the Z button on the N64 controller or L button if you are playing on the 3DS Link can automatically target something in front of him whether it be friend or foe. It is extremely helpful to use when trying to focus Link on something and what is even nicer is that you do not have to spam it to get results.
True to is namesake, Ocarina of Time’s overarching theme is time travel. It figures into the game’s narrative and it plays an equally important role during gameplay. Link is able to manipulate time once he gets his hands on the Ocarina of Time itself which also allows him to play other melodies that alter aspects of gameplay. The Ocarina is always fun to use and it’s extremely versatile; it can cycle between night and day, create a massive storm, and it can warp Link to the many dungeons spread out across Hyrule. It is always pleasant to see a game that uses the art of music as part of its gameplay. In fact, Ocarina of Time’s soundtrack overall is composed gorgeously and I always find myself spending a lot of time in one area just to listen to the music.
To add on to the time traveling aspect, there is a point in the story where Link travels seven years into the future and matures into a teenager. It is at this point that Link must alternate between his younger and older self to figure out how to continue onward on his quest. I loved this one moment during the game where Link had to explore a dungeon as his younger self in order to open up a new area that only his older self can get through. The only understandable drawback between the two Links is that they can only use particular items, so it is crucial to switch off when you know a item does not work for something.
What more can I possibly praise Ocarina of Time for that has not already been praised by other critics already. It is a fantastic game that gives any Zelda fan what they want in a Zelda game with the only difference being in dimension. I cannot really think of any flaws with the game aside from the occasional camera issue or a framerate lag, but these are barely nitpicks at best. If you had not played this game already then I strongly recommend that you do as it can be obtained pretty easily now. You can get it on the Wii and Wii U Virtual Console or you can get the 3DS remake. Trust me, Ocarina of Time is chock-full of Zelda goodness and playing through it is an experience you will never forget.
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