It’s hard to believe that ten years have passed since Link’s first 3D offering. And some would argue that despite advances in technology since the Nintendo 64, Ocarina of Time remains the best adventure in the Legend of Zelda series. So why was Ocarina of Time so damn good?
Link didn’t have a great start, despite sharing a cereal with Mario, appearing in mini-adventures in Game & Watch LCD handhelds, and having two main games on the Nintendo Entertainment System. The original game was the basis for a 13-episode cartoon series that was played during the Super Mario Bros. Super Show** which was incredibly cheesy, poorly acted, and featured one of the most annoying catchphrases ever, “Excuuuuuuuuuse me, princess!” The NES games weren’t bad mind, though they haven’t really stood the test of time.
Link did return with a bang in the next generation of Zelda games. A Link to the Past was, and still is, my favourite Legend of Zelda adventure. It featured a beautifully rendered 16-bit world and had brilliantly designed dungeons full of puzzles galore to challenge any gamer. It featured a proper story, had loads of items and weapons, and its core design seems to be the basis of modern Zelda games. Infact, Link’s Awakening on the Game Boy, based directly after the events of A Link To The Past, continued with almost identical style of play, except it was in 8-bit monochrome (though later coloured in). Some argue Link’s Awakening to be the best adventure as its quality of gameplay surpasses many a modern adventure even now!
These two titles created a fan base that was almost lost to the Playstation and Final Fantasy VII became the adventure-RPG game that everyone must play. However, Shigeru Miyamoto and his Nintendo crew had a plan in mind... Zelda 3D! This turned into a stunning new game featuring a now-blonde Link in a battle of skill and time to save Hyrule from Gannon, the evil Jasper-Carrotalike, who planned to take over Hyrule with the ultimate power of the Triforce.
Link’s 3D debut was huge! It felt like a new world to explore and imagined in 3D were familiar sights and locations from Link’s previous games. The dungeons were challenging, the soundtrack atmospheric. And not only did you have dungeons and demons to battle, you also had the challenge of time. Night and day were changed in real-time. Link faced challenges as a child and as an adult, and as he had to travel in time to do that, the world seemed twice as big again! The world was perfect, from Kakariko Village to the Master Sword. Hyrule Castle to the Temple of Time. With all the classic weaponry and various places and races to explore, there was so much this game offered.
I remember the first time I dodged guards in Hyrule castle with encountering Princess Zelda as my reward. I then remember seeing mushroom kingdom portraits through the castle windows and shooting them for rupees. Completing the forest temple was an atmospheric joy and, as with most water stages, the underwater temple was a complete and utter chore...but was worth completing. I think it’s safe to say that almost everyone who played this when it came out would have been playing in complete awe of the lush world that Link inhabited, and amazed by how amazing the game was
Zelda 6, Majora’s Mask*** was a great way of continuing with some of the great features Ocarina of Time introduced, whilst at the same time bringing us a brand new adventure**** This was also well received and featured a unique story involving a Skull-kid who would bring on the end of the world by crashing the moon into it. This was also done in real-time and if you got too close to the end of your time limit, you could use the Ocarina to get back to the start. This wasn’t without its consequences though. You had to repeat certain steps to get back to your most recent position and caused a lot of frustration for gamers who loved Ocarina.
One of the series’ greatest downfalls, however, was The Wind Waker on the GameCube. Although a good enough game, it was a letdown to the casual Zeldarite due to its ‘Kiddy graphics’ and a let down to the hardcore fans due to the lack of classic Ocarina-style gameplay. Where were the dungeons? Where was the vast land to explore? Even Shigeru Miyamoto admitted the game was rushed.
Thankfully, the series was redeemed by Twilight Princess, also on GameCube and Wii. Featuring Ocarina-style ‘real’ graphics, many dungeons, a busy populated castle town, weapons and items galore and a new skill for Link...a sense of smell (when in wolf-form) that allowed Link to follow the trail of his enemies.
Sadly though, ten years since Link became polygonic, we haven’t had an adventure that exceeds Ocarina of Time’s greatness. In reality, I don’t think we ever will either. Ocarina of Time had a perfect balance in almost everything, however with the gaming community so focussed on innovation, gamers forgot that sometimes a great game is a great game despite not doing something entirely new. Games are an art that are often spoilt by trying something completely new. Granted the step from SNES to N64 was a new challenge, but despite graphical updates, does the Zelda series need to do something completely new to improve?
So, do you think Ocarina of Time was the best in the series? And if not, what would you rate as the best? Also, what do you think the future of Link’s adventures will be like? Will Link last another 10 years? I certainly hope so!
*Who looked a bit like the current presenter of Golden Balls
**Or GMTV when I was a kid
***Was known as Zelda 2 by the media at the time. Sods.
****A bit like Link’s Awakening really.
^Labelled as a SNES game as no N64 option!
I did enjoy WW to a certain extent (got all the way to the last fight before being distracted by another game) but still rate it below Twilight Princess. Actually I got all the way to the end of that game, except the last boss fight. Think it was FF X1II that stopped me from completing that one.
Which leaves, for me, OOT top of the pile. Don't have the watchamacallit to do serious reviews of any sort so just say Absolutely Unashamedly Totally Adore OOT. So much so that I guess I'm going to have to dust off the GC again ><
Only downside is that you get all the standard Ganon boss mechanics that we have seen in every Zelda game thus far.
Fantastic game! HotD OVerkill currently sits in my Wii though so will give it a while before taking the Twilight Princess Gannon challenge...
Ocarina of Time is good because of the way it's designed, though. You can tell that all the modern Zelda games are made by people who love the characters and care for the story as much as the technical aspect.
I hold my hand up to say I still haven't played Twilight Princess, I just haven't had enough time to dedicate to a game like that. As soon as I do I'll be getting it.
Not everything said at E3 is true though...I remember Sony once saying that the PS3 would support 7 controllers for simultaneous play...I'm not sure how a 7 way split-screen would work :P
As for the Wind Waker comments...I enjoyed the game myself. Was moreso pointing out why it wasn't well received. It's one of the few Zelda games I've played through to completion...though when I say completion - I mean in terms of story as I don't think I've ever collected all items/secrets in a Zelda game...