Archive for April, 2013

The Legend of Zelda – Ocarina of Time

I am currently finding it impossible to sum up how I feel about Ocarina of Time. I can certainly start by saying that this post will not so much be a review, but instead a chronicling of my thoughts and feelings on the game and it’s place in the Legend of Zelda series and the world of video games in general. Ocarina of Time is one of those games, like Half Life 2, which is consistently placed under a banner that reads ‘Best Games of All Time’. The reasons why OoT is considered so highly have been explored hundreds of times in hundreds of different mediums, so to do so again would be simply regurgitating what has already been said.

Critically, the game is great. This is a game I played a bit when I was younger when it was first out and got stuck in the notorious Water Temple about two thirds of the way through the game. This time however, the game was a breeze. There were a few bosses that gave me some trouble, Phantom Ganondorf in the Forest Temple being one particular thorn in my side. But most bosses I found completing easilyafter a few attempts at the very most. The puzzles were all fairly simple but not enough so to make them feel insultingly easy. The story line was reasonably engaging and I felt pretty involved. I felt like the Hero of Time that Hyrule needed, going around beating the shit out of stuff with various tools and backflipping all over the place.

A few comments about the game’s difficulty are necessary here I feel. To begin with it must be said that this game is not difficult. What it can be is obtuse. Like all games with puzzles, you can spend hours on a puzzle only for the answer to be staring you in the face the entire time. Whilst this can be frustrating, it cannot be deemed hard. Some of the bosses are a little tricky, but that trickiness usually comes from knowing how to defeat them. Once the strategy is known, the execution is usually easy enough. For instance, I mentioned earlier that I had some problems with Phantom Ganondorf, this is because in the bosses second phase you are supposed to hit his magic attack back at him with your sword. However, the game is not very forthcoming about this. The only thing you have to reflect back at enemies are the missiles of the Deku Scrubs, an action you complete with your shield. Navi’s helpful hint tells you to ‘return a magic attack of your own’, which sounds like you have to use your own offensive magic to defeat him. This is not the case. Through trial, error and wasted arrows you will eventually discover how to defeat Phantom Ganondorf and then curse the game for not just hinting at that somehow. What makes this more enraging is the fact that the boss of the Spirit Temple requires you to reflect magic with your shield, although this is the Mirror Shield so it is a million times more obvious. This is am example of an obtuseness that is a consistent theme throughout the Legend of Zelda series. I challenge anyone to try to make any progress in the first game without at least a map of the overworld, if not a basic guide. That is not to say this makes the game bad, it just makes it a little frustrating at times. However, I urge anyone to not simply turn to a walkthrough unless you’re reasonably desperate. Beating things without outside help is just so much more rewarding, despite the occasional frustration.

Now on to something slightly different. Ocarina of Time’s effect on video games. I feel that OoT’s resounding success and critical reception has shaped Nintendo’s direction in regards to most of her major series. Ocarina of Time meant a change in format, from a top down view like the original, Ocarina stepped into a brave new dimension on the N64. The second Zelda game, The Adventure of Link, had side scrolling elements that were condemned by fans of the original. The SNES Zelda game, A Link to the Past, went back to the formula of the original, despite the capability of the SNES to render basic 3D as proved by games like Starfox. Nintendo went for a richly detailed 16 bit world instead of basic 3D, a wise move. However, OoT was such a success that all forthcoming Zelda games on console were in 3D, not counting the awful ones for Phillips CD-i. As soon as technology allowed it, handheld Zeldas made the jump to 3D as well. This proved that Nintendo had great faith in this format and the question arises whether this would have happened had Ocarina of Time been received poorly. Nintendo walked a fine line, many N64 games were simply awful (see Superman 64), their application of 3D causing only problems. Ocarina of Time was successful and forever changed the format of one of Nintedo’s best selling series.

Ocarina of Time also takes a pivotal role in the recently released Legend of Zelda timeline that is contained within the ‘Hyrule Historia’. The game is the point at which the timeline splits into 3 alternate timelines. Anyone who knows anything about the Legend of Zelda know that Nintendo have recently pulled this timeline out of their arse and to pretend that they always had this in mind is something that carries very little weight. Ocarina of Time takes a central role in the timeline and I would argue that this is because the game is the most famous and well received of the entire series. Many people prefer ALttP or Majora’s Mask over Ocarina of Time, but this does not change the fact that Ocarina of Time is probably the most well known. OoT’s central place in the timeline also allows for Nintendo to perpetuate their ‘three timeline’ bullshit for longer due to the centrality of time travel in the narrative. A concept that practically asks for confusing and nonsensical plot holes.

Now it comes to the point where I must conclude this ‘review’. The fact that I have rambled on for over one thousand words is, perhaps, a testament to how much enjoyed the game. It is true to say that I had great fun playing and completing it. I am certainly considering a replay and trying to learn some of the glitches that allow you to complete the game in under half an hour. Or the series of actions that allow you to get the Hover Boots early and stroll through the earlier Temples. However, I have also yet to find everything in the land of Hyrule, so maybe I’ll just play through it again and endeavor to discover everything about the game. The very fact that I am considering this should tell you what I think of the Ocarina of Time. I usually end these ‘reviews’ with a recommendation or lack of one, so this particular post is no different. You should play Ocarina of Time. Be it on the N64, the one that comes with 3 other Zelda games on the Gamecube or even the reboot on the 3DS. Ocarina of Time was a breakthrough when it was released and, whilst it’s individual achievements have been surpassed many times in the 15 years since it’s release, it’s still fun to go see what all the fuss was about it. It’s worth it.

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