8.0

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time review
Sweet melodies of the Ocarina of Time

Summary:

The Introduction:
This almost seems like a joke... The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time is the gaming equivalent of Metallica’s Master Of Puppets – everybody who’s into this hobby knows about it and knows what to expect. So why am I reviewing this? Because I’m an overly critical bastard that has to overanalyse a game to satisfy the gods of gaming - somebody has to. So without further adieu, let us begin.

The Story:
Our main protagonist, Link, is being tortured by nightmares of a princess who escapes from a castle on horseback, and a man in black armor who kills him. Ahh, if only he knew that this dream could almost come true for him... Anyway, a fairy known as Navi makes her way over to Link’s treehouse, and takes him with her to the Deku Tree to help it seal a curse before it takes over. Even after defeating the cause, it’s all in vain, as the Deku Tree dies, but not before presenting Link with a mystical jewel. After making his way to Princess Zelda by barging through the castle, avoiding the guards Solid Snake style, it’s made obvious from there on that Link has to embark on a quest to stop Ganondorf, the man in black armor from his dreams, from being able to take control of a mystical force known as the Triforce, or else, the land of Hyrule will be purged by monsters.

That sounds good and all; definitely a good premise for an adventure title. You’re given a purpose, a quest, a guide (in the form of an owl, and certainly not in the form of Navi) and some support from the inhabitants of the land. The atmosphere carries on into the dungeons, with Link feeling like a brave explorer, searching for relics in a quest to destroy all evil. It’s a good story, to say the least.

If I have any problems with the story, it is that it feels like they rehashed A Link To The Past after the third dungeon, with the only difference being that Zelda isn’t kidnapped, and Link grows older in a world of darkness, as opposed to just the world changing. Not a big deal, but a bit lazy on Nintendo’s part. I could add that Link’s dream could’ve affected him more, but I would be picking on this game more than I would like to.

The Graphics:
There is no doubt that the graphics are excellent. Maybe not by today’s standards, since the textures aren’t all there, but I don’t like to hurt a game when it cannot help something due to hardware limitations. The environments are large, the dungeons have this treasure explorer-esque vibe to them, and the models, at least for the time, look excellent, especially the owl. The water, especially, is serene and crystal clear, possibly the best looking springs and lakes you’ll see on the N64, bar possibly Wave Race. If I was to be a picky bastard, I’d go and point out that there are some unrendered objects, like shrubs and fences. You move the camera to a certain angle; they look like a straight line. I don’t know, it just looks a tiny bit off to me.

The Sound:
The grunts and screams from Link; Ganondorf’s maniacal laugh; Zelda’s various noises... there’s your voice acting. Oh, and let this set the tone for the rest of the series from this point on. Who cares? The music is going to keep you engaged as you explore the extremely empty field that is Hyrule Field, and give you the feeling of knowing you’re not welcome with the dungeon pieces. Once it comes to a boss battle, the tune manages to make it feel a bit on the epic side, and even evokes a little energy from the player. It’s... a bit weird to have a different tune for the fire bosses, but I’m not going to knock it off for that, because that’s an excellent tune, too.

The Gameplay:
As an adventure game, you have to walk from Point A to Point B, which is where you’re advised to go in order to get the next jewel or medallion. You get to use various items that you acquire from within each dungeon to aid you in your quest to seal away the evil Ganondorf, and keep Hyrule safe for another day. Each dungeon comprises of at least two floors, with their own sets of rooms, tricks, enemies, bosses, and treasures, and once all is said and done, you move on until you get to the last dungeon.

I’m going to get all of the negatives out of the way first. To start with, and this is just a minor gripe I’ve always had, even when I was seven years old, the enemies are rather basic. So basic, that they are obstacles. There is the occasional tough enemy like the skeleton with the sword and shield, but the tough enemies are far, far outweighed by the smaller, weaker enemies that are essentially free items/money/health. Just swipe them once or twice, and they’re going down. Most don’t even fight back if you got them in a slashing chokehold. Usually, I’d expect a little challenge, but I suppose they wanted to make Link some sort of god.

This leads into something that has also irked me, even when I was younger and didn’t know any better – a fair amount of the puzzles you have to do can become rather tedious to do. Most of the time, you’re required to push blocks around. This often takes a while to do, especially later on when you have to amass a group of blocks together. It just makes you think “gee, could they do something else here instead”. With that said, the puzzles revolving around collecting silver rupees and... Well, I guess as long as you’re not pushing a block along, the puzzles aren’t all bad.

The last negative I want to cover is that a couple of elements had a lot of potential, but didn’t exactly deliver. Firstly, the day and night aspect looks like it could be grand. As a kid, you fight skeletons at night. Easy enemies, but a nice touch compared to the empty Hyrule Field during the day. As an adult, nothing changes. Regardless of whether it’s night or day, you still have the rare occurrence of a ghost, and that’s it. Personally, I would suggest more enemies be placed on the field during the night. That’s what Konami did with Castlevania 2. Why couldn’t Nintendo do this? Oh well. Second has to be the horse riding. As far as I can tell, the horse is just a mode of transportation, and not a particularly useful one if you already have the Ocarina song allowing you to warp somewhere anyway. Only a few occasions is this horse useful, but not required. And finally, why is Hyrule Field so empty? You’d expect there to be more than just trees and a couple of weird looking flying enemies. For a hub world, it doesn’t contain much to care for, except maybe serene graphics.

They’re not big issues, if you can’t tell, but they’re just nagging little problems I have. The game plays excellently, but with little problems like that, it makes me wonder how it’s considered perfect. They’re not exactly ignorable, so it boggles the mind as to why it’s considered perfection.

Oh well, the rest of the gameplay works very well. While the enemies are merely mild inconveniences and not a huge threat (barring a few here and there), at least you can target them using the magic that is the Z Targeting System. Since the camera operates on both X and Y planes, it can be tough finding enemies, so knowing that you have such a useful system on your hands means that you can efficiently find enemies without the need to lose it.

The epicenter of each puzzle is the context sensitive button, allowing Link to drop off of ledges, jump up on them, crawl through crawlspaces, push blocks (oh god), and other actions that don’t involve items, yet cannot be done with the control stick alone. Suffice it to say – that A button will be getting quite a workout by the time you’re done with the game’s puzzles.

The other important feature that can handle puzzles would be the items. Items manage to become rather useful. You have your typical long ranged weapons, slower yet stronger weapons, plain practical items, and magical items. You have to make proper use of each item in order to progress, though you’ll have a good idea of what item will be most important throughout a dungeon once you obtain the item from said dungeon. It’s unfortunate that some items become useless even in the last dungeon, but thankfully, that is kept to a minimum. For the most part, they all do their parts splendidly, allowing for a bit of versatility within each dungeon (though I bet it’ll be the arrows, hookshot, and dungeon item that you’ll have 85% of the time).

You all know the subtitle of this particular legend – the Ocarina Of Time, which gets its own parts in the game. You get to play certain melodies throughout in order to go through puzzles, and activate certain passages. It’s a nice little touch, allowing for a little more variety in puzzle solving. That, and the songs, when the right button combination IS done, conjures up a hell of a melody, all managing to ease the pain of pushing blocks.

Once you get to the bosses, it’s a whole new ball game. Yeah, you’re just wailing on them with your new item, but the way they have you do this is a bit on the clever side, such as one boss taking its sweet time inhaling for a flamethrower attack while you chuck a bomb into its huge mouth, or a serpentine dragon just popping up for a morning whack on the head with a hammer. Now, you may be thinking that I’ll think that they seem rather forced, but it’s quite on the contrary. You see, it helps in establishing a formula with each boss, and prevents unpredictability that can kill you. That, and... well, how else are you going to kill a dragon with a hard head, or a rock hard beast, or a blob when you cannot fight in the water? That sword isn’t going to be of much use when it can’t even damage its target! Yes, they’re easy, but the reward for destroying them is satisfying regardless.

The Stats:
Story: It’s A Link To The Past, sans any kidnapping, and replace Light and Dark Worlds with past and future. It’s a good adventure story for what it’s worth. 4.5/5
Graphics: Admittedly, some objects aren’t fully rendered like fences and bushes, but for the most part, the game looks gorgeous, and it’s one of the best looking games on the system. 4.5/5
Sound: The soundtrack is top notch, adding to the atmosphere, making you feel like you really are in a dungeon. Basically, each track is used at the correct times, and manage to soothe the ears with some excellent melodies. Suffice it to say, this is one of the best soundtracks I have ever heard. 5/5
Gameplay: I wasn’t really a fan of how some of the puzzles can get rather tedious and annoying. The night and day and horse riding mechanics had infinite potential, but didn’t quite get there. Fighting, while easy, is a bit on the fun side, though the enemies served only as mere obstacles than a threat. An empty Hyrule Field kind of bothers me, too, since it feels like a lot could’ve been added to it. However, all isn’t bad in the land of Hyrule. Most of the puzzles are thankfully fun to do, the targeting system is a godsend to help eliminate these obstacles, and the bosses, however easy, left a smile on my face as I slay them. It’s mixed in my books, but overall, it plays well. Just... not perfectly. 8/10

The Conclusion:
The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time is a great game that is just held back by a fair few tedious puzzles, and elements that left a lot to be desired. If the horse riding and day and night elements were to have been fleshed out more, the puzzles ALL good and the enemies a bit tougher, THEN we’d have a perfect game on our hands. However, as it stands, this is not the perfect game that everybody tells you it is.

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