The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time ReviewEma Furlong
Over the years since the first game was released in 1986, the "Legend of Zelda" series has become a Nintendo staple. Link is a highly recognizable character, and next to Mario, he is one of the biggest characters in the Nintendo franchise.
It is not surprising, then, that I had never played Ocarina of Time before.
As a child, I always owned Sega systems, and never a Nintendo. I'm not exactly sure why - as far as I know, "console wars" didn't exist back then, and I wasn't living in a staunchly anti-Nintendo household or anything like that. It just simply didn't happen. The first time I saw Ocarina of Time being played was at my best friend's house. She loved the game, and as such, I saw bits and pieces of it over the time I knew her. I even became familiar with Link's character, but I never played the game myself - until this year.
I'm not sure why, but I decided to revisit the classics recently. There haven't been a lot of new games I've been interested in, and what has come out I was so excited to play that I sped through it too quick for it to last. For the first time in my entire life, I'm living in a household with Nintendo systems, so learning about Mario and Link seemed like the obvious logical option.
Let me start by saying that I loved the game. For its time, Ocarina of Time has a hugely complex world. So much can be interacted with in ways you wouldn't necessarily realize at first. There are probably hundreds of characters you can speak to, and while they don't always have much to say, the fact that they're there at all is impressive. With just thirty minutes of wandering around in the game's environment, it's clear to see how complex the story is and how much time and thought was put into even the smallest of details. This is a production team who took their game seriously, and it shows.
Of course, the graphics look dated now, but somehow, it doesn't detract necessarily from the overall feel of the game, even today. To me, it felt sort of like it was part of the game's "charm". Although people and objects were polygonal and boxy, it's easy enough to tell that detail and care went into the graphics used. Objects and scenery are all nicely-textured, giving the boxy graphics the extra oomph that really pushes them over the edge. Even color is very carefully used - although Link and Princess Zelda are both blonde, they have two distinctly different hair colors, which I found to be an interesting detail.
Those familiar with the Zelda series know what to expect from it - the game is primarily a "dungeon crawler", with the game split up into various "temples" filled with enemies, puzzles, and wonky navigations that the player must traverse through before progressing through the game's simplistic and predictable plot. I'm not a fan of dungeon crawlers, but I found Ocarina of Time's themed temples and interesting puzzles were enough to keep me interested in the game itself. They also weren't entirely too long or too short, with perhaps the exception of the Water Temple. In fact, I actually found Ganondorf's Castle (the final area of the game) to be disappointingly short and without much substance.
Music and sound effects are not this game's forte. There are plenty of highly memorable melodies from this game, but the tracks that aren't well-known are disgustingly obnoxious. The constant crowing of birds in Hyrule Field is something I could do without ever hearing again in my lifetime - to be honest, I can't figure out how anybody in Hyrule ever manages to get any sleep. The ocarina songs are all nice, and the Gerudo Valley music is extremely enjoyable. Where Ocarina of Time falls short in this realm is, of course, the "people noises". No lines are voice acted, instead dotted by the occasional voice sound - an "oh!", or "hmm...", or "aha!", or something along those lines. They're almost always annoying and almost never sound like an actual human being. Because of this, the worst song in the game, unsurprisingly, is when Malon is "singing" (comprised entirely of ear-shattering "oohs") Epona's song, especially during the extremely long, drawn-out sequence at the end of the game. I cringed the entire time, and had I had my remote handy, I would have muted the TV, it was that awful.
Ocarina of Time is chock-full of complex optional sidequests and goodies, and while I did find all 100 Skulltulas, I'm fairly certain there is still quite a bit of optional material I may have missed. There are tons of minigames to be played, including a shooting range, a bowling alley, fishing, games of chance, and many more. There's even an optional sort of dungeon (Bottom of the Well, while necessary to find the Lens of Truth, can be left half-finished once that's complete). There's certainly a wealth of things to do within the game, but I still find replay value to be stunted. There is nothing that I can see to be gained by playing a second time through - perhaps only fans of the series or people who can't really remember having played the game years and years ago would feel the need to pop it in again.
As positive as people are about this entry to the Legend of Zelda series (and even considering how much I liked it), it's not all good. I can't tell you how many times I had "glitches" where I could see through walls or got caught in them, primarily in Gerudo Valley and the Shadow Temple. I found it endlessly annoying how slowly Link would move when targeting something. Boss battles were sometimes creative, but almost always entirely too simple, easy, and repetitive, which made them tiresome and not the challenge that boss fights usually are. I quit even saving my game before boss fights because I was never concerned I would actually die from one. Even the game's final boss was fairly simple (the biggest challenge being quickly aiming the light arrows in the very short window of time provided to hit Ganondorf, which is not exactly the type of challenge you want).
Still, the game is fun, if not somewhat simplistic. It offers what it promises and, in some areas, much more than what would be expected. It's considered a classic for a reason. There are flaws here and there, but over time they've become more like "quirks", and none are so debilitating that they render the game at any time "unplayable" or even not fun to play. I would certainly encourage anyone who has not played the game before to give it a chance, and maybe anyone who played it as a child to try it again and see what more they can uncover in it as an adult. After all, if this game teaches anything, it's that time changes everything.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.