Link to the Past: Ocarina Of Time

logan j. fowler takes us back in time to share a piece he wrote on his favorite video game …

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

Okay, so this is not me being lazy. Or maybe it is. You can make of it what you will.

This is a piece I wrote two years ago, about my favorite video game, The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time. It remains to this day the best video game I ever played. This article originally started as a Facebook note, which I put a lot of time into.

The article touched upon the fact that the game was celebrating its 10 years since release for the Nintendo 64.* For that matter, I have decided to leave that factor of the article unchanged. Minor changes were made to make the article flow better, and of course any place where grammar and spelling were incorrect were also edited.

It serves only justice to my column’s title header that I share it with all of you. After all, you can’t have your head photoshopped upon the hero of time and not give credit where credit is due.

*This article was written in January 2009.

… As all three spiritual stones you gathered as young Link assemble into their positions, you take out your Ocarina to play the song of time. A door opens, showcasing a beam of sunlight shining down on a sword. You walk up to the sword, pull it up out of the stone, and suddenly a circular beam surrounds you. You wake up seven years later.

The real adventure is about to begin …

In November 1998, I was a mere 15 years old. I had the last cartridge-based home console, a Nintendo 64. While it wasn’t the greatest Nintendo system, it gave us gems such as Super Mario 64, Banjo Kazooie, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Goldeneye 007, Super Smash Bros. — and of course, The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time.

The first 3-D Zelda adventure, The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time was a masterpiece of epic proportions. My first foray into the Zelda world, I completely lost track of time while playing this game. Combining action/adventure and some RPG elements, Ocarina Of Time was like Super Mario 64 before it: Nintendo successfully proving you could take a 2-D character and put them in 3-D without failing miserably. This was the bar for which future Zelda games would be set.

You start the game as Young Link (or whatever name you wish to choose for him because the game allows you to do that), springing into adventure in his homeland, the Kokiri Forest. He has been told by Navi, a fairy, that the Great Deku Tree needs him. It turns out to be that the Great Deku Tree is cursed, and needs Link’s assistance. You enter into the tree and once you have taken care of the curse, the Great Deku Tree warns of a wicked man who put the curse on him. As a reward for your good deed of helping the Great Deku Tree, he awards you a spiritual stone. Finally, the Tree explains for you to bring the stone to the Princess of Hyrule, who will explain everything.

I will pretty much leave it at that, as to not spoil a thing more for those who have never played it (and if you haven’t, I seriously question your priorities in life). As it would seem obvious, with all the mention of the word time, the game does involve time travel. However, it’s not that you are young Link — then become older Link and finish the game completely as older Link. You will have to go back multiple times to finish objectives as young Link, but this task of going back is never too hard considering the fact you are only a warp away from the Temple of Time using the Ocarina.

peaking of, Ocarina was probably one of the first games to incorporate playing music into a game like Guitar Hero/Rock Band does now (except your controller is not shaped like an Ocarina). You use the A and the C buttons to make notes, and instead of seeing them and playing them at the right moment similar to Guitar Hero, you must memorize them. On the status screen you can get a glance at the songs if you forget, but once you close said screen, you have to remember what you saw.

On the note of songs, the soundtrack for The Legend Of Zelda: The Ocarina Of Time is amazing. Yes, it’s kind of a down note that it’s all midi files, but I wouldn’t expect anything more from a cartridge game. From the gleeful music of Kokiri Forest, to the jungle-esque beat of Goron City, to the Hyrule Field melody … it is all great original music or remixed classics. It is one of the best video game soundtracks ever, and one of the few that I own.

For all other sounds, you have your standard whoops and hollers from Link, some cackling laughs from Ganondorf (and other bosses), some small (and annoying) phrases from Navi, your fairy friend, grunts from the Gorons, and not much beyond that. Most of the time you will spend reading loads of text and/or dialogue, which is fine. I thought Ocarina Of Time would be the last Zelda game on the home consoles to primarily feature text. Sadly, I was wrong. Wind Waker and Twilight Princess both continued the trend. It’ll be interesting to see what they do for text for Zelda games in the future.

Controls for the game are pretty easy to learn. You use the B button to swing your sword, R button to defend with your shield, and the left, right, or down C buttons to map weapons and/or items such as your boomerang, longshot, bottles, bow and arrow, magic powers, and your ocarina. The A button is used to put away your sword or used to speak to people. The L or Z button is used for locking onto enemies. The camera in the game was never a problem and even while I am replaying the game on the Wii’s Virtual Console, I still stand by the statement. Why can’t more games have a camera like this?

Also, it’s pretty easy once you become an adult to get around Hyrule Field, which is pretty big. The task is easier once you get ownership of Epona, Link’s trusty horse. One the horse becomes yours, new mini-games and side quests become available. Riding Epona (stop it) is pretty easy. Press A to mount her (I’m being serious) and also press A to make her go faster (stop laughing).

The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time is tough at points, but it is not a really difficult game. I have died plenty of times, believe me, but it never decreased my interest of the game to the point where I couldn’t play anymore because I kept dying. The bosses in the game are pretty awesome (my personal favorite is Bongo Bongo, boss of the Shadow Temple, who is pictured below) and they continue along with tradition that you use whatever weapon you find in the bosses’ respective dungeon to defeat them. However, while cool in theory and a physical sense, the bosses are never really that hard.

I would say that the game, depending of how much of a perfectionist you are, will probably take you between 20 and 30 hours to complete. If you try and do all the side quests, that will definitely increase game time. Good luck with that ,as well.

Graphically, by today’s standards, The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time is … well, it’s not bad, but it’s certainly not great. Back in ’98, the game looked good. It was a lot less blocky than Super Mario 64 and Goldeneye 007 for its credit. A lot of the characters actually had hands and not fists that looked like blocks. They say that a game with great gameplay doesn’t need great graphics. At this point, Ocarina Of Time fits that model, but in ’98, it had both. For the reason of nostalgia, this Zelda game harkens back to a time where graphics were slowly exiting the primitive stage. It almost works like the original Nintendo in the form of nostalgia, but instead of 8-bit, it is 64. To conclude this point, the graphics are fine now for what they are.

You want to know the major flaw of the game? Do you? Well, here it is:

THE WATER TEMPLE. While it had a neat boss at the end, the Water Temple was one of the most frustrating levels in the game itself, but probably one of the most frustrating levels in all of gaming. Raise the water. Lower the water. Raise it. Lower it. At points I was like screw it; can we just call Mario to work on the plumbing? It gets ridiculous real fast. Thankfully that stupid stage would eventually end if you gave it your patience.

In November 2008, Nintendo Power wrote an article on Ocarina Of Time and how it came to be known as one of the best video games of all time. Earning praise from all gaming magazines, websites, critics, and fans, The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time was a piece of art. Perfectly balanced in depth, length, difficulty, and enjoyment, Nintendo proved that they know how to rock the gaming world with its flagship characters. Way back when, Link was a small little dude who would have to wait a few seconds while the screen changed when he was moving between them. Now a 3-D epic, Ocarina Of Time is still setting the bar for Zelda games. I recently just finished The Wind Waker for Gamecube, and Twilight Princess was one of my first Wii games that I played every day when I could. But they never matched Ocarina Of Time in quality. Never came close.

I cannot state enough how much I love this game. It made me appreciate the Legend Of Zelda series in a way I never thought possible.

It’s video gaming in its highest form. One for the ages. One for the books. One for all time.