It is a little-known fact that Ocarina of Time didn’t begin its life directly on Nintendo 64 Hardware. Although the deal that Nintendo struck with Sony to produce a CD-Based SNES add-on fell through, the House of Mario decided to create its own addition to the Nintendo 64, called the 64DD. This unit read Magnetic Discs, and it was originally planned for Zelda 64 to be one of the showcases for it. Because of production delays and high costs, the 64DD never really took off, and it was decided that Ocarina of Time would be produced as a regular N64 title, with the biggest-size cartridge at that point in time.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time debuted in 1998 as a worldwide release in the span of one month, and subsequently became the top seller for that year. It has gathered critical acclaim and perfect scores from numerous gaming publications such as IGN, Famitsu, Gamespot and EGM, and is still after ten years at the top spot of Game Rankings as the highest rated game ever.
Ocarina of Time saw three main re-releases; one as a bonus title sold with Gamecube game The Wind Waker, in which there was also a re-mastered and more difficult Master Quest version, another as part of The Legend of Zelda: Collector’s Edition that also came with another three games in the series, and as a Virtual Console release on the Wii.
As one of Nintendo’s main franchises, the Zelda series follows an established narrative, with enough of a variation between each game’s plotline to keep things fresh. Before Ocarina of Time, no other Zelda title, other than A Link to the Past, had given the story enough depth to give the feeling of familiarity, so upon Ocarina’s release, its story was groundbreaking.
Ocarina of Time tells the story of Link, a young boy living amongst the Kokiri, a group of Children residing within Kokiri Forest. Link, or whatever you may name him as, is shown to be the only one of the Village without a fairy partner, and he is ostracized because of this. One day, the protector of the Forest, the Great Deku Tree, sends for Link via a small fairy named Navi, and requests him to defeat a Curse that had been cast on the Giant Tree. From this point, the story builds with exploration, suspense, wonder, devastation, and magic, into one of the best of the series, and perhaps one of the greatest storylines in Video games ever.
Controlling Link is as simple as you can imagine; with a required amount of pressure on an Analog Stick. Items and weapons you obtain can be set each to one of three C-Stick Buttons, and your Sword and Shield are pre-set for easy access on the secondary B button, and the Right Shoulder Trigger. The main A button has been freed up as a context-sensitive function, for tasks such as pushing and pulling blocks, diving, grabbing things, and many more. Although there have been many releases of Ocarina for different formats, each controller it has been mapped to has performed largely the same, and all are easy to get to grips with and use.
Ocarina of Time built upon the foundations of 3D Movement and Environment that Super Mario 64 began, and expanded on them to bring a unique innovation into proceedings; Z-Targeting. With the use of the Z button on the underside of the N64 controller (relegated to the L Trigger for other console versions), pressing or holding down this button whilst in the presence of an enemy or an object of interest would enable a Lock-on function, that would allow you to fight one-to-one, strafe, block, use items, and swing your sword in a 3D space with maximum accuracy. Although this function does not sound terribly impressive by today’s standards, it was a revelation at the time of Ocarina’s release, and to this day still works wonders.
Navi the Fairy assists you with Z-Targeting, but she also acts as a guide to your surroundings, with hints and advice on how to proceed. She is one of the only Zelda characters in the entire series to have English voice acting, although she is limited to single word phrases, such as ‘Listen’ and ‘Watch Out’. For some, she can become annoying, but Navi is generally very helpful.
Following the game’s storyline, you will be able to visit a multitude of different locations and places, including Hyrule Castle; where Princess Zelda resides, Zora’s Domain; home to a race of Aquarius Beings known as Zoras, and even the harsh deserts of Gerudo Valley, the birthplace of the game’s Antagonist. Each of these places, and many more besides, are thought out to miraculous detail, and feel full of life. The Characters you meet in these places, and the enemies you fight, are almost like woven tapestry; they just fit in place perfectly. The first sight of Hyrule Field stretching over the horizon inspires many a gasp; although the size may be intimidating at first, easy navigation and a later method of getting about easier help ease gamers in.
Given the direction of the storyline, you will be able to control Link in two different periods of time; when he is a boy, and as a young adult. One of the items that is key to this development is the game’s namesake; the Ocarina of Time. This musical instrument is assigned an item placeholder, and by pressing the correct buttons to create certain notes, Link can play a number of Songs to aid him in his adventure; from changing Night to Day, and vice-versa, to creating rain, and even using them as methods of travel. As you would expect, the range of items Link can use differentiates between his two forms, and although some, like the Slingshot and Bow, control largely the same, there is a decent amount of variation in the list.
The main structure of Zelda’s gameplay consists of dungeon-crawling, item obtaining, and structure-based puzzles to work out, and in this area it has rarely shined better than in Ocarina. There are a high number of challenging caves, temples and organic creatures to make your way through, and the thrill of gaining a new weapon and working out how to use it best never gets old. Ocarina constantly keeps things fresh with new storyline twists, locales, and tasks to complete, and it always strives to test your gaming ability.
Ocarina’s Visuals are your traditional N64 blocky-affair, but it is surprising how well they still hold up today. Each elemental theme that runs through the world of Hyrule, be it Fire, Water, or Sand, all are faithfully represented with the N64’s graphics chip. Link’s facial expressions were greatly expanded in subsequent games, but they aren’t too shabby here. Definitely one of the N64’s greatest achievements, both in scope and quality.
Sound is one of Ocarina’s most important features, hence the namesake, and thankfully it does not disappoint here.
Although you are required to play melodies with the Ocarina, it is merely the first few notes of each individual song you need to play to activate their effects, so you don’t need to worry about memorizing the sequences of each one; A wise move by Nintendo for obvious reasons, although you can use combinations of buttons to play the Ocarina like a real instrument, if you do so choose.
Many classic Zelda tunes are present, and new ones were created via this title. From the lush tranquillity of Zelda’s Lullaby that can make a fat rock creature dance, to the raving speed of the Song of Storms, Ocarina of Time delivers on the ear candy, and although the music is in MIDI, that makes it no less enjoyable to listen to.
Hyrule Field Main Theme - 1Legend Of Zelda Ocarina Of Ti
Ocarina is merely a one-player affair, but that is all a Zelda game has ever needed to be, and this one will give any player at least 20 hours of enjoyment and thrills; and that’s not including all the side quests such as Gold Skulltula hunting, and the Fishing Pond. Make no mistake, when you’ve completed this game, and witnessed one of the greatest boss fights in gaming history, you’ll want to play through again.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is quite simply one of the best games ever made, there is no denying it. The scope, the presentation, the story, the characters, the quest, all of it melds together to create a work of brilliance, and one that every single person that can call themselves a gamer owes to themselves to experience, be it on Nintendo 64, GameCube or Wii.