The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 64) Review

By James Temperton 18.05.2003

Review for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on Nintendo 64

The parrot, it never learns for itself, it just copies, and indeed much of human knowledge is copied from somewhere else, but what of the source? In videogames all ideas are copied, but from where? Indeed, for an entire industry to mimic one game for over five years must of taken pure greatness, something with such genius that it is still unsurpassed, and in the eyes of many the best game to ever grace the industry.

Nintendo are the master craftsmen if you will, they posses the tools to take an idea and twist and change it in so many ways that what you are left with is no longer just a game, it is an art form and an example of excellence in all fields.

The N64 saw some dark days, but it also witnessed a revolution in gaming. Zelda is perhaps the prime example of this. An epic tale filled to the brim with magic and pure genius that at times one lacks the superlatives to describe such splendour. For something to be so near perfect would seem impossible, but what Nintendo made here is perhaps something that will not be bettered until they try once again to crack the formula.

Gaming is about escaping and it is this that Zelda allows you to do. It transports you to somewhere that seems so alive, so vibrant, so dangerous, so real. Like a good book you just couldn't put it down. So if it is so perfect why haven't people copied the formula? Well, its quite simple really, they just mimic what's physical from the game, but the games shining light is by far what has been created by the mind. From such simple beginnings it is clear this title has blossomed as one inspired idea led to another and then that cascaded into something that makes you stand by in awe. You are able to laugh, cry and cheer as this game takes a hold of you. It had never been done before and many say it is yet to be bettered.

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on Nintendo 64

Everything starts off so well. You are introduced into the game in such a way that you feel like you are actually there. A movie shows off your surroundings and the people around you, and when Navi has finished informing you of all you need to know, the fate of Hyrule is in your hands. Of course before you get started you have to prepare for your journey. You are able to interact and learn about your adventure ahead in the village where you live. Everyone smiles in a quite disturbing way, but you feel like a challenge. When you discover your sword and shield the adventure is really able to begin...

Of course the world will have to wait for a while. Just like getting the best Christmas present ever, every new experience in this game gives you a real sense of achievement. Running around town, joyously leaping with the brilliantly balanced control system, you become aware of your first enemy. You lock onto it and start moving around, getting closer and closer until you're within striking distance, and then bam! Bye bye sign. So all the signposts in town are now lopped off and mauled to within an inch of their lives, so you better get on with what you're meant to do, right then...

The real focus of Zelda is the dungeons. Here you are faced with a problem and asked to solve it in numerous different ways. Some involve moving things, hitting switches, finding something or destroying something, but they are all so well judged that you rarely feel frustrated or hard done by, and that's the splendour of this game: it teases you, making you think you're in control, when really you're not. At any moment an event could happen that would totally turn what you're doing into total disarray. It's all about keeping cool and being able to deal with a situation in the most logical and rational way possible, there's no luck involved here, everything is a test of skill and observation.

Each dungeon presents you with its own unique selection of foes, all with different weak spots and different ways of hurting you. Equipped with weapons that you can upgrade as you progress through the game, you are expected to find a way to shield yourself from the enemy attack and get close enough to launch your own offensive. The battle system is so perfectly judged that it enables you to run, jump, flip and attack with such fluency it is hard to imagine that your clumsy digits are controlling such on screen majesty.

The dungeons themselves are beautifully themed, each one full to the brim with atmosphere. They are sculpted around the very cliched ideas, though, but it does not stop them from dripping in pure quality throughout.

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on Nintendo 64

Hyrule Field is where you are able to move from area to area. The most beautiful scenery surrounds this vast open piece of land and you really get the sense of total isolation. This game encourages you to explore, and if you do, you will be rewarded. Whether it is a hidden passageway or a helpful new item you know that just plodding about will get you a reward in some form. Time seems to fly past as you career about, ignoring Navi, your fairy guide, as she bosses you about telling you to do this and remember that, and then suddenly the scene changes. The sun starts to set and the entire area is cast in the most magical and inspirational light ever seen in a videogame. You can do little but just stand there in awe the first time you see this, its just one moment that is just so special that it takes over your mind; a true sign of class.

The fact that you can spend days doing meaningless tasks is another beauty of the game. You don't have to focus on one task in particular and not everything you do has too much of a point to it, its just fun, and the feeling you get when you reach that goal, no matter how trivial, is immense. Collecting chickens, walking along a tightrope and playing the various games available to you are just some of the things you'll find yourself doing all too often. But this game is meant to be savoured, if you rush it you've missed everything it stands for, this is something your meant to look at, and explore, open up all the secrets and cover every inch of land, and if you've got half a brain you'll want to.

The actual structure of the parts of the game that aren't dungeons or fields differs throughout. There are little villages and ranches, bustling crowds, rushing waterfalls and huge mountains. This game has been done on a huge scale and everything seems so real and impressive. At one point you are confronted by a massive canyon, at the bottom you can see some water tearing down to a lake, you jump, falling through the air, Link screams as he plunges into the water and is dragged down the river. You come to an opening, and a totally different landscape greets you. Water, rickety looking buildings and a slightly comical theme, the diversity of this game is a really great addition; it keeps you on your toes as each area has different things to focus on. Elsewhere you will find mountains that have dangerous and fiery themes and a forest that will drive you mad as you try to fluke your way from A to B in one of the most confusing routes ever.

Zelda plays like you would expect. Running, problem solving and various tasks greet you but it's the way in which the tried and tested areas of gameplay are implemented and added to that make this game that it is. Everything is so well judged and perfect that you are able to forget about the game you are playing and enjoy the experience you are having. There are various different ways in which you can tackle problems; so long as you achieve the goal the game won't punish you for doing things in a slightly unorthodox fashion. The more observant amongst you will have noticed the title, so what is this Ocarina? Well, its just one of the items that adds to the magical and special feel to this game. This is basically a musical instrument allowing you to play music that has a direct affect on your surroundings. Songs enable you to change the time of day, summon animals, travel through time, start a storm and even milk cows. This adds a third dimension to the game if you like, letting you manipulate the world around you as suits you; and the great thing is, this isn't just a gimmick, it really adds to the game.

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on Nintendo 64

When in combat you are able to use the inch perfect fighting system that allows the most interesting movements on screen from the simplest flicks of the control stick. The play is superbly mixed that you are left wondering what will come next; one moment you'll be in an all out screen filling boss battle, and the next you will find yourself creeping around a prison in an attempt to infiltrate a highly dangerous area. So, what about the bosses? Well this is where the game works best. When your in the dungeons you are confronted by enemies that ask you to think on your feet, but you can see how to get past them and defeat most of them with relative ease. In the case of the bosses, you will find yourself running around avoiding its almighty attacks whilst trying to work out what in the hell your meant to do, you will slip into this mad panic, nothing seems possible, but you will manage to keep your composure and find a way to defeat the damn thing. When you do beat a boss the feeling of personal achievement is immense and at times the in game action is able to match this...

The game is something that happens over time, and playing it through until the end will enable you to get all it has to offer. At times a massive movie sequence will kick in, and none more so than at the point you become an adult. This helps the narrative to move along and fills you in on what's happening and allows you to sit back and reminisce about what you have been through. It is this passing of time that keeps this massive game fresh and allows your surroundings to morph and change. When you become an adult, although you may now be more powerful, things are far more dangerous and evil. The sky is dark and zombies replace what used to be happy villagers.

There are various things that help this game to stand above all other games in the world and one aspect is the musical accompaniment. If you try and play the game with your television muted it will seem strangely empty and shallow, turn up the volume and the game comes to life. Every moment is coupled with a perfectly complimentary tune that enables you to tap into the moment and gauge what's going on with more accuracy. Boss battles are accompanied by deep booming and panicky music and simple mucking around your hometown will allow you to enjoy the plinky-plonky happy music (for lack of a better term).

Now at this point I would like to point out the games faults, sadly I don't really want to, or to put it another way, it is too difficult to. I could say it's too good, but that doesn't really get us anywhere. For a game so special there are so many things that are special that in a review you can do little more than simple generalise, and that's what's been done here; there is something here that makes this game a very personal experience. Different people will refer to different things when they talk about this game, you will find and enjoy things that people have passed by without giving them a second thought. This is what a game should be like, it is a glorious collection of all the things that can be considered a revolution and is the kind of thing that will never be bettered.

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on Nintendo 64

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

There are certain moments here that are pure magic, moments that truly grab the player and make you show emotion and pride. I could go on about the games other features that make it so great, but quite frankly why should I? What I have said already is easily enough to make this one of the best games ever, but the fact that is offers so much more than all the competition is a true measure of how special this game is.

The original score for this game was 9.9 - due to scores being rounded down to the nearest whole number in 2007, it's now 9/10 as opposed to 10/10.






Action Adventure



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (176 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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