|The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
|Original Release Date
|November 21, 1998
|Nintendo 64, GameCube, 3DS, Virtual Console
|E for Everyone (ESRB)
There is a reason The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is called the greatest game ever made. There is a reason why it tops so many greatest of all time lists. And there is a reason why this game, above all others, will continue to be called, throughout all gaming history to come, the greatest game ever.
There have been countless reviews for Ocarina of Time; attempts to explain the game’s absolute brilliance, and deservedly so. While I will go into detail about gameplay, soundtrack, mechanics, and the like as per a standard review, I am also going to do my utmost to explain exactly why Ocarina of Time has earned this title of greatest game and pinpoint why so many of us gamers agree to this without much, if any, argument.
Firstly, Ocarina of Time is the most complete game I have ever played. I never feel bored or burdened to play or finish it to completion and I believe it is, in part, due to the perfect balance between main quests and sub quests. Excellent storytelling, interactions with the populace, exploration, battle, and puzzle solving all form the main quest of the game. Most of the game’s action will occur in the dungeons, which are full of puzzles to solve, characters to save, and battles to win. The developers really show off their creativity and skill here; these dungeons are massive, full of detail, and packed with clever puzzles, tasking players to untwist hallways, use music to change water levels, and race against time to ultimately reach the goal. Despite their complexity, once they are completed, you will be left with a real memorable, gratifying sense of accomplishment. And although there is so much to achieve within the dungeons, there is still so much more of the adventure waiting for you in the overworld, and this is where that balance I mentioned raises OoT to its own heights.
Many story-driven tasks are linked to locations, NPCs, and events specific to the overworld, ranging from catching cuccos and making deliveries to waking up lazy old men and infiltrating an all-woman thieves’ hideout. OoT features the most recognizable and functional overworld in any Zelda game. It is beautiful and vast, giving the kingdom of Hyrule a true and proper sense of grandeur. It’s functional, in that it is easy to identify and navigate to and from its major locales, but also brimming with activity and generously rewarding those willing to explore and uncover its many secrets. The game’s sub quests build upon this feeling of a bustling overworld. Mini games like diving in Zora’s Domain and bombchu bowling in the Market provide items, heart pieces, and upgrades to equipment, such as a larger quiver or larger bomb bag. Killing enough Golden Skulltulas nets you the Stone of Agony, which reveals hidden caves (through controller vibrations) that house anything from cash, to fairy fountains, to more heart pieces. Several of these sub quests build upon each other too. For example, winning the Gold Scale by catching a large enough fish at the fishing pond will allow you to dive to the depths in the lake laboratory for a heart piece. Completing the two major multi-part trading sub quests can net you the Mask of Truth and the Biggoron’s Sword. The developers gave legitimate purpose to sub quests; players are not just rewarded with money or consumables, but rather given opportunities to properly arm and armor Link beyond the main quest assets. Whether it’s improving your arsenal or powering up Link, sub quests take on an identity of their own and are just as memorable and satisfying to complete as the main quests and dungeons. So, when paired together, you have yourself an overall experience that eclipses and far outshines all others.
It wouldn’t be a Zelda game without combat and OoT by far boasts the most phenomenal of combat systems. Not only is it simple enough to master, but there is more than enough variation to keep things intriguing. The sub weapon system is in its finest rendition and adds to the action. Several sub weapons have multiple uses and players have the ability to swap different swords and shields. Players can also choose to use combinations of sub weapons interspersed between swordplay or just stick with the sword and shield. What I found to be most impactful, which simply adds to Ocarina’s supremacy, is the fervor of the combat itself. There is a level of intensity to these battles not seen before OoT and rarely replicated since. I still get psyched up for a good fight and I can recall the satisfaction I feel when taking down a pair of Stalfos, an Iron Knuckle, or taking down the more formidable mid-bosses. (I always become giddy when about to fight Dark Link, especially because I prefer not to use magic nor any sub weapons.) The boss battles take this further, as these encounters carry depth during the fight and a vindication when victorious. For example, I still get fired up when I’m about to face off against Barinade, since you have to take it down in pieces; going for the top tentacles first, then targeting the Biri used as shielding, and finally exposing and stunning its main body for some real damage. Finally, none of these battles are easy. They are just challenging enough to evoke feelings of real danger and pure excitement. Any of the major battles, and even some of the minor skirmishes, can end you, so when overcome, you are left with genuine satisfaction. The combat is perfect; never tedious, always perilous, always fantastic and because of this, those feelings you get are going to stick with you for a long time.