The Link-Up Spell: Jamming the 3D axis with the Nintendo 64 (Part II)
Is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time the best game ever produced?
After the year I got Diddy Kong Racing, my only methods available to enjoy new games for the Nintendo 64 was through borrowing and some renting. In one way or another, I was riding the 3D wave and I was happy enough to be part of the club, anyways, but the process was very slow, given the high prices of the carts over here.
In late 1998, a school friend invited me to his home to play Diddy Kong Racing. He had an edition of a Mexican magazine with some cheat codes to test, including one to play the Adventure mode in multiplayer. His parents were wealthy enough to buy him new games from time to time, so I always had a blast with him, since he was a cool kid and lend me some cartridges, too!
That day, he told me their dad went to a trip outside the country and bought to him a new game everyone was claiming it was the best thing ever. He started to tell me it was a new adventure title that was awarded as the best game of 1998; you had a sword, could fish, ride a neat horse and buy wares in fantasy stores. Of course I did not believed these features, it was too much for a single game and my mind, used for more restrictive gameplay could not understand how you could do so many stuff in a single cart, so I asked him to play it and show me all these nonsense.
So, he popped the cartridge in his console and pressed power. Then… BOOM! My life was changed.
The introduction scrolling was cinematic as best. A big moon over a field and a character riding a horse, meanwhile the solemn notes of a piano echoes inside the cathode rays. Then, he entered the game and everything he claimed was real.
My first adventure in the Hyrule Kingdom
Yup, that was the game. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is a true classic, a true breakthrough and true damn good title.
Months later after this introduction, I was so hooked with it that I asked to my mother to buy me the cartridge in a trip to Colombia around the Summer vacations of 1999. And she did, saving again my Christmas while scoring it second hand with the user manual intact.
When I finally got it, I spent the whole first night extremely excited, wandering through the Kokiri Forest. And then, I found the first bump of my road, a little green guy started to ask me for a “shield” and a “sword” and I swear I spent two weeks trying to find them.
In reality, this was my first adventure game and the English language was a huge barrier to conquer in order to complete the quest. However, this proved to be a nice way to know more about the idiom, which was something I always tried to understand. Ocarina of Time was going to be my gateway.
Next week, I found the Kokiri Shield. It looked like a butter knife, but at least I could cut the grass and save some Rupees to buy the wooden shield. With this, I could continue, the little guy let me enter and some really large tree starts to talk things I do not understand, open his mouth and let me enter inside.
This was the first dungeon, the “Inside of the Great Deku Tree”. And once again I stuck. There was a room in which I was supposed to light a torch with a stick, to open a door, and I was completely clueless on how to continue. For two another weeks, I continually reset the save file to memorize the road towards the Tree, trying to do find the best places to gather rupees, until a cousin told me how to light up a Deku Stick and solve the remaining puzzles inside the dungeon.
Even though I continually rebooted the game over and over these weeks, I have never felt tedium or wanted to quit, nothing at all. This journey was great enough to enjoy it and every time I restarted my save file I started to wander around the unlocked areas and found some secret spots for items. When I arrived to the second dungeon, the “Dodongo’s Cavern”, I was stuck again, the multi-layered nature of these sections proved to be merciless to my young mind, so my cousins lend me more help.
It was irremediable; the game was too obtuse for me, so my solution arrived months later, in the form of a Spanish guide that gave me the hints to solve all the puzzles and finish the story. And I even cried at the end! (No, please, ignore that).
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is still a masterpiece
The impact made by this game is undeniable and it influenced many adventures, even to these days. It is a difficult task to summarize why this Zelda entry became the best game of its year and followed to dominate the lists of many in the subsequent decades.
From a technical standpoint, it was a jewel. Graphics were beautifully rendered in real time, with a great programming in the dynamics of lights and shadows. All of these injected new life to the colorful polygons. Locations and dungeons were detailed and vast enough to make the players get immersed into it, and the overworld felt large enough at the time to make some people’s jaw drop to the floor.
Story could be perceived as simple these days, but it has some narrative resources in the form of back story reveals that are very enjoyable to know. It is also noteworthy that Ocarina of Time marked the first time the series tried to explain more about the mythos of the Triforce and the motivations of the main characters. I really urge you to check it out if you have not played this game yet, it is a solid fantasy recommendation.
Music was another incredible landmark and it is the conceptual force that binds the story. In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time the old and new melodies and ambiences suits every mood with incredible accuracy. Koji Kondo’s soundtrack could go from the valiant tones of the Hyrule Field to the tenebrous darkness of Shadow Temple, all of this with a great knowledge of the N64 chip sound.
If the story, graphics, environments and sound felt massive enough, the gameplay was refined as well. Link could roll, back flip, and slash the sword in different directions. It also had a multiple hit combo, a deadly jump attack and the traditional spin attack, now powered with magic. If this was not enough, the game provides dozens of items to the player’s disposition, ranging from the traditional bow, hookshots and shields to the awesome Megaton Hammer and the useful magical arrows.
Last month I revisited the game in its “Master Quest” re-edition for the Nintendo GameCube. In this sort-of remake, the dungeons were completely revamped to increase the difficulty a little bit, so it was a breath of fresh air to revisit this old incarnation of the Hyrule Kingdom. To my surprise, this title has not aged a single bit, sporting the same joy to me in each corner of its charming world.
In all those years, I finished the game around 26 times and it became a borderline obsession for me. I used to draw all the symbols and characters in my notebooks, printed all art I could gather on my first internet walks and even nicknamed myself after the main character. By the end, the story about heroism and friendship was imprinted in my memory and it paved me the road to enjoy new fantastical worlds. Also, it made me pushes me to grab a Spanish-English dictionary and get myself to know more about the language, I even had a run of the game in which I translated every dialogue and all the Sheikah Stones hints I could find to understand more about the lore of the game.
I may not have the correct answer, but for me, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is still one of the greatest games ever made!
You can buy this game on Nintendo Virtual Consoles and the Nintendo 3DS remake right now!
The Ocarina of Time cartridge became a highly desired cart in my hometown, so I could play a lot of other games in exchange to this. Like in the first iteration of this mini-series of N64 glorification, these were other titles I enjoyed during two years:
- 1080º: TenEighty Snowboarding: A cool arcade racer with some great graphics.
- Bomberman Hero: If Bomberman was not cool enough, Hudson made a collect-a-thon platformer. It was awesome.
- F-Zero X: Still one of the best racers I have ever played. One of my favorite N64 titles and one of the first heavy metal compositions my Elfic ears listened.
- FIFA 1999: I am not a FIFA follower, but this one had the Venezuelan soccer team.
- A Bug’s Life: Kinda slow, but the scenery tried to recreate the miniaturized areas of the movie.
- Star Wars Episode I: Racer: Another solid entry to the futuristic racers. I loved it.
- Pokémon Snap: One of the best spin-offs ever in videogame history.
- Pokémon Stadium: Playing with rented monsters in full 3D was the shit.
- WWF: No Mercy: Grabbing those chairs and smacking them to my friend’s head was the coolest thing ever.
- Harvest Moon 64: A farm sim that squeezed my free time for months.
- Shadow Man: I commented about this game here and here. Highly recommended.
- Body Harvest: What the hell was this? It was a great open-world game by the time!
- Tony Hawk Pro Skater: We discussed Tony Hawk’s games OST on the blog before. I was not as addictive and its late entries of this gen, but it were a solid debut.
- Cruisn’ World: A neat sequel, indeed. Tracks were diverse and gameplay was smooth.
- Glover 64: A 3D platformer with a magical glove that bounces a ball against its enemy. It had some good puzzles.
- Star Fox 64: A legendary game. One of the best for the consoles, hands down.
That’s all for this week, then. I really hope you liked this remembrance of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and I really want to see your comments over here. Do you think it is one of the greatest games of all time? It is an overrated piece?
For the last iteration of this mini-series of N64 retrospective, I am preparing a good way to give it a conclusion, so bear with me and stay with me until the end, please. See you next time!
The Link-Up Spell is a weekly Toilet ov Hell column about music, movies, books, retro video games and guaranteed Elfic nonsense. If you want to contact the author to send your material, mail us at toiletovhell [at] gmail.com with the subject “The Link-Up Spell” or message him on social media.