Game played on: 3DS
Released: November 23, 1998/ June 19, 2011 (Ocarina of Time 3D)
So this is it, the game considered by many to be the greatest ever created. It revolutionized 3D gaming and its influence is still felt to this day. I’m glad to have finally gotten it out of my backlog, even if it is not in its original form. I don’t regret the time I spent playing Ocarina, in fact I think it’s a very good game, but not certainly not the best game ever.
This is the very first Zelda game I have ever played from beginning to end. I have not played the 2D Zelda games and I don’t care about them. Ocarina of Time tells the story of a young boy named Link (but you can change his name to any one you want), who is destined to save the land of Hyrule and the princess Zelda from the ambitions of the evil Ganondorf. With help from his fairy sidekick Navi, Link’s quest will take him to places from villages where the children never become adults to dark, forbidden dungeons full of booby traps and monsters, and even across time itself.
A simple story right? Yes. However, that is as much its greatest strength as it is its greatest weakness. Ocarina of Time’s story and plot harken back to classic fairy tales and fantasy books we all know and love. A young peasant boy with a great destiny, the quest to save a young princess and the land from great evil, strange fantasy creatures and monsters, etc. The simplicity of the premise lends weight to some truly emotional story moments. As you travel back as an adult to locations you visited and helped as a child, you are confronted with these lands having become ruined or corrupted by Ganondorf and his evil rule. Characters that once knew you no longer recognize you at first, and sometimes never do. It explores themes of how much crueler the world can be as an adult, when everything seemed so much more happy and innocent as a child. All of these very good qualities aside, it is a pretty simple plot. If you have any knowledge of fairy tales, you’ll likely be able to predict where it will go, and there’s only one major twist in the game which given its age you might already know. The side characters are also mainly forgettable. You will meet them, they’ll serve their role for the story, and then be forgotten about to move on to the next plot point. Your fairy companion Navi has a bad reputation even amongst this game’s biggest fans, but I didn’t find her to be that annoying, and she has genuinely useful advice for you throughout the game.
The gameplay mainly revolves around exploring dungeons, solving puzzles, and combating enemies. The dungeons are all varied in their visual and level design, and each has a different atmosphere. However they also vary greatly in quality, with some being entertainingly challenging, and others just being obnoxiously hard for no reason. The infamous Water Temple is considered the prime example of the latter, but honestly I don’t think it’s that difficult, in fact once you figure out how it works you can solve it fairly easily, and switching between required items is a lot less tedious thanks to the 3DS remaster’s new features. The temple immediately after it I think is a lot more annoying just because it throws so much at you. The best temple in the game I feel is the Forest Temple, because of its place in the story, the boss, and the resolution at the end.
Enemies will have either weaknesses that Link can exploit with the right weapon and timing, or he can just hack away at the simpler ones with his sword. This really gets taken to an extreme level in the boss fights. They will have one, very specific weakness that you have to exploit over and over again until they finally go down using a special item found in their respective dungeon. Once you figure it out and can predict their move sets, they won’t be any trouble whatsoever save for their high damage output. They all have designs that are creative and fit the environment that they inhabit.
Ocarina of Time’s gameplay is held back the most by its focus on keeping everything varied in the moment rather than overtime. Items that you find in dungeons rarely, but not always have any usage outside of them, and despite the overworld of the game being fairly large, there isn’t really much to do save for the odd minigame and the game’s very few sidequests. The only sidequests I pursued were one which will get you the most powerful sword in the whole game, and even that is mostly just fetch quests mixed with time trials, and the other that will get you a bigger wallet to carry money in.
What manages to carry Ocarina of Time to the finish line is its atmosphere and music. You genuinely feel immersed in this fantasy land that is counting on you alone to save it. Link is perfect for this, having zero personality and existing solely for players to project themselves into, to the point where Link doesn’t even have to be his name. Lastly, even decades later, Ocarina of Time’s music is still amongst the finest ever crafted in gaming.
There is nothing really bad to say about Ocarina of Time on a technical level other than the framerate dropping a few times during more intense moments. It was glitch free and while a bit dated, the character and background models are not ugly or aged too badly. I played the 3DS remaster of this game, which updated the graphics to be more bearable, has better controls, and generally feels nicer to play.
Sorry but the greatest game of all time Ocarina of Time is not. It’s still very good, but even with the remaster’s graphical improvements and better controls, age still has exposed this game’s flaws. Other games have come out afterwards that are more worthy of “greatest of all time” status than Ocarina.