Let’s go ahead and establish this right from the start. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is not a 10/10 game when held up to today’s standards. Still, it is extremely close. Disregarding the obvious jump in graphics over the years, games now are typically less frustrating and much smoother to control. Jumping into this game for the first time, you are probably not going to have a blast right away. That being said, if you immerse yourself in the world OoT has to offer, you will love the game and think about it long after you put the controller down.
I have broken this article into seven sections. The first section covers my main gripe with the game that you must come to embrace if you are to fully enjoy OoT. The next six sections are what I deem to be the best aspects of OoT.
CONTROLS (OoT’S ANTIQUATED GIFT TO GAMING)
It took a while for me to become halfway decent at this game’s controls. Even now, I mistime a lock-on or accidentally trigger the wrong item/ability. Unfortunately, I do not know the Nintendo controller like the back of my hand so others may fare better than I did. The issues with OoT’s controls are three-fold.
First is the lock-on. When surrounded by multiple enemies, it can be cumbersome to lock on to your initial target or lock-off so you can escape. This brings me to the next issue, camera control. You control the camera with the same button you lock-on to enemies with. This can end up leading you to lock-on to an enemy when you just wanted to re-position the camera. The last issue is free-aiming. The 3DS alleviated this with its gyro controls, but free-aiming an N64 or virtual console is a pain. Enemies that cannot be locked-on to and challenges that require free-aim are a doozy. Even so, it is important to give OoT a ton of slack in this aspect. It introduced the targeting system into gaming. Without it, all of our favorite games nowadays would be noticeably different.
NOW ON TO THE GOOD STUFF!
Graphically speaking, OoT’s environments are muddy and sparse. From a conceptual and implementation standpoint, they are phenomenal. You first get a taste of it when you go into Hyrule Square for the first time and see all the inhabitants going about their merry way and a bunch of places to explore. Other notable locales are the field outside Hyrule Castle, Lake Hylia, and the lead-up to Zora’s Domain. The shift from day to night, the lushness and the vastness of it all are breath-taking. Even compared to today’s standards, there is always something to discover just before you start to think about the game’s technical limitations.
The game’s charm is off the rails. Right away, you will meet characters that are endearing, annoying, strange, powerful, menacing, etc. The way characters are animated exude so much about their character. Some girls will stand feet together, back straight, and hands clasped behind them giving off a pure, inquisitive vibe. Others will be blundering around, giving a sense of urgency and distress. Others are designed in ways that make you want to figure out what that character knows or is up to. OoT is master class when it comes to personality.
Secrets are everywhere and they all feel amazing to uncover. Be it using your newfound abilities in a previous area, talking to the right person, or stumbling upon a minute detail in the world that leads you off the beaten path, OoT has tons and tons of things for the player to find. Many times, the secrets will make progressing easier or line your pockets with a considerable amount of money; an incentive is always present.
The amount of detail present in this game from 1998 is unreal. Right in the beginning, you will try to get to Hyrule Castle and be just outside the drawbridge when it is raised. Nighttime has come and undead are out. Now, you must fend for yourself until the sun comes up, allowing you to finally enter the town square. Areas you visit may change over time and all the NPCs in an area will typically acknowledge your actions once you accomplish something major. The land of Hyrule feels real, not just a bunch of locales strung together just for the sake of making a game.
At the beginning of the game, you fend for yourself with a sword, wooden shield, a stick, and a slingshot. Down the road, you acquire explosives, bows, magic, mobility items, etc. This is OoT’s major carrot on the stick. With a newfound combat item, you better believe it will be accompanied by new secrets to uncover and new ways to look at the environments. Although it can be debated whether it is an ability or not, playing your ocarina is a fun and memorable recurring mechanic of the game. The abilities hit just the right spot to where they do not feel overwhelming.
This game is challenging, both from a puzzle and combat perspective. You obtain additional health as you progress through the game, but the enemies also become more diverse and hit harder. They can also require you to use abilities in ways that you would not have before from necessity or desperation. Being low on items or health and scavenging the area for refills gives a sense of vulnerability to Link. Figuring out the next thing to do to progress the story is also a challenge on occasion. Talking to NPCs, scouring the environment, and thinking about what abilities you have can get you through most of the time. However, consulting a guide online at times is your best bet to avoid high levels of frustration.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is a slow burn, but also an enthralling game to go back and play. It demands a lot from the player, but once you get a rhythm going, OoT is hard to stop playing. What is your experience with Legend of Zelda: OoT? Have you played it or have you considered playing it? Let’s talk about it in the comments!
IMAGES OWNED BY NINTENDO