Reviews: The Legend Of Zelda Ocarina Oftime

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Still the Gold Standard
Ocarina of Time may no longer be "the greatest game ever made," but it's still the high point of the Zelda series. All Zelda games have their pros and cons, and more recent games have made huge improvements to the graphics and controls, but for some reason, the scope and emotional depth of Ocarina are still untouched after all these years. (Though I'll admit The Wind Waker comes close.)

Structurally speaking, Ocarina is a pretty typical Hero's Journey, but it isn't just that. It's a heartfelt story about growing up. First you're a child, and life seems inviting and fun; then you're a teen, and life seems hopeless and dangerous. But through it all, you mature, and you realize that life may not be as wonderful as it seemed when you were a kid, but it also isn't as terrible as it seemed when you were a teen. Most importantly, it's a reminder that childhood ideals are worth hanging on to. Even in a dangerous adult world, hope can persevere. I think I needed to grow up a little myself before I could appreciate that side of the game, not just the "run around stabbing monsters, pushing blocks, and headbutting trees" side.

I'm actually fresh off my latest playthrough (the first in several years), and I don't think most of the criticism this game has gotten recently holds up at all. Sure, the dialogue is a little hokey at times, but the story is neither too bloated nor too shallow, and it adds enough of its own touches to the Hero's Journey framework to prevent it from being "generic." There was a lot of care put into the many relationships Link forms throughout his adventure, and I loved seeing the characters (and Link's perspective on them) change and evolve over time.

The dialogue may feel too reliant on exposition, but only if you don't take the time to talk to the NPC's. Most of them have at least one charming personality trait, and the stuff you learn from them really makes Hyrule feel like a living, breathing place with a history—not just the big Monopoly board of older Zeldas. The dungeon design is excellent, too; the music, color palette, architecture, and decorative touches all hint at a deeper history. The Forest, Shadow, and Spirit Temples are my favorites.
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I seem to be missing something
So I finally get round to playing a Zelda game; Ocarina of Time 3D (but with the 3D off because fuck 3D for screwing up the movie industry and making my head hurt) and I honestly don't see what the big fuss is about. The plot was unengaging, the characters were bland and forgettable (Navi was about as likable as a dead wasp in your drink) and the gameplay was repetitive and about as much fun as a five hour lecture on fractions from the world's most boring mathematician.

Maybe this is one of those things that you can only enjoy if you happended to be eleven years old when the original came out but nostalgia can't (and damn well shouldn't) support a whole product. Maybe I've spectacularly missed the point, maybe I'm just an idiot but Ocarina of Time's appeal is as impenetrable to me as a brick wall with some nasty looking spikes sticking out of it. I gave up on it half way through and carried on with my extremely important life.
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Time withers all things, stripping away sepia-toned veneer.
While credit must of course be given for flawlessly reinventing the Zelda formula for three-dimensional gameplay (and in the process changing the series as we know it), as a title viewed on its own merits, Ocarina of Time hasn't exactly aged all that gracefully. When stripped of its dialogue and backstory, the story that remains is really just basic NES level fluff just to motivate you to do something. The characters are rather one-dimensional, making it hard to really care about 'em.

Surprisingly, the graphics are one of the things that have indeed aged well. Indeed, this can be said for Nintendo 64 games as a whole when compared to the PSX's library (of which, rather ironically, another undeserved "best game ever," namely Final Fantasy VII, is one of the all-time worst offenders). The textures are varied and colourful, the character models have still held up well... even the object sprites that are sometimes used look pretty good. The pre-rendered backgrounds for most in-door houses (as well as that still-epic-and-bustling Hyrule marketplace) are pretty much the only sticking point here.

The music is, of course, utterly legendary and I will utter nary a single word of criticism about it. That end credits music WILL choke up even the most jaded gamer with its The World Is Just Awesome montage. Mr. Kondo, you're the f'in man. That synthesized voice evokes more emotion than the last decade's new music combined.

Indeed, apart from its pioneering gameplay aspects, Ocarina of Time as a whole is rendered almost entirely inconsequential by Majora's Mask, which in my estimation does Ocarina one better in 'most any category. Oh, and don't think, like, "Aah, this must be one of those newfag gamers that have no respect for old school games"... I first played it within two years of its release. And while I have returned to its charms time and time again, I have watched those charms grow ever more faint and fading while other aging games have only grown brighter and brighter. In the end, it's good, but not great. I can't really imagine why, with subsequent titles improving upon every aspect of the game, people still view this as game's be-all-end-all. But like the dude in Kakariko Village says, "oh well."
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15 Years and still got the magic!
In 1998, one of the greatest games of not only its time, but also one of the best games ever made to this very day debuted on the Nintendo 64 in an era where 3d gaming was relatively new and game designers were still getting used to what games made this way could do! They call it Ocarina of Time, the fifth game in the series and quite the pioneer for both the Zelda franchise and the 3D world of gaming. Namely, it invented the camera lock on, a technique found in just about every video game since then! How does it hold up in the year 2014 though?

Story 8/10: To put it simply, Oo T's story is a bit like the oldest story in existence Beowulf very simple in it's story telling, a typical good vs evil tale, but a good story nonetheless as you will want to play it time and again just to relive favorite moments whether it's sneaking past some guards just to talk to princess Zelda, hanging out in the woods just to listen to the catchy tune that is saria's song, exploring a creepy well that would scare the pants off of any little kid, or the epic showdown with the main villain as you use everything you've got as lightning strikes in the background and your main weapon is knocked out of your reach! Oot's story is really about the journey and the experiences you have during your quest more than any meaningful character development or shocking story revelations that we as gamers have come to expect from games in the last few years and sometimes a simple yet good story like Oot's is all you need!

Gameplay: 9.5/10: If you aren't playing the 3ds version, the old school graphics can be a bit off putting, but graphics don't really matter that much as long as the gameplay is great to which oot succeeds on that front! Fighting enemies using the targeting system is just plain fun, the puzzles can really mess with your mind sometimes, but are fair for the most part, Hyrule is full of secrets and uncovering those secrets using your items you collect along the way is what Legend of Zelda is at its best!

Overall, any gamer worth his/her salt should at least play Ocarina of Time once. There's a reason why despite its age, many still occasionally do a new playthrough and why the game still shows up in many top # lists of best games of all time!
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Classic, but there have been better since
Playing Ocarina of Time today is not the same as playing it when it first came out, which I did not. The revolution of the lock-on camera would be lost on any who are not aware of it to begin with. And Zelda games in subsequent generations have improved on the combat and the level design significantly.

However, what makes this game number one on so many all time lists is still apparent. The bosses are as amazing as ever. The puzzles can be truly mind bending. Collecting is not only fun, but each item matters. And the music is even better than you'd expect from a game with an instrument in the title.

Ocarina of Time heralded the end of the 3d hurdle games had been in since they first began to use polygons. That alone will keep it in the history books forever. And though the formula was improved upon in Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword, Ocarina holds up surprisingly well when compared to more modern games.

On the Wii virtual console or on the 3DS rerelease with bonus content and better graphics, pick it up. You won't regret it.
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