When The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time was released in 1998, it was truly a groundbreaking game. Like Super Mario 64 before it, it opened many gamers eyes to the possibilities of 3D. The critics loved it and many Zelda fans consider this the greatest game of all time. So, why review a game that’s been talked about so many times already? Because I want to, that’s why!
It must be admitted, from a technical perspective, Ocarina Of Time’s graphics haven’t aged all that well due to the power of the N64. It must also be admitted that I actually like the visuals even today because it’s like playing an origami Zelda game, and that’s just awesome. Also, if taken in the context of the time it was released, then the graphics are quite amazing. Sure, the texturing could be better, but the 3D graphics are quite good for an N64 game. The game is also pretty damn colorful. The whimsy filled world is huge and truly pushed the N64 to its limits. There are better looking N64 games, especially those released later in the system’s lifespan, but when this game was released, the visuals were simply jawdropping.
Even if you don’t like the Zelda series, one thing you do have to admit is that the music is always great. Ocarina Of Time in particular has one of the best soundtracks in the entire series. Epona’s Song is a peaceful, calming song that will surely make you think about green pastures. Kakariko Village is another peaceful song, beautiful and relaxing, even if it is from A Link To The Past originally. Saria’s Song is upbeat and catchy, and may have you dancing in no time. I love the monk chant feel to The Song Of Time. Gerudo Valley is influenced by gypsy music, and it sounds awesome. And The Song Of Storms is simply epic. All Zelda games have phenomenal OSTs, and this is definitely in my top five for Zelda sountracks.
Like all Zelda games, Ocarina Of Time is very story heavy. Truth be told, Ocarina Of Time’s story is pretty much a variation of the storyline from A Link To The Past. I mean, you have to collect three objects and obtain the Master Sword. Once you do, Hyrule is changed (you go to the Dark World in A Link To The Past and the future in Ocarina Of Time), and you must defeat Ganon to save it. However, despite this, the story not only remains fresh, but it tells a great story all its own. For one, I love how goes into depth about the history of Hyrule and the world, and the creation of the Triforce. In introducing the Three Goddesses and giving us the story of how they created everything, Ocarina Of Time provides you with a rich history and backstory that could only be described as epic. And unlike everyone else on the internet who overuses the word epic, if is a truly fitting description for this game. It expanded the Zelda universe immensely, and firmly established Zelda lore as a storytelling giant of its own.
One thing I love about the story is its use of time travel. Honestly, at the time, Zelda and time travel seemed like a weird combination. After all, time travel is traditionally a Science Fiction concept, and Zelda is definitely a Fantasy series. But it worked. It worked damn well. It introduced a clever new mechanic to the series. Some items can only be used by Young Link, while some can only be used as an adult. Likewise, certain puzzles can only be solved as a child, and some as an adult. The time travelling aspect also increased the storytelling exponentially. Sure, it’s pretty much Ocarina Of Time’s version of going between the Light and Dark Worlds in A Link To The Past, but saving Hyrule throughout the ages is simply an awesome concept.
The gameplay is traditional Zelda, but it has been refined to fit the three dimensional world that the power of the Nintendo 64 allowed. Using the bow, for example, is actually improved quite a bit since you now get to aim where you shoot rather than just shooting in a general direction. You can actually pull out your shield to defend yourself, whereas in previous Zelda games, you had to maneuver to just the right spot in order to actually use your shield. And with the then revolutionary Z-Targeting mechanic, you can lock on to enemies and NPCs, which makes the game more convenient. The item selection, like all Zelda games, is great. Some items, like the Megaton Hammer, are awesome as hell, and I wish you could use it more often and in later Zelda games. And the puzzles are as good as ever, with many relying on specific items.
Ocarina Of Time is thankfully an incredibly fun game to play through. The story, with it’s epic backstory and focus on history, and the whole time travelling aspect, gives you a big incentive to complete the game. The gameplay is also really fun in the 3D world that this game introduced to Zelda. There are some fun sidequests, like the mask trading sidequest and the Biggoron’s Sword quest. And honestly, it’s oftentimes really fun to just ride Epona throughout Hyrule.
The dungeons are a blast to play through, and I still consider the Forest Temple to be a standout achievement in level design. The other temples are fun to play as well, like the creepy Shadow Temple and the Jonah and the whale-esque Jabu Jabu’s belly. The boss fights in this game are some of the best in all of gaming. Barinade is fun because of the rotating jellyfish… er, I mean Bari’s that you must kill before attacking Barinade, as well as his electrical powers. Phantom Ganon is a great boss battle because not only does he use some of the same attacks as Ganondorf, but choosing the correct portrait adds a layer of strategy as well. And who could forget escaping Ganon’s Tower with Zelda, thinking that Ganondorf has been defeated, only for him to transform into the much more horrifying Ganon?
Simply put, Ocarina Of Time is a pure masterpiece. It’s no wonder that it gets the praise it gets. The graphics were great for the time, the music was amazing, it had a rich story, and it was a lot of fun to play. This truly was a groundbreaking game. While I prefer A Link To The Past and Majora’s Mask, I understand why so many people consider this the greatest game of all time.