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The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

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Reviewed by Scott McCall Over two years in the making. A staff of 200 people. The largest cartridge game ever. More than 350,000 players purchasing the game before it comes out. The "Game of the Century." The fastest-selling video game in history. These phrases can only be associated with one game, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. A game so epic, so immense, so important that it could single-handedly change a system's outlook for supremacy, for survival; it could change the way an entire industry designs and develops games. The crowning achievement of Miyamoto's incomprehensible career is bestowed upon us. No one should -- or will -- be disappointed with the most immersive, best designed game ever made. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time represents the next evolutionary step in video games. Maybe most important about The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is that it's Zelda. It's not Mario, it's not something else -- it's Zelda. From familiar sound effects to customary items, you can tell it's going feel like Zelda, play like Zelda, and sound like Zelda. While Super Mario 64 managed to stray from its original gameplay formula a little bit, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time sticks to its roots and gives players exactly the gameplay they want. But the Zelda series has always been destined to be perfectly transferred to a three-dimensional world, and the results are exemplified so well that one may have triggered memories of childhood adventures and other nostalgic experiences. The story of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time takes place long before any of the previous Zelda games. Link is merely a child and has yet to fulfill his destiny by meeting Zelda. I, however, will not summarize or spoil any of the story for you, as the story in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is a marvel that should be experienced individually by every game player. It's good enough that you want to get further into the game to find out more. And thanks to the power of the Nintendo 64, you'll get impressive real-time generated cinema scenes that do visual wonders compared to the previous versions. The presentation of the story rivals CD-ROM games, in fact. Two important ways The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is so much more advanced than other 3D games are in the areas of control and camera. The control just feels right. It's responsive, makes use of the N64 controller, and action buttons are seamlessly integrated into the gameplay. While Super Mario 64 emphasized the use of analog control, it doesn't become quite as important in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Ease-of-use, however, is the key. The R button raises the shield, which is probably more important than previous Zelda games. The Top C button changes the viewpoint to first-person or overhead (only in certain areas) and talks to Navi, the fairy, when she calls for you. The Left, Bottom, and Right C buttons are user-assigned. You can put whatever you want on them, like bombs, an ocarina, and much more. The B button is used to swing the sword. Link is quite the master swordsman. Then there's the intelligently used A button. It's referred to as the "Action icon." The game literally tells you on the screen what action can be performed depending on what you're doing. It might be used to pick up an object. It could be used to climb something. It might unleash a rolling attack. It could be used to talk to someone. And so on. But tied into the A button is the Control Stick. Besides the obvious walking and running functions, you can also automatically jump over gaps by just keeping the Control Stick pressed in that direction. It can also be used to climb on, off, up, or down objects. But the ingenuity doesn't end there. The Z button is used for "Z Targeting." This revolutionary feature enables you to focus on an enemy or on faraway people. It not only helps you aim but always keeps the enemy in front of you. So you can sidestep, move around, and attack without worrying about the camera rotating views and getting in your way. It really does work as advertised and will become the standard for all 3D games. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, bar none, has the most intelligent and useful camera ever put into a 3D game. The Z Targeting system is only one way that the camera is vastly improved over other games. There are also predetermined camera angles for virtually every angle in every area of the game. That means you won't constantly be fighting the camera. In fact, the only camera adjustment you can make is to press the Z button once to position the camera directly behind Link. The automatic camera work, which is completely playable, only helps to make the game even more immersive. At the heart of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is the same time-honored gameplay that has been the standard for years. Its mix of action, puzzle, and exploration has been tweaked to perfection. You go from Hyrule Field to towns to the infamous dungeons on your quest. Hyrule Field serves as the pathway to which you reach other areas. Towns are places to find out background information, purchase items, play mini-games, and more. Dungeons, a hallmark of the Zelda series, are where evil must be vanquished and special items must be retrieved. This time, though, each dungeon has a distinct look rather than a generic one. Wait until you see them. If you were worried that Zelda's trademark puzzles wouldn't be included, then you can now rest your fears. Mr. Miyamoto and his development team have devised some of the most cleverly designed puzzles and sequences in history. There is always a rhyme, a reason, a way to solve them. And there's always a little room for error just in case you do something that you shouldn't. These puzzles are the most challenging ones he's ever presented to it, and that leads us to a surprising fact about The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: It's a very challenging game. Without question, it's the most difficult Zelda game, thinking-wise, in the series. Some of the action later on is even as difficult as Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. On top of that, this is the longest quest of any N64 game. But for all the puzzle and RPG-like elements that are included, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is also wonderfully balanced by many action sequences. The majority of the action takes place in the dungeons, where you can literally spend hours in each one, and gives us the best swordplay in the series yet. However, that's not even counting the magnificently choreographed boss battles. They defy belief with incredible boss characters and original ways to defeat each one. Miyamoto's formula for success is 70% objectives and 30% exploration. That formula is readily apparent in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The game actually gives you hints (mostly through the useful Navi, but also through other ways) throughout the game about what you're supposed to do next, but it is often still difficult to find the correct area. Objectives often lead up to finding the next dungeon, from which there will many things to accomplish inside. But objectives are invisible in this game compared to the likes of GoldenEye 007. You'll basically know that you've done everything once you've explored every room in the dungeons and it gives you an idea of your next task. The exploration portion of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time comes in searching every inch of every area, finding extra container hearts, participating in mini-games, and meeting interesting characters. You can expect plenty of the famous hidden places by moving, cutting, and throwing things around. Yes, this is Zelda at is purest. The old adage is that "nobody's perfect." So there have to be a few downer points about The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, right? Not necessarily. Anything that's wrong with the game is basically so insignificant that it's not worth mentioning. One might wonder why there are only two enemies on the screen at a time in Hyrule Field (more enemies can appear on the screen in other areas). Or one might think Navi helping you out takes a little away from the game (trust me, it doesn't). Or maybe one could complain that Hyrule Field isn't quite as important or comprehensive as the overworld in previous Zelda games (dungeons get the emphasis here). Obviously, though, none of that would detract from the game one bit. Although the graphics in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time are already starting to be eclipsed by the likes of Star Wars: Rogue Squadron and Turok 2: Seeds of Evil, they are by no means outdated. The game weaves an extravagant blend of photorealism and fantasy with complete attention to detail. From lens flares of the sun to vines growing on railing to lighting effects in dark areas to a realistically modeled horse, nothing is spared in making the environments the most realistic and immersive ever put into a video game. Furthermore, the game has zero background pop-up with no cover-up fog (although there's some character pop-up like Banjo-Kazooie) and an inconceivable lack of clipping considering the game's size. The enormous structures and bosses also give the game even more life, not to mention that most of the 256 megabits went to ever-changing sets of textures. The graphics are spectacularly solid with crystal clear graphics and cool special effects. It's a huge improvement from the simple polygons of Super Mario 64. Gamers will also be happy to hear that The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time finally makes use of the N64's sound capabilities. Like usual, you can switch between Stereo, Mono, and Headphones settings. But Nintendo also added a Surround setting for pseudo 3D sound. The only way to describe the music is motion picture-quality. It fits each area like a glove, but also makes use of the N64's MIDI capacity to add drama and fear to heightened sequences. Forget techno, forget digitized monaural music -- this is the real deal. A good guess could be made that a significant portion of the ROM also went to sound effects. You won't find any real speech in the game, but what you will find is tons and tons of high-quality sound effects. From the sound of a waterfall to a sword clashing to a chicken clucking to a jar breaking, it makes you feel like you're really there. The sound also provides many aural clues. You can hear water in the distance or an enemy calling you on. But the stereo separation is also very helpful to figure out which direction to go to investigate something. Incredible. For all that can be said about The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, it's better to keep my mouth shut and let you discover this vibrant, lifelike world on your own. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is the new standard for video games. If you don't get this game, then you don't deserve to play video games. Everyone must experience it on his or her own. But the burning question remains: Is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time the greatest game of all-time? It is unequivocally the best one-player game ever made. It is undeniably the best-designed game ever. A game like GoldenEye 007, however, has not only a fantastic one-player mode but a great multi-player mode. So how can The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time compete with that double threat? By providing a one-player quest that's so long, so challenging, so engrossing that it's impossible to put down. Gamers will be discussing this game and its content for years to come. Whether or not The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is the best video game in history can be debated, but the fact that Miyamoto has delivered his most rewarding creation yet cannot. Submit yourself to the hype and enter the world of Hyrule.

Graphics: 4.7 out of 5 Sound: 4.9 out of 5 Control: 4.8 out of 5 Gameplay: 5.0 out of 5 Lastability: 4.5 out of 5 Overall: 4.9 out of 5

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