The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
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
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