Cited as the greatest video game of all time by many gamers and media publications, this Nintendo masterpiece has, for those of you skilled with mathematics (and who read the title of this blog post) hit 20 years of age (almost)! It blasted onto gaming shelves in late 1998, but we wanted to get in early and celebrate the magical SOB right here, right now.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
There was huge anticipation for this two decades ago. Nothing short of a masterpiece was expected from creative genius Shigeru Miyamoto (the man responsible for most of Nintendo’s classics) – the Nintendo 64 had already landed the landmark Super Mario 64 on the world. But more was expected of Zelda as the console’s technology now meant the revered series could provide something extra special.
It was a great time for RPG fans (Zelda games aren’t technically RPGs, but whatever – there are a lot of RPG elements to them), with FFVII but a year old on the PlayStation. The scope of Squaresoft’s game was phenomenal. But it handed been intended for the N64, before Sony’s console was favoured thanks to its storage happy CDS. Ignoring that, Nintendo was about to go one better.
For this retrospective, we’re not going to discuss the plot or the finer points of Ocarina of Time. That’s already been done to death. Most of you reading this will know the drill already – the sweeping sense of grandeur, the emotive scale, Navi, the Water Temple, the ocarina, travelling back and forth in time, but all wrapped around personal favourite moments that have stuck with you dearly from all those years ago.
Ocarina of Time was a seismic shift for gaming in the same way Breath of the Wild managed in 2017. Nintendo has had a relentless ability to shake up the industry – even if you don’t buy its new games consoles, the Japanese behemoth’s subtle nuances can be found in almost every modern title. And this legendary Zelda outing is one of the most influential. Is it the best game ever? We certainly don’t think so, not now, but it is an enduring classic with incredible artistic values.
The soundtrack is exceptional, as you’d expected for a game of this stature. The legendary Koji Kondo wrote and composed it all. There are various leitmotifs in the Zelda series (musical phrases associated with key areas – think of Hyrule field) – we love the Forest Temple piece above, which was followed up by the mysterious Fire Temple and its eerie grumbling and choral sections.
We mean, listen to that. The eerie chanting type noise, followed by intense choral music. In the temple, this is matched by fireballs leaping up at you, flaming bats swooping in, and at one stage you’re towering high above an early floor with a clear view of an enormous drop beneath your feet.
Ocarina of Time was the first 3D Zelda experience, of course. The graphics have now aged, but the orchestral score (another first for the series) is as strong as ever. It set the standard for future Zelda games with its evolution of the standard themes. But for many, the first time you step out onto Hyrule Field, the music starts, and you take in the scale of Miyamoto’s vision – it’ll be near the top of your favourite gaming moments.
Navi & The Water Temple
A special mention has to go to two long established “flaws” in Ocarina of Time. The first is Navi, a fairy who accompanies you on your quest and regularly interjects with outbursts such as “Hey!” and “Listen!”. This didn’t bother us as kids, but apparently infuriated the rest of the gaming world. Well… that’s what you get if you’re a massive noob!
The second is more pertinent: The Water Temple. Our mate Phil and his dad, Phil Senior, got stumped with this one. They even had a complex series of maps they drew up in an attempt to fathom it out already. For those not in the know, it’s the third temple in and consists of a series of different sections. You have to raise, and lower, water levels to work out the maze-like labyrinth, whilst regularly changing between heavy chain boots to help you swim. The level is a total pain in the arse.
These don’t detract from the experience as the majority of Ocarina of Time is so magical. Rather these instances have become fun, if not fashionable, issues to jest about with fellow gamers. No game is perfect. Just look at Superman. But Ocarina of Time was very close back in 1998 – it’s showing its age a bit now, but still provides a captivating experience. Just get a YouTube walkthrough ready when you get to the Water Temple, yeah?