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04 February 2017 @ 08:13 pm
Game Review: ゼルダの伝説:時のオカリナGC裏  
This is the game in the lineup I was most worried about replaying.

I mean, even a cursory search on the internet will find an enormous crowd of people who think that Ocarina of Time is the best game ever made, or at least in the top five. I still remember the first time I played it--I have my original gold cartridge sitting by our television--and how amazing it seemed coming from the first Zelda game, since I had only played Zelda II on a brief rental and never owned an SNES or Game Boy. Going from 8-bit self-contained screens to a giant expansive world? Running across Hyrule Prairie that first time, seeing Death Mountain in the distance and getting that "you can go there" feeling that Todd Howard mentioned in an interview about Skyrim? Combat trading sword blows, dodging and circling? It was amazing!

It was amazing, I won't deny that. At the time I first played it, I thought Ocarina of Time was the greatest game I had ever played. But I figured that it was mostly nostalgia and that since much of the amazement was based on technical innovation that had long since been obsolete, I'd have to force myself to play through this to get to Majora's Mask and then other Zelda games I haven't played.

I'm glad to say that's not the case. It's not the greatest game ever made, but I had a lot of fun with Ocarina of Time.


I expected the graphics to be a muddy mess, the way I often make fun of original Playstation-era as being "a bag of doritos dipped in glue," but it was prettier than I was expecting it to be. It's the way people often say that a remaster makes a game look like your memories of it rather than how it actually looked like, except that is how it looks. I could have gotten a texture pack to make it look better, but the difference isn't so great that I cared.

Some of that might be that I'm playing the GameCube version rather than the original Nintendo 64 version. Since I played the N64 version to death, beating it something like half-a-dozen times, and since my sister bought the version of Wind Waker that came with the Master Quest, I decided that I would make an actual attempt to beat it. I knew it had remixed dungeons, but I didn't realize that was all it had. I thought there were other changes here and there, but no. Just different dungeon geography and some gold skulltulas that were moved, that I didn't care about because there's no way I'm trying to collect all the skulltulas. Or heart pieces, ghost souls, etc. I'm not here as a completionist. I'll leave that for Breath of the Wild.

Something interesting I learned while playing. In Japan, the Master Quest was called 裏 (ura, "hidden, underside, bottom"), after a never-released game for the N64DD called Ura Zelda that was basically an expansion to Ocarina of Time. Nintendo recycled the work on that into the Master Quest. There were going to be additional enemies and areas, but that was all dropped.

I'm not sure it made a difference, but only because it's been so long since I last played that I didn't remember the original layout of any of the dungeons.  photo emot-sweatdrop.gif

Ah yes, the three pendantsspiritual stones.

A Link to the Past set the basic template for future main Zelda games, but Ocarina of Time is where the mold really solidified. It has the early section with a few collectibles among different tribes in Hyrule--called here the 精霊石 (seireiseki, "Spirit Stones"), translated as "Spiritual Stones" in the English, though I think it'd be more interesting if it were read as shōryōseki, "Ancestral Stones"--followed by a sudden twist and then a longer quest to collect something different. It has other tribes: the Zora, the Goron, and the Kokiri. It has the elements of Fire, Water, Forest, Light, Shadow, and Spirit. It has Epona. And, as is mentioned in the title, it has an instrument with songs that the player has to play using the controller.

I think the big twist is well-executed but not followed up on enough. When Link picks up the Master Sword, he enters the Sacred Realm...and opens the door to Ganondorf, who follows him and gets his hands on the Triforce. Seven years pass, Link grows up, and the rest of the game involves switching between child and adult forms to accomplish tasks while aquiring all the items and songs that allow Link to finish the dungeons, acquire the medallions of the elements, awaken the sages, and defeat Ganon.  photo emot-megaman.gif

How is it so empty with all this rain?

Or at least, that's the premise. The execution is hamstrung by two major problems. The first is that changing time streams is too annoying. A Link to the Past's Dark World worked so well because it had multiple entrance points and the magic mirror allowed Link to exit anywhere, allowing a wide variety of puzzles and some that requires crossing back and forth multiple times. Ocarina of Time only allows Link to move between the past and the future at the Temple of Time in Hyrule Castle Town, and while a melody to teleport there is available relatively early on, being the only passage between the two times limits the scope of possible puzzles in a way that wasn't true in A Link to the Past.

The second problem is that Hyrule is mostly empty. When you first leave the Kokiri Forest and see Hyrule Prairie spread out before you after talking to the owl, realizing that you can cross it all is amazing, but that wonderful feeling is quickly dashed when you discover that it's mostly just a means from getting from place to place. All that's in the Prairie proper is Lon Lon Ranch, with everything else being an entrance at the edges. There are very few features, just a few trees and rocks, the river from the Zora Spring, and fences in the south near Lake Hylia and the Gerudo Desert. It's not like A Link to the Past's dense area geography, with fields of grass, shallow pools, groves of trees, and towering boulders.

There are some areas that break this trend, but even most of the sub-areas are still frustratingly bare. The run-up to the Forest Temple is a neat-looking forest maze, but comparing the Lost Woods here to the Lost Words in A Link to the Past, with their drifting mist and multiple paths, just leads to disappointment. Ocarina of Time's Lost Woods are more like the original Legend of Zelda's, with the forest divided into almost-featureless "rooms" with passages between them that have to be traversed in a certain order to reach specific destinations. There's a few bushes here and there, sometimes small areas, and passages across Hyrule. But it's nothing like this.

"There's no way a boy like you is in tight with Ganondorf."

The two problems combine in the changes between the past and the future. Since Ganondorf gets his wish and destroys the Kingdom of Hyrule, the castle town goes from a place full of people to just a place you pass through on the way out of the Temple of Time, a ruin filled with undead monsters and no one to talk to. The Kokiri cower in their forest homes but don't have much to say. The Zora have vanished, except for the king. The Zora Homeland is frozen solid, and while Princess Ruto says they are under the ice, there's no way to melt it and bring them back. The Gorons are captured by Ganondorf to be fed to a dragon, other than two remaining in their city. Kakariko Village and the hidden fortress of the Gerudo are really the only places that have any kind of life or interest.

It's actually not that much of a change, considered objectively. It's not like the Village of Outcasts in A Link to the Past had a vibrant culture and a NPCs with depth, after all, and the Dark World didn't actually have secrets hidden around every corner. But it felt like it did, and I don't get that feeling with Ocarina of Time. Playing it, I felt like there wasn't that much to discover other than heart pieces and skulltulas, and the barrenness of the levels contributed to that.

"The Temple of Souls...who made this place, and for what?"

Everyone hates Navi and makes fun of her for her constant "advice." And this is a right and proper thing to do. For every time Navi reminded me of where I was supposed to go next, there was at least two times that she told me something completely useless. My favorite is the one above--I'm guessing she was spacing out and seeing what Link was doing jogged her memory--but she also told me how to beat monsters that were currently vulnerable in the way the was pointing out, told to me to go to places I was currently in, and flew all around the screen seemingly randomly.

Since Ocarina of Time is in 3D, that means the camera is a problem. And since unlike Super Mario 64, the C-buttons are taken up with various items, the only way to move the camera is with "Z-targeting," which is also used to target enemies, friendlies, and various objects. This means that moving along a narrow platform often requires inching along and shifting the camera repeatedly or risking a fall. The camera would sometimes get stuck behind Link or up in a corner somewhere and would refuse to move, and while this never caused me to die, it did cause me to fall off ledges several times because I misjudged where Link was aiming. The same thing happened with jumps, since there's no dedicated jump button and the only way to jump is run off an edge and home Link grabs on to the other side. Sometimes, he didn't.

Beyond that, Z-targeting is extremely fiddly. It doesn't work at all on gold skulltulas, which is clearly so that it's harder to spot them but in practice just makes it annoying to kill them, especially in the past when it involves multiple boomerang throws looking for the right angle. Sometimes Link would be facing the enemy, but the camera wouldn't, so Navi would refuse to target them and I'd have to flail away for a while until she changed her mind. Ocarina of Time isn't hard, so it never arose above the level of annoyance, but that anti-Navi sentiment is justified.

Why?  photo c9a2ed93dbfb11e324f5b3e281e5e1b2.gif

But if the overworld is disappointing, the dungeons and bosses were great. People joke that puzzles in Zelda are "search the room and shoot the eyeball," and there is a bit of that, but the Master Quest dungeons required some headscratching on my part, backtracking, and, yes, consulting zeldadungeons.net. I have a lot of these games to play.

It's hard to pick my favorite dungeon. I like the aesthetics of the Forest Temple the best, with the grassy floors and mossy stone walls and murmuring music throughout, and while I'm less positive on Phantom Ganon because I'm not sure what an evil ghost has to do with the element of forest, the actual fight was pretty fun once I got the timing on the energy ball tennis down. I love the Spirit Temple and the way it actually uses time travel as an essential mechanic in solving the temple, since there are areas exclusive to both child and adult Link--if more temples were built that way, the central premise of Ocarina of Time wouldn't feel so superfluous. And the music is amazing. It reminds me of a more subdued version of the great pyramid music from Crystalis.

I also have to give kudos to the bottom of the well, which felt more like something out of Dark Souls. Skulls everywhere, traps and spiders and wallmasters, lost souls telling you to find the Eye of Truth, a hidden chamber filled with acid and the grasping hands of the dead, and a horrifying monster, also represented in this art. I'd love a whole horror Zelda game with that aesthetic, and also I don't understand why Kakariko Village full of mutated monsters if that was at the bottom of the well they were drinking from.

For all the complaints about the Water Temple, I didn't find it to be a problem. Some of that is because the Water Temple Master Quest is easier than the original version, with no underwater enemies and part of the temple blocked off, but I think it's also because I could speed up emulation so that any section with constant donning and removing of the Heavy Boots went much faster than it would have had I played on a console.


Something that also contributed to how much I liked it, that I didn't even think of before I replayed it, is that Zelda is actually a character. She barely appears in the first two games, and while she is in Link to the Past, for most of the game she remains in the sanctuary and doesn't do anything other than heal Link and urge him to complete his quest. In Ocarina of Time, she's a constant presence, even if it's not obvious at first. I don't remember being spoiled about Sheik being Zelda, so I spent most of the future when I first played wondering where she had gone and then being amazed when she revealed herself. She was Zelda the whole time? That's amazing!  photo emot-awesomelon.gif

And now, with the various requests I've seen to have a game starring Zelda, I think it might be interesting to play a game as Zelda and Sheik. Having to survive on the run for seven years, watching her kingdom be destroyed like in the Breath of the Wild trailer, adopting the persona of one of the Sheikah, the People of the Shadow, and training as basically a ninja in order to fight the Demon King Ganondorf...that would be a fantastic game. It might be a bit more difficult to work around the plot of Ocarina of Time, but Zelda had to have learned all those songs and made her way through the temples to meet with Link somehow.

And actually, I'd love it if the tables were turned, Zelda was the silent protagonist, and we got to see what Link actually said during this game.

Ah, sorry. Excuse me.

When I beat the game and the last words on the screen were Zelda telling Link that he had to go back in time, and then saying, "ありがとう、リンク。さようなら," ("Thank you, Link. Goodbye...") my eyes got a bit misty. I'm honestly surprised that it had such an effect on me, since I didn't remember it with all that much affection and scoffed whenever I saw those best game ever polls. I wrote in my review of The Legend of Zelda that I'm not sure I'm a Zelda fan, and it's while playing this game that I realized I absolutely am. I've got my Master Edition preorder in for Breath of the Wild and I'm probably going to make an exception in my chronogaming to play that when it comes out.

This is not the best game ever made. It's not my favorite game either--that's still Morrowind. But it's much better than I thought, and I think in a way, that's a better outcome. If I came back to Ocarina of Time remembering it as the greatest gift to gaming ever handed down by Miyamoto-sama, then the problems I had with the camera and the empty landscapes would have infuriated me. As it was, I was expecting them, and so the good parts stood out that much more strongly and made me enjoy it much more than I think I otherwise would have. And now I'm looking forward to Majora's Mask, which I've never played.

And Breath of the Wild, of course. I don't think I've been this hyped for a game since Skyrim.
Current Mood: happyhappy
Current Music: Big Giant Circles feat. Jeff Ball - Thunderstruck [Ocarina of Time / Legend of Zelda]
Ashley <3ashiri_chan on February 6th, 2017 06:38 pm (UTC)
This and FFVII are probably the games I've beaten the most times. When I went back to play the 3DS version, I got through the water temple and actually remembered where to go. So good.

Spirit temple is forever my favorite though. The mirror shield, the boss, it's amazing. It's just a shame it's at the end.
dorchadasdorchadas on February 7th, 2017 12:39 am (UTC)
Spirit Temple is the best. Best music, best use of multiple time periods...though I do love the Forest Temple, especially when I listen to this remix of the theme.

I still have played FVII...though judging by Square, I have roughly a decade to do it before the remake comes out! Link smilie photo lhappy.gif And I already own it on Steam.
Ashley <3ashiri_chan on February 7th, 2017 12:57 am (UTC)
Forest Temple comes in second for sure. Chasing down the poes and such was fun. :3