So…What follows here was originally going to be part of a Gaming Hall of Fame feature. However things never quite worked out. So I decided to formulate it into a stand alone article. Why am I telling you this you ask? Well I’ll tell you. It’s because I needed an introduction and couldn’t quite think of one, so I just rambled on until I got to a point where I could stop and start a new paragraph. I’m not quite there yet I know, but I’m going to start a new paragraph anyway…enjoy.
Ocarina of Time…What a game! I don’t think I’m stretching it when I say that it’s one of the best games ever made. You know what? I’m not; it is, in my opinion, the best game ever made. OoT is a masterpiece, it has a story that grabs you and pulls you into the land of Hyrule. You are the outcast, the freak, the one who doesn’t belong. You also happen to be the only person who can save the world. There is something Dickensian about the story of a great hero from humble origins. The story is also quite dark in parts. You watch the death of your mentor and guardian, you learn of the murder of your mother, you see a kingdom fall and the princess kidnapped. So yeah it’s dark in parts (for its time anyway). The game plays well too (even today), the controls make sense and work well. You can still sit down today and waste a full day growing from a child of the forest to the hero of time. I can also guarantee that it will still be as enjoyable as you remember. Sure nowadays games have evolved and are sharper than the days of the N64, games are longer today, we get voice overs as opposed to annoying text and we have a second analogue stick to move cameras, but OoT powers through the limitations of the day and creates a deep and enjoyable experience. There is a reason OoT is considered a gaming great and that is because it’s that, damn, good!
Let’s start at the start. You don’t have a fairy! Everyone else does and you don’t. No need to worry though because the most annoying fairy you’ll ever meet is on his/hers/its way to guide you. From here the adventure begins. At its basis Ocarina is a tale of the boy who doesn’t belong, the outcast. You are sent from the place you never truly belonged into a big and scary world, with a simple task; deliver a letter to the princess. That’s it. It’s simple… right? From here things go bad and you are the last hope for the world. Now by today’s standards there isn’t a great deal of story telling in OoT. By that I mean we don’t get many cut scenes and long dialogue sections. The story is told through active game play, you know because it’s a game. You feel for Link, a child forced to grow before his time. You see that he is faced with trials that push him to his very limits. Sometimes you don’t need fancy FMVs to display a story, sometimes that story can be more subtle than that.
As you progress through the game, so does Link. Using the tried and tested Zelda format, with each dungeon you get a new piece of equipment and with it access to new things. You get grapple hooks, bows, slingshots and bomb bags. Basically you become more equipped as the challenge grows. At the same time you the player, becomes more equipped to deal with the challenge. You learn your craft and know when the time to strike is. Then when you start to get confident, the game changes. Enemies change and react differently. You are always on your toes. The balance of challenge and entertainment give OoT the replay value of any game that can be considered the best.
On top of all this great stuff OoT also has one mighty fine soundtrack. Each song fits perfectly with the environment. The Lost Woods wouldn’t be the Lost Woods without Saria’s song in the background. Then there is the song of Storms, which has little use in the game, but I defy anyone to hear it and not have it stuck in their head for days. It’s just too good “dada dada da dada dadaddada”. I bet you read that to the tune. Anyway the theme tune for OoT is so good that it’s been performed by orchestras and released on cd on multiple occasions. Basically it’s a very good soundtrack.
The controls of the game can feel a bit dated today. The lack of a second analogue on the N64 game pad can make changing camera angles a nightmare, at the time though you hardly noticed. Dual analogue was in its infancy and we hadn’t really been exposed to free camera movement, so it wasn’t really a problem. Otherwise the controls are pretty great. You know where everything is quickly. You can get to the correct button easily and you don’t end up scrambling for the correct bottom in times of need. OoT handles well, if not a little dated by today’s standards.
Don’t get me wrong OoT isn’t the perfect game. No game can be perfect. To be perfect you have to be imperfect and by that definition perfect is in fact imperfection and then we have a paradox. Though I don’t think I’m in the business of debating the philosophical points of an Oasis lyric in this blog. The point I was making is that if OoT was perfect it wouldn’t be considered the greatest game of all time. Nobody wants to see true perfection it makes you feel inadequate. The issues with OoT help make it great, like that quirky girl you like. The little quirks are what draw you in. (I couldn’t think of a female equivalent, so apologies to my female readers, if you exist). Take the water temple for example; it’s hard as hell. In fact it’s almost too hard, but that difficulty draws you in every time. Once more imperfection is perfection.
So…I’m going to sum this up. I do honestly believe that OoT is the greatest game ever made. I do believe that it is a bench mark that other games should be measured by. I’m also aware that not everyone agrees with me. Which is fine, I like a good debate. I would be interested to hear from you guys though. What do you think is the best game ever? Am I right? Am I wrong? Let me know.
*Edit:- I wrote a follow up blog all about Majora’s Mask. if you enjoyed this why not give it a read?*
By Matt Husselbury