A 3D reimagining of the core premise of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1991), Ocarina of Time follows Link, the protagonist, as he picks up a sword and leaves behind his humble origins in order to trek across the land of Hyrule, venture into its treacherous dungeons and travel through time itself to fulfill his destiny as the Hero of Time by defeating his enemy Ganondorf and ridding Hyrule of evil.
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At the age of twelve, I knew little of The Legend of Zelda. It was the hype surrounding Breath of the Wild that sparked my interest in the franchise. At a friend’s birthday party, I borrowed his 3DS since I didn’t have one of my own at the time. It was this very game that I played on it, and it convinced me to purchase the game for myself on my Wii U.
So there I was, playing my first ever Zelda game. I even made a let’s play out of my first playthrough. The let’s play, in all honesty, was pretty terrible, but I had to give the most critically acclaimed game of all time some respect. I was awestruck by the vast world, the masterfully crafted dungeons, the engaging combat and the beautiful soundtrack. By the time it was all over, I was hooked. It became one of my favourite games of all time, and I could not wait to see what the rest of this legendary franchise had to offer.
Inexplicably, Ocarina of Time remains just as magical of an experience every time I replay it. The world of Hyrule is incredible. It is full of character, and every location fits well in terms of design (although, Hyrule Field is a little too big with little going on. That’s my only big gripe with the game).
The dungeons are fantastic. Nintendo’s philosophy of “introduce a mechanic and gradually improve on it” is cranked up to the max, and it leads to some of the best dungeons in not only the Zelda franchise, but the medium of gaming as a whole. The combat is tight. Instead of rushing in, sword drawn, banner flying, you must wait for the enemy to make a mistake so you can land a blow. Forgive me for this cliched point of praise, but it really makes you feel like you’re in a sword fight.
This is the game that proved video games are not just games; they are art. Video games don’t just have to be about getting high scores, or getting from Point A to Point B. They can be used to tell stories. Engaging, impactful (and in some cases, vomit-inducing) stories.
Ocarina of Time more than delivers in the story department. It may seem formulaic on the surface, but if you dig a little deeper, you will notice a subtle, well-crafted narrative. At the beginning of the game, Link is an innocent child living in a seemingly perfect world. The only thing that really hurt him up to this point is the Deku Tree’s death. Throughout his journey, the world he travels seems to be at peace. But after he acquires the Master Sword and left Ganondorf open to invading Hyrule for seven years, reality strikes. Now an adult, Link realizes that the world is far from a perfect place. It is constantly on the verge of destruction thanks to evil beings such as Ganondorf. He wasn’t going on an adventure around the world; he was stalling its inevitable demise. Even after Zelda sends him back to live out his lost childhood, he hasn’t regained what he lost when he lifted the sword. He grew up and realized the harsh truth of the world, and no amount of time travel could fix that. He goes through a dramatic, relatable character arc, all without saying a word. This game subtly tells its story better than most games that tell stories in explicit ways.
Simply put, Ocarina of Time is everything a video game should be. It has the top tier world design. It has the spectacular soundtrack. It has the story that can only be told in the form of a video game. While I still personally prefer Terraria and Xenoblade Chronicles, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is, without a doubt, nothing less than the greatest video game ever made. I truly don’t believe there will ever be another quite like it.