My recent purchase of a 3DS brought with it the ideal opportunity to go back to what many consider to be the greatest game ever, The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time. I’m ashamed to admit that I never finished it first time around, despite poring over magazines for years beforehand and doing everything short of prostituting myself to get my hands on a copy on day one after my preorder fell through; I think the one-two punch of the Water Temple and the Shadow Temple did it for me, and as a result this has never even been my favourite Zelda game – that would be Link’s Awakening – let alone my favourite game overall.
Although I’m playing the 3DS remake, this is going to be a vehicle for my thoughts on the game itself. Plenty has been written by much more authoritative sources on what’s different and how the versions compare, so I won’t bog this down with my hazy recollections of a game I’ve barely touched since 1998.
One thing I do remember is waxing lyrical with a friend about how “cinematic” Ocarina of Time was. It was unusual for a Nintendo game in that respect, as it seemed preoccupied with making games rather than telling stories, with few games having more story than ‘rescue the princess’ or ‘do a barrel roll’. It still is, and along with Majora’s Mask and Twilight Princess, it feels different to the others in the series. The Wind Waker, for all the shock that greeted its unveiling, is thematically and stylistically similar to all the sprite-based instalments, and Skyward Sword seems jovial in response to the misery on display in parts of adult Link’s quest, not to mention the plentiful nightmare fuel of Majora’s Mask.
This came out at a time when developers, particularly ones working with the capacity of CD-ROMs, were learning to blend film and game. Though perhaps only in my nostalgia-addled brain, they were better at it then, imitating the mature tropes of film without going too far in trying to find gaming’s own language of storytelling. There’s no real fan service or an attempt to build an ambitious, overall narrative, which is something that has long weighed down the community without adversely affecting the games, even if it was there all along.
I must say, it’s a lot easier than I remember too. This game was a challenging quest to 13-year-old me, but this time I died once, on one of the bosses. I’m going to hold this up next time I hear someone complain about how easy games are these days. Personally, it’s not a bad thing, as I’d much rather make progress through an enthralling 15-or-so hour quest than have it padded out to 20 by making me traipse back to the boss chamber repeatedly.
Having had an uninterrupted run at the game, I’ve come away with an elevated opinion of Ocarina of Time. Best game ever? No, I still don’t think so. It’s certainly a good shout for an inclusion in my top five, though, and is up there with Link’s Awakening in consideration for my favourite Zelda game. If anything, the main feeling it’s left me with is an increased need for Majora’s Mask 3D – one that the years seem to have turned into a connoisseur’s choice of Zelda – as I barely touched that on release, having long since moved on to better hardware.
Look at me. I’m begging Nintendo for more remakes of old games instead of rolling my eyes. I must be starting to like games again.