Friday, November 21, 2008

The 10th Anniversary of the Ocarina of Time...

10 years ago, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was released on the Nintendo 64 and became to many people like me the greatest game of all-time. It was the beginning of a new era for the Zelda franchise being in 3D for the first time and also defining perfection for its time. It was considered the first "perfect" game in the Internet age of our society with 10s in nearly every game site in existence and still the #1 game in Gamerankings. You can read a detailed history of the game before its release in this NeoGAF thread made by TSA, perhaps the most known Zelda fan today. Otherwise, read on for my memories and thoughts of Zelda OOT.

Honestly, Ocarina of Time was my first Zelda game due to all the hype before its release on the N64 courtesy of Nintendo Power mostly. I remember that day 10 years ago in 6th grade getting the game at Toys R Us expecting something special and different as I wasn't really into the action adventure genre at that time. Unfortunately, I didn't get the infamous gold cartridge, but I was happy just having the game period back then. 

The intro just grabs you right away explaining the epic storyline involving the Triforce and being some nobody, which is Link, and then becoming somebody at the end of the game. It was a great beginning in the Kokiri Forest being introduced to your fairy friend and guide, Navi, and then realizing you're playing a 3D Zelda. Even the first dungeon, The Deku Tree, is only the beginning of the true adventure after getting the first Spiritual Stone and then seeing the tree die. Once you leave the forest, the first of many touching and emotional moments with Saria giving Link the Ocarina was amazing. Hyrule Field allows the game to have that openness the 2D games provided with the hub world filled with hidden secrets (all those holes for more rupees and heart pieces), important spots (Hyrule Castle, Lake Hylia, and Death Mountain). The day/night cycle is also one of many breakthroughs OOT had changing the perspective on things happening. Okay, I feel like I'm going to describe every aspect of the game now...

Another defining moment was the first meeting with Zelda in the castle revealing more of the storyline and how Ganondorf is one bad dude with a plan of world domination. More emotions and memories were there as I was watching that cutscene on Thanksgiving Day in 1998 and you couldn't skip it if you're in a hurry, which was the case that time before heading to a family party. The game simply opens way more than expected after getting Zelda's Lullaby for the Ocarina as well as Saria's Song. The ocarina was also a revolutionary game mechanic for its time being key to gameplay progression and even its customability when just randomly playing. Being Young Link in the first three dungeons (Dodongo's Cavern and Jabu-Jabu) felt like a great warmup of what's yet to come when you get the Master Sword in the Temple of Time.

Becoming Adult Link was another crazy moment in the Ocarina of Time. It opened up the game to a whole different level and a different aspect of the storyline with the time travel and Ganondorf taking over Hyrule. It almost became a whole new game with playing as Adult Link transversing through challenging dungeons like the infamous Water Temple. The different gimmicks these dungeons that challenged the player felt great and natural when dealing with the elements and having the neccessary equipment to navigate through these places. Even the boss battles turned up to 11 when being as Adult Link with Phantom Ganon, Volvagia, Morpha, Bongo Bongo, and Twinrova with the challenge and scale. When getting all the medallions, the final stretch truly begins in Ganon's Castle and the infamous Sheik reveal as Zelda was also another memorable moment and a WTF at that time when many people didn't expect it at all. The culminatic finale against Ganondorf (The castle escape) and eventually pig Ganon defined epic in every way as you feel like you want to kick his ass. After defeating Ganon in the end, I felt like I achieved something totally amazing and the ending felt perfect with the final blow along with what happened to Link and Zelda at the end.

The core gameplay of Zelda OOT was unique and original for its time with the combat system and the revolutionary Z-Targeting. Melee combat felt natural and precise as if you're in a real battle despite its limitations. Even projectile combat with the Hero's Bow, Hookshot, and the magic had that sense of precision when trying to aim at certain spots or switches. Yeah, the auto-jumping was awkward for something like this, but most people didn't mind it. The exploration and the completionist mentality also pushed players to new heights getting every weapon, heart piece, and everything else from the Gold Skulltulas, upgraded wallets, and bottles filled with blue potions. I unfortunately didn't 100% the game as I remembered missing two full hearts for the 20, the Ice Arrow (it wasn't a neccessity compared to its purpose in Majora's Mask), and the Poes.

I actually beaten the game in February 1999 because I was stuck in the Spirit Temple for a while and took a month break from it (I was playing F-Zero X at that time as well). I remembered doing the final stretch with Ganon's Castle on a Saturday and then the final boss battles on the next day after many attempts. It was kind of frustrating at that time for me deflecting Ganondorf's projectiles without Z-Targeting counting seconds to time the sword swipe. After beating the castle escape and pig Ganon in one attempt, I felt glad not doing it again without dying even though I was down to less than three hearts (with double life) and out of healing items. Stastically, I died only once at the Redead area getting the Hylian Shield getting the game over screen. After dealing with that, I was driven to never see a game over screen again as if I feel like I will die, I just reset the system and try again, which is the case in some areas.

Back in 1998, Zelda OOT was the best looking N64 game with many diverse locales that felt iconic. In addition to that, it had an amazing soundtrack and perhaps my favorite gaming soundtrack till Super Mario Galaxy. As for Nintendo games then and now, the lack of voice acting was noticeable, but no one cared being the silent hero. Many iconic tracks were in this game from some of the ocarina songs, the Hyrule Field BGM, and the Ganon battles. Other than that, OOT had amazing music and graphics (The music is still relevant, but the polygonal graphics had its run in the late 1990s).

I feel like I'm missing a lot of other stuff why Ocarina of Time is amazing as I could write about this all day. It established a core formula that was used for Wind Waker and Twlight Princess as those games couldn't match OOT's quality (Majora's Mask was a great departure, but I never finished it). Many memorable moments throughout the lengthy campaign has even touched people's lives. Its legacy continued to live on with speed runs of the game being beaten in three hours thanks to many exploits like the infamous power crouch stab and sequence breaking. I can't believe this game is already ten years old being out in arguably the greatest year of video games (Half-Life, Tekken 3, Metal Gear Solid, Starcraft, and many more) in 1998. To me, it was an one time and one time only thing as I beaten it once and never wanted to play it again (like Portal, Braid, and Super Mario Galaxy). You will never get the same feeling playing it multiple times compared to the first time which is the case for Ocarina of Time. I tried to play it again on GameCube with Master Quest (the harder version), but it didn't as special as it was the first time around.

So Happy 10th Anniversary I guess...

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