Dan Loves Ocarina of Time For Different Reasons
My favorite game of all time is Nintendo’s 1998 classic The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. This game tops a lot of people’s lists. I’ve heard time and time again that I didn’t put effort into picking it as my favorite game; that everyone loves that game. Sure I could talk about my love of King’s Quest or Team Fortress Classic, but it still wouldn’t change my answer. Nobody is debating that Ocarina of Time is a great game, that’s pretty well agreed upon. What makes Ocarina of Time my favorite game of all time wasn’t the great story and gameplay alone. What made it my favorite game is also because of what it was outside the game for me.
I was just turning 10 years old when The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time came out. I had typical 10 year old problems, bickering with my older brother, maximizing play time with friends, and how the heck long division worked. Ocarina of Time entered my life at a time when I was just becoming my own person. At an age when I was just starting to understand creativity, here was this entire world full of adventures and stories. I’ve always played lots of different story driven video games but the rich expansive world in Ocarina of Time occupied my every thought. There was so much to do and explore in the game. Dozens of side quests were at my fingertips and countless people and creatures inhabiting its worlds. The magical world of Ocarina of Time brought me hours of joy but its wide appeal to all types of individuals also brought me closer to people in the real world. When I wasn’t adventuring in Ocarina of Time I was spending time with my friends discussing how much we loved the game or maybe even beating a dungeon together.
When I think back, one of Ocarina of Time’s greatest feats was the controls. One of the first fully 3D open world adventure games on console and everything was intuitive and most importantly functional. The “z-targeting” allowed players to easily lock onto an enemy making tracking and hitting enemies in a 3D space work. The “z-targeting” also imparted a sense of skill and intensity in the fights. Extra jump-dodges became available and black bars were added on the top of the bottom for a cinematic look. I can recall bragging to friends that I didn’t even need a shield and would simply use the side jumps and flips available in “z-targeting” to avoid getting hit. You also collected a variety of items to use in your adventure, a hallmark of the franchise. The diverse selection of sub-weapons and items available enabled multiple play types and more complex puzzles. One of my problems in previous Zelda titles was that the constant switching of items could feel tedious and broke up the action. The ability to quickly switch between items with the “C” buttons kept everything moving fast. You could map up to three items to the left, right, and down “C” buttons for quick access. For a hyperactive 10 year old it was great not having to constantly dive into a menu if I wanted to go through an entire dungeon using only the bow and Megaton Hammer. Several of the items weren’t even required to complete the game. There was an entire list of side quests that gave some of the best items in the game that were completely optional. This made exploring the world so much more rewarding when you would stumble onto one of these quests between dungeons.
What would a Zelda game be without dungeons? So much of the game and narrative is about the dungeons. The dungeons in a Zelda game always increase in difficulty as you progressed through the game. This was the perfect way to ease players into the new control system and allow them to learn and master the game through gameplay rather than tutorials. The dungeons in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time were much more than simply a cave with monsters to fight though. There was a story for each of the dungeons. Each dungeon was in a unique location and often had unique characters around it not found elsewhere in the land of Hyrule. There was also always an additional reason beyond the overall story that your character needed to enter a dungeon and defeat the evil within. I knew that I needed to get the “Goron’s Ruby” to get the “Master Sword” but there was more. Finding that an entire race of “Gorons” had been cut off from their food supply and needed a hero made the game much more immersive. On top of the knowledge that I was working towards defeating the big bad guy at the end I was also making a noticeable impact along the way. After completing each dungeon I could see the area come back to life. This in turn would open up new areas to explore and side quests to complete. This piled on the sense of accomplishment from playing the game. After defeating the evil in a dungeon the characters in the area would celebrate me as their hero. I knew that the people were behind me in my quest. The land of Hyrule itself had depth and would change and grow as you grew into the hero they needed. Nintendo had created such a complete world that I could imagine an entire history forward and back for Hyrule.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time made a significant impact on me as a child. The world of Hyrule and its stories captured my imagination unlike anything else ever had. The “Z-targeting” made each fight feel epic. Every part of Hyrule had a story to tell and Ocarina of Time did such an amazing job telling those stories. I wanted everything Ocarina of Time, the toys, the clothes, even the soundtrack. I think my affinity for Ocarina of Time in particular had as much to do with my enjoyment of the game as it did with bringing me closer to those around me. As a 10 year old it wasn’t surprising that my older brother and I would bicker and fight. None of that bickering or fighting existed when we were playing Ocarina of Time. The world of Hyrule was a playground for my friends and me. That time of my life is filled with memories talking about the world of Hyrule and what else happens there. I remember spending hours just discussing what other adventures could happen in the land of Hyrule. Had I been born 5 years earlier I would probably be saying these same things about a different Zelda game. I can’t deny that the age I was when Ocarina of Time entered my life played a big role in it being my favorite game. However it doesn’t change that Ocarina of Time controlled great, was full of awesome items and quests, and had an engrossing story and setting. I’m not ashamed to say that I probably own every North American version of Ocarina of Time that was ever published by Nintendo; but why wouldn’t you spend a few bucks to re-experience what was such a significant part of your childhood.