The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was a 1998 action-adventure game by Nintendo for the Nintendo 64. Ocarina of Time was a must-buy the moment I saw it in my copy of Nintendo Power. I had dabbled with the original Legend of Zelda on the Nintendo Entertainment System, and my friend had showed me A Link to the Past for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, but my Zelda game was Ocarina of Time. It was a revolutionary game as shown by its average review scores. On Metacritic, a website that averages game reviews from across the internet, it holds the highest all time average score of 99/100. The game doesn’t hold up all that well to today’s modern games, but when it came out it was superior to everything else at the time as well as most prior games. I would consider it the greatest 3-D game ever, but there are too many differences in 2-D graphics to really compare it to those old games.
Ocarina of Time was the game that made me proud of owning the Nintendo 64. Before that point, I had some fun games, but I was envious of many games my friend was playing on the PlayStation. Ocarina of Time completely satisfied me with the console I had. It even made my friend jealous. He kept wanting to come over to play it and see everything it offered. Several times his mom got mad when she came to pick him up and he kept delaying her so he could play just a little more.
This game had great graphics, great depth in the world, great story, great puzzles. The only thing I could complain about were the controls. They had this special “Z-targeting” system to keep the camera locked on an enemy, but it didn’t work well when the player had to fight more than one enemy. Enemies could sneak up on Link and hit him from the back. Also, the jumping system was annoying. The player had no control over it. When he reached a ledge, Link would jump automatically even if that’s not what the player wanted. It was pretty easy to get used to these control issues though, so it never became a major problem. It was just a learning issue. Once I learned the controls, I never had any troubles.
I remember playing through this game all summer long despite already seeing the story ten times before. I liked it so much, I got into “speedrunning” the game. I wasn’t competitive or anything, but I played it so much I memorized optimal routes to complete quest objectives. I got good enough that I could start playing the game around 9am and be done by the time my mom came home at 4:00pm. The next day I would repeat the process again. I just loved reliving it every day. To this day, no other game has gotten me to replay it this much. It could be because I’m older now, but maybe there was something magical about this Ocarina of Time.
Speedruns were where another flaw in the game appeared. All the characters in the game spoke through text, but there was no way to speed up or skip through the text. Long after I had grown bored of the words, I still had to watch them like I was playing the game for the first time. This wasn’t that big of a flaw though since speedruns were not really a thing back then. There was no way the developers could have known people would want to skip text.
Ocarina of Time was so good it influenced every other Zelda game that came after it. To this day, new Zelda games largely follow the same model, with just a few tweaks to the gameplay. In that sense, the game may have been too good. Nintendo has struggled to keep Zelda interesting over the years. Many players feel like they’ve already seen all everything before in Ocarina of Time. Nintendo hasn’t done enough to get players interested in the later Zelda games.
I will always remember the Christmas I got Ocarina of Time. I remember we had rented videos about a month before. I had already asked for Ocarina of Time, but I couldn’t wait to play it. I rented Ocarina of Time and loved it. When we came back to the video store to return videos, I wanted to rent it again. My mom told me no, and we got into a big argument. I had no idea she had already bought the game for my Christmas present. I had asked for it, but it was never a sure thing. My parents couldn’t afford to get everything on my list. I ended up having to rent Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, which happened to be a great game on its own. I remember I couldn’t sleep on Christmas Eve. One minute I was worried they didn’t get me the game. The next I was daydreaming about playing a marathon gaming session to finally see the ending of the game and unlock all the secrets.