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The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 64) artwork

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 64) review


"As Nintendo careens toward a purgatorial stasis, a descent fueled by its irrationality as well as its irrelevance, it's impossible to not lament its better days. For the same company who now relies on portable non-games to keep breath in its collapsing lungs once made the greatest game ever released. That game is Zelda: The Ocarina of Time. "



As Nintendo careens toward a purgatorial stasis, a descent fueled by its irrationality as well as its irrelevance, it's impossible to not lament its better days. For the same company who now relies on portable non-games to keep breath in its collapsing lungs once made the greatest game ever released. That game is Zelda: The Ocarina of Time.

From the dawn of your first day with Link, his world, its people and its story hook you and will not let go. There is no curve, no taste to be acquired or need for familiarity. The charm of this adventure is there from the outset. The adventure starts with Link seeking the advice of the Great Deku Tree; but to see him, the game's basics must be learned. And here, in the small village used to train Link and teach you the controls, more majesty will be found than in almost any entire game since.

But after visiting the sage, and conquering its hidden demons, the world that then opens up to Link as he finally debarks is the most absorbing ever realized. Link's tiny village, his home that neither he nor his kind has ever left, gives way to a most magnificent and stunning vista which is still no less impressive now than it was in 1998. The awe of standing before such an expanse is felt both by the character Link as well as the gamer; truly, such a world had never been before either.

At first, the mass of the world leads to dungeons, towns and characters you'll never forget. Ocarina, which has no voice acting, has the most engaging characters ever seen in a game. Had the adventure been merely a dungeon crawler spread out over its giant map, would have still been a marvel. But right when you've established relationships with these excellent characters, actually caring what happens to them, the game changes drastically.

It changes because Link's journey will span not only the geography of its world, but its time as well. When Link first pulls the Master Sword from its setting, he is driven into the future of a world ravaged with evil and decay. Link assumes his new body in this future, and the moment is captured and weighted brilliantly. There is a hollowness in his eyes, replacing the earlier calm and curiosity, which gives away the fact that he's a child lunged forward unfairly into a man's body to fulfill a man's work. This sort of pathos in a game is never felt again; at least, not by me.

From here, a story and game already unequaled gets better. Link's maturity leads to new techniques and moves, but moreover, revisiting his decimated homeland is a captivating Twilight Zone-like experience.

Ocarina of Time, unlike so many Nintendo disappointments since, is not afraid. More than anything else in the game, its latter half has an overwhelming sense of sorrow to it, as Link navigates the dessicated landscapes and encounters people who barely recognize him and live in fear. The early wonder of the adventure shifts down to a distraught and desparity. Link will see his friends die, moments which are both sad and uplifting. The fact that I cared about these simple videogame characters is a testament to the brilliance of the quest and the unparalleled quality of their creation.

And Ocarina's music, as integral to the game as its title suggests, is a simple, yet nearly flawless addition to the experience. Each melody, from the unforgettable "Zelda's Lullaby," to the harrowing "Song of Time," becomes intimately familiar as you must play them as well as enjoy them. Ocarina of Time teaches you each song, which you'll need to recite later, before it subtly incorporates them in the game so perfectly that to separate them would be unthinkable. Only the Panzer Dragoon games get video game music composition and integration this perfectly.

But perfection runs in its streams. It's seen in its endless expanses of grass, first a wondrous joy to run across, later a thrill to race over on your horse, Epona. It's in its bustling courtyard, alive with a kingdom of merry characters. It's in the haunting wasteland left behind by the reign of the vile. It's seen in every unique dungeon and with every beloved character impacting Link's life as he surmounts the impossible. Perfection is seen in the pacing of the game, which grants you the freedom to explore as you wish, or stick devotedly to the story which will surely have you gripped tightly. Zelda: Ocarina of Time is the type of nearly-perfect I can't imagine will ever be seen again.

The ending, which recalls every memorable character in one optimistic but somber montage, comes after hours, even days, of dreading the inevitible. These hours and days are spent not wanting to ever see this experience end. Zelda, unlike practically every other game, is the type of game you don't want to beat for fear that there will be nothing more. But when it is beaten, and it shows you step by step how you made every life better in Link's world, it will be very worth the small price of its conclusion.

Ocarina is not a game whose true qualities can be described by piecing apart its graphics, control, or difficulty. Ocarina's brilliance lies in what it has beyond the mundane and routine elements of a game. It has the intangible; it has the ability to encompass your world with its, delivering the most exceptional videogame experience I've ever had. Zelda: Ocarina of Time is the greatest game ever made, a title it will likely never relinquish.

Rating: 10/10

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Featured community review by nick_evil (October 03, 2005)

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