The Zelda Game You Knew Was Coming, But Only After A Long Wait
Why So Serious?
Released in 1998, and almost too late to the N64 party, Zelda 64, was the 3D Zelda adventure we all knew was coming. What we did not know was it would take half a decade before it would be released. Due to many false starts and silly ideas.(Remember the ill fated N64 Disk Drive?-MM-)
I would like to make special mention of my take on Zelda. Some Moby Gamers seem to be under the impression that I dislike the Zelda series, this simply is not true. While I am far from a hardcore fan of the series, there are several games in the series that I actually enjoyed. Such as: Zelda II,( A cruelly underrated adventure.-MM-) and Zelda: Link’s Awakening, among others.
Some overzealous Zelda fans and Nintendophiles, have even accused me of being a “hater” of the series. One such case occurred here on Moby. Some deluded fan boy, actually had the testicular fortitude, to send me a private message, declaring that I was a stupid head, or some such silly thing, for just expressing my honest opinion, about a particular Zelda game.
How did I respond you ask? Well, as any borderline psychotic might, I laughed at the poorly written and conceived attempt, to change my mind on the matter. And then I sent the dingus, a harshly worded response. And no, I never heard back from the belligerent fan boy.
Now I know what you are thinking. What in the nine bloody hells does any of this have to do with my review? Well, the short answer is, that without calling attention to the fan boy, I hereby dedicate this review to you. In the words of Pink Floyd: “Shine on you crazy diamond.”
And I was going for the longest intro to a review in Moby history record.(Did I win, if so what did I win? Cash?-MM-) Or does Jazz Oleg, Lasttoblame, or Classic Nigel, still hold the honor? Without further ado, here is my review for Zelda 64: The Ocarina Of Time.
Of Elves And Swords….
Zelda 64, begins like many fantasy yarns, with the advent of the hero. We find Link, a pint sized elf lad, living in the forests of the Kokiri. Link as it turns out is the joke of the nationhood, yet he cares not for he is feeling good. And one particular morning he makes a new friend. A little pixie, Navi who is not unlike, Landstalker’s Friday.(Only unlike Friday, she is very annoying.-MM-)
She tells Link, of what he must do. His first task is to help the magic tree, of his village.(All fantasy worlds have talking trees, don’t you know?-MM-) And then for the first time in his young life leave behind the only home his has every known.
For here his quest gets more and more complex. And without giving too much away, I will say that out of all the Zelda games that I have played this one has one of the better stories. And it is the little things that make it worth you time. Link is an outcast in his own home. Yet once he leaves his home he will make new friends, and he is the only one that can save Hyrule. This is also by far one of the most realized Zelda incarnations. And he will find that some things are worth fighting for. Or perhaps he just wants to bang Zelda?
What is a great story with out gameplay? The answer is most likely not a videogame. I can say however that the gameplay in Zelda 64 is actually well done. And fun to play. The huge difference is that the game is now 3D not 2D. But that makes more if a difference than you might think.
The dungeons, combat, and just about everything else have been overhauled for the new engine, For the most part it works for the better. With a few exceptions. More on that later, now I would like to talk about the ways that it works better.
The dungeons are much larger and involving than they were in the 2D days. And as it turns out this is both a good and a bad thing. The good includes that it makes the dungeons more difficult. But not unfairly so. Not that all 2D games had easy dungeons, any one who has played, Phantasy Star II, Zelda II, or The Immortal, can attest to that. But they are more complex and often fun in Zelda 64.
The bigger dungeons also mean bigger boss fights. In cool retro fashion some of the classic bosses make an appearance here.(In many ways this game is a retelling of the original.-MM-) Fighting the dragon, and Gannon, in particular is pretty damn sweet.
Speaking of the combat. I think that you will find that the combat system is Zelda 64, is far better and more refined and quite frankly more fun. You can slash, hack, and thrust your way to victory. And now you can even lock-on to a target. And this is very effective. Unlike some games. Link, can also perform special moves, downward slashes, and leaping stabs among others. Great stuff.
And Link, has other weapons at his disposal. As a child, he can use a sling-shot. And as an adult he can use a long-bow. And did I mention he can shoot some punk ass monsters while on horse back? And did I mention that Link can now ride a horse? I pretty sure I did, yes definitely.
“In the country side I wander far and wide….”
The exploration is also improved because, of the new engine. I actually had more fun traveling and exploring Hyrule in 3D than I ever did in 2D. This is due to a few things. First off, in the old Zelda games of the 2D persuasion, if you saw a heart container, some where in the world it was fairly easy to figure out who to obtain it. In Zelda 64, due largely to the use of a 3D engine, it can be much more challenging, to obtain the hidden life-ups. And I enjoy a good stiff challenge.
In addition, to exploring of foot. Link, can now ride a horse. This not only makes travel faster, but it also allows you to deliver death from the saddle, via your long bow. Unfortunately, you cannot use you sword from the saddle. The horse, also allows you to partake in a racing mini game. If you are into that kind of thing.
As per Zelda tradition, there are tons on mini games, and side quests to undertake. And a great deal of secrets to uncover. Overall, they are a nice diversion, from the main quest.
Hyrule is big….that is for a game from 1998. On a console. Compared to Fallout 3, Oblivion, and even Gothic II, it is pretty damn small. So keep this in mind. That means you nintendophiles.
The graphics are good, for the time and for the N64. As at the time it had the most raw power of any console…until the Dreamcast anyhow. There is very little pop-up. Which plagued PSX and Saturn games, and the game looks pretty crisp and colorful. But not to colorful, like some other Zelda games.
For MIDI music, a device first devised in the 1980’s the score in Zelda is decent, that is to say it gets the job done, but is a far cry from one of personal favorites. But I am sure that others will disagree, and that’s all well and good. The sound effects on the other hand, well you will have to see the “bad” section for that.
I would also like to make a mention of the controls in Zelda 64. As they are very well designed. And work almost perfectly. The only downside would be that you would have to play this on an N64, on an emulator, it plays like crap, unless you hook your N64 controller to your PC, which can be done. But that is neither here nor there. Hell, the controls are so well plotted that a similar control scheme was used in Shenmue 1 and 2.(You know the boss, but criminally underrated Dreamcast games?-MM-) And it was also effective in those aforementioned games.
Accusations And Ruminations….
Even as I write this, I realize, full well, that some Nintendo fans, will curse me and burn effigies dedicated to me. But I will speak my peace anyhow. I think that Link, is one of the lamest heroes ever. There I said it. And I know what the opposition will argue, ’He is supposed to be the pure eternal hero.’ But to that I say that is why he fails, he is too boring. He lacks the complexity of Landstalker’s hero Nigel. Or the dark decadence of Kain, from the Blood Omen, games. And those are just two better protagonists from other action RPGS, let alone films or books.
He also has zero personality. I also realize full well, that this is intentional, but it still is stupid. In Gothic you ARE the nameless hero, but at least he actually has a personality, he is not just an automaton.
The sound effects are to but it mildly annoying as hell. From the cacophony, of Navi’s, “Hey lissssten!”. To the once and former annoyance of the sirens warning that your health is low, like I can’t bloody see that. And how could I forget Link’s piercing cries of HUH! WAAH!, etc. It is like listing to nails being dragged across, a blackboard.
I am having trouble putting into words how annoying Navi is. And it is so unnecessary. I understand that Nintendo, wanted to help the gamer, remember what they were supposed to be doing, but why does she have to wail like a bloody banshee, every 30 seconds? When all they had to do was to take a page from Phantasy Star IV, and let the gamer “talk” to Navi via the in game menu.
Hyrule’s sheer size is also a huge disadvantage. In some ways. For starters Hyrule seems dead. There is hardly a soul around anywhere. Except monsters and Link. And some of the monsters have a silly designs, not unlike the B-Film, “The Creeping Terror“. At least getting lost is almost impossible.
This game is so long, that there is little chance of second play. At least for me. Especially since I did all the extra stuff the first time. It may also be to easy for some people tastes.
Some complain, that Zelda 64, is childish. And while I can see there point, I have to disagree. It has some adult theme’s they are just often obscured, by silly situations. In many ways this is one of the most mature Zelda games.(Aside from Zelda II.-MM-) And many Zelda fanatics, themselves tend to misunderstand there own favorite game series, I won’t into why here as it pertains to a spoiler. I can tell you that some reviews for this game I have read and even a few on Moby, clearly do not understand some of the plot devices. Perhaps there own perceptions and or biases have colored there perceptions?
The Bottom Line
This may be the silliest review I have every written, shall I end it?
When all is said and done, Zelda 64 is a fun game. But not without it’s flaws. I would recommend it to others. If they can put there predeterminations aside. And yes this applies to both camps. Those that love Zelda and Nintendo, and those that wrongly accuse it of being childish.