A masterpiece of epic proportions and the best 2D to 3D transition ever! Amazing and timeless!
Well, A LOT? Ocarina of Time was in many ways a revolutionary game. It's not only a great game because it translated the extremely polished gameplay of earlier games into 3D, but also because of the way it does so.
The story is as follows:
In the Kokiri forest, a young boy called Link, has the same dream every night; an evil looking man on horseback approaches, then Link wakes up, shivering with fear. All his Kokiri friends have a fairy, except Link, but then that all changes as Link is summoned by the Forest's guardian spirit, the Great Deku Tree, to break a curse cast upon him by an evil man who seems to fit the description of the man on horseback from Link's nightmare. Link and his new fairy friend Navi are ready to go on en epic quest that will take them through the vast land of Hyrule.
While the story is not that much different from earlier games, the large, stunning and vibrant 3D world, memorable characters and lovable music made it much more epic than before. This is the main reason why many people find it the greatest game they ever played, I personally am one of them.
The way OoT translated 2D gameplay into 3D might seem awfully logical by today's standards but back in the late 90's it was revolutionary. The most notable example of this is the way you can target your foes, keeping them in your sight while still moving around. Not only is this very simple, hitting Z once is enough to lock on to enemies, but also very effective. By repeatedly hitting the Z-trigger, you can switch between different enemies if you are fighting multiple ones at a time. In later years many games, such as Metroid Prime, copied and refined this mechanic but OoT was the pioneer of this system that still works fine today.
Targeting is done with Navi the fairy's help, who points at foes. But it is not just foes that Navi can point at, there are also many other things such as people and objects that you can target at. This usually gives you some valuable hints about solving puzzles. If you dawdle around for a while, not knowing what to do, Navi calls you. A simple press of the upper C-button will then make you talk to her. she'll give you a hint as to were you should go next.
The world still has an overworld with lots of side-quests that you can freely take part in, if you feel like taking a break from the main quest. Not only are they fun, they also aid you because you can win items that enhance your main quest such as weapon upgrades and hearts. It is, however not just the stuff you can find in this world, but also the sheer scope of it. In 3D it is even more inviting to explore the fascinating regions of Hyrule.
There are lots of secret areas to find and explore and the regions are all different with their own themes, races, cultures and monsters. There is the quiet village in the forest of the Kokiri, the forest children and the treacherous waters of the fish-like Zora people. Then there is the volcanic slopes of Death Mountain, inhabited by the rocky Gorons and the bustling towns of the Hylians as well as the vast Lake Hylia and the desert of the Gerudo tribe. Another important place is the, for that time, HUGE Hyrule Field, a large plain that just begs to be explored. You can get a horse and then quickly ride it around this vast place, which feels awesome. This 3D rendition of Hyrule was quite simply the most immersive video game world ever conceived back in 1998, as well as one of the largest and it is still is a lot of fun to explore it nowadays. While not as vast as later games in the series, it is still one of the most varied and lovable gaming worlds ever.
Another important factor why this game is so epic are the characters. This is one of those few games that actually make you feel emotionally attached to the characters. They make the otherwise cliche hero-fights-evil-and-saves-princess story much more interesting. While Link and Princess Zelda are mostly the same, the evil Ganondorf now has much more personality and is actually seen in a much more human form. There's a much bigger emphasis on the different peoples of Hyrule ranging from Gorons to Zora's, Gerudo to Kokiri and from Hylains to Sheikah. One of the most important characters is the mysterious Shiek. The revelation of his true identity is a memorable moment.
A clever and much loved mechanic is the Ocarina of Time that this game got its name from. You can play special tunes that allow you to manipulate objects or warp to a certain location. You can even manipulate time by travelling to the next day or night in mere seconds.
Speaking of time travel, that is another important and original element in this game. After a while you will be able to travel between your childhood as a 12-year old boy, and your adulthood as a 19-year old warrior. While perfected in Majora's Mask (OoT's direct sequel), it allows for some stuff that is still pretty interesting today. It is a system that is comparable to the Light/Dark World in A Link to the Past on the Super NES. An example of just how clever it really is, are the Magic Beans. If you plant these as a child, they will have grown into plants that can be used to reach ledges you previously were unable to reach.
There are numerous examples of the contrasts between the two ages, some characters have grown up or even died when you are an adult and the evil Ganondorf has taken over Hyrule when you are an adult. While Hyrule Castle Town has a busy marketplace during Link's youth, it is a place haunted by the undead under Ganondorf's rule when Link grows up. Thankfully you can freely move between the two. If you cannot gain entrance to a dungeon at one time, you can travel to the other to get inside or find an item that will allow you to do so the past or future. This allows for some seriously clever and interesting puzzles. There is even a dungeon you need to visit in both stages of your life in order to complete it.
While many of the stuff you will find is very similar to the 2D games, the transition to 3D is done so well, you will not care since it feels fresh and new. It's done in a clever and accessible way. You will still be crawling through dungeons solving puzzles, looking for items that will give you access to new areas, battle monters and explore a large overworld full of secrets bringing it all together. Everything still feels great in 3D. In fact, it makes the classic Zelda elements that much more fun. Battling enemies is now much more epic and the dungeons are much more thrilling to explore.
Speaking of those, OoT has some of the most memorable and creative dungeons in any Zelda title. From the inside of the Great Deku Tree to the volcanic caves of Death Mountain and from the belly of a giant whale to the puzzling halls of the Water Temple at the bottom of lake Hylia, this game has some of the best ever.They are full of cool enemies and truly epic boss battles. Who could forget the witch sisters Twinrova in the Spirit temple or dragon volvagia in the Fire temple and eventually the awesome battle against the evil Ganondorf himself.
The sound is some of the best the Nintendo 64´s MIDI could produce. There are some memorable tunes including the epic Hyrule field theme, the creepy Shadow Temple theme and the cheerful Saria´s Song. As mentioned before, playing music is very important on this game. This way, not just the music is of a high quality, but also the way it is incorporated into the actual gameplay. OoT most definitely has one of the greatest soundtracks ever.
To make it even better, it all looks amazing. While the textures may look rough by todays standards, it still looks nice. OoT is also still as atmospheric as it was more than a decade ago. This definitely shows the lasting power of this epic game.
There is a great replay value, too. Even after completing it you'll want to come back to find all the secret stuff such as heart pieces, secret caves, fairy springs and weapon upgrades. But it is not just the sufficient replayability that will make you want to go through this adventure again and again, it is above all its epic and magical feel, its beauty, its fantastic gameplay, the wonderful soundtrack and just about everything else that make up this games' epic grandeur. This game shines because it has so many memorable moments making it timeless. That's why you will want to come back to it now and then.
As I said some textures just look rough even if you remember this is an old game.
Some music sounds really midi-ish, and thus dated, showing that Nintendo's preference for cartridges had its disadvantages. Thankfully most of it still sounds great so only at certain moments this will be annoying.
Some far-off flying enemies such as birds and bats are hard to lock on to until they get up close to attack you, when they are almost impossible to avoid.
The Bottom Line
I could go on for hours how amazing this game is, but let's just say that the first game on the NES laid the framework of the series. A Link to the Past refined it on the SNES and Ocarina of Time proved that it could sustain all the fun elements of the series while translating it into a vast, immersive and stunning 3D world. Everything just seems to blend together as flawlessly and somehow feels like it should.
While some of the later later Zelda games seemed to have little innovation, Ocarina of Time was all that fans hoped it would be, and more! OoT brought many innovations making it the blueprint of modern 3D action adventures, just as the first game on NES was for 2D action adventures. Because of the 3D transition, there might not be a Zelda game that will ever top it when it comes to innovation, an immersive world and the epic feel. Later games such as Twilight Princess had the same feel as OoT but not really anything innovative on top of that. That is why none of those were a milestone in gaming like this one is.
Still available for ten euros/dollars on the Wii Virtual Console, there is no reason not to play it. This is one game that survives the test of time remarkably well and is just as awesome as it was more then a decade ago. It is quite simply the best (Zelda) game ever. This game is truly timeless!
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is not just a game, it's an epic experience!