Type Game
Date 1998-11-21
Platform Nintendo 64
Tags action adventure

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

The Legend of Zelda

I started playing this one through with the Vintage Game Club. It sort of fell off my radar, so I'll have to complete it some other time.

Vintage Game Club posts

2. Intro and Kokiri Forest

I played through the beginning yesterday evening, and I want to say that I am still impressed by the opening video sequence with Navi flying through the village. Her swooping around, showing things from unusual angles, really ties together the whole place for me, and gives me a sense that this is a real world rather than a series of loosely-connected areas. It has got to be one of the most impressive introductions I've seen.

Though it's a little unfair, I must say that the graphics look a bit dated in places (the inside of the "House of Twins" is so pixellated as to be nearly unrecognizable), and the camera feels a little awkward. It's not so bad--certainly other games committed far worse sins--but the camera is something that I think we've improved as time went on.

The feel that the whole opening up to the Deku Tree is a tutorial is fairly strong. All the characters talking about pressing this button or that, at great length, seems fairly awkward, and Navi repeatedly enjoining the player to watch the action button is a bit annoying as well. For comparison, I felt that the beginning of Super Mario Galaxy was a much better implementation of a tutorial; it didn't seem nearly so heavy-handed to me.

I've got a little more to say about the controls, but I'll leave that for when I discuss the Deku Tree. How does everyone else feel about the opening? Surely I'm not the only one that was impressed. I'd also like to hear about how the graphics were updated on the 3DS version. Is it the same, but with higher resolution textures? Or did they add more polygons and change the shape of things? Inquiring minds want to know!

3. Inside the Deku Tree

I think the Deku Tree makes a pretty good first dungeon. It's got enough variety to introduce a lot of the basic ideas you'll be using later on, and it's easy enough to figure out that it shouldn't cause too much trouble for the newbies. One mistake I made: since I knew well how to pass this segment, I accidentally neglected to listen to Navi, so I don't know exactly how some of the puzzles were hinted. I guess she must mention to you something about shooting the ladder to knock it down, and maybe she hints about jumping down through the spiderweb at the beginning, but I don't recall. I may need to start another game so I can check these, because hinting in puzzle games is something that really interests me. Does anyone else have any comments on this?

The controls gave me a bit of grief here. I kept forgetting to pull out my sword after throwing deku nuts, or just any other time I might have put it away, so I kept leaping headlong at the enemies. During the boss battle, switching between deku nuts, slingshot, and sword felt really cumbersome to me.

Actually, I don't much care for the action segments in this game: give me exploration and puzzle solving, and leave the fights out, and I'll be happier. It's not that the fights are so poorly done, it just seems to me like the real strength of the game lies elsewhere.

The camera wasn't so great, either. Since it was kind of elastic, I couldn't keep it pointed at the boss while it was on the ceiling--though I guess I could have Z-targeted it while waiting on it to drop the eggs. I suppose I've just been spoiled by the better cameras in more recent games. The camera isn't so bad--certainly it's far better than in many early games--but it's just not as polished as I've come to expect.

I had a few other minor issues, like aiming the deku sticks correctly, but overall, I liked this dungeon. I especially liked that when you jump on the spiderweb in the main room from the middle of the tree, it bounces you back. It's a nice detail.

Regarding the story: first, it's nice to hear the creation myth, but the Deku Tree's speech is weird. Thankfully he's the only one that speaks that way, if I recall correctly; second, it seems odd to me that he asks you to break the curse and save him, but when you do, he tells you he was doomed before you started. What was the point of all that, then? I mean, it's not that I don't want to help him, but it seems like he could have had more time to talk to you if he'd just told you he was going to die, so you should sit down and listen.

One more point: I think that the scene where the Deku Tree dies is quite spooky. The sound effect, plus the way the light/color crawls up him as he turns grey, just feels very strange and creepy to me. It's an effective scene, because it really does make it feel like he has died, which I think is a pretty good accomplishment given that he's a tree.

ironlord, fuzzym: I also felt like the Deku Babas regenerated very quickly. I'm glad you can't just run out of sticks, but I'd like to be able to clear a path and not then worry about backing up into the monster I just killed. But I guess that it balances the quick regeneration of the grass, which is certainly helpful at times. I don't feel like they got the regeneration exactly right, but it isn't too bad.

4. Hyrule Castle

After leaving the forest, you immediately encounter... a giant owl that talks about 'START' buttons and 'Subscreens'. More tutorial information. Later on, he describes how time doesn't pass while you're in villages, too. I don't really care for him, since it feels like he intrudes on a perfectly immersive moment and starts talking about out-of-game things like buttons. Maybe if I really were a newbie, unused to games of any sort, his advice would be useful, but it just feels heavy-handed, to me, like the tutorials given in the Kokiri forest.

Once he's out of the way, though, I'm once again impressed by the game. Hyrule Field is a lovely open area that really makes the game feel open, like you can go wherever you want, and the only reason you're heading for the castle is that you feel it's the thing you want to do. And, of course, you really don't have to go there if you want to look around first--the freedom isn't just an illusion.

I must admit: those peahats terrify me. I really want to avoid them at all costs. Also, isn't it odd that the stalchildren pop up when night falls? It feels like \OoT is saying "well, this is a game, so there have to be enemies bugging you while you're wandering around". I don't recall that anyone ever mentions it being dangerous at night or anything, and there doesn't seem to be any reason for them. Frankly, I'd be much happier if nights were both shorter and free of stalchildren. Don't get me wrong--the fact the the day/night cycle happens and that it affects what people are doing is really neat, and adds to the feeling that this is a real world that you're in, and the people in it aren't just there for your amusement, that there are other things happening than your quest. I just don't really enjoy standing around dodging stalchildren while waiting for sunrise.

So, onward to the City of Hyrule. The first thing I notice about this place is that it's busy. There are people running around, crowds gathered, and shops of all sorts waiting to be explored. For the child of the calm forest to suddenly walk into this place must be a shock! I want to make a comment about the graphics, here. As thisyearsmodel says, and as I mentioned before, they are generally unimpressive. However, I've got to say that the scene outside the temple of time looks stunning. I could just sit and look at that for a while. Coming away from the horribly blurry, muddy graphics of the other parts of the city and seeing the temple towering up above you is very impressive. There are definitely some parts of this game that get the graphics very right.

I don't want to dwell too much on the city right now, so a few comments about the castle: I didn't like the sneaking-past-the-guards segment very much. There were plenty of times when I thought the guards should have been able to see me, when they actually couldn't, so I spent a fair amount of time just waiting to see if their patrol routes would change so I could avoid them. This segment of the game also breaks the open-world feel of the game. Each time you pass one area with guards, the screen moves past like when you're moving to a new screen in the first Zelda game. However, I did enjoy talking to Princess Zelda. The feeling of a couple of children plotting what to do since the adults weren't listening to them was very nice.

I think I'm going to wander around a bit before I proceed to Goron City. The world is just begging to be explored, and I've got nothing but time. It may be a failure of the game, in some sense, that there isn't really any urgency to force you to continue with the main quest, but I really like the freedom. I appreciate that the game lets me set my own pace.

6. Goron City

This is an amusing segment. You earn the regard of Darunia by playing a song for him and lifting his depression, and although he's too proud to ask for help, he provides you with the means to solve the crisis with the dodongos.

One thing: I wasted quite a bit of time trying to jump in that big spinning jar, when it turned out that you just needed to toss in a bomb. I could have sword that I jumped in it before... is it like that in the master quest? I guess it's immaterial, but I wonder why I thought I was supposed to jump in.

So, we finally get to use bombs, here, and they are very satisfying. Though, the bomb flowers seem to be on a much longer timer than the actual bombs, which led to me blowing myself up quite a few times, once I got the bomb bag. It's a little annoying that all the practice you get with timing the bomb flowers is useless later, but I guess it's just something to get used to.

Speaking of bombs: blowing up all the walls to get to Biggoron was great. The first time you blow up the wall, and see another wall behind it, it's a little amusing, but when this happens another few times, I thought it was hilarious. We've got this expectation that blowing up a wall will lead somewhere, so this is a pretty fun way the game plays with that expectation.

When Biggoron tells you to come back in five or six years, it is, I think, the first instance of foreshadowing of your later time travel. I wonder whether someone playing for the first time would guess that you'll end up traveling into the future. Perhaps, given the name of the game, it's not so hard to guess, but I don't recall what I thought the first time I played.

After solving the troubles in the Dodongo's Cavern, the scene of Link running away from the Gorons who want to hug him is pretty hilarious. Scenes like that, and Darunia dancing, are a nice way to keep things a little lighthearted, given the heavy events happening at this time.

7. The Lost Woods

Since the game brought me back to the Kokiri Forest when I started again, I took the opportunity to visit Saria as Navi had been bugging me to do. Did she just want to brag about how important we are? Anyway...

I liked how the 'background' music turned out to be diegetic. It's nice that the game asks the player to use hearing, as well as sight, to navigate. The Lost Woods has such an 'old-school' feel to it--a series of small rooms connected by tunnels. It really feels like a different world from the open space of Hyrule, disconnected from reality. It's a very nice atmosphere.

One unfortunate thing I noted: if you try playing the ocarina with the Skull Kid on your way through, the game will helpfully note "that's not Saria's song" even though she hasn't yet taught you her song. Since you can't play songs you don't know, there's nothing you can do yet, anyway, but it's unfortunate that the game slips and gives away the trick early. Better still if it didn't give away the trick at all, and you had to guess which song to play--it's not like it's that hard to figure out.

About Saria: she's quite interesting. At this point in the game, she's Link's friend, but she hasn't gone with him on his journey. Unusually for this kind of story, though, she isn't just forgotten. Ordinarily, when the hero leaves his hometown, there's nothing that really draws him back--any friends he had won't be such good friends as to care much about him when he returns. And, indeed, the others in the forest act either rude (in Mido's case) or somewhat indifferent to Link, with the exception of Saria. It's not too hard to imagine that Link would want to return home, if only for her. I know I complained earlier about Navi telling us to go see Saria, but that's because she shouldn't have needed to. Saria is link's friend, after all, not Navi's (unless there's more to the story than I know), so I wish that the game had found some other way to remind us that, indeed, Link isn't alone in the world.

As far as the actual business of getting to Saria went: I don't recall that anything stood out too much. Except for the attack by the Wolfos (which was a bit frightening, to be honest), I guess the trip was fairly forgettable.

8. Dodongo's Cavern

There are a few things about this dungeon that really stand out to me. First, the design that allows you to continue roughly from where you left off when you die is wonderful. I died several times, and I really wouldn't have like to have to go all the way through everything again just because I fell off a platform or something. The game even goes so far as to have the column move higher later so you can ride up to the second floor easily--now that's service!

Second, I think this is the first time you really have to think about the monsters. While you're fighting Gohma in the Deku Tree, you can just knock out the eggs and toss nuts to stun her, so there's not much to that, and the scrubs hardly count as enemies. The Deku Babas are stationary, too, so they aren't any real threat. Even the Stalchildren that come out at night are easily ignored while you run past. Here, though, there are Armos and Keese to harass you while you're solving puzzles, those lizards require a little care, since they jump around so quickly, and the boss too can prove somewhat troublesome if you make a mistake.

Third, bombs! This place is great! Using the bombs is fun, and I can't imagine anyone coming to the stairs surrounded by bombs and not breaking out into a grin--it's obvious what you have to do, but it's still just so satisfying to watch the chain of explosions, with the screen shaking from the blasts. I love it.

This place is still pretty gentle as far as puzzles go. The most taxing one, I think, is making the dead dodongo 'see red', and even that's pretty obvious, given what the rest of the dungeon is like. Easy or not, though, it's a fun experience, and it's rewarding to be able to keep moving along, solving the challenges at a good pace, until you finish the whole dungeon.

9. Jabu-Jabu's Belly

Post 1

Well, I finally moved on from sidequesting and general wandering around to go to Zora's Domain. Frankly, this place is boring. It's got all the charm of the plain rock walls of Goron City, without the interesting characters. It really just feels like they wanted to make a city for the entry to the dungeon, but didn't want to spend the time to really make a city, so they just threw this together. I mean, I guess it'd be reasonable if the rest of the city was underwater somewhere and we just don't see it, but the king spends all his time sitting around in front of Jabu-Jabu, and I don't recall that anyone ever mentioned that there was anything more to this place that what we see. Disappointing.

I had quite a bit of trouble actually getting to Jabu-Jabu. The king was worried about his daughter, I knew that, being the hero, I should be doing something about that--rescuing princesses is the thing to do, right? But I just could not figure out how to get him to let me past. I knew it was possible, since I managed it years ago, but I just wasn't having any luck. Eventually, I looked it up. I've got to say, random people telling me that I should check out the lake since lots of stuff washes up there just didn't clue me in that I had to go there to proceed. The first time through, I think I found the message in a bottle just accidentally, because I was exploring. This time, my well-developed dislike of swimming in games was enough to keep me from wanting to swim around in the lake, so I didn't stumble across it. Oops.

When I finally did go for Jabu-Jabu's Belly, I learned that I still hated this place just as much as I used to. It's hard to say what's worst about this place. The graphical design is painful, the enemies (until you get the boomerang) are invulnerable and plentiful and annoying, the fights with the 'tails' or whatever are boring, and having to go pick up and carry around Ruto is just irritating. I don't dislike Ruto herself--actually, I enjoyed having another character around in a dungeon, for the novelty--but having to pick her up, walk a bit, put her down, do whatever, and repeat wasn't much fun.

Once I got the boomerang, I think I always killed every enemy I came across, just for revenge, but as satisfying as that was, I don't think it makes up for putting me in a dungeon full of enemies that not only can't I kill, but that shock and briefly stun me whenever I touch them, for the first half or so of my time in this place. Anyway, once I had the boomerang, there wasn't much difficulty until I got to the boss.

I beat the boss, but I'm still not sure how. It seemed like sometimes the boomerang worked, and sometimes it didn't, completely without regard to the situation. I suspect that sometimes I was out of range, but even if that was the reason, it meant that I couldn't really work out what the pattern was that I was meant to be using to fight the boss. Add to that the fact that half the time I'd get zapped while trying to attack, and this battle was just an exercise in frustration. I did win, at length, but the result was more a sense of relief than accomplishment. And to add insult to injury, I can't even use the boomerang now that I'm in the future.

I hate to be so negative about this place, but I really just didn't enjoy it at all. I kept hoping, leading up to playing this dungeon, that my memories of disliking it were just caused by unfortunate coincidences or something when I played before, and that I'd find the place more tolerable this time, but it wasn't to be. Between immortal enemies, interminable climbing every time I went the wrong way, repetitive sub-bosses, and an inscrutable boss fight, this place was just as bad as I remembered. Well, at least it's over.

Post 2

Jacob, I'm playing on an N64. I've thought a little more about this, and I believe I know why I didn't work this out, even though I did go through that tunnel between Lake Hylia and Zora's Domain. On the other side of that tunnel are some rupees to entice you to dive and notice the bottle. My wallet has been full all the time, so rupees aren't good bait for me. So I didn't bother diving. I imagine that the first time through, either I was poor or just more willing to grab every item, even if it was useless.

I'd really like to see what was done to the game in the new port, but a 3DS is quite beyond my budget, I'm afraid. I'll have to live vicariously through those of you who are more fortunate.

Character Type
Link Main
Name Role
Nintendo Co., Ltd. Publisher
Nintendo EAD Developer