The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Nintendo 64 - Rating: 9/10

Well, I just finished The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and I have to say that it does live up to the hype. I’ve always noted that whenever they come up with top ten lists of the greatest games of all time, this one is always near the top of the list. And by they I mean game reviewers and critics… you know, those bespeckled nerds who provide the four pages of non-advertisement content in the video game magazines. By the way, is it me, or is the top-ten list the primary literary device of these publications? Whatever happened to the plain old 500 word, rhet 101 essay about a topic of interest? If Swift were alive today would he be known for his Top Ten Most Modest Proposals… year after year, number one would always end up being Citizen Kane.

Anyhow, back to the point… which was, lemme think… oh yeah, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. So the game was pretty darn fun and, despite the crude 3-D modeling capabilities of the Nintendo 64, doesn’t look too bad. I suspect, this is mostly because the artists weren’t shooting for photo realism in their character design. The general design direction that Big Famous Japanese Video Game Designer Guy must have given his art team was to go for Hello Kitty and then bring it back just a few notches.

What makes this game great isn’t the look of the game, it’s the intuitiveness of the game play and the solid storytelling. It is billed as an RPG, but it never gets bogged down with the shortcomings of that genre: mainly inventory management and complicated fighting systems. Battles in Zelda require a smidgen of tactics, but mostly it plays like an action, hack and slash game. The real challenge of the game comes from the puzzle solving it takes to open up new parts of a dungeon and finding the weak point on the end bosses.

The simplicity in the mechanics allows for the story to be told in a way that never gets convoluted or dull. Admittedly, this isn’t heady stuff, but it’s enough to generate an emotional response from the player when one accomplishes his goals.

Now, the game is not perfect. It has its share of annoyances. For example, every time you pick up a bomb, you are given a 2 or 3 screen text dialog to read through. The second time you explained it to me was plenty, thank you. The camera would occasionally get obstructed by a wall, or, even worse, the baddie you were trying to vanquish. Oh, and a jump button would have been nice.

But these are minor grievances. This is a game you must at least try to play through once in your lifetime if you want to maintain your gamer cred. I would also highly recommend playing it on a PC emulator. You get much higher video resolutions than were ever possible on the actual hardware. Project 64 is a very good option if you ware using Windows. Also, most emulators allow for state saving, rather than the built-in save game mechanism of Zelda. A real time saver for a someone like me who has more games to play than time to play them.