Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Nintendo - 1997
Machine: Nintendo 64, Nintendo Gamecube
This is the video game equivalent of the Pyramids. This remains one of the largest, most ambitious games ever produced and it is all packed into one cartridge. No, not a disc: a cartridge. Even in these terms, the game is astonishing. The fact that the game is so brilliantly designed, addictive and enjoyable surely propels it to the top of the list of best ever games. So where does one start?... As in all Zelda games, you play Link, a young pixie type who lives in a small town full of other pixies. A great evil has fallen over the kingdom of Hyrule, and Link is summoned by the Great Deku Tree who commands him to help repel the evil... You get the drift. It's a quest, it's fantasy and it is incredibly vast. If you want a sound-bite, call it an interactive fairytale... whatever, the format is similar to all previous Zelda games.
The controls are brilliantly worked out, instinctive and comfortable. You are able to assign various objects to different buttons which reduces the potential fiddliness when you consider the number of different items that you will need to complete your quest. Spells are accessed by playing your ocarina... yes, that's right, you need to play little tunes in order to cast a spell. It's not as difficult as it sounds and, in truth, it's quite fun. It's certainly a novel idea and it fits in beautifully with the rest of the game. Nintendo introduced the idea of the 'jump' button, so it seems fitting that they removed it again and replaced it with 'auto-jump' i.e. if you run up to an edge, Link automatically leaps off it according to the speed at which he is travelling... difficult to to get used to at first, but I think it works well.
As ever, the graphics are well designed and the characters are really well animated, with plenty of subtle movements to add to the magical feeling. I think the even greater achievement can be found with the sound design... the music moves between cheerful optimism and, well, doom-laden ambient sounds. It's all seamlessly blended with the excellent sound effects that also add tremendously to the feeling of the game.
One of the other pieces of genius about Zelda is the programming of the camera. It's so well worked out and the camera seems to react and respond to your movements in a totally intelligent way. In fact, I don't believe I've ever seen such a well designed camera system since Zelda... even on some of the more advanced machines.
Like I say, the actual quest is vast. Not only are the areas that you explore huge, but they are finely detailed... full of little sub-puzzles, things to collect and sub-plots for you to be involved in. During the various quests that you undergo, you will come across numerous characters, all of whom ask for help or favours... There are many truly memorable encounters and scenes: you befriend a horse, catch chickens, defrost a king, get married and make strange creatures dance to the tune of your Ocarina. Oh yes, there is time travel as well. The game has so much variety, atmosphere and excitement it seems amazing that it is only one game. Like all good fairy tales it can be creepy and scary, but it also has a real feeling of darkness running through it. There is so much more I could write about this game, but the best thing I can do is to urge you to play it... you won't regret it.
Bubbaray 27 Nov '02
The Official Ocarina of Time Site - A great site, full of detail.
Zelda Wiki's Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time page - Lots of great information.