Lately I’ve been trying to turn this blog into more of a tech news blog, because that’s something I’m interested in and it seems like something that’s worth writing about. But I am in no way a journalist (despite taking a journalism class during my sophomore year of high school), and so my take on tech news is basically just my interpretation of a random timely topic. Maybe there is some value to this, but whether there is or not, I’m pretty bored of it. So I’m gonna do something different for awhile.
I love me some video games, so for the next 10 weeks, I’m going to count down my top 10 favorite video games, in order, discussing one each week. So without any further ado, I present my 10th favorite video game of all time: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
Released in November of 1998 for the Nintendo 64, Ocarina of Time is considered by many authorities to be the greatest video game ever made. (Obviously I disagree, but we’ll deal with that later.) Ocarina of Time was the fourth Zelda game to be released, not counting handheld versions or semi-authorized spinoffs. By the time Ocarina of Time came out in 1998, it had been six whole years since the last major Zelda game. So Zelda fans were pretty rabidly excited to finally get their hands on a new Zelda game. And Ocarina of Time did not disappoint.
Ocarina of Time was the first Zelda game to be released on a system that was powerful enough to do polygonal graphics, and the developers of the game made great use of this capability. Ocarina of Time provided a massive sandbox to play around in, a massive world to explore where you could climb to the summit of the highest mountain, dive deep below the deepest lake, ride your horse across a vast plain, delve into ancient temples and unlock their secrets, have a complex and satisfying swordfight with a skilled opponent, and engage in a whole bunch of other activities that I can’t remember at the moment. It was an epic adventure in every sense of the word.
Now, I mentioned earlier that Ocarina of Time is often considered the best video game ever made, and clearly I disagree, since I’ve ranked it tenth on my all-time favorite games list. The problem lies in how one defines the word “best”. When I talk about “The Ten Best Games of All Time”, I’m talking about the ten games I enjoy the most. Obviously I enjoy Ocarina of Time a great deal. But there are nine other games that I enjoy more. And of course this list is ever-changing. One of the games on my list came out in 2008. Obviously this game wasn’t on my list five years ago.
I definitely think you could make a case for Ocarina of Time as the most important game ever, though. There had never been a video game adventure of such size and scope prior to Ocarina of Time, and it’s arguable the games that have come after it are still trying to catch up, including Nintendo’s own efforts. I don’t want to say that there was NOTHING like it beforehand. Ocarina of Time takes a great deal of inspiration from A Link to the Past in terms of the game’s overall structure and plot. It also built heavily on the foundation laid by Super Mario 64 (released two years earlier), which is generally considered the first “true” 3D platformer. One could argue that Ocarina of Time takes A Link to the Past’s plot structure and setting and combines it with Super Mario 64’s gameplay mechanics. But there are layers of depth and beauty to Ocarina of Time that none of its predecessors came close to matching.
Ocarina of Time is also notable because it is arguably the last time that Nintendo released a game that utterly changed the way games are played. (For the better, I mean. One could argue that Wii Sports changed the way games are played for the worse.) Although Ocarina of Time may have borrowed specific elements from games that came before it, the overall package was truly unlike any other game before it. I’m going to steal an illustration of this effect from IGN’s review of the game. Games prior to Ocarina of Time may have had a mountain off in the distance, but that mountain was just there for decoration. In Ocarina of Time, you could stand in the middle of a field, see a mountain off in the distance, and then actually climb to the top of that mountain and look back and see the field you had been standing on before. This sort of thing was unprecedented back in 1998.
I haven’t played the game recently, so I can’t really tell you how it holds up, especially in terms of graphics. Video games, especially older ones, always look better in my memory than they do in reality, so I have a feeling that if I booted up Ocarina of Time right now, my first reaction would be something like, “Yecchh!” But I think after a little while, I would forget about the dated graphics and just focus on the sublime experience.
Or I could just break down and buy a 3DS. In about a month and a half, a full-blown remake of Ocarina of Time is being released for that system. Nintendo has redone the graphics to bring them up to date, and they’ve redone the controls so that they better fit the 3DS. They’re also adding something called the Master Quest, which is a harder version of the game that was originally only included on a disc that was a pre-order bonus for The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker back in 2003. They’re also adding a brand-new “boss challenge” mode. So it’s basically the definitive version of the game.
So anyway, those are my thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The tenth best video game of all time. Check back next week for number nine!