Everyone has heard of Zelda games and recognise Link’s character, even if they’ve never played any of the franchise. Before Ocarina of Time, I had only attempted to play one other title, two years ago, (The Phantom Hourglass) which was quickly given up since I found it too difficult. However, as of a few months ago I finished the 3DS remake of Ocarina of Time.
I must admit that I did enjoy playing Ocarina of Time, but after I had finished I questioned why that was. I do not have the nostalgic history with the games that has kept the series running since 1986. The reason I had started playing it was after watching multiple Zelda videos from one of my favourite Youtubers (PeanutButterGamer). He instilled such fun within the franchise of Zelda with its promise of adventure, that I felt the need to find out why he had such a love of the series.
The concept of the game is simple. You (Link) are the fated hero of Hyrule and therefore must rescue the princess, defeat the bad guy and save the world. In order to do so, you must traverse a variety of dungeons, in the form of elemental temples, and solve their puzzles. Each game is unique, with a change of the story, the design of the temples and some of the game mechanics but ultimately the central thread remains the same. I have no problem with this. A simple narrative allows for more complex and in-depth story to intertwine with and around it. Zelda fans already know what the story is, they know what they have to do and they can relax into the familiar world and become excited by the refreshing version.
As stated earlier everyone is, at least, aware of the Zelda games which means they are also aware of how loved the series is. I thus went into the game with this in mind. I not only expected Ocarina of Time to be good, but I had the opinions of friends and reviewers that I respected in my head, telling me that the game would be enjoyable. This means that Zelda has become something familiar to such an extent that even someone who hasn’t played it before gets a nostalgic feeling of being a part of something. Likewise, a feature that would be found annoying to one person, like the character of Navi, is annoying to most. This comradery makes a famously annoying phrase (‘hey listen’) suddenly amusing because it becomes joint frustration and a part of being a fan of the game.
I’m not sure that I would have gotten to the final boss at the end without the idea that fans behind me were willing me on, telling me that it was worth finishing. The story was intriguing but nothing that really held my attention. I felt attached to the characters, but not in such a way that I felt I couldn’t stop playing. It’s a game about a child hero, ultimately we all know who will win and who will lose. In a similar fashion the game-play is fun and mechanics such as the Ocarina used as a way of teleportation, or the boomerang to hit multiple enemies/hit secret buttons certainly leave a feeling of satisfaction but everything starts to feel a little repetitive after a while.
The soundtrack also gives off a nostalgic feeling, I knew a lot of the music despite never having played Zelda, or listening to the soundtrack, before. On more than one occasion I thought ‘oh so that’s where that music comes from’ with a childish excitement. Each area and character having their own tune really enhances the atmosphere. You know that Ganondorf is evil, Saria is cute and you definitely know that the Shadow Temple is creepy, without looking at the characters or places.
So Ocarina of Time is certainly improved through its nostalgic atmosphere. However, if nostalgia alone is pushing this game forwards why could I only play a few hours of Phantom Hourglass? With similar gameplay mechanics and the same root story why did it not hold my attention in the same way? The most obvious answer is that I found Phantom Hourglass too hard. I was moving slowly through the game and struggling at every turn. In Ocarina of Time I rarely stumbled and this made it a lot more accessible.
Interestingly, our friend nostalgia does come back, however. Ocarina of Time 3D is a remake, meaning that it meant enough to enough people to deserve an upgrade. It also means better graphics and quality of gameplay, although that’s not something that bothers me if the game is good. Ocarina of Time being an older game and thus having perhaps a more familiar setting and musical score should also hold no ground since I never played the original. There is just something about the atmosphere of Ocarina of Time that made it a better game to me. Perhaps this is unfair, seeing as I haven’t played Phantom Hourglass all the way through, but if it had engaged me enough then perhaps I would have gotten through the difficulty. The fact remains that many more people talk about Ocarina of Time, so perhaps there is something in that idea after all.
Is Ocarina of Time worth playing? I think so. Yes, there is a certain amount of nostalgia that encouraged me through the game, but it also has qualities that make it stand on its own. At the very least the game once had to do so before it became so well loved. After all, nostalgia isn’t born without reason.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – Nintendo