Since its release long ago, the praises of Ocarina of Time were sung throughout my teen and adult years, a siren’s song that failed to lure me in even when I owned a Nintendo 64. Though, to be fair, my console was primarily used for Goldeneye and Shadows of the Empire. I have a very tenuous grip on the Zelda franchise, my experience limited to fumbling around a few hours with The Legend of Zelda, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, and Windwaker. Beyond the Zelda II soundtrack the gorgeous visuals of Wind Waker, I came away with little interest in the franchise which was largely motivated by the arrival of the PlayStation.
When Ocarina of Time was re-re-released for the Nintendo 3DS, I thought it to be a good opportunity to finally see what the fuss was about. That was four years ago. This is a common problem with: buying games I have an interest in and then forgetting about it for awhile. With the return of our favorite feature The Backlog, by god it was time to play some fucking Zelda.
I’m sad to report that it’s not clicking with me. Perhaps this is a result of the all too common “hype” buildup. I recognize that Ocarina of Time means a great deal to a lot of people and, at the time, it may have been one of the best games on the market. However, “at the time” is an important phrase. To me, Ocarina feels incredibly dated against the modern open world adventure game genre. Navigating through Hyrule has been a somewhat stifling and antiquated experience, one I probably would have enjoyed much more if I had more concrete ties to the series or had played the game back in the day. The 3DS XL doesn’t do the experience any favors because the larger variant of the 3DS still feels small and uncomfortable in my stupid, caveman like hands. A thought that keeps popping up during play sessions is whether or not to give up and track down the original Nintendo 64 version or GameCube re-release. They won’t have the same fidelity and updated textures as this version, but it’ll be more comfortable (and more enjoyable?) to play.
For the first several hours, I thought about quitting the game. The story didn’t capture me and the task of collecting three spirit stones, or whatever they’re called, wore thin quick. After collecting the third stone, I hoofed it back to Zelda’s castle thinking I’d quit after the cutscene. Commanded to reach the Temple of Time, I spent a good twenty minutes wandering around the map before consulting a FAQ that locates the temple in Hyrule Castle, leaving me to feel quite dumb (not the first time, actually!). I retrieved the Master Sword and triggered another cutscene that immediately caught my attention. What was once a kid friendly atmosphere as young Link ventured through the countryside battling the occasional monster got turned up over its head. An adult Link, a crazed Ganondorf spreading his evil across the land, and a seven year absence from the world? A Hyrule Castle turned into a smoldering husk filled with zombies of its hapless citizens? A ruined and nearly forgotten Kokiri Forest? OK, Ocarina, now you have my attention.
I was ready to write the game off but it grabbed me by the collar with a twist on its own story that dramatically raised the stakes. I’m not thrilled with having to locate and traverse five dungeons to acquire a series of magical MacGuffins, but the shift in tone proved to be enough fuel to keep the oven lit. There’s still plenty of game left and with that a chance for the fire to die out but I feel more invested with the game’s dramatic second act. Only time will tell.
Ha, see what I did there?
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.