Newcomer around here, thought I’d tay my hand at things with a series I’ve been thinking about writing for a long time. I’d consider myself a typical gamer. I devote a certain number of hours each week towards the completion of my latest acquisition. I allocate a good sum of my earnings (or lack thereof) to picking up more games. And each generation, as a function of time and money, I pledge allegiance to one of the combatting consoles.
As a result, my choices over the years have caused me to miss out on a ton of stellar titles, and only recently have I begun tracking down some of the older systems and games. These mini-reviews will, I hope, serve as a welcome trip down memory lane for most of you, although I do tend to avoid spoilers... just in case. (I also include my thoughts on the game’s “descendants”, including any sequels, rereleases, or spiritual successors available to the modern gamer.)
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time:
Considered by many (online polls, gaming editorials, aggregate review sites) to be the greatest video game ever made, OoT was released in 1998 to rave reviews and instant declarations of “classic” status. I recently sat down with my cartridge copy of the game - ordered off eBay for a reasonable price - and dove in.
The Zelda series was already one of the most beloved creations of Shigeru Miyamoto (Super Mario, Star Fox, pretty much everything else from your childhood) when it made its “3D” (polygons, not glasses) debut on the N64. Players control Link, a time-travelling boy/young adult fighting the evil Ganondorf and his minions across a continent, several themed temples (Water, Ice, etc.) and finally the castle belonging to the titular princess. OoT was arguably the first epic 3D console adventure, and its innovations can be seen everywhere today.
The item system is a tad cumbersome, and Link’s travelling companion, a fairy named Navi, has the annoying tendency to shout “Listen!” every 5 seconds. Seriously, he’s famous for it. Also: the infamous Water Temple is just as obtuse and difficult today as it was then.
Ocarina is just as good today as it was all those years ago. The gameplay is spot on, the graphics hold up well, and the environments and scenarios are truly memorable (for example, the journey into the belly of a giant sea-monster). The eponymous ocarina is also a brilliant game mechanic: at any time, Link can play tunes on the instrument to, say, summon assistance or solve a puzzle.
Okami for the PS2 (and later Wii) is overall a better game. Crafted from the Ocarina model, and even using many of the same items, it nevertheless stands taller by virtue of its beautiful watercolour painting style, superior story and combat, and its innovative brush-stroke system, in which the player paints items or actions into the game. That said, Ocarina is still one of the very best out there, and a must-play. (But steel yourself for the Water Temple.)
OoT is available on Gamecube and in “true 3D” on the Nintendo 3DS. Both also feature an optional “Master Quest” with harder enemies and different enemy layouts. Pick up the “3D” version.