I have a confession to make…
…I don’t like Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate it. Like most-all games there are good and bad elements. It is just the most overrated game ever. I loved Link to the Past, okay? I liked most other Legend Of Zelda games also but I feel there is something missing in Ocarina Of Time, a shift in soul.
Wait, stop, don’t click off the page!
Hear me out, okay?
Let’s start from the beginning!
The Legend Of Zelda is a game series where you essentially run around, swing swords, throw bombs and explore an awesome open world riddled with puzzles and fun things to do all showing you the way to your objective, completing the Triforce. The original Zelda game was even simpler, you were just a green adventurer and that much wasn’t even explained. You receive a sword from some old guy in a cave, you kill monsters with it as you explore the world and come across more caves with more junk in it to help you fight the ruthless, tense and dangerous world. That, to me, at least is what a Legend of Zelda game should be, that idea is the foundation of one of the biggest video game franchises of all time, the foundation that sold over 52 million games, the foundation that brought about a dozen sequels… for better or for worse… *cough* Skyward Sword but I am getting ahead of myself.
Let’s take a step back to the glory days, to the definitive game, The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past.
A Link To The Past felt like the original Zelda but with so much more going on; bigger world, more places to go, more people to see, more monsters to slay, it was nothing short of revolutionary for the franchise. A lot of things had changed in the time between the original Zelda and Link to the Past. Remember that green adventurer? He was given a true purpose, a story, a name… Link. Save The Princess and rescue Hyrule!
Having said all this the game does feel more processed, like you have a specific set of instructions you have to follow making going through the world feel more like a tour than an adventure but I guess that is kind of a personal gripe. It’s not the type of game that holds your hand, hell, there isn’t even really an aim but there is adversity and heart wrenching difficulty down every path which you can take on at any time, ready or not, be it in the form of . That is what Legend of Zelda is, and it is this mentality that brings about my distaste for Ocarina Of Time.
From a surface level, Ocarina of Time should be, and is considered by most to be, a masterpiece with amazing 3D graphics and unique locations with their own unique atmospheres and as I said, an all-new 3D world to explore, which is the biggest difference in Ocarina. If Sonic and other 3D adaptations of 2D games have taught me anything it’s that taking a 2D game and making it 3D isn’t always easy but Legend Of Zelda shouldn’t be too hard, I mean, you could go upstairs in Link To The Past and stuff so it technically already has 3 dimensions I guess but Link To The Past was selective. The easiest example would be the bats, they’re flying all over the place in theory but they were always conveniently at swords height, applying that directly to 3D is just stupid, you can’t swing your sword at them anymore, shooting them with your slingshot is hard as hell, so what do we do, add Z targeting of course.
Z Targeting makes the combat element of Ocarina freaking complicated and I say that in the best way. Away with the simple run and slash approach now we have the lock on and focus on the fight. It’s a new method of combat bringing in new ways to take on enemies and eliminates the simplicity of point and swing combat which, of course, benefits the ruthless nature of The Legend Of Zelda series because we now have rolling, dodging, boom, leaping, swinging, it’s nuts. It’s such a deep, complex system, they could create an awesome game just on the combat system but you know what?
They didn’t. This is why Z targeting is an annoyingly bad thing:
- It changes the camera angle from what you are used to, making it hard to see your surroundings often resulting with your untimely demise. It splits the game into two parts, the combat part and the exploration part…they just don’t mix.
- It makes enemies like bats, who were once upon a time fun to kill, a pain in the ass, it is like if you had a flies in your house and you wanted to swat them but instead of that you decided to shoot at each with a slingshot individually.
However, like most things, Z targeting has a flip side and that flip side is the Iron Knuckle. The Iron Knuckle is provoked to attack and to be vulnerable by the way you attack which puts the pace of the battle entirely in your hand, dictated by how you chose to fight it. The way he is designed encourages you to be aware of your surroundings. A good example is the way you could lead the Iron Knuckle to pillars which he then hits, releasing hearts to replenish your health. It is this type of enemy design Ocarina needed so much more of, an enemy which made the two pieces of Ocarina that could never be mixed mix but, alas, they decided to save it only for bosses and mini-bosses and replaced it with…waiting. There is so much bloody waiting in Ocarina of Time. I swear to god, in every battle there is a period where the enemy just stands around, doing nothing and attacking them during this period is useless. It creates an interesting player-enemy relationship where the enemy is in control of the pace of the battle, for sure, but when it is a consistent theme in enemies, it feels like a half-assed alternative to actually putting difficulty into your enemies.
Either way, Z targeting was forcing the game to be more combat-focused than the last games, forcing the world and the elements within the world to change, again, an example is Bats. Only the world never changed. You were still pushing block and you still open doors by shooting eye balls on the wall which is just plain annoying to me in Ocarina. The game is 3D and I understand that you walk into a room and are not getting the information straight away but is cutting you off, to find a shape to smash in the wall which opens a door that leads to another locked door with another eye really super fun for everyone? Is that a puzzle?
A puzzle is a problem designed to test ingenuity or knowledge. The only thing between the door and you is your own ability to put the pieces together. The satisfaction of a puzzle doesn’t come from the door opening it comes from actually completing the puzzle. If the actual puzzle isn’t satisfying then…it’s just not satisfying. You should never find yourself saying “Oh thank god, the door is finally open” after completing a puzzle as it defeats the entire point of the puzzle. This doesn’t mean puzzles cannot exist in Ocarina but the god damn sliding spiky puck things that come out of nowhere is just stupid game design in any game. I get that it’s the nature of 3D and I get that it is a running factor in many Zelda games but if it doesn’t work in 3D you change it. If the formula doesn’t work, it’s time to try something new.
Another thing with Ocarina, bombs. In Link to the Past you threw bombs in 4 directions, left, right, up and down in Ocarina, it is any direction and a very vague idea of where it is going to land, the space for error is absolutely unbelievable. Z targeting helps when there are no enemies around but when there are, it is literally unbearable. Even Skyward Sword which, to me at least, was the worst Zelda game of all time can say it managed to handle bombs alright.
Waiting, as I said before, is a huge issue in Ocarina, you have to wait for doors to close, wait for switches to play to little tone, wait for the door on the other end to open, wait forever to switch world, I mean, waiting is the enemy of exploration, right? When you’re waiting for areas to unlock, it no longer feels like you’re an adventurer but more like a tourist. They call Ocarina “Free Roam” but why can’t I explore where I want to explore? Why do I have to do stupid tasks to unlock a new area to explore in a game about exploring areas? What is interesting about this world? I go through a dungeon and before I even beat it I can tell what the boss is going to be like.
“Oh look, a bomb bag, probably going to have to throw some bombs”
“Oh look, a slingshot, probably going to need to shoot something”
This only renders them hittable. Then you hit. Typically 3 times but that depends. All I am waiting for now for someone to direct me to the god damn gift shop. Sure, you could argue this is good game design but in a game about mystery, suspense and adventure, it’s kinda hard to stare at something so predictable with wide eyes of excitement. Okay, there is some exploring, the extent of which is finding a secret hole in the ground, finding a chest, du-du-du-duuuh and then you leave. That’s it. They seem to be so terrified of sacrificing their formula for fun.
There is this sort of misdirection of what matter in Ocarina that really bugs me. The story is a good example, it provides context to your adventure. The problem with this is it ruins the players drive to march on. Players, we want to fight bosses, do puzzles, explore, receive awards for doing so but NOPE, there are more important things to deal with, stuff like the Gorons, they have no rocks to eat, lend a hand. WHO THE HELL ARE THE GORONS? What we are left with seems like an order, a punctilio.
In a game, being told you’re a hero, to me at least, is unnecessary but when you a forced to be, it feels like a task. You, being the player who enjoys slaying monsters, doings tasks and solving puzzles makes you a hero, it shouldn’t be forced down your throat but subtle and satisfying. It’s not the story that tells you that you are the hero, it’s the gameplay. Any form of media can tell you who the hero is with the dialogue, video games are different. In video games you feel it.
I write, I love fiction. The story of a game holds huge significance for me because it is usually the most interesting part of the game but in Ocarina, with all the cinematic and what not, it almost cuts off gameplay aspects. The game can literally stop at any moment for you to complete some stupid story task, it’s ridiculous. You see the awesome Death Mountains? You wanna go up and explore them? Well guess what you can’t, you have to go and talk to Zelda and complete some other boring task while the game tells you why you want to go explore Death Mountains, you know why you want to go up there, you want to explore, kill some enemies, get new gear, fight a boss and generally have a good time. You don’t need the game to tell you why you want to go up there. This waste of the players time creates an “I don’t care” attitude towards the game. You don’t want a game to go onto you. It is why so many people hate Navi. Who wants to be told what to do in an open world game?
That is what the game is doing. Having to trigger a new area by walking and talking is yet another thing to add to the list of annoying things in Ocarina. There are ways to add characters to your story without them being boring as hell. Get them to help the player out or something, something that actually adds to the bigger picture that makes you care about them. Playing a game, you want to have an adventure; you don’t want to just run around pressing A in all the right places. Zelda was based off a young boys experience exploring caves, the sense of mystery and adventure not the outcome. There is no mystery in most modern Legend Of Zelda games, there is just formality which is against everything the original game stood for and asks not for our wits but for our ability to follow instructions.
Do you agree or disagree? Make sure to leave a comment below and let me know what you think!