Published By: Nintendo
Developed By: Nintendo
Learning Curve: Couple of days
For: N64(original version), Gamecube(w/ Master Quest. Only available if you preordered The Wind Waker for Gamecube)
Version Reviewed: Nintendo 64
For my first Zelda review, I thought I would give a little history. Here it is. July, 1987, NES-- The Legend of Zelda is released for the NES. It stars Link, who must rescue the Princess Zelda from the evil king Ganon. Ganon soon becomes a Zelda game mainstay in the games that follow. December, 1988, NES-- The Adventure of Link is released. It follows the hero, Link, on his quest to wake Zelda and stop an evil sorcerer from destroying the land of Hyrule, which most of the Zelda games take place in. April, 1992, SNES (rereleased on the GBA)-- Regarded by many to be the best Legend of Zelda game, A Link to the Past has Zelda captured by an evil sorcerer, and held in a prison while the sorcerer frees Ganon from his own prison in a plane called the Dark World. Link must defeat both Ganon and the sorcerer. August, 1993, Game Boy (rereleased December, 1998 on GBColor is special DX version)-- Link\'s Awakening finds Link stranded on a island where the inhabitants are held captive by something called the Wind Fish, who sleeps on top of the island. Link must collect the eight Instruments of the Sirens to wake the Wind Fish, and battle the Nightmares that lurk inside it. This was the last Zelda game for five years. 1998, N64-- Ocarina of Time, the first Zelda game for the newly released Nintendo 64, comes out. October, 2000, N64-- Majora\'s Mask, the follow-up to Ocarina of Time, is released. It follows Link, riding his horse Epona after a Skull Kid possessed by Majora\'s Mask. The Skull Kid leads him into a portal into Termina, a world parallel to Hyrule. While chasing the Skull Kid down, you also must turn back time to stop the Moon from crashing into Termina. You have three days to complete your task. May 15, 2001, GBC-- Oracle of Seasons is released. It follows Link, brought to the distant land of Holodrum, who sees a dancer with a troupe in the forest. Yet, soon the dancer, actually the Oracle of Season, named Din, is captured by the evil General Onox. He then smashes the Rod of the the Four Seasons, throwing nature into chaos. Link must also use the Eight Essences of Nature to stop Onox.
May 15, 2001, GBC-- Oracle of Ages is released. Link is brought to another distant land where Veran, Sorceress of Shadow, has captured the second Oracle, the Oracle of Ages, named Nayru. She then uses Nayru\'s power over time to go into the past and disrupt the future. Link must travel further back and prevent her from doing so, by using the Harp of the Ages and the Eight Essences of Time. If you happen to have both games, and beat one of them, start a new file and use the password that you got at the end of the last game, then you will open special secrets in the new game you unlock, and eventually defeat those behind Veran and Onox\'s actions. Probably someone really familiar. Sorry for that extended dialogue. I just wanted to show you how much Zelda has been a long standing series, and what an excellently written and well done game series it is. One more thing. Nintendo has just said that each Link is different. The reason for this is that he is supposed to be the Hero of Time. Each Zelda game, then, is released as a separate story, and as a different legacy of the Hero of Time. To demonstrate this, think of Ocarina of Time as being now. The Wind Waker takes place 100 years after now. Interesting, huh?
Although everyone has probably fallen off their chair and is drooling on the floor by now, I\'m going to continue as planned. Ocarina of Time won the Game of the Year award by the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences in 1998 for a reason. The game took full advantage of the N64\'s ability to make large and engaging environments, even if the cartridge format made some surfaces fuzzy-looking. When you walk over the hill heading towards Hyrule, and see the sun rise, it might just be enough to give someone the chills.
With inventive bosses(giant with invisible hands pounding on drum that you are standing on, anyone?), huge dungeons, and massive terrain, Zelda was truly the first N64 game to make gamer's jaws drop in amazement. Because it was the first Zelda game since 1993, and because of the story, and because of the immensity of the game, Zelda truly did achieve 'legendary' status among gamers. This is one of the few games that I know of that made use of all of the Nintendo 64's power, Shadows of the Empire being another. There aren't a whole lot of them, but they mostly appeared in the early days. If you have an N64, look at Zelda because of it's graphics?but look at the rest of my points first.
Ganondorf (recognize the name?), King of the Gerudo Thieves, tricked Link as a young boy to access the Sacred Realm, and thus the Triforce. Now Hyrule is destroyed, and Link, now a man, must fix the wrongs he has created to stop Ganondorf. To do this, he must gather the power of the Seven Sages, and confront Ganondorf. He soon turns into Ganon, and Link must try to stop him for all time. This is much harder than that little summary says. You see, you start off as a young boy, awakened in the Kokiri Forest to help the Forest Elder, the Deku Tree. At this point you gain a fairy, your sword, and your shield. The Deku Tree has a 'poison' rotting it from the inside out, and you must exterminate it. However, after you do this, the Tree dies, telling you the story of the Triforce, giving you a Green Pendant, and leaving behind a Seed. You must now travel to Hylia, capital of Hyrule, and find Zelda. Soon, as a young boy, you need to find four other pendants, hidden away by evil monsters, and thus gain access to the Temple of Time.
Despite the dark storyline, featuring magical enemies, the game is very much a story of mythical proportions, and I felt that Hyrule actually mattered. It was a feeling of,'Gotta save Hyrule! Oh yeah!', instead of the general did-this-twenty-times-already feel that most games develop after a certain period of time. True, it is a dungeon-crawler, and true, it has enemies that have very similar weaknesses, but the dungeons always seem to have a new and unique feel to them, and the enemies are all very well designed. Bosses are also innovative, for the most part, and some even draw weaknesses from the pages of Nintendo\'s history. One, the Water Temple boss, had a weakness very similar to a boss in Yoshi\'s Island--to defeat the boss, you needed to hit it\'s heart. Remember, the boss is made up of water?hence, the \'Water\' Temple. As you probably guessed from the last sentence, each temple, or dungeon, has it\'s own boss that is themed after the temple. The Fire Temple, for instance, has you fighting a dragon, and so on. All of the game turned out to be very innovative, and deserved every award it got.
Very new, very groundbreaking, and games still use the formula. You may have seen it before. The green button, or A button, is used as the action button, while the B button is generally used as the fighting button. Z features something used in Metroid Prime, that basically created it. It's called Z Targeting. Now referred to as L Targeting, the screen is shown is wide-screen format and holding down the button allows you to do special moves, such as strafing, back flips, stabs, and the like. The horrible little hard C Buttons, now replaced with the C Stick for the Gamecube controller, were used to bring up items, sometimes weapons, for use on the A button. Overall, it's a little frustrating to get used to, but in the end, I wondered why all games didn\'t use the format. Since then, Star Fox Adventures, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, and many others have followed the same format, allowing for intuitive adventuring the world over.
The Nintendo 64 had two reputations. The first was about cartridges. Nintendo has always relied on a different way then the competitors of making their products. The Gamecube\'s disc size, for example, at a shocking 3 inches in diameter, is different than a computer mini-disc because they are incrypted differently to protect against software fraud. The same rang true for the N64, which was a cartridge format because everyone else was using CD-format. The cartridge format was expensive, and hard to make games on, so virtually the only people making games for it in the first couple of years was Nintendo themselves, and their second-party developers.
The second rep was that the N64 was a very sound-unfriendly system. This was because of the cartridge format. Almost all of the games had just-better-than tape quality sound. This meant that if the developer wanted to add ambient sound, such as birds singing, crickets chirping, ect., they needed to develop on the more sound-friendly systems, being the Sony PlayStation and the Sega Dreamcast. However, despite these horrible conditions, developers still managed to pull excellent sound out of the system. These developers were Nintendo, Activision, LucasArts, and Rareware, for the most part. Ocarina of Time was a game that Nintendo did manage to pull decent sound out of, but also failed in many ways, on of those ways being sounds from people. The people of Hyrule made a weird moaning sound when they 'spoke' making them sound more like Sims from 'The Sims' than anything. It just sounded fake. Put on, or something. The sound in Ocarina of Time was good for the N64, but it was less than astonishing. Probably the best aspect of the sound was the music, and that was truly the basis for the music in many games today. Zelda's music is almost always above anybody else's, from the Gameboy games to the Gamecube games, Zelda always is very good in the terms of music. Most of the atmosphere came from the music, so if you have any doubts about the N64, look to Zelda's music to find something truly worthwhile to listen to.
Ocarina of Time has a dark storyline, telling the tale of a kidnapping by an evil king. It is standard mythological fare, complete with fantastic creatures, evil dragons, vile witches(yes, there is a boss that is a witch), sorcerers out to take over the world, and general peril of everyone. It is not as bad as Dungeons and Dragons. It is definitely not as bad as Magic: The Gathering. So what is bad about it? Well, the sorcerers, for instance. Or the witches. But it does tell the tale of a dark time in a land\'s history, and a hero\'s quest to right the wrongs he has done in the past. That's the redeeming part. It is a redemptive tale. There is violence, but nothing offensive. There is some blood, but it is from a plant, and you have to look to see it. If you didn\'t read the Lord of the Rings, or see the movies, then this game is not for you. But, for those of you that love the epic adventure of a land in danger, this game is for you. If you own any Nintendo system, buy one of the games mentioned above. You will be satisfied when finished, I guarantee it.