As I write this, there’s no doubt countless Zelda fans are enjoying the open-world brilliance of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. You don’t need to even play the game to see that its making its place in gaming history, with a large number of gaming publications giving it scores of 9 and 10. But before this game hit the shelves, there was only really one other Zelda title that made as much noise. The true pioneer of the 3D action-adventure, it revolutionary lock-on targeting system, its excellent combat and puzzle-solving…there could only be one game that fits the description. That game, my friends, is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
It’s crazy to think that, just over two decades ago when it was released in 1998, that this was the very first 3D Zelda title. We may have become accustomed to seeing our green-garbed hero, Link, in three-dimensions now, but it was unimaginable back then. Before Ocarina of Time, the previous major Zelda was A Link to the Past, yet another 2D top-down adventure that garnered almost universal acclaim and a commercial success. If poorly done, Ocarina of Time could have been a cringe-worthy moment in the franchise’s life. Fortunately for us, this was far from the case and Nintendo truly outdid themselves here.
The game was revolutionary in how it combined so many elements in one 3D package; adventuring, combat, puzzle-solving, and horseback riding. The adventuring, in particular, was helped by the then-impressive presentation – cinematic graphics that showcased a diverse fantasy world, with some of the most iconic music in gaming. The moment when you first step out onto Hyrule Field, you hear its grandiose melody and realise that the in-game world is your oyster is one you’re likely not to forget.
Ultimately it was OoT‘s impressive set pieces that made up for what is essentially a simple plotline. As Link, you must stop the evil king, Ganondorf from taking over Hyrule. Aside from small twists along the way, that is essentially the crux of the tale. But the simplicity of the plot can be excused simply because of a) the wonderful characters, Princess Zelda et al and b) the aforementioned setpieces.
This game is the first to give Zelda an actual personality. In previous games, she was just your stereotypical wise maiden who was an object to be saved by our elf-like hero. Here, Zelda is a far more endearing character who is a mischievous, naive young child at the start, but a responsible and knowing badass adult by the game’s end. This brings me then to the set pieces. One of the coolest setpieces of the game is Link’s transition from a young child to a growing adult. As a kid, watching Link become conscious as an adult after the time skip was one of the best things ever – and still is. Not only do we see a slightly different Hyrule than before, but this newly grown-up character can use a different set of items than his younger self, adding some variety to the gameplay. Then there is the famous horseback riding where adult Link can travel across Hyrule with his trusty steed, Epona. There are so many elements to this game that I could go on forever. I could, but I won’t. Even if I would love to do so!
Since the game was re-released and given a graphical overhaul in 2013 on the 3DS, there is now a whole new generation of gamers experiencing the game’s majesty. Just like I grew up playing the re-release on the GameCube and was completely spellbound from beginning to end, so will many others in the years to come.