Great Games – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

North American Box Art.

I realize that I have done a Zelda title as a Great Games category entry, but many of these series entries are good examples of game design techniques and of innovation. I promise the next time that I have to write about a Zelda game, it will be in the Series-ous category. Without further delay, let’s talk about the best Nintendo 64 and Legend of Zelda title (this is just my personal opinion, don’t @ me).

Link jumping down inside the Forest Temple, one of the many dungeons found within Ocarina of Time.

The Nintendo 64 was a very defining moment for the games industry and Nintendo as whole as the move from 2-D games to 3-D showed huge strides in innovation and design concepts. However, there was something about this title that stood out for the series and the approaches to create a believable world the player can interact with. Ocarina of Time held true to the art design, storytelling, and mechanics that previous titles had developed but exemplified them through the new console generation. You could spend hours playing this game to complete all the side quests, get all the items and collectibles, and set all the time records, yet find yourself restarting from the beginning once the game is complete. That factor of replay ability alone is a huge draw and makes this game able to compete with titles on the market right now.

Link playing the Ocarina of Time, which is controlled by the user. Many of the songs in the game cause different effects to take place in the environment or aid the player in some way.

The mechanics that this game created are some of the most important and reused concepts in later titles. The Z-Targeting mechanic is the one that sticks out the most from this game. The ability to have Link move around an object or enemy while having the camera follow the target in focus made for a unique combat system. The context-sensitive allowed more multiple actions to be applied to one button, which simplified the control scheme overall. The concept of using the Ocarina and having it be useful in solving puzzles and progressing through the game was fun to play around with and made use of music/rhythm in design mechanics. One of the first times that we see horse riding appears in this game with the controls feeling as though you are riding a real horse, but doesn’t have that same effect that the horse controls of Twilight Princess bolstered. The jumping through different phases of time allowed the player to view different perspectives, items, and interactions that offer extra to the story and dungeon design. Speaking of dungeons, the ones found in OoT are some of the most memorable that the series has offered. Each theme making them unique and the mini-bosses and dungeon bosses all had interesting AI and methods to beating them, especially Dark Link.

Link facing off against Dark Link, who has some of the most complex AI out of any other enemy in the game. Z-Targeting is also in focus, notice the four yellow triangles that lock on to your target.

I put this game in these conventions because of everything that has been come from this game has been regarded by critics and fans as some of the best video game play ever made. Nintendo held nothing, beyond hardware restrictions, back when it came to giving the justice and proper view that the series had always worked to achieve. I played this game nearly 20 years after it’s release and I still think that it is better than many games that we have on the market currently. Using this game as a focal point for teaching game design and development or prompting video games as an art can be truly said for many titles that came out during this time, including Super Mario 64, another N64 title that is beautifully designed. I highly recommend playing this game on any system you may have whether it be an N64, Gamecube, or 3DS and I guarantee you will become a fan of the Legend of Zelda, if you are not already.

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