How’s that for a nice trolly title?
Not long ago, I managed to finish Ocarina of Time. I had played it once or twice before, but never really got to spend any time with it until last year when I picked up a Game Cube and the Legend of Zelda Collector’s Edition (mostly for Zelda 2).
I absolutely hated Ocarina of Time. It is one of the worst, most obnoxious console games I’ve played and by far my least favorite Zelda game. I have not played any of the CDi games, but I’d guess that I would find those more favorable than Ocarina.
OoT is one of those games that are beloved and iconic, often pointed to as a favorite or even the pinnacle of the franchise. Not having ever had an N64 growing up, I can’t look at it through the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia. I don’t buy the “Oh, it’s old” excuse, because the four other Zelda games I’ve played and enjoyed were all older than OoT. When people would hate on Zelda 2, I would joke that “If Zelda 2 were the worst Zelda, why has every console sequel since Link to the Past been a platformer?” but the platforming there was far less painful than the early forays into 3d platforming.
My gripes with OoT are all writing and gameplay.
Despite being an “open world” game, the bigness of Hyrule seems only to underscore how difficult it is to figure out where you’re supposed to go and do what when.
The Day and Night system was a clever idea but they had yet to figure out how to make it anything more than an annoyance that would require you to either screw around outside of towns or play the time passage song to get to whatever store or person you needed to reach.
The worst offenses of OoT are the poor ways that targeting mechanics jibe with the environment. This can be written off as being the developers being unused to creating fun and interesting set pieces in a 3D environment, but that doesn’t make it any less bothersome. Difficult jumps, poor visual angles/perspectives, and enemies lurking out of sight plague many of the dungeons. Ironically, Kees, the weakest enemies in previous installments, become some of the most dangerous and annoying simply because they are so difficult to target. Additionally, many of the fights and puzzles rely entirely on being frustratingly repetitive rather than being clever or interesting to inject fake difficulty. Mistakes are often punished by having to repeat some lengthy and tedious task. White papers could be written on the Water Temple as a case study in poor game design; let’s just say that the constant need to repeatedly open the menu screen, scroll over a couple pages and equip or unequip the iron boots to solve the flooded room puzzles was enough to make me consider snapping the disc.
Link is also just not a very likeable character in OoT. I was told by someone on the internet that since he’s a self-insertion character, I must not have a very high opinion of myself to dislike Link in OoT. While I may engage in a good bit of self-loathing, that doesn’t explain why Link is likeable as a mute protagonist in other titles but not OoT. In OoT, Link kind of has resting-bitch-face, which makes him seem crass and uncaring when people are telling him something personal and important. Beyond that, though, and it’s hard to put my finger on it, he just doesn’t seem to actually care about his friends or be able to connect with them on any sort of emotional level. Scenes with Saria, Malon and Zelda are particularly uncomfortable to watch. For lack of a better description, Link seems almost autistic in this game and is unable to convey that he understands the feelings of those around him; you want him to act like he cares about the characters that you care about, but the best we get is dialing up Saria for tips on what Dungeon to go to next. This apparent lack of empathy is exacerbated further by the strongly implied sexual attraction that all women in Hyrule seem to feel for Link.
In short, Ocarina of Time was unfun, tedious, poorly paced and plotted and at times very cringe-worthy. Despite this, the game garnered many perfect reviews when it came out, much of it likely hinging on the novelty of a 3D Zelda game, and is considered by many to be one of the best Zelda games ever made. If it was ever actually good to begin with, it did not age well at all. Frankly, I thought it was terrible.
Oddly enough, I was fully prepared to dislike Majora’s Mask, a game that I’d heard from many people was inferior to OoT. Indeed, its review scores, while very high, are not what OoT’s were. Despite this, I found that I totally love it. It will certainly warrant its own post, and I’m not far in yet, but already I’m finding most of my worst gripes about OoT addressed and solved. Puzzle/fight designs are much improved, the Day/Night system is implemented in an exciting and meaningful way, Tatl is much less vexing than Navi, and Link manages to be much more likeable. Not that I don’t have some minor gripes with MM, but unlike OoT, I’m having fun!