The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is a game that actually surpasses any expectations you may have going into it, which is an enormous feat given the amount of media attention, hype and buildup leading to its pre-Thanksgiving 1998 release. Now that it is here, expect to be drawn into a magical world that seems amazingly lifelike and completely unforgettable.
And while the 3D environment is breathtaking, it is even more surprising how close the game follows its lineage: you'll use bombs to open up new areas or reveal secrets, replenish health at fairy fountains, get a little disoriented in the Lost Woods, venture into ominous dungeons in search of items or monsters, solve puzzles to unlock sealed doors, and search high and low for "heart containers" to add to your life. If you have played the 1987 original, you'll be shocked at how this game can be so refreshingly unique while retaining the same feel as its predecessor: you'll even hear the familiar chime whenever you trigger an event or solve a puzzle.
What makes the game so engaging is how detailed the world of Hyrule is. Unlike other role-playing games, you don't travel on an overhead map and then have the view switch when you enter town; you actually walk from location to location (or ride a horse) over rolling green hills, across babbling brooks, up steep mountains and cliffs, through thick forests and even ice caverns. The effect is like something you've never seen on a console title until now; you can see far off into the distance as huge mountains loom overhead or make out the outline of Hyrule Castle complete with working drawbridge. It feels real.
You'll begin the game in Kokiri Forest, which is similar to Peter Pan's Never Never Land: tiny fairies weave through the air leaving a faint glow of light, wooden shacks are built high above the ground and majestic trees surround you. Time also plays a significant factor in your travels, as when the sun sets, the monsters come out to play and townsfolk may be doing different things.
Everything seems to be filled with movement, from chickens and dogs milling about the towns to torches flickering in the caverns, the sky changing color as the sun sets, and even rain beating down at certain times. An added benefit is that once Link grows older, the environments all change with time as well. Everything is cast in a much darker setting and the enemies might actually make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. The amount of gorgeous cut-scenes may also surprise those used to PlayStation games. They are that good!
You can easily spend hours just playing around with the environment and seeing what you can do with your sword, acrobatic moves or various items. And you'll be able to do almost anything you can think of. The game rewards those who take the off-beaten path or spend time just exploring the little things. Want to climb up the chains on the drawbridge? You can! Want to jump in the river and see where the current takes you? By all means, jump right in. Plus, mini-games like target practice and fishing are almost as fun as the actual adventure.
This game is so addictive you'll play for hours at a time, although the control is a bit tricky to get used to because it's like nothing you've experienced before. Link doesn't jump at all -- at least not by your command. It's automatic. Believe it or not, you'll welcome this after playing for a while since it allows you to concentrate on more important things.
The camera rarely becomes a problem through the use of an innovative targeting method: press the Z button to lock onto a specific enemy and it will remain in view even if it flies high into the sky or while you perform back flips, rolls or side jumps. Thrust with your sword, slash vertically and swipe horizontally with the use of the analog stick and B button, or use three highlighted items with the C buttons. The various weapons include bombs, a slingshot, a bow, boomerang, hammer and three forms of magic: a protective fire wall, warp spell and temporary shield.
Speaking of shields, you can defend yourself with your equipped shield by pressing the R button. Link will crouch and hold his shield up to repel attacks or deflect certain projectiles. You can also spin attack by charging up your weapon or jump attack by pressing A. Once you get used to the control, you'll be surprised how natural it feels and the flexibility it gives your character.
Unless you use a strategy guide, you probably won't find all there is in this game the first time through. Another plus is it's an action RPG, so you are fighting the monsters in real time using your skill. Since there are so many moves you can perform, and various technique involved with the different weapons, the replay value is unusually high for this type of game. You even get a great fishing game that uses the Rumble Pak to let you "feel" the fish biting.
Perhaps the biggest question on your mind is the length of the game, which is hard to pin down unless you watch the clock -- there's no way to tell during the game how much time you've played. Of course, the length of time directly relates to how you go about fulfilling your objectives. You can go straight for the main quests and finish the game in around 38-45 hours, but it could easily take up to 75-90 hours (or more) of your time just discovering new things. Regardless, you'll feel completely immersed in Hyrule and may not ever want to leave it.
The amount of secrets and little things will astound you if you take the time to fully appreciate the vast world that lies before you. No matter how skeptical you are, do yourself a favor and try this title for five minutes. That's about how long it will take to get you completely drawn into this incredible adventure. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
The funny thing is the graphics aren't that incredible if you focus on one specific area. The textures aren't as complicated as those found in Banjo-Kazooie, some of the surfaces lack definition and all of the indoor areas are pre-rendered (as in Final Fantasy VII) and slightly on the blurry side. Yet when you consider how expansive the world is, and I do mean world, you can't help but be impressed. The game's graphics as a whole are significantly more than the sum of its parts. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
The only drawbacks to the sound are Link's voice when he's a child (he screams "hee-ya!" during every attack) and the high-pitched beeping noise whenever you're low on health. Otherwise, the music and sound effects are extremely impressive. The music will change to a more ominous tone whenever you get close to enemies or boss characters, and all of the ambient noise (chickens clucking, wolves howling and frogs croaking, to name a few) makes you feel like you're in a real world. You can even set the game to play in surround sound if you have the right equipment. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
The game truly represents some of the best work ever done by Nintendo, which is the highest compliment I can give considering their impeccable track record of delivering quality games to the public. Yet if you like traditional role-playing games with deep stories or huge parties to control, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
The game is packed with little details and secrets that make you want to play again and again just to find them all. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
The gold-covered manual is filled with rich, colorful pictures, just like you'd expect from a game made by Nintendo. All of the moves are graphically depicted and each item is explained in detail thoughout the manual's forty pages. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide