It’s hard to know where to start when talking about Ocarina of Time. What hasn’t already been said about it? It’s the most celebrated Zelda game, if not the most celebrated video game of all time. Many people proudly call it their favourite game. As much as I love it, I don’t share this view, but I can definitely understand and sympathize with it. There are only two kinds of people on this planet, people who have played this game and enjoyed it, or people who never played it. It’s been re-released to death, and for good reason. It’s so well loved that Nintendo makes money off it every time it comes out, be it on the Gamecube, the virtual console or the 3DS (I’m guilty of paying for the last two as well!)
It starts much like the previous game. Link is in bed only instead of receiving telepathic instructions from Zelda, he’s having one hell of a nightmare. He’s awoken by Navi, a blue fairy sent by the Great Deku tree to bring Link to him.
Link lives in Kokiri forest, a grove inhabited by children who never age and their fairies. Each of them wearing the same iconic green tunic. The Great Deku tree, the spirit who watches over them has been cursed, and after finding a sword and shield, Link has to go inside him and break the curse (this of course acts as our first dungeon,) after killing the boss, Link learns that it its too late, and that the great Deku Tree is at death’s door anyway. Before his last breath, he gives Link the Kokiri emerald, and tells him to go meet Zelda at Hyrule castle...and the adventure begins!
Since this was the first 3D Zelda game, some were worried that the transition from 2D would ruin the game, as it had for other franchises...but this was FAR from the case. This game thrived in 3D. The controls were excellent. Rather than only having one button to map an extra item, you had 3/4 of the C buttons. You could roll with A, and B swings your sword. Another valuable addition, which would be in every Zelda game afterward and would inevitably be ripped off by more games than I can count was Z targeting. It made fighting enemies far more precise and less clumsy, you could target one and hack it to pieces. This made ranged combat easier as well. When you target an enemy, you can even talk to Navi for information on the opponents weakness...of course she got pretty annoying at times. (No Navi, YOU LISTEN!)
This was handy for boss fights, since 3D made the boss fights far more detailed and enjoyable. There was more to them than just hitting them enough times, you’d normally have to weaken them another way first, then slash the crap out of them. For example, throwing a bomb in the dodongo king’s mouth, Hitting Volvagia the dragon in the face with your hammer, Hitting Gohma Queen’s eye with your slingshot when it turns red, etc. The dungeons were more complex as well, to suit the 3D. The water temple my have drove us all nuts at one point, with the constant raising/lowering of water levels, but we kept at it because we enjoyed the game so much. Many of the mini bosses, as well as bosses were equally memorable. How could you forget the Poe sisters? Shadow Link? Iron Knuckles? Those too bat shit crazy Witches that fuse together in the Spirit Temple? (Twinvora)
Rather than simply upgrading your shield and sword, you can carry different swords and shields with you, each with different properties. For example you start off with the Deku shield, it’s made of wood, so it can catch fire, but it’s light and can be wielded with your sword. The Hylian shield on the other hand is to large for a child to carry, so link wears it on his back, and ducks to block. There are also different tunics you can wear such as the red Goron tunic, which makes you resistant to heat and the blue Zora tunic which allows you to breath underwater.
It should also be noted that this is the first game to include different races in Hyrule besides humans. Such as the Gorons, big rock-like creatures who live on Death Mountain and the Aquatic Zora race, which behind the waterfall. There are also the desert dwelling Geurudo, the tribe which Ganondorf hails from.
Other key factors in the gameplay return (heart pieces, rupees, etc.) The Ocarina of Time is a key item (hence the name of the game) songs that you learn can open pathways, teleport, make it rain, turn night to day as well.
That was another key factor was the night/day sequence. Certain NPCs to talk to and shops were only around at night, or day. Another enemy that typically only appears at night a gold skulltulas. This monsters were important because collecting the tokens they drop when they die lifts a curse on a family in Kakariko village. Kill a certain amount and you’ll be rewarded with bigger wallets, rupees, hear pieces and other goodies.
A very important place in the game is the Temple of time. When you first pick up the Master Sword from there, it sends Link forward 7 years. Hyrule is a very different place, where Ganondorf has pretty much taken over. Going backward and forward periodically is mandatory to complete the game. For example, you can’t learn the song of storms as Child Link, so you have to go learn it as an adult. You need this song to drain the well in Kakariko as a kid, so you can get the Lens of Truth (which lets you see through fake walls and find invisible platforms so you can navigate the Shadow Temple.)
Then, there’s your trusty horse Epona. As an adult, you can win her at the Ranch. You can call her from anywhere in Hyrule field with your Ocarina and she makes traveling go much more quickly. You can also shoot arrows on horseback, but Epona can trample most enemies you encounter in the field. Epona is most useful for an exchange quest, that involves riding all over the field bringing certain items back in fourth within a time limit.
The ending result is the Biggoron sword, a two-handed sword much stronger than the master sword, the draw back being you can’t shield while using it. But it’s a great way to quickly kill bosses when their weak point is exposed. It's also a handy too for making Shadow Link your bitch in the water temple, since he can only mimic your sword+ shield combo.
When it game out, it was definitely one of the best looking games of its time. At least for the N64 and the music is...some of the most memorable in video game history. The Lost woods theme, Zelda’s Lullaby, the Hyrule field music, Epona’s song, Geurudo Valley, The song of Storms...If this music didn’t get burned into your mind, you must have been doing something wrong. It has such an epic feel to it, as if the game wasn’t already epic enough. You had a lot of memorable NPC’s as well. The Carpenters, the guards, that little kid stomping around the graveyard, Skullkid, all of the Zora’s and Gorons...So much about this game is so memorable, it’s easy to see why so many people still love this game. If you’re about my age (20) chances are you first played this at a young age. You probably never played a game as deep or enjoyable as it before. I suppose an appropriate analogy would be that Ocarina of Time is like the first Girl/boy-you-fell-in-love-with of video games. It may not be the best,(though arguably it is.) but it’s one that none of us will forget.