By: Jared Black
Throughout the history of the Nintendo 64, we've been
promised revolutionary gameplay that couldn't be matched on other systems.
When the system launched, it delivered Mario 64, Wave Race 64, and other
amazing games that backed up that claim. The system soon went into a rut,
though, and many questioned Nintendo's claim. After a lengthy lull of good
games for the system, Nintendo is finally starting to deliver, as this Christmas
looks to be the best so far for the Nintendo 64. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina
of Time is definitely the best game for the system to date, and in my opinion,
the best game of all-time.
Before I review the actual game, let me just say that
I'm a huge Zelda fan. I own every Zelda game made by Nintendo, except Zelda
II, which I haven't been able to locate with instructions and such. So, is
my review biased? No, in fact I probably went into this game more skeptical
than others. Would it live up to the hype? Would it stay with the Zelda history
and lore? Would it be different enough that it wouldn't be too similar to
other 3D platformers? Luckily, I can answer "yes" to all of those questions.
Now, let's move onto the game itself. Once again, it's
set in the legendary land of Hyrule. When you first start the game, you're
a young lad in the Kokiri Village. The story soon unfolds in dramatic fashion.
In fact, any complaints that previous Zelda games shouldn't be considered
RPGs should be quelled by this game. The story rivals most games, and is
slightly "less epic" than those found in games like Final Fantasy 3.
Of course, the emphasis of the Zelda series has always
been on gameplay, and this game has plenty of that. The controls are set
up like this: B is used for your sword, A is used for most actions, Start
takes you to the menu screen, R is used for blocking with your shield. Up
C allows you to talk to Navi (your accompanying fairy) and lets you see a
first person view, and the other C buttons are used for various items. The
controls can be a bit confounding at first, but once you get used to them,
the controller feels as natural as your hand. In fact, other games will seem
slightly inferior in control, even greats like Mario 64. As you progress
through the game, the player is confronted with a lot of puzzles and dungeons,
which are squarely set in the Zelda tradition (burning things, using bombs,
pushing blocks, etc.). The game is extremely long, and although there are
tons of frustrating puzzles, you never want to put the controller down. This
is because everything to do is just so fun, that even if you get stuck in
the game there is still TONS of stuff to do until you figure it out. The
game is also not that linear. Yes, there is a storyline to follow, but in
between major events you can pretty much do whatever you want to do, and
what you do actually contributes to the progress of the game (gathering hearts,
killing Gold Skulltulas, etc.). In short, this game plays like a dream.
Now, let's move onto the eye candy. This game is absolutely
beautiful. Polygon models are very well detailed (check out the horses!),
and there is a lot of pre-rendered stuff that looks amazing. The story is
told with the use of dramatic cut-scenes, and they look as good as the FMV
found on any other system. There is absolutely no pop-up, and in fact in
the Hyrule Field you can see for miles and miles in any direction. The day
and night system is beautiful, and the effects with ocarina songs look great
(especially the Song of Storms). Really, the only average looking scene is
the Hyrule Market, which has some pretty blurry backgrounds. I can't put
into words just how gorgeous this game is, but trust me in that you've never
seen anything quite like it.
The game is a real treat for your ears as well. It makes
great use of surround sound, delivering a very immersive experience. Some
people have complained that the music doesn't sound similar to other Zelda
games, but I really can't understand what the problem is. A lot of the tunes
sound similar to the old Zelda games, but rather then just generic remixes
they only include small samples of the older music mixed in with new music.
The music is very well composed, and in classic Koji Kondo style. Remember
how the music in Mario games always perfectly fits the action on-screen?
That's how it is here as well. The sound in this game is great, too. Monsters
all sound unique, every hack by Link's sword sounds as it should, and the
game includes lots of ambient background sounds (windmill, waterfall, etc.).
Also, there's a character in the game that "sings", and it's BEAUTIFUL
(reminiscent of the Final Fantasy 3 Opera Scene). Every sound in this game
is well done, and only adds to the immersiveness of the experience.
One area where this game really shines is in all the
extras it packs. Let's start off with "guest appearances", including Mario,
as well as a couple of characters that look and act VERY similar to two certain
Nintendo characters. There are also a lot of mini-games, including fishing,
bowling, a shooting gallery, and many others. Most of these mini-games would
actually make good "separate" games, as they're all so well done that you
can find yourself spending hours on just these alone. There are also lots
of other little things thrown in there, but I won't give them all away in
Nintendo promised a lot, and in the end they actually delivered more than
they promised. As the first Zelda game did, this game totally redefines the
genre. There is nothing as good as this one any other current system (and
yes, I do have a PSX), and this finally solidifies the N64 as a gaming machine
for the serious gamer. The bar has been raised, and this game definitely
deserves to be called the "Game of the Century".