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Legend Of Zelda: The Ocarina Of Time
Review By: Jared Black
Developer:   Nintendo
Publisher:   Nintendo
# of Players:   1
Genre:   Adventure/RPG
ESRB:   Everyone

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 this review.

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".

Overall: 10
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