Often hailed as the #1 Zelda game and the greatest game created in general, Ocarina of Time is game every gamer has heard about at least once in their life. Ocarina of Time was the very first Zelda game and Nintendo game I played so it holds a special place in my heart, but you probably knew that. Despite this, I’m thoroughly convinced that Ocarina of Time is the least impressive 3D Zelda, but that doesn’t make it a terrible title, it’s just not as great as people make it out to be.
Nate has shared his thoughts on why Skyward Sword is the best Zelda game ever created and I agree with him on virtually every aspect of his argument. Thinking about everything listed from combat to character development, Ocarina of Time lacks severely in each of these aspects.
Considering this in full, just why is Ocarina of Time bad in comparison to its successors? While the most simple answer is that there is an 18 month gap between the release of Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask meaning there are bound to be improvements. In fact, a majority of this article is a series of comparisons between Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask with some instances of Twilight Princess and other titles. Every following statement is based on these comparisons.
While this can easily be attributed to the way games were designed back in the 90’s, there is hardly any dialogue to keep the story going. While early on characters are introduced and so it seems like a story is being expanded upon, right after Link becomes an adult the story hits a brick wall and is forced to slow down.
While you do meet a few new and old characters, they have little to say to you. Characters pretty much offer nothing but quests at this point. Any plot relevant character will offer nothing more than a small tidbit of dialogue stating who they are, their goals, they’ll accomplish their goals, and then it’s on to the next part of the game.
Once you obtain all the medallions and return to the Temple of Time the story finally begins to unfold, but because there is hardly any plot, there is little depth to the ending.
One reason I love the 3D Zelda titles over the 2D titles is because character development is very profound, especially in the more central main characters. I love Midna because she turns from this selfish and cruel person to this kind and caring character. Unfortunately, the same amount of character development does not occur in Ocarina of Time as each one stays the exact same person they were when you met them, albeit older.
In Ocarina of Time, characters appear in small increments for short periods of time and while their expressions help to expand upon their personality, characters like Impa and Nabooru appear for such a short amount of time that they have no real semblance of a personality. Most of each character’s, “character,” is detailed through the way they move and their overall appearance. Based on Impa’s short appearance we can tell she is a strong woman whose soul duty is to protect Zelda and then somehow becomes a sage. Each sage, excluding Rauru, in Ocarina of Time falls under this with minor differences. We know Darunia is a strong and joyous Goron who loves to dance while Ruto is a cold and somewhat selfish Zora who pulls a quick 180 and becomes Link’s, “fiancé.”
Because we are not together with these characters for an extended period of time, we do not grow to love these characters and easily overlook them. This is the same case for Princess Zelda in Twilight Princess. Due to her short appearance, we don’t really care for her and just overlook her.
Majora’s Mask is my favorite title because of how much depth and development each character, and even a lot of side-quest characters, were given.
Despite our short time with the Gorman in Majora’s Mask, sadly, he had more depth than Saria or Zelda did. Gorman was a business man who left his brothers to hit it big and while he comes off as a bit of a prick, he becomes depressed at the loss of Lulu’s voice and boos Link’s musical segments but once he hears the Ballad of the Wind Fish he is overcome with memories of the past and remembers just why he is in show business and shows himself to be a changed man and all this can occur in under 5 minutes.
Because Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask share the same combat system, the same could be said for a majority of Majora’s Mask as well. The major issue with Ocarina of Time is that enemies require almost no strategy to defeat, save for bosses. Most enemies in Ocarina of Time fall under the combat sequence defend, wait for no defense, attack, others like ReDeads and Skulltulas can be killed from a distance with arrows. Bosses are another story and do require strategy, but little at that, usually just including the option of dodging.
Majora’s Mask brought in a bit of strategy by implementing the 4 transformation masks. Players in previous games did have to get to weak points by breaking off helmets, removing the weak point from an enemy, or waiting for the enemy to reveal it themselves, but Majora’s Mask had more of a “How do I uncover that weak point?” aspect to it along with, “Which transformation should I use in this situation, while accounting for its weaknesses?”
While transformations masks were new, the strategies used, for the most part, were nothing new to the franchise.
While Ocarina of Time did bring us new weapons, races, Z-targeting, and musical notes, it has nothing the other Zelda titles don’t have, unless you want to include “child/adult-locked weapons” as a plus. You could argue that the option to play as a child and adult is a unique feature, but many can point to the Fierce Deity as a pseudo-adult Link, along with Zora and Goron Link.
Majora’s Mask gave players the option to play as a Deku Scrub, Goron, Zora, or an uncontrollable God. Wind Waker Let players sail the seas and parry against enemy attacks while using their own weapons against them. Twilight Princess let you play as a wolf and talk to animals while learning new special attacks. Skyward Sword let players experience 1:1 combat that made the game more difficult while turning each enemy into a puzzle of sorts while using timeshift stones/orbs to affect the general changing areas affect by them and it had loftwings.
While Ocarina of Time 3D has 3D, the upcoming Zelda 3DS title will strip it of this making it non-unique once again.
Call this one nit-picking if you will, but for a game that is meant to contain exploration, there is pretty much no exploration in Hyrule Field at all. There is the occasional hole in the ground that you can find if you have the stone of agony, and for some reason, a rumble pack (Or the Shard of Agony alone in OoT3D).
Beyond this, I see no real point in Hyrule Field’s expansive size. Anything would’ve been better than nothing, even just a random cow; they could’ve used Hyrule Field for a horse race as well. While Big Poes do appear, they’re too spread out at times and are just not worth chasing half the time.
It seems like Nintendo had more planned for Hryule Field but gave up in the end. Termina got it right though, a small concise, “overworld,” that quickly connected you to the next area you wanted to go to, along with secret caves closer in proximity, enemies to make the environment feel active, and it changed to match the time of day as well.
I admit that Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword, and Wind Waker don’t have perfect overworlds, but they’re more active and enjoyable than Ocarina of Time’s.
In the end, Ocarina of Time has a few of faults and while I do tend to put it down in this writing, it’s still an amazing game from an amazing franchise. Ocarina of Time is still one of my favorite games, beating out other titles like Link to the Past and Twilight Princess. It is still an experience every Zelda fan should play and many will like it over other 3D Zelda games because of their personal tastes and that’s to be expected.
Ocarina of Time does not need to do what its successors have to be an amazing game. What Ocarina of Time does, no matter how small or how big, it does so well as a collective whole that it creates an unforgettable experience that many will return to year after year. Despite this claim, Ocarina of Time is not as amazing as everyone makes it out to be, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad, Ocarina of Time 3D’s metacritic score of 94 shows that even after all this time, it’s still an unforgettable and magical experience you should not miss.