When I was a child, I admit that I never had gone through and beaten OOT at all. I had, however, played the game plenty; I endlessly ran around the world on a save file that had already completed the game all the way up to Ganon’s castle. This player (whom I can give a little credit to for jumpstarting my love for this game) had all the equipment, all items, and all the different weapons and shields. Endlessly I would call upon Epona, Link’s trusty steed, and ride around Hyrule. It was so much fun when I was younger, and even better, I knew this game was special without knowing anything about the story or how the game had played out. I guess this is what I call “Blockbuster rental syndrome,” in which a game is never really appreciated to the fullest when being rented since you have limited time with said-game. I had this same effect with games such as Final Fantasy X and Gears Of War.
As I got older, I never played it much myself. My brother would get into phases where he’d want to complete the game, so I’d sit there and watch with, in some cases, walkthrough in hand to help him out when needed. When he started phasing out of playing video games, I got my hands on OOT again. I casually played but the game never really sunk in until I had purchased the Nintendo 3DS port of the game. That is what I would call the turning point in my fandom. You could make the argument that the graphics are what caught my attention (which are stunning on the 3DS version to say the least), or the added touch screen controls/convenience factor. This isn’t necessarily true for me; I had no problem with the severely aged N64 graphics, which I still love to this day, and the touch screen controls, I will say, do change how the game is played to an extent. The aspect of the game that really got me was the journey.
Nowadays with the way the internet is, it sounds cliché to say that this game is “the best game ever made” or that this game is truly something special. Let’s face it; it is a popular opinion to express. Multiple gaming websites have given this game a perfect score, named it game of the year, and have had special anniversary articles about this game and its impact. There are also plenty of videos on YouTube and other video sharing websites celebrating and praising this game. On the flip side, there are plenty of websites, videos and articles criticizing not only the game for multiple reasons (including OOT being overrated), but the fact that people love this game so much! Sometimes I wonder if people have nothing better to do.
I don’t know if it was the graphics, the gameplay tweaks or the revisiting of a game I adored when I was younger, but booting up the 3DS version had awoken something in me. In a sense, I finally felt old enough to appreciate the game (when I was younger, I almost-exclusively played first person shooters). Gaming is a personal experience, and this game had connected with me on a level that it hadn’t before. Upon completing the first big chunk of the game within Kokiri Forest and the Deku Tree and taking my first steps into the great Hyrule Field, this felt like my journey. I felt like I was no longer controlling a game character on a screen; I was controlling myself on the screen. Link being a silent character allows yourself to find your own voice (and I don’t mean speaking voice) and find your own role in the gaming world, which in turn can turn this into a personal experience for some players. More often than not, a bad voice actor can ruin a game, good or bad. I won’t name names, but I’m glad the Zelda series as a whole restricts this factor; not just for Link but for the characters in this world.
The one major factor in the game that impacted me the most was the beauty and tragedy aspect. When Link is a child in this game, the world is more innocent to an extent. An example of this is Hyrule castle town and market. Hyrule market has crowds of people gathered around; lovers are dancing, people are eagerly waiting to purchase goods, people are laughing. This location in the game is the most lively place in the game… as a child. Once Link becomes an adult through the Temple Of Time, Hyrule market is a completely different place. Without going into too much detail, Ganon essentially ruins a lot of Hyrule once Link is an adult. Hyrule market and honestly the rest of the Hyrule castle town is a wasteland essentially, with plenty of ReDead walking around waiting to get a hold of you. It’s a tragic thing to experience, and no game has topped that feeling for me since. When I first experienced Hyrule market as a kid, it scared me. I mean it really scared me! Hearing the shrieks of the ReDead and having them grab Link made me turn off the game in fear. Whether it’s the 3DS or the N64 version, it’s equally as impactful. This beauty and tragedy aspect relating to the real world could be an entire article on its own, but I digress.
With Ocarina of Time for me, it’s about the journey more than the destination. That doesn’t mean that the endgame here is bad; it’s quite the opposite actually. But everything leading up to the end is where the magic in this game lies; each dungeon and each temple that you go through has unique qualities that make them something truly special. I’ll never forget the first time I wandered through the desert to find the Spirit Temple, or the first time my toes touched Hyrule Field and my gaming world changed forever. Becoming adult Link was one of those experiences that has stayed with me upon completing the game; it’s such a complex moment, even though the transition between doesn’t last too long. The tone of your journey through childhood and the desperate manner of becoming an adult with a bigger sense of duty, the characters you meet that shape you, the land of Hyrule itself with its distinctive personalities and borders; I could go on forever about why I love this game.