Friday, April 17, 2015

Replaying a Legend - Ocarina of Time

Much like Adult Link returning to the Temple of Time, I find myself revisiting a familiar land I explored as a young child...

That was the cheesiest intro I could think of, but it is hard to shake the parallels as I replay a game I have not played in the better part of a decade. I acquired a 3DS recently and managed to snag Ocarina of Time as my first game for it, and I am finding both a sense of nostalgia and new found perspective on the game as a whole.

I remember my first experience with the game was back in 1998, when my brothers and I received the game as a Christmas gift. We decided we would play through together, and they were kind enough to let me take the first crack at the game. I remember being stunned at how amazing the game looked, and the overall excitement as Ghoma descended from the ceiling for our first boss fight. We went through that game a dozen times over, getting every heart piece and every gold skultulla time and time again.

The only other occasion I played the game was the Master Quest release in 2003 that was given to those who reserved Wind Waker for the Gamecube. Master Quest was basically the same as before, but the dungeons were jumbled around in a different manner. After completing that edition, I felt I had done my time with Ocarina, and moved on to other games with only the memories and nostalgic discussion keeping it alive.

I knew I would return to the game, and now twelve years after Master Quest, I am back at it again. Playing through the game, I could not help but notice the changes between Young Craig and Adult Craig's take on the game:

Ahead of its Time...Ironic, is it Not?
1998 was a good year for video games. There was Half Life, Metal Gear Solid, Banjo Kazooie; the list goes on. A lot of games from that era that are still fun to replay and hold up very well. Playing through the first few dungeons, I began to think that if this were released yesterday it would still be a relevant and strong game. The mission structure, the side content, and the overall exploration offered is something that has resonated with so many other titles and it shows. Coming back to the game that set a standard for so many to come was a humbling experience. There is a reason this game has topped so many lists for greatest game of all time, and whether you are embarking on a side mission for a legendary sword or fighting off Stalfos with lock on combat, you can easily see why.

I Still Fell for This
A decade letter and I still chose No by accident...

Amensia: Dark Descent
I played through OoT a dozen times over, enough to get an idea of where to go, but not enough to remember every little detail. I felt like a patient who awoke with amnesia, bumbling about in a dungeon trying to figure a room out before the 'Ah-ha!" moment of realizing what I did the last time I was there. It was surprisingly back and forth; I breezed through Dodongo's Cavern, fumbled my way through the Shadow Temple, and utterly forgot everything about Jabu Jabu's Belly. The game felt both new and old again with each room I conquered and each small key I backtracked to get.

The Water Temple Was Not Nearly as Hard as I Remember
Maybe this is due to the color coding they added to the temple or just general first attempts, but the water temple was actually not too difficult. Tedious? Yes. Difficult?...not so much. I did find myself venturing back a few times to change water levels and scratching my head as I looked over the map, but I never got completely stuck as I did when I encountered the temple on the N64. Again, this is before the days of Internet guides and Youtube walkthroughs.

Biden, seriously, which key are you missing?

3DS is the Way to Replay
I was skeptical that this title would alter everything I loved about the game, but it has actually enhanced the latest play through. Fighting bosses in 3D seems gimmicky, but works incredibly well in making the encounters that much more enjoyable. The visuals have been sharpened with a brighter pallet of colors and resolution, the item menu is so much faster to navigate with the touch screen (switching boots quickly is a simple delight), and overall the game just performs and feels better. I know when you hear the word remaster we all get scared a CG Jabba the Hutt will ruin everything we loved, but in this case the face lift makes the game we all loved even more spectacular.

Digging for Criticism
I replay games all the time, but when it is a game considered as the greatest game of all time, I felt compelled to be more critical of the game as a whole. I will be honest, there is a slight bit of bias in putting negative feedback on game like this. How could I, when this game was such a large part of why I enjoy playing video games? It would be like insulting my father for providing me a car because he forgot the spinning rims and neon glow.

Still, there are only a few gripes I had this time around. For a big open world, it sure does feel empty. Again, this was the era where 3D games were just coming to fruition, so I find it hard to fault them for that. Some even argue the structure is too similar to ALTTP with dark and light world, but although the structure may be similar, the game felt much different as in lieu of a different world you saw repercussions of a tyrant king directly impacting the NPCs you interacted with on your initial quest. The feeling you get when stepping out of the Temple of Time for the first time is unforgettable, and gave a sense of urgency to make it all right again.

Replaying a classic like Ocarina of Time never feels like a chore or item on a checklist to complete, but serve as a personal reminder. Primarily, as a reminder of how far video games as a whole have come. The same could be said of any major franchise, but for the age when the jump from 2D to 3D was coming to fruition, Ocarina managed to get so many things right. I am sure it will be some time before I hop back into the world of Hyrule for another round, but the latest play through has further reinforced the idea that this truly was one of the greatest games ever made.

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