Sunday, June 19, 2011

Zelda-Nation: Ocarina of Time's Importance to Me

Today, Ocarina of Time 3D was released for the 3DS some 12 and a half years after the original (Ocarina of Time was released Nov. 23rd here in North America) and hopefully is introducing those who never played to the classic while giving those of us who played, and loved it, another excuse to play through it. I know I'll look for any excuse to play Ocarina of Time.

I think Ocarina of Time's importance to gaming is one that is but shouldn't be excused. Nowadays a lot of people comment on the aged graphics (well I'd sure hope so) and some of the clunkier aspects of the game but forget at the time Ocarina of Time was one of the better looking and playing games of the time. Not only did Ocarina of Time bring the Zelda feeling to a 3D game exceptionally well it also provided the industry with a seemingly obvious way to avoid camera problems prevalent (and still an issue today) back then, Z-targeting. This made it much more possible to properly battle enemies in a 3D space and also made for more cinematic battles. But these things should be obvious to anyone and even if Ocarina of Time isn't your favorite Zelda (actually it battles A Link to the Past for that place for me), I'd say denying OoT's role in influencing game design shouldn't be downplayed.

But this isn't about Ocarina of Time's impact to gaming but its impact on me. The lead up to Ocarina of Time's creation in the mid-90s marked the period in time when I went from being a casual-ish gamer to a more hardcore gamer to the gamer I am today. Mind you most of what I saw back in the lead up with pictures in Nintendo Power or EGM but screenshots take up space and these videos pretty much show what I saw anyways.

This is the earliest known footage of what would eventually become Ocarina of Time. While obviously more a demo for the Nintendo 64's graphics than anything resembling the final product, this demo sparked my, and other's, imagination in 1995 about a 3D Zelda title. At the time I had little real experience with 3D games so this was really exciting. Seeing a familiar character as Link in a 3D environment fighting a generic knight was something else. As an aside, before I knew about the N64, I remember writing a letter to Nintendo Power asking about a possible 3D Zelda on the Virtual Boy and if I remember right I got something alluding to a future 3D Zelda but since I was dumb at the time I thought for sure Zelda would show up on the Virtual Boy. Consider that a bullet dodged. Anyways, while that footage wasn't a lot to go to the future of Zelda 64 it did make the wait for more concrete stuff to show up even more painful.

Now this was more like it. The game was truly starting to form into what would become Ocarina of Time. While obviously a bit early things like the triforce, stalfos and Link were all incredibly enticing and familiar. This was right about the time the N64 came out and after salivating over how amazing Mario 64 was, the two years between then and 1998 seemed to just that much longer.

This trailer showed more environments. What I remember most about these '97 videos and screenshots was that the environment was much more open. With hindsight it is obviously because of Ocarina of Time's time as a 64DD game. I'd imagine that when Ocarina of Time was converted to cartridge a lot of stuff changed so while these shots look familiar they are still were short of what the final product would be.

Now from that time on (and because I can't find more videos) I basically spent the next two years playing whatever came up on the N64 (Star Fox 64 and Goldeneye in particular) and devouring any and all information that came forward about Ocarina of Time. And then this commercial popped up:

Now by that time my anticipation had reached a near boiling point and seeing the completed game's commercials pretty much put me over the edge. Of course I had been pretty much telling my parents that this game, above all else, was what I wanted for Christmas. So I'd have to wait a month after the game's release to finally get my hands on the game.

And what a Christmas it was. Knowing that the game was under our tree, just sitting there was murder. When I finally got to unwrap it, the first thing I wanted to do was go to my room, stick it in my N64 and play until I was blue in the face. When I finally got my chance to play, I was hooked. From Navi's initial flight to find Link and to Link first stepping foot on the overworld I was 3+ years of anticipation was rewarded with a game that I would come to play and beat at least 30 times including a time where I beat it 3 times in a month (N64 version, GCN disc version, MQ version). Yeah I'm obsessed.

Nowadays it is a lot easier to follow anticipated games, what with the internet being pretty much a part of everyone's life now. In the '90s it was harder and I basically had to absorb all information I could as my internet access was limited at the time and magazines were my number one source. But that was a great 3 year period for me and changed how I look at gaming in general. With all the information available to us today, it is easy for us to be cynical as finding info on upcoming games is pretty much always available to us.


  1. Gah, I hate when I comment and it's somehow deleted.

    Awesome vids of Zelda 64, thanks so much for posting. It's just insane to see how much it changed.

  2. Yeah, there are some things that still make me sad were changed. Like Hyrule Market Town being more open than what it became and such. But in the end I am glad it was put on the regular N64 because otherwise we wouldn't have been able to play it.