Before I begin, I'd like the reader of this article to click the video below me, and just take in the visuals, take in the music, and let it transport you back to a time much simpler than today, to a time when 3D games were still fairly new, epic adventures were coming into their own, and we all took part in an epic adventure about a little boy in a green tunic.
Depending on when you're reading this, it is the day of or the day before the tenth anniversary of this historic game's release. We all have our stories of the build-up, the excitement, the joy at getting this game, and the amazing adventure we all collectively took part in Christmas of 1998, but I'd like to take a moment to tell my story, my story of the year that the corner-stone of video games turned forever, and how it affected me.
I was one of the lucky ones. The hype for the Nintendo 64 had been building in my brain for months, all thanks to the amazing propaganda whirlwind that was Nintendo Power. Nintendo fans were all anticipating the launch of the N64 as well as Super Mario 64, and there wasn't anything in the world that was going to keep us, or me, from getting it. I remember coming home from school Sept. 29, and immediately being told by my father
"Go to your room."
My heart started racing. I assumed I was in a heap-load of trouble for something I didn't even remember. My Mom and Dad both stood in the living room, looking stern. I was sure that it was a sign either I had done something or my parents were having a huge fight. I stayed in my room for fifteen minutes, occasionally hearing Dad rummaging around. What was going on out there? Finally, my dad spoke again:
"Okay, come on out."
From my room, the first thing that I would see as I came out of my room was the television, and coming from the television was the echoing sound of coins in the distance, then a shrill little voice that proclaimed "Itsa me, Mario!"
Mario was mine. One of the best days of my childhood.
Then, a month or two past, I was enjoying Mario 64, Pilotwings, and the occasional rental of Wayne Gretzky's 3D Hockey, but I didn't know how much longer my interest in the large black console would hold up. But then Nintendo published a new interview with The Wizard himself, Shigeru Miyamoto, published alongside this image:
I immediately knew what this was: Zelda, in 3D, like Mario. The possibilities went racing through my mind. What would it be like? Would it be top down, like Link to the Past? Who's that shiny knight looking guy? Will the Triforce be in it? But of course, the biggest question of all:
When can I play it?
The article gave the release date of Winter 1997. My brain immediately made a note of that. "Brain, remember, Zelda 64 is out Winter of 1997, be ready." Mario Kart 64 came and went. Star Fox 64 came and went. Goldeneye came and went. Winter of 1997 came and went. No Zelda, and very little in the way of media. There was one little taste that Nintendo gave us in that time, and it was this video:
Now, the word was that the game would be the Spring of 1998, and more screenshots started to come out, and the frothing anticipation for the game continued to grow.Soon, new info began to come out about the plot, describing it as the first game in the Zelda canon. Many a schoolyard discussion was made about speculating on the details of this new Zelda quest.
And just as Winter of 1997 came and went without Zelda, so too did Spring of 1998. The game, now subtitled by Nintendo as "Ocarina of Time" was now GUARANTEED a Holiday 1998 release. All Nintendo gamers hunkered down in their bunkers, waiting for the Holy Grail of games that this was appearing to be. Every piece of new media that came out about Ocarina of Time continued to make the game look bigger and bigger, nobody in their right mind thought that all the little details being talked about being in the game could ALL be in there.
September of 1998 hit, and we finally had a concrete release date for the game: November 21, 1998. The sound of a red marker circling that date on millions of calendars nation-wide was heard. Of course, when news came out about preordering the game, I made SURE. my Mom made it to Funcoland (R.I.P.) to preoder my copy, as well as guarantee that sweet t-shirt and guide!
Then, October turned personally bad for me. My sister came down with Chicken Pox, and as I was in close proximity to my sister as she IS my sibling, I ALSO came down with Chicken Pox. I was out of class for weeks, but it ultimately was no matter to me, as Nintendo Power released their special Ocarina of Time issue, self-declared as it's "Biggest Issue Ever!" I poured through the magazine. It seemed every waking hour was spent absorbing and re-absorbing each piece of Zelda knowledge. It got so bad towards the end, I actually had DREAMS I was playing the game, running around in the Lost Woods with my trusty bow and arrows.
Finally, after not weeks, nor months, but YEARS of waiting for this game, it was finally only a few weeks away. It promised to be big, grand, epic. It wasn't. It was MORE than that.
I would argue that the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time made games come of age. Video games no longer could be ignored as cheap time-wasters by the general public. THIS was the game that made the mainstream stand up and take notice of video games not just as entertainment, but also as a story-telling medium and, dare I say it, a field of expression. Ocarina showed all the people that doubted that a game could enrapture us just as much as any great blockbuster film could.
This was also a communal celebration by fans world-wide. There wasn't a person on my block who didn't get Ocarina of Time either the day of release or for Christmas who owned an N64, and we all played it. And we would all go over to each other's house and play it. We'd play it together and be up until four in the morning trying to get through the stinking Water Temple!
We all played it, and we can all look back fondly and remember our favorite moments: The first time Link stepped out of his tree house, or the first time Link stepped out into the open world of Hyrule Field, or our first Hyrule sundown or sun-up. The first time we played Zelda's Lullaby, when we all collectively rode Epona to freedom. All these moments shared by all of us, as gamers, and all of us taking on the role of a young boy in a green tunic.
Thank you Nintendo, for ten years of wonderful adventures, and amazing memories. And thank you, everybody who played it that first holiday season, for sharing in the experience. read