Yes, I am prepared for the accusations of blasphemy, but I don't think that Ocarina of Time is as amazing as everyone says. Yes, the game set the standards. Yes, the game is the game that every Zelda game nods to. And yes, the game deserved every single perfect score that it earned. The thing is, the game just didn't blow me away like I expected it to.
Like most people, Ocarina of Time was my first Zelda game. At the time, I lacked the aptitude to get much further than the Great Deku Tree, and I vividly remember nearly wetting my pants the first time I tried to face down Gohma. Instead, I watched my sister play through almost all of the game, just wishing that I could do what she was. I specifically remember jumping on the couch in excitement as she beat the shit out of a giant lava dragon's face with a hammer. For the longest time I told myself that I would one day beat this game, and I eventually did. 7 years later. And no, I did not make that shit up.
During that playthrough, I was in love with every second of my adventure. The gameplay, the story, the world, everything just felt full of adventure and life. I felt like that kid again, but this time being able to do and experience what I always dreamed of.
A few more years later, with a few dozen more titles beaten under my belt, and a couple hundred more titles played, I went back to Ocarina. This time, absolutely nothing blew me away, and I was almost completely detached from the world. It seemed as though I was just going through the motions, and nothing really stood out as a challenge or provoked much thought. The game seemed to be just a bit lacking in the heart and charm that all of the other games have. The story just seemed bland. Ganon has no real motive other than to take over (although it is explained in Skyward Sword), very little is said here), and nothing in the entire storyline made me really think. Link's awakening did this perfectly, but Ocarina had absolutely nothing to make me question. Everything just seemed standard and self-explanatory, and the game never really captivated me. The end of the game was also completely unsurprising. Sure, the Shiek reveal was a mind-blower when it first happened, but it really doesn't change much (unlike the Zelda reveal in Skyward Sword). Hyrule castle town was also a bit disappointing. In other games, the towns feel like towns. Castle town in Ocarina feels like a city, where everyone is focused on themselves and most of them could give a shit less about Link. Sure, the town is full of life, but it's New York City life, not small town life.
What most people constantly complain about I actually found to be my favorite part of the game: the Water Temple. Yeah, I loved it. The thing I love about Zelda games and their dungeons is what I like to call “significant rooms.” These are rooms that Link has to visit and revisit frequently after doing or retrieving something in another part of the dungeon. The water temple consists of one, major significant room with a ton of offshoots, and at any given time at least 2 of them are open and explorable. That means that until you reach the boss, there are always multiple goals. This is what most dungeons should be like. You explore the main rooms, see where you can and can't go yet, and find the items in order to explore those locked areas. When you enter a dungeon you should feel lost and helpless, but as you explore, fight, and collect items, you should feel the urge to shout “I OWN THIS PLACE, BITCH!” as you defeat the boss. The water temple does this perfectly, and it's one of my favorite dungeons ever. The only thing that could make it better is if you didn't have to pause every five seconds to don your iron boots. That slowed the pace down just a bit, but it was bearable.
That said, all of the other dungeons I was just able to breeze through effortlessly. Everything just worked itself out in my mind, and I was never really stuck or challenged. The thing is, whenever I was in a room, I almost immediately knew what to do and where it would lead me. What separates the water temple from these is that when I entered a side room, I almost never knew exactly what I was going to get, or where I was going to be able to go next. Was it a key? The temple's item? A water elevation changing wall? Can I push that block from another angle now maybe? There were always several possibilities, and discovering them gave me a sense of “oh man! I can do THAT now!” In most other temples, everything was fairly predictable. When I did something, it was always “this will do this, right? Yup, time to move on.” That's not too exciting for me. A lack of discovery is a lack of adventure, and Ocarina just didn't give me that feeling of adventure.
Ocarina of Time is a little dated, but that's just because every game that came between it and now has built on it. The game is a masterpiece, but just because Chuck Barry was great doesn't mean that The Beatles weren't better for building on his work. I wasn't that impressed with Ocarina, because all of the 3D Zelda games since have taken and improved from it. The game is still great, I just felt like I had played it a million times before.
Ocarina of Time just doesn't stand out in my book, other than being the first 3D title. That does still make it a great game, but I didn't have the best time with it, so it doesn't belong at the top of my list.
1. Link's Awakening
2. A Link to the Past
3. Ocarina of Time
4. The Legend of Zelda
5. Adventure of Link