In my twenty years of gaming, it’s not the wealth of useless game knowledge under my belt, nor the massive collection of consoles I’ve accumulated over the years, that I’m most proud of. What I’m most proud of is my ability to tell a good game from a bad one. If you’d have told my 12-year-old self that Gex 3D: Enter the Gecko
wouldn’t be fondly remembered and that, when I got older, I’d realise it was in fact a terrible game, I’d have been shocked. Lo and behold, over a decade has passed and the game is - and always was - bloody wretched.
This may not seem like such a great achievement to a number of you. After all, we all know our Gears of War
from our Quantum Theory
, our Splinter Cell
from our Rogue Warrior
and our Bayonetta
from our X-Blades
. Time has kindly bestowed the gift of taste on us older gamers, and we’re a lot more discerning than we were as kids.
However, I can’t look at Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
with the same doe-eyed love as my fellow gamer, and because of this it feels as if all my gaming knowledge and experience has been for nothing. Because Ocarina of Time
is a game that I simply cannot enjoy. And it’s beginning to feel like that’s my fault.
It’s not that I haven’t tried, or even that I’m not a Zelda
fan. After fond memories of A Link to the Past
, I tried Ocarina of Time
on my friend’s N64. Years later, I tried the game again on my Gamecube when it came bundled with my copy of Wind Waker
. When it was remade on 3DS, I bought it again – fully aware that I didn’t enjoy it the first two times – because I was determined to unearth this so-called magic that my fellow gamers were constantly talking about. But for me, there is no magic. There is no ‘Best Game Ever’ within the grooves of the optical disk, or the pins of the cartridge. Hell, it never came close to being the best Zelda
ever. For me, it’s easily the worst.
I first experienced Ocarina
at a friend’s house. I’d skipped the N64 in favour of the Playstation, and having just finished Metal Gear Solid, Zelda
was already looking rough around the edges. The frame rate barely held up, and the textures looked far too blurry. I was growing up at the time, and the mature nature of Metal Gear Solid
coupled with the cinematic presentation meant Zelda
looked positively dated by comparison. What’s that? Text bubbles instead of speech? Pfft. Get with the program!
Thank God for hindsight. If I’d have known the importance of a mute central character back then like I do today, not to mention the importance of art over technology, I’d have given the game a fair chance. That chance arrived years later when the game resurfaced on the miniature disc bundled with my Wind Waker
To this day, I remember opening the box and eyeing the disc cautiously. Even seeing the Ocarina
logo on that shiny surface elicited memories of disappointment and indifference. But I was older now, and the game had achieved classic status. It deserved another chance, surely?
I could get past the blurred textures. I grew to appreciate the lack of voice-acting. Yet there was still something missing. Hyrule felt empty, vacant, vast expanses with little to explore. Not like Link to the Past
, where every scroll of the screen had bushes to hack away at, holes to fall into, hidden passages behind walls, and enemies on every screen. And yet here, in Ocarina
’s dungeons, I felt as if I was battling the camera more than the puzzles. The dungeons themselves were mazes of repeating textures, the camera frequently disorientating me with every swoop and swivel, and every few seconds bought with it the rhythm-breaking jingle of the pause sound effect as I checked the map for the umpteenth time, just to check what direction I was facing. There were more than enough buttons on the N64 and Gamecube pad to facilitate camera control, and I’d seen expertly-crafted dungeons in A Link to the Past
that took all the confusion out of navigation. I pushed on as far as the final dungeon before it occurred to me that I’d got this far through perseverance rather than enjoyment. I stopped playing.
It had to be the Gamecube pad, right? I mean, this was a game built for the wildly different N64 control scheme, surely? That had to be it. I was just playing this game on the wrong console. If I’d taken the time to play the N64 original, the game would have been a much smoother experience, of course? Of course.
Time passed, and my appreciation of the Zelda series didn’t subside. I played Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, Phantom Hourglass
… and I loved them all. When the Skyward Sword
reviews came in, I began to wish I’d kept my Wii.
After years of being a 360 owner, the cravings for another Zelda began creeping in. Darkstalkers
came closest to the Zelda experience, and even became a surprise favourite, but nothing compared to seeing that young adventurer take up his green hat and sword for another quest. I caught myself eyeing up my 3DS, long-since retired since I finished replaying Phantom Hourglass
…You know, there’s always the Ocarina of Time remake
My work isn’t always busy, and there’s plenty of quiet periods. A handheld game would make those silent moments all the more tolerable, and hell, I’d been craving another Zelda game. And this one’s no remake. It’s built from the ground up to take advantage of the 3DS features. It’s got to be good this time around, right?
Apparently, I’m a real sucker. I bought Ocarina of Time
again. It lasted a week. I found myself going as far as Jabu Jabu’s belly, before realising the Z-targeting still hadn’t improved, and I was missing targets from arm’s reach due to the game’s demanding targeting system. Link frequently flung himself from edges at odd angles due to the overly-sensitive nature of the 3DS circle pad. And compared to the rip-roaring orchestral soundtrack to my other favourite Zeldas, it occurred to me that this one felt tepid in comparison – not even LttP sounded this underwhelming.
Don’t get me wrong. Ocarina of Time
is an epic quest with plenty to do. Heck, it was even emotional seeing Link grow older with each pull of the Master Sword. But a classic game should stand the test of time, and for me, Ocarina of Time
simply doesn’t. Various games, Zelda titles or otherwise, improved on Ocarina’s groundwork, and even then, games from Ocarina’s generation frequently did it better. The childhood joy of seeing Zelda in 3D was no doubt exciting to all of us. But that’s all it was – a childhood joy. My discerning tastes, my critical eye, and the fact that I’ve revisited Ocarina of Time
a good three or four times over the years since its release, have only proven that it simply doesn’t hold up in this day and age. Fond memories don’t always equate to a classic.
Ocarina of Time
isn’t terrible. There’s plenty to appreciate. Ironically though, like the fictional world within Ocarina, it becomes more dilapidated under the cruel lapse of time itself.
Yet the worst part for me, after years revisiting timeless classics such as Shadow of the Colossus, Guardian Heroes, Chu Chu Rocket, Ikaruga and Deus Ex
, my inability to enjoy the one game that numerous critics call ‘The Best Game Ever’ makes me feel as though my time spent researching, revisiting and remembering these favourites of yesteryear has been for nothing if I can’t appreciate the purest gaming experience as named by all.
Am I doing it wrong? read