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Zelda Week: You Played the "Dirge of Disappointment"!

In my twenty years of gaming, itís not the wealth of useless game knowledge under my belt, nor the massive collection of consoles Iíve accumulated over the years, that Iím most proud of. What Iím most proud of is my ability to tell a good game from a bad one. If youíd have told my 12-year-old self that Gex 3D: Enter the Gecko wouldnít be fondly remembered and that, when I got older, Iíd realise it was in fact a terrible game, Iíd 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 weíre a lot more discerning than we were as kids.

However, I canít 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 itís beginning to feel like thatís my fault.

Itís not that I havenít tried, or even that Iím not a Zelda fan. After fond memories of A Link to the Past, I tried Ocarina of Time on my friendís 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 Ė fully aware that I didnít enjoy it the first two times Ė 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 ĎBest Game Everí 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, itís easily the worst.

I first experienced Ocarina at a friendís house. Iíd 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. Whatís that? Text bubbles instead of speech? Pfft. Get with the program!

Thank God for hindsight. If Iíd have known the importance of a mute central character back then like I do today, not to mention the importance of art over technology, Iíd 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 Special Edition.

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 Ocarinaís 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 Iíd 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 Iíd 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 Iíd 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 didnít subside. I played Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, Phantom HourglassÖ and I loved them all. When the Skyward Sword reviews came in, I began to wish Iíd 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 HourglassÖ

ÖYou know, thereís always the Ocarina of Time remake.

My work isnít always busy, and thereís plenty of quiet periods. A handheld game would make those silent moments all the more tolerable, and hell, Iíd been craving another Zelda game. And this oneís no remake. Itís built from the ground up to take advantage of the 3DS features. Itís got to be good this time around, right?

Apparently, Iím a real sucker. I bought Ocarina of Time again. It lasted a week. I found myself going as far as Jabu Jabuís belly, before realising the Z-targeting still hadnít improved, and I was missing targets from armís reach due to the gameís 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 Ė not even LttP sounded this underwhelming.

Donít 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 doesnít. Various games, Zelda titles or otherwise, improved on Ocarinaís groundwork, and even then, games from Ocarinaís generation frequently did it better. The childhood joy of seeing Zelda in 3D was no doubt exciting to all of us. But thatís all it was Ė a childhood joy. My discerning tastes, my critical eye, and the fact that Iíve revisited Ocarina of Time a good three or four times over the years since its release, have only proven that it simply doesnít hold up in this day and age. Fond memories donít always equate to a classic.

Ocarina of Time isnít terrible. Thereís 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 ĎThe Best Game Everí makes me feel as though my time spent researching, revisiting and remembering these favourites of yesteryear has been for nothing if I canít appreciate the purest gaming experience as named by all.

Am I doing it wrong?
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About yourbelovedpariahone of us since 11:45 AM on 11.10.2008

I've been a gamer since I was 5, and what started as a fun hobby has now become an interest as well. I frequently write game critiques (many of my reviews are available on Audioscribbler.co.uk) and I'm overjoyed to see my hobby finally becoming accepted by the masses and media.
I love action / adventure games, first person shooters, graphic adventures and arcade games, especially the more recent downloadable titles, which are now worth more attention than some of today's desperate-looking retail releases.
In my spare time I write horror stories and comedy editorials (for fun rather than profit...at the moment), though I hate writing bios, hence the rushed appearance of this one. I'll pad this out by saying that The Damned are the best band ever, peanut butter Kit Kat bars are delicious, and Deadly Premonition must be played by absolutely everyone. Peace out, y'all!