Saturday, March 14, 2015

Nitpickery: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Hey y'all.  It's party time.

So I finally sat through a playthrough of Ocarina of Time.  Yeah, it was hard to do, given I had to find a video where the let's player didn't over-explain everything or say "Deeku"  (what, you think Deku isn't pronounced "Dehku"?  So is Shigeru Miyamoto's name pronounced "Shigeeru"? Pfft.). Also, I had to finally get over how unremarkable the intro of the game is.  Unfortunately, I had to compromise on one of those, but aside from having to cringe and mutter "it's DEH-ku!" every so often, Batman9502's let's play was pretty tolerable.

Honestly, I can see why people like Ocarina of Time so much.  Is it the best Legend of Zelda game of all time?  Of course not.  On the other hand, the idea that people would pick it as the best makes perfect sense.  Knowing what I know about Project Runway enabled me to understand why this is. Yes, that makes sense.  I'll explain later.

For now, a quick story summary.  Link is boy in the Kokiri forest who lives with the fairy Kokiri people. Unlike the others, however, he doesn't have his fairy companion.  Until one day when the great DEHku tree summons Navi the fairy to go and fetch him, then help him save the world from Ganondorf, the evil, Gerudo mastermind.  Link meets Princess Zelda, who explains to him that he must take the three sacred stones to open the door to the Temple of Time and take the Triforce of power so that Ganondorf can't get his hands on it.

The only way to defeat Ganondorf is to use the master sword, which is also in the Temple of Time with the Triforce.  Except Link is too young to wield it, and as soon as he touches the sword, he gets frozen for the seven years it takes for him to grow up.  Since he's frozen, he can't grab the Triforce and Ganon nabs it instead, using Link opening the door as his chance to get in.  Link is then faced with a future where Ganondorf has won, and Link has to free the six sages to ensure that he'll have the power to defeat the self-proclaimed king of evil.

----- Top Ten Things to Say about Ocarina of Time -----

10. That beginning was rough, for some reason.

Maybe this is a personal problem, but I always had trouble making it through the beginning of Ocarina of Time's let's plays.  It just didn't interest me enough.  The flashback was nice, but then you've got the Deku tree with this "thee" and "thou" and "hither."  Navi's flying in cutscene is nice, but it all felt so chip.  It goes from a dramatic flashback with a serious summons to a silly scene of a fairy flying into a fence to a silly song.  The whole idea of a young boy being a hero of fate is overdone, and I'm over it by now.  Maybe there's a way to get me interested in a fated hero again, but this isn't the way.  I found myself thinking about how much Majora's Masks' intro really caught my attention.

I don't know.  Maybe it's because I've heard too much about the intro of Ocarina of Time before watching it, or because the story the Deku tree speaks in too dry a manner.  In any case, it just took way too many tries for me to actually get past the beginning of this game and remain interested.

By MinionSlayer

To be fair, the game does get much better story-wise once the first dungeon is completed, and spending the introduction of the game in Kokiri village makes perfect sense from a gameplay standpoint.  But seriously, the use of "thee" and "thy" to speak to a kid like Link feels awkward. There's a way to talk fancy-like without trying too hard, and the usage of these older words feels like a somewhat lazy way to make the Deku tree seem ancient and wise.  Plus, the lore he spoke of was kinda boring.  You can't blame me for thinking that maybe this type of writing would be continued further on.

9. Navi wasn't that bad.

Granted, this may also be a personal thing, as I'm pretty good at ignoring extraneous sounds when I'm focusing on something else.  The "Hey, listen!" part is pretty ignorable.  Though yes, Navi's constantly repeating of the obvious is annoying.  Thankfully, though, a lot of her obvious statements only seem to happen if the player allows themselves to speak with her, or if they take too long to get to a plot-important place.  Most of the time it looks like the player can just not push the button to speak with her and thus avoid inane talk.

The real annoyance?  Kaepora Gaebora the talkative owl, of course.  He just says random nonsense the player more often than not already knows.  To make it worse, the options are mapped out so that you can't get out of hearing his irrelevant speeches simply by hitting A repeatedly.  He asks if the player wants to hear what he says again, and the "yes" option is on top.  The player is forced to read what Kaepora Gaebora says just to know when to scoot the option down to "no."  It's like the game developers wanted to annoy the players.  In the end, nothing makes KG worth player time.  He should have been cut from the game.

8. The visual design made me happy.

It's pretty clear that the graphics of this game weren't going to be up to snuff.  The Nintendo 64 as a console seemed to have texture trouble a lot of the time, and that's very apparent in this game.  A lot of the wall textures are grainy and strangely blurred, making it a bit headache-inducing if you stare at it too long.  That, and the models used for the empty bottles look like strange gems, and the Deku nut innards are just shiny gold textures.  Clearly this game was pushing the N64 to its limits.

Thing is, the developers clearly knew this, and they did their best to make up for it by putting effort into whatever they could.  They worked hard to make Zelda look sweet, and the way her face was animated in her adult form works perfectly.  Ganondorf also looks particularly good.  Wherever else the graphics make have been weaker, the character designs are extremely strong, using the blocky-cartoonish style of the N64 to the best possible effect for creative, interesting people.  Even Kaepora Gaebora has an interesting design.

Another strong point in Ocarina of Time's favor is the random dramatic camera angles that some of the locations have, like the strange, top-down angle in Link's house or landscape orientation of Hyrule marketplace.  My favorite is the wide-angle lens-ish shot of the Temple of Time, in both the past and future settings.  It feels like the game is trying to be like a storybook, and these are the illustrations in the book.  Sure it's kind of disorienting, and it's pretty obvious the angles are due to some kind of technical limitation, but the effect is so unique that it only creates visual interest.

My favorite shot in the game.

This is why I like older games.  The console limitations only forced the game creators to work hard in other ways so that they wouldn't rely simply on "good" graphics to create visual interest.  The developers here knew that they had a weakness here (hence the data expansion pack for Majora's Mask), and they made up for it the best way they could.

I have only three complaints on the visuals.  One is more of a nitpick, but you notice it a lot when watching a let's play.  For some reason, any time Link passes through a door, the camera swings around to watch him go through and the door shut behind him, even if it's not one of those doors that stays locked until Link completes a goal.  Secondly, some of the textures are weird and blurry, and in fact more blurry than I've seen in other N64 games.  Neither of those problems bother me much, but they are a thing.

Another problem is the boobs.  I know I complain a lot about boobs in games, but this is supposed to be a child's game.  It doesn't make any sense at all to put boobs on a fish girl either, particularly given that a fish is not a mammal.  That, and the Great Fairy...ugh.  Not only does she have a pair of the most awkward boobs ever, but her poses are awful.  When she gives Link a power, it looks like she's peeing on him.  Sure, the Great Fairy did reappear in Majora's Mask, but they at least made her poses a bit more subtle.

7. Japanese people sure like their harem fics.

Probably this form of writing exists outside of Japan, but I'm having the hardest time thinking of a western example.  Do Archie comics count?  In any case, it's kinda weird how so many females are into Link.  The game practically throws it in the player's face that Malon the ranch girl wants a hero to save the day and romance her, both in past and present.  Ruto the arrogant Zora princess, refuses to give the Zora's sacred stone to Link unless he promises to marry her, then swims suggestively away once she feels he has.  Gee, she's sure got some knockers for a ten year old.


I don't know, it makes sense for a rancher's daughter to dream of heroes, and of course a spoiled princess is going to be thinking a lot about a husband.  But then Nabooru, the Gerudo sage, suddenly implies that she too is attracted to Link, despite being far older than him.  It's sort of implied that she wanted to marry or date him even when he was a kid.  Granted, that may be a misinterpretation, but she mentioned a promise to Link if he would find an item for her, and then later states that she should have kept that promise, alongside mentioning how much she likes him.  That can be taken any number of strange ways.

Then you have the implicated romances.  Link and Saria go way back, and are close friends.  Anyone would guess that if the events of Ocarina of time never happened, Link and Saria probably would have been together.  Then there's of course the parting shot at the end where Link, having saved the day, goes to meet Princess Zelda.  There's a lot of implication in that moment, especially since all Link's other potential love interest have become mystical sages.

6. The future world was a little disappointing.

When Link first witnesses the future and what Ganondorf has done to it, things look awful.  There's a creepy shot of the Temple of Time, and then Link wanders through a marketplace full of destroyed homes and zombles.  That's both creepy and consequential.  And then Link goes into Hyrule field, which doesn't look much different from the past at all.  Other than some cloud cover and the fact that none of the Gorons are around, Death Mountain looks fine.  The king of Zoras is in a red prism, but aside from ice issues, Lake Hylia seems barely disturbed.  Other locations are similarly unaffected by Ganondorf's malice.  It's like he nuked the marketplace, and ignored everywhere else.

Though the marketplace does look pretty bad.

Yes, it's pretty obvious this is due to graphical limitations, but given that Link spends more time outside the marketplace than inside it, it would be helpful if some places looked more dead, like perhaps a palette swap on some of the textures on the grass and trees, or show a character crying or otherwise unhappy.  Instead, the few people we enounter are either locked in cells (Gorons, construction workers) or frozen and out of sight (Zoras).  How characters feel when their lives are so seriously impacted is an important feeling for the player, affecting the tone of the story.

Of course, the game did get it right for at least one dungeon.

5. Spirit Temple is best dungeon.

The other dungeons were nice, and on a gameplay level, the developers had some good ideas, like fighting critters on the inside of a tree and carrying a princess through the stomach of a giant frog-fish-thing.  On a story level, however, many of these levels didn't have the impact they needed. There just wasn't enough going on.  Like in the Death Mountain future dungeon, you're just finding a Goron, getting him out of his cell, rinse and repeat until you get to the boss.  The Water Temple was fine (iron boots aside) but all that really happens there is that you talk a couple of times to Princess Ruto, and then she's a sage.

There's not really any story interest in any of these dungeons.  That is, until you get to the Spirit Temple, the temple in the Gerudo Desert.  Not only is this dungeon completed by both young and adult Link, but it introduces Nabooru, the only the sage (excepting Zelda, I guess) with a real story. Sure, Saria has a hint of a story in that she's Link's old friend, but there's not enough of her on screen to make that much of an impression.

Nabooru, on the other hand, has a ton of plot potential.  She's a Gerudo who doesn't support Ganondorf, and is actively plotting against him.  Only she's abducted by the two witch hags, Koume and Kotake, who turn her into an enemy that Link has to defeat.  After that, Link has to go back to the future and defeat the two witches.  In a sure sign of the franchise's later humor, their dialogue post-defeat is hilarious and meaningful to who they are as characters.

By Gabriela Birchal

Essentially, the Spirit Temple feels like the only place where the story feels like it matches the gameplay.  The player cares about Nabooru because she's willing to take a stand against the one who is, by Gerudo law, her king.  She's a complex character by means of being a thief with honor, and I enjoy her reaction to becoming a sage the most.  Koume and Kotake are also great characters, being funny, interesting in design, and a genuine threat to Link.  They're more than just a monster hiding at the end of a dungeon.  They're also the only apparent servants of Ganondorf in the game.

I've been hinting at it before, but now it's time to come out and say it directly.

4. The story in Ocarina of Time is absolutely not better than Majora's Mask's.

I've seen a few Ocarina of Time vs Majora's Mask videos on youtube, and one of them stated that Ocarina of Time's story was better than Majora's Mask's.  He claimed that though Ocarina of Time's story was traditional for the series, it was "beautifully told."  I was dubious before watching the let's play, and I'm dubious afterwards.  It is, as they say, to laugh.

The overall impression I have of OoT's story is that it feels empty.  There's just not that much there. It's a typical, save the princess and defeat the bad guy story, with a harem plot and a sage thing added. There's very little else there.  What is there isn't exactly error-free.

Bear in mind that even as I criticize OoT's plot, I don't hate it.  It's a perfectly fine story for a video game, and is pretty enjoyable.  My point here is simply about its plot versus Majora's Mask's, so I'm just pointing out the weaknesses that make it less than ideal competition for its sequel.

- Saria, despite being Link's old friend, has only a very minor role in the story.  She really should have a lot more relevance and interest if the player is supposed to feel something about her.  Saria ends up being just a cute, underdeveloped sage.

- People like the Dark Link fight, and from a gameplay standpoint, it's fine.  However, when taken on story terms, Dark Link comes out of nowhere.  Why is he there?  Is he Ganondorf's doing?  Did Link do something to trigger him?  If Dark Link had existed in the Shadow Temple, none of these questions would matter, because we could assume that this is Link's mystic shadow, which would of course live in the Shadow Temple.  Except for some reason Dark Link's in the Water Temple.

Certainly the Dark Link fight is simply something cute the developers wanted to put in, and it means no more than, say, the copy Mega Man fight from the 8 bit classic series.  However, we know that Dr. Wily built the copy Mega Man.  Where did Dark Link come from, and why does it bother looking like Link if it wasn't put there specifically to fight him?

- As I said before, the future world only shows the devastation Ganondorf has wrought in the area immediately surrounding the Temple of Time.  In a better told story, there would be more signs of it elsewhere, especially compared to what happened in the marketplace.

- It's really, really easy to figure out who's going to be a sage because they're the only characters in their respective locations that have any meaning in the plot.  Also, the choices of sages feels strange, as few of the candidates feel truly qualified.  Rauru seems mystical enough and Zelda has the triforce of wisdom (she being the seventh sage), but none of the others seem anything more than regular people.  One expects a sage to be wise, patient, and bearing some kind of power.  One does not expect an adorable forest girl, an uber-friendly dance freak, a desert thief, a bodyguard, and a spoiled princess.  Kinda weakens the story that their only qualification is their association with Link.

- Many of the reviewers I've seen talk about this game complained that they didn't feel much attachment to the characters.  I personally like the characters well enough, but it would help if some of them were given more to do.  It could also work if we knew certain characters very well and had emotional attachments to them.  That way, even if the other characters are comparatively bland, being closer to the ones we are given would make up for it in emotional terms.

- Why are the townspeople partying at the end of the game?  Link returns to the past after Ganondorf is defeated, and for some reason everyone is dancing and happy.  Why?  Because Link went to the past, he's there before Ganondorf took over the land.  As far as the people know, he's just the king of the Gerudo desert.  They never would have found out his evil intent or lived through it.

- Why doesn't Ganondorf do anything for the Gerudo?  They don't appear to gain any benefits from their king taking over other lands.

- I hate Sheik's lines.  Bland, melodramatic attempts at poetry are extremely unappealing and mean nothing in real world terms.

Oh, I guess I should mention that who Sheik is.  She's Zelda, who was taken from her home in the past and raised by her bodyguard Impa to be a Sheika, or ninja-like warrior.  She's taken the name Sheik to prevent Ganondorf from finding her.  This is an okay arrangement, I guess, but Sheik as a character is very dry.  All this character does is give Zelda a place to be, as well as grant to Link the songs that he will use to teleport to temples.

And before she gives these songs to Link, she says really annoying things.

"It is something that grows over time... a true friendship. A feeling in the heart that becomes even stronger through time...The passion of friendship will soon blossom into a righteous power and through it, you'll know which way to go..."

"The flow of time is always cruel... its speed seems different for each person, but no one can change it... A thing that does not change with time is a memory of younger days..."

"It is something that grows over time... a true friendship. A feeling in the heart that becomes even stronger through time...The passion of friendship will soon blossom into a righteous power and through it, you'll know which way to go..."

Yeah...if I wanted to read emo poetry, I'd go talk to high schoolers.

- The Malon storyline in the future is weak.  I don't mind it in the past side, despite being a bit silly. In the past, Link helps ranch girl Malon by waking her sleeping father Talon and sending him home to Lon Lon Ranch.  Seven years later, the ranch has been taken over by Ingo, a ranchhand with dreams of impressing Ganondorf with the present of a grand horse.  He's kicked Malon's father off of the ranch, but Malon herself stays on to make sure Ingo takes care of the horses.

So far so good.  So how does Link resolve this problem?  By beating Ingo in two races.  This nets Link Epona the horse, but only because Ingo is stupid enough to wager Epona in the second race. Link then wakes Talon with a chicken, and he returns to the ranch and sets it right.  Next time Link visits the ranch, Ingo is a simple, hardworking ranchhand again,

Let me get this straight.  Talon, at any time, could have taken the ranch back from Ingo?  All you have to do to get him going is bring 'round a bird?  Did Link's beating of Ingo really warrant Ingo going from a determined worshipper of Ganondorf to nervous and eager-to-please?  All because of two races?  That's all it took?

Quite frankly, it makes everyone involved look bad that their problems were solved so easily. Malon is stupid for not racing Ingo herself.  Talon is selfish for sleeping while his daughter is in danger. Ingo is a fool for thinking he can promise Ganondorf a horse, then fail to deliver without consequences.  Both Malon and Talon are ridiculous for not punshing Ingo more for his deeds.

The manga for this game states that Ingo was being mind-controlled during this time, which works for me.  After all, Ingo seems like two completely different people before and after Link wins Epona, so a spell would make a difference.  If the manga were canon, or a spell were mentioned in the game.

- The epic-ness of Majora's Mask was subtle.  That is, you look up and notice that an ugly moon is about to slam into you.  No one ever explains the moon at any point, or why the stone temple flips, or how the great spirits were trapped by the respective bosses.  As opposed to Ocarina of Time, where you're being told Hyrule's lore, told why you must defeat Ganondorf, told that the sages must help you, and told more than shown the consequences of Ganondorf taking things over.  While there were several epic moments, too much information in OoT was given by talking, rather than showing.

- The storytelling power of songs is very, very relevant.  I was trying to think about which soundtrack I liked better in a contest of Ocarina of Time or Majora's Mask, but I was going about it all wrong. When there are so many similar songs between the two, it's about how they're used in the game, not about simply listening to them.

Okay, so you are taught Zelda's lullaby, a beautiful, sweet song.  What do you do with it?  You make chests appear.  You summon fairies.  Okay, so what about the Song of Time, which sounds powerful and dramatic?  You use it to move time blocks.  Oh.  Okay.  The trouble with this is that both songs are way more interesting than the activities they're used with.

Now, compare this to the usage of those same songs in Majora's Mask.  Zelda's lullaby only appears once, but notice how it contrasts with the music before and after it.  The player has been listening to the creepy Final Hours track, and watching how Skull Kid is about to slam the moon into the planet. Then this dark circumstance is interrupted by a flashback to Zelda, where her lullaby plays as she explains to Link how to save his life.  Her song makes a strong impact by its brief appearance in a dark time.

Compare this to Zelda's lullaby in Ocarina of Time -- Link walks up to Zelda, and it's playing as ambient music.  We also learn how to play the song when that same song is playing in the background.  Thus, the emotional impact is minimized.  You can argue that this doesn't hurt Ocarina of Time at all.  It does, however, have a negative impact on the story usage of the music.

Likewise, the Song of Time means almost nothing in Ocarina of Time.  It moves blocks, and that's all.  In Majora's Mask, it takes Link back in time by means of a great animation of Link falling while surrounded by clocks.  Not to mention it's what allows Link to save the day.

In other words, the usage of music in Majora's Mask adds to the story.  The usage of music in Ocarina of Time just pushes the game along.

- The Ocarina of Time has nothing to do with time.  That's right.  The very title of this game is completely wrong.  The ocarina of time moves blocks, summons chests, teleports Link, reveals fairies, pleases disgruntled NPCs, and opens up new pathways.  None of that has anything to do with time.  The mechanic that enables Link to go back and forth seven years is not the ocarina, but the Master Sword being placed in the Temple of Time.

But I guess since there's a Temple of Time, a Song of Time, and a Door of Time, there'd better be an Ocarina of Time too.  Now if you'll excuse me, the Critic of Time has to go take a quick Break of Time to do the Dishes of Time.  And then after that, I've really got to knock out Majora's Homework.

Okay, that's enough.  Ocarina of Time's plot has a lot of weaknesses, even without touching how exactly the time factor is supposed to work at the end.  Not to mention that Majora's Mask's story is superior to Ocarina's for one specific reason: while OoT's story is just there to motivate gameplay and establish Link's story basis for the franchise, every aspect of MM contributes to its story.  The gameplay revolves around the three-day cycle before the world is destroyed.  The graphic design does its N64 best to haunt the player.  The music is arranged in how it best tells a story.  Every NPC is a relevant person who Link must save, defeat, or, in the case of the mask characters, partner with to save Termina.  Every aspect of the game makes the player feel something and become pulled into the world the game has created.

In reality, since Majora's Mask has so many elements contributing to its story, it's not only a great story for Zelda, it's a great story when compared to video games in general.  As I've said before, gameplay, music, and graphic design are all more important to the success of a game than story. While the effort that made MM's story was excellent, there's nothing wrong or even uncommon about a video game with a plot that's only there to lead to the next level.  Majora's Mask simply has a higher tier of tale than most games.  Ocarina of Time's story structure, while not wrong, can't really compete in that regard.

Of course, if you want to associate OoT's story with more franchise importance than Majora's, that's perfectly fine too.  OoT did set the standard, for better or for worse, and Majora is an outlier for many reasons.

3. The rough and raw edges of this game made it more enjoyable than the polished Zeldas of the present.

While I have my opinions about Majora's Mask, after having seen Ocarina of Time, I totally get why some people prefer it.  Ocarina represents a turning point in the Zelda franchise.  It's the point where the game creators finally had a real grip on what they wanted with it, and what it means for something to be included in a Legend of Zelda game.

Yet, at the same time, the franchise wasn't entirely defined.  The lore had so many blank spots and holes that nobody, not even the creators at that time, knew the in-game chronology of the story.  It's possible that Ocarina of Time was meant to be a reboot, which I think is a better idea than trying to include the old games in the timeline.  In any case, when Ocarina of Time came out, it had to be an exciting time for the franchise.  Everything was so fresh and new, and the game's imperfections only showed the areas where the future games could improve.

It was rather like the first season of Project Runway, long held by fans of the show to be the best, or one of the best.  The first season, by being new and raw, defied expectation.  There was an air of unpredictability, and the idea that something might go wrong only beefed up the drama.  When comparing season 1 to the later seasons, such as eight, nine or ten, one can see things start to go wrong. The show had improved in certain ways over time, and certainly grew more polished.  It also grew more expected, less unusual, and predictable to a fault.

To some degree, this is due to the time element.  That, and television shows are bound to get old before good video game franchises do.  The element of personal participation in games helps.  Yet at the same time, Legend of Zelda games have lost that spark.  They've become opportunities to show off graphics and retellings of the same story, rather than letting players just have a good time exploring a strange, interesting world.

The rawness of the older games comes partially from lacking software -- the inability to do everything a game designer might want.  Thus, the developer is forced to make up for it in other ways.  Or leave huge, ridiculous glitches in the game.  You know what I love?  Glitches and ideas that weren't fully thought out.  Not all of them, but the ones that a player finds by messing around with the game.  Those are delightful.

The two that come immediately to mind are from Mario Kart 64.  One is a glitch that comes from an end to invisible walls.  There's a section of Choco Mountain where the player can climb up between the hills and fall through them, straight into invisible water.  A weaker idea from the game is in Rainbow Road, where a character can jump from the beginning of the race to a place way farther down the track, because of the way the track loops.  Imagine my disappointment when the Rainbow Road on the Wii refused to let the player do this.

The glitches in Ocarina of Time?  They enable you to beat the game in under twenty minutes.  You skip all but one of the dungeons, and see barely any of that.  The only items you collect are the Deku shield, a Deku stick, and a jar.  Seriously, these glitches break the game, and if you complete them all, you can even skip Ganondorf's first phase, and skip ever going to the Temple of Time and aging seven years.

Granted, there will always be people who know about programming and will be able to break a game, in one way or another.  But the best glitches are the ones out there, ready to be found by anyone, by random exploration.

Also, by not having the kind of story that every aspect of the game caters to, there's a lot more for players to imagine.  The fan theories based on how Link could go back in time as though he'd retroactively defeated Ganondorf are multiple and interesting.  Who knows what happened to Link's parents?  Why did Navi fly away without a word at the end?  What does it mean to be a sage, exactly?  There's so much for the player to wonder over and ponder, without some lame canon coming in and making everything more clear than any player really wanted.

In my opinion, Ocarina of Time is the game all other games in the series must be compared to.  Not so that they can be just like it, but so they know what's expected of them, and how to either meet or defy these expectations to create better future games.  This is what was given to the franchise, and is the base point by which the developers could go forward.

A perfect example of this is, ironically enough, Majora's Mask.  It's like Captain Picard -- the creators of Star Trek: the Next Generation looked at Kirk so that they could form his complete opposite.  Just as Majora looked at Ocarina of Time and went a completely different direction. Despite the fact that it's not much like Ocarina of Time, it took what it was given and produced a real, honest-to-God sequel, unlike all these simple retellings we've had since then.

2. You shouldn't really compare Ocarina of Time to Majora's Mask at all.

There are a crap ton of Ocarina vs. Majora videos, like I said.  While I certainly don't have any problem with these comparisons on an intellectual, video game study basis, the idea that one needs to beat the other is sort of pointless to me, now that I've seen both.  I feel this way for various reasons.

Ocarina of Time reminds me the most of the original Zelda game.  It's more or less just Link, Zelda, and Ganondorf, with the whole idea of the six sages thrown in.  When I was reading about this game on the wiki, it felt like there was a lot more "there" -- more story, more lore, more horrific consequences when Ganondorf takes over Hyrule.  Instead, it's like the first Zelda game in that there's a lot to do, but not a whole lot of story.  The story emptiness combined with good gameplay calls to mind the old-fashioned games of old, which were more about having fun than telling a story.

It's this emptiness and story-reboot for a 3D system that proves what I mentioned before -- Ocarina of Time is a framework for the rest of the series.  Majora's Mask is an outlier, one that is so utterly different from the rest of the series that there's no real need to replicate it.  These two games have two different purposes, and they accomplish them well.  How can you object to either of these games when both of them have gotten the Legend of Zelda the fans the developers wanted?

Then, there's a matter of an undeniable fact: Majora's Mask gets to take advantage of the work done on Ocarina of Time.  Since Majora is based on the same engine as Ocarina, with many of the same character models and music, the game designers can focus a lot more on story, environment, and gameplay.  The creators of that game learned many lessons from creating Ocarina of Time, and could put all of their effort into spiffing up Ocarina's weaknesses and pushing things above and beyond.

In other words, to any person unbiased and not wearing nostalgia glasses, Majora's Mask IS better than Ocarina of Time, simply due to the fact that it had the ability to take advantage of its predecessor like no other Legend of Zelda sequel ever has.  This is common in video games.  Donkey Kong Country 2 takes the first Country game and makes it into a perfect platformer.  Mega Man 2 is the hyped best of the series, taking Mega Man 1's basis and running with it.

This isn't simply a matter of a sequel being made, it's a new game using an old basis as a foundation to greater achievements, particularly since the revamps were on the same game consoles.  While some people will prefer the traditional way of Ocarina of Time or be scared off by the time limitations presented in Majora, Majora is better put together, more thought out, and more polished. You can't glitch your way through the game in twenty minutes.

Still, while I'll always call Majora technically better, the comparison is still pointless.  The fact that Majora was objectively better proved that Ocarina was successful as a basis, and Majora's success only adds to the value of Ocarina.  Besides, Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask are the only two non-handheld Legend of Zelda games that really have anything to do with each other.  They present a Link who is set up, and then allowed to grow and gain new experiences.  He's the only Link that's not been "rebooted" -- he gets to keep his past when he goes on a new adventure as Hero of Time.

Found on

I think that's the main reason why people flipped out at Wind Waker, even despite the art style change: the Link from that game wasn't the Link fans had come to know and love.  It didn't so much matter that Link wasn't on a time travel adventure, but that he'd been replaced by someone who had to learn all the lessons the Hero of Time learned all over again.

Thus, the real competition here is not Ocarina vs. Majora, but Windwaker vs. Twilight Princess.  That is, constantly striving for innovation or sticking to the tried and true.  These are two different paths for the Legend of Zelda to take.  In terms of comparison, I dislike both for different reasons. Windwaker, while it had a nice art style, was pretty boring.  What story it did have was pretty great, but there was so little storytelling substance that the game felt like a tedious bunch of fetchquests, especially at the Triforce shards part.  Not to mention that there was extremely little silent storytelling, which is extremely important in video games.  Twilight Princess mangled the Hero of Time, as well as presenting a boring story and very little in terms of originality.

In other words, there are much better subjects in the franchise for criticism than Ocarina or Majora. They don't need to be compared because they don't represent different gaming ideals, just different ways to have another adventure with our Link.

1.  Overall, Ocarina of Time is a good game.

I've done a lot of complaining (I'm so good at it!), but the truth of the matter is that Ocarina of Time is a solid, competent piece of work.  It's worth having, assuming you can somehow get a copy without breaking the bank.  It looks like a good time.  I'm probably still more likely to buy Minish Cap than this, but that's primarily because of system issues.  And I'd rather buy games I don't mind sharing with my nephews.  That is, ones without pointy-boobed fairies peeing on your character.

But for older people who don't giggle (much) at the pointy boobs, there are numerous reasons to get the game.  Let's go through the four components of games for a rating on this one, from least to most important component.

Story: The story, while not better than Majora's Mask, is good and adequate for the game that the developers wanted to make.  Clearly they just wanted a 3D reboot of the original game, and while the story there was wonky, the wonkiness is a breeding ground for fan theories.  Even better than a direct story is all the lore that OoT adds to the franchise, in the form of the Zoras, the Gorons, the existence/role of the sages, the nature of the Gerudo as a race, the concept of a Skullkid and why they exist, and what it means to be a Kokiri.  All of these are valuable assets to the Legend of Zelda, and it's unfortunate that many of these weren't used as well as they could have been in future games.  In particularly the Kokiri were completely wasted by having them turn into tree nuggets in Windwaker (gag) and then forgotten from that time on.  Fairy-people guardians of the forest is a great concept, and it's a shame it never went anywhere.

Graphics/Visual Design: As for the graphics, yeah, they needed a little work.  But the visual design itself was interesting and fun, and a lot of thought went into designing both places and characters. Zelda and Ganondorf, the two most important elements of OoT's graphic design needs, were exactly as cute and intimidating, respectively, as they needed to be.  It's no wonder these two models received little in the way of changes for the HQ remake.  Link, on the other hand, looks a bit iffy, particularly from the front.
Yeaaaah...not so much.

Fortunately, we spent the majority of the game looking on from behind, so that wasn't too much of a problem.  His HQ remake version is awful, as he looks more like a creepy doll in a skirt than a person -- fabric isn't supposed lay that way! -- but that's another topic.

The sages all looked pretty good too.  The Great Fairy, not so much, but she became a classic Legend of Zelda joke, so even her awkwardness wasn't a complete failure.

Music: The music could have been used more creatively, but it itself was good, and had certain dramatic pieces that remain classic in the Legend of Zelda series -- Zelda's Lullaby, the Song of Time, and Gerudo Valley.  However, there are also a number of songs that aren't that remarkable, particularly the teleportation songs that Sheik teaches Link.  None of the dungeon songs stuck out in my head, but the song that plays in the Goron caves is a total party song.

Gameplay:  While it's kinda weird that there isn't a jump button in this game, that apparently didn't stop millions of people from playing and enjoying the game.  Concepts in the game were inspired, such as the need for both young and older Link for the Spirit Temple, or having to go through Jabu-Jabu's belly for the first Zora dungeon.  While the first Ganondorf fight isn't too special, it's combined with a great tower escape and iconic Ganon phase.  The dungeons aren't boring, other than the Water Temple and its iron boot issues.  However, only one move would have fixed this -- all the developers had to do was make it so the iron boots could be placed on a button, and then the player could switch at will.

The gameplay is overall very casual, and more focused on exploration and critical thinking on the player's part.  Some of the puzzles are more tedious than difficult, but they generally don't take too long to think through.  The quest for the golden skulltulas does at a level of replay and mild challenge to the ordinary gameplay, despite the rewards for that quest not being all that worthwhile.

In the end, I'll give Ocarina of Time a 7.5 out of 10.  It does what it's meant to do, but still has certain weaknesses that pull it beneath the level of upper tier games.  I respect it for what it did for the Legend of Zelda series, but at the end of the day, a game has to be judged by itself, not by its hype or what it contributed to other games.  Minus hype, Ocarina of Time is simply a solid piece of work.

...Y'know, Link should've grabbed the Triforce and then touched the sword.  That way the Triforce would've been trapped with him.

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