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The newest game in Nintendo's long-running and successful Legend of Zelda series has been hyped to no end. Conservative estimates put the cost of Nintendo's advertising campaign at around $1 million, as this game was said by Nintendo staffers to be the "great white hope" for the Nintendo 64.
Nintendo kept anticipation high by releasing very little about the game other than some screen shots until weeks before its scheduled release. They had a promotion in which you could get a gold game pak, reminiscant of the earlier games, if you pre-ordered (which, to my disappointment, was a dull gold, not a shiny one like the previous NES titles.)
But, partly due to all the hype, the game is a minor disappointment. Don't get me wrong, it's still a great game, but because of the immense hype surrounding it, there was probably no way it could have lived up to many people's expectations.
First up is the plot, understandably the weakest part of the game. This is supposed to be an action/adventure game, with some plot mixed in, right? Well, the plot is little changed from previous games. Sure, the means with by which things happen are changed, but the underlying "Save the princess, kill the evil Gannon" from the original Zelda game over 12 years ago has not changed much.
The world mechanics however, are very drastically changed. There is a night/day cycle when not in a town, which cycles between these times about every 2 minutes, or when you play a special ballad on your ocarina. And to keep the game from becoming a platform jumper a la Zelda II, Nintendo has made all jumps automatic. This means when Link reaches a place he should jump, he does. It is a little aggrivating at first, but I got used to it.
Alas, the music is changed too much for many Zelda purists. The classic Zelda overworld music is nowhere to be found, unless you count a butchered remix that borrows only a few notes. I would have loved to have heard a slight remix of the classic theme, much in the way A Link to the Past remixed the original Zelda overworld music. Most songs, however, remain mostly intact, of course changed a little here and there. There are also quite a few new songs, which I would classify as pretty average.
The music accounts for part of the plot as well. As you learn songs on your Ocarina, you will find that most of them are from various parts of the game. In fact, in the official player's guide put out for this game by Nintendo, it has instructions for playing the town theme on the Ocarina. Not that it affects the game in any way, but it's kind of fun trying to play other songs on the Ocarina.
The rest of the plot, however, is pretty much standard fare for a Zelda game. Not too bad, but nothing new really new. It's basically the same "Gannon steals Triforce, seek and destroy him," storyline. There are, however, a few a few shockers, but they kind of follow a pattern, so they're expectable a ways through the game. Still, it'll want you to keep on fighting, because it is mildly interesting. Because, after all, when you play a Zelda game, you play for the dungeons and the fights.
The dungeons in this Zelda are top notch. First of all, they're huge; some can take 3 or 4 hours to complete. Second, they're beautifully laid out; you don't just walk through a dungeon, you have to go back and forth between locations to get keys, trip switches, etc. True, it can be aggrivating to have to traverse the entire dungeon to get a key you forgot, but it's not too bad if you're careful. The only thing I would have liked to see is a dungeon in the shape of something, as there have been in past games. This is just a petty wish mind you, I happen to like those dungeons.
This fighting takes place pretty much the way one would expect it to. Link uses his sword to run around and chop enemies into tiny pieces. And for bosses or harder enemies (it makes little sense on easier ones,) you can engage Z-Targeting, a system where Link will lock on to an enemy and face it, firing slingshot stones or arrows at will, as well as the usual sword chops. This feature makes bosses quite easy, most can be dispatched without more than 2 or 3 heart containers emptied.
The fights are pretty easy for the most part. There are 2 or 3 bosses which gave me some trouble, but beyond that, the game was pretty easy. For example, the last boss of this game was the easiest last boss I've fought in a while; he didn't even hit me, but by no means was he a wuss. He still took about 5 minutes to beat, 15 if you include all his forms. The game is also long, yet short. If you take out all the dungeon searching, this is about a 10 hour game. But throw in some wandering around hallways, killing enemies, etc, it becomes a 30-35 hour game.
Now, as far as the graphics go, Zelda's are obviously N64 graphics. Granted, they are well done N64 graphics, but still the polygons-with-blurry-textures-on-top style of just about every other N64 game. The thin polys and jagged half edges of previous N64 games, however, are pretty much gone. For the most part, they are very solid, in the upper eschelon of N64 visuals.
Overall, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is a very solid game, deserving of your purchase if you own a Nintendo 64 and even remotely liked one of its predecessors. I wouldn't go as far as to say you should go and buy the N64 just for this game, but if you could possibly pry a friend's fingers off the controller for a while, it's worth a shot.