Friday, May 12, 2017

Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Ocarina of Time: 3DS (Grezzo, 2011)
The Ocarina of Time was first released in Japan in 1998 for the Nintendo 64 by Nintendo. It was the fifth game in the Zelda series and the first to use 3D graphics. It was followed immediately in 2000 by the Mask of Majora, which was treated as a direct sequel. Nintendo contracted with Grezzo to create the 3DS port of Ocarina, which was announced in 2010 and released in 2011.

(My save game is at the bottom. I have the date wrong on the 3DS. 19 hearts, and 9 emblems needed to get to the final boss.)

Ocarina is an incredibly frustrating game. The field space is huge and very detailed, but there's actually not a lot that you can do in it. The world map covers much of the display screen, but we only get a few cities or ranches anywhere that we can enter (the castle, the horse ranch, and then the entrances to the towns for Link, the Goron, the Zora and the thieves' den, plus the lake which acts as the entrance to the water dungeon). There are a few "secret grottoes" scattered around that you can happen on by accident and require bombs to open up, and 10 "big poe" spots (poes are a kind of ghost, and capturing all 10 of the big poes gains you an extra empty bottle). But, that's it. The towns themselves are also large and incredibly well-designed, but most of the buildings don't contribute much to the game. The main castle town contains 20-30 NPCs you can talk to, but again, only a few of them are useful for anything.

(The Temple of Time, at night, in the future, plus the world map. I've unlocked every city on the world map that's available...)

The primary focus for the game is the dungeons. There are three introductory dungeons where defeating the bosses nets you the three symbols needed for obtaining the master sword. Once you have that, there's another 6 dungeons (or other portions of the earlier three you couldn't get into before) that unlock the 6 sages that are required for opening up the final boss dungeon. These dungeons are huge, and filled with puzzles. Unfortunately, fighting takes precedence over the puzzle solving, and generally you don't earn anything for doing battles. As with all Zelda games, you increase your "strength" by finding new swords (only 3 total), improve your defense with new shields (only three total) and getting more hearts (you start with 3, gain another 8 by beating the various bosses, and earn another 9 by finding the 36 pieces of hearts - 4 pieces get you one full heart). So, fighting per se is a necessary evil, and not the sole purpose for playing the game. But, there's a lot of it.

(Adult Link and Epona, at the entrance to one of the other villages, and ultimately the entrance to the Goron volcano city.)

Story summary: Link is a lazy character living in the elfin village of Kokkuri. He's the only one without a faerie, and the Great Oak decides it's time he gets one. Soon after, the oak dies and Link travels to Hyrule Castle, where he meets Princess Zelda just before the demon Ganon tries to kidnap her. Ganon is after the three elements of the Triforce in order to take over the world. To fight him, Link goes to the Temple of Time, where pulling out the Master Sword from its place in a block of rock catapults him 7 years into the future. The game is then played as two parts, with "young Link" in the "present", and "adult Link" in his "future". Both Links have weapons and tools the other can't use - young Link has the slingshot, boomerang and masks, and the adult Link uses the master sword, hookshot, gauntlets and colored tunics (the red tunic resists heat, and the blue one lets him breathe under water).

(Climbing up the look-out tower, which offers you a great view of the town.)

The puzzles are trickier than in the other games, including for Mask, and I found were impossible to solve without a walkthrough. There were a couple that were almost impossible even knowing the solution, because they required shooting targets from a moving platform with the bow and arrow. I hate these kinds of mini-games, and Ocarina has more than its share of ones that are needed to get heart pieces or tool upgrades (being able to carry more bombs, deku nuts, or sticks). I gave up on several of the mini-games, but more about that below. Actually, the dungeons are kind of short, with no more than 5-6 rooms on a floor, and usually no more than 4 floors. What takes so long is either having to run between rooms because of the puzzles, or my having missed a switch somewhere. If things go well, one dungeon could take as little as an hour to clear, plus another 10-15 minutes for the stage boss, but usually I found I was spending a minimum of 4 hours on each one.

(Adult Link in the fire dungeon.)

There are a lot of things you can do in this game, from talking to the NPCs, to fishing, trying the other mini-games, wearing the masks, riding Epona the horse around, and going after the skulltulas. But, as mentioned above, not all of that is really necessary. I hate the fishing games, which I consider boring. Unfortunately, the two top prizes for fishing are a piece of heart and a golden scale that lets you dive into really deep water for a second piece of heart. That's why I didn't bother getting that final 20th full heart. There's a bull's eye game you play with the slingshot that expands your ammo bag that I just could not win, and never really needed. The bombchu game (mouse-shaped bombs) was incredibly annoying because the game kept requiring that I stand facing wrong, which caused the bombchus to miss the target. I kept playing anyway, because I wanted the extra piece of heart AND the larger bomb bag. But for the most part, bombchus aren't used in Ocarina at all. I did need the two quiver upgrades for the arrow tool, so I gritted my teeth through the two archery mini-games. And there's a running game that you're not allowed to win, that the designers added just for "fun" that's quite unnecessary.

(Young Link in the Temple of Time with the Master Sword.)

There's a mask shop in the castle town where you can rent various masks, one at a time. The first four masks are needed in order to obtain the Mask of Truth, which can only be worn by young Link to talk to the gossip stone statues around the world map and in certain towns. I tried using it a couple of times, but the statues didn't say much really useful. The statues themselves can be a help, though, because you can use the Song of Storms to get them to provide healing faeries that you can bottle for later. Unlike in the other games, the faeries give you FULL healing, and they do it automatically when you die in battle. That's VERY good, and better than having to manually use the red potions. So, having all four bottles, and four fairies at a time is literally a lifesaver during the final boss fights. As for the songs - you get the ocarina early on, and you get 12 different songs as the game goes on. Several of them are shortcut warps to the dungeon entrances. One cycles you through night and day, another lets you summon Epona as adult Link, and the others generally get used to solve certain puzzles. The most-used ones were for summoning Epona, for opening up gates, and for warping to the Temple of Time to switch between young and adult Links.

(The items selection screen. Currently selected - Dinn's Fire, a magical fire attack item.)

The big poes are 10 ghosts located in fixed places on the world map. You can only encounter them as adult Link when you're riding Epona, and you can only kill them with the bow and arrow. That's one reason why I wanted the 2 quiver upgrades to carry 50 arrows at a time. Took forever, to find the poes, and it was very hard to hit them with the arrows. But, I couldn't have won the final boss battle against Ganon without having 4 bottles for healing faeries and extra magic potions. Then there's the skulltulas... These things are large spiders with big bony skulls on their backs. There are 100 golden skulltulas in the game, and if you return them to the cursed guy in one of the towns, he'll give you items as rewards. At 10 and 30 skulltulas, you get wallet upgrades (from 99 rupees up to 200, then to 500 rupees max). Since replacement red and blue tunics, if you lose them to a Like Like, cost 300 rupees to buy in a store, you REALLY need the wallet upgrades, which means you really need to waste a fantastic amount of time hunting for golden skulltulas. Then again, at 50 skulltulas, you get a piece of heart, so that's a good incentive, too. However, all that you get for all 100 golden skulltula's is a gold gem worth 200 rupees, which is a letdown. The only reason for bothering is to see what the cursed guy looks like when he becomes human again. So far, I haven't done that yet.

(Young Link in battle. The fights are real-time.)

As I've said, the game is frustrating. Initially, I didn't go out of my way to find gold skulltulas or heart pieces. I had 8 hearts, the normal sword, and one bottle, and I was doing just fine. Then I got to a mid-level boss that handed my butt to me several times in a row. That's when I decided to knuckle down and get all the heart pieces available, 2 more of the bottles, the biggoron sword (twice as powerful as the master sword for adult Link, but you can't use the shield) and enough skulltulas for the top wallet upgrade. Then I went back to face that boss again, and beat him fairly easily. From that point, boss battles went fine, right up to facing Ganon at the end. Again, he handed my butt to me several times in a row. I came very close to throwing the 3DS into the wall, and I definitely did take the game cartridge out and put it away under my bed, fully intending to never play it again. The next day, I had a suspicion I might have been chasing after the big poes the wrong way, so I got the game cartridge back out, and gave it a second shot. Eventually, I did succeed in getting two of the peskier big poes, and went on to killing off the remaining ones to net the fourth and last bottle. I filled that with extra magic potion, and that was enough to defeat Ganon. But still, the jumps in difficulty between bosses wasn't fun.

Summary: I like the graphics, and I like riding Epona (when he doesn't lock up after getting too close to a wall). I like beating most of the bosses, but I dislike missing small targets when on a moving platform with the bow and arrows. And I wish there were better ways to get from one spot on the map to another more quickly. I should mention here, also, that the character design for Princess Zelda just looks weird. But, maybe that's just me. Anyway, I give Ocarina a B grade. Recommended if you can find it cheap. (The cheapest I could get it for here in Japan was 2,500 yen ($24 USD), which is on the high side.)

Oh, one more thing. In 2003, Nintendo released a special promo disk of Ocarina to promote Wind Walker for the Gamecube, called Master Quest. It's basically Ocarina, but with the world and village maps mirror-flipped, and all of the dungeons reworked. If you beat Ocarina for the 3DS in normal mode, it unlocks Master Quest, and you can then choose to play either a normal or a master quest game. MQ is somewhat more difficult in that the monsters hit for double damage, but I haven't been able to get far into the dungeons yet to see how much harder they are to finish. I thought the normal game ending credits sequences were ok, and I'm curious whether anything's different for the MQ ending (probably not). But, having MQ for the 3DS does mean that Ocarina has replay value, and I'm going through the first part of the game somewhat faster now because I know what to expect.

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