8 features that made Zelda: Ocarina Of Time legendary
It wasn’t just about being a 3D zelda as these elements helped elevate it to one of the best games of all time
Attacking enemies in a 3D space was always a little cumbersome in 3D action-adventure games. Or at least, it was until Ocarina Of Time arrived with its ingenious Z-Targeting lock-on system. A staple of the genre today, it allowed the player to intuitively snap the camera to an enemy, giving Link the freedom to circle and strafe around monsters without losing the ability to follow or dish out attacks; where would we be today without such an important game system?
Super Mario 64 is a classic, a showcase for the brilliance of Nintendo in the Nineties, but it also showcased some of the pitfalls of platform navigation in a 3D space. As the two games were developed in tandem, it gave the team plenty of time to make adjustments and tweaks to the controls and camera, ultimately ensuring that – by the time that Ocarina Of Time was released – it handled far more confidently in the tight dungeon enclosures.
n With so many actions available to the player – many of which were new to gaming – Nintendo massively simplified the control system to ensure play was as smooth as possible. Context-sensitive actions allowed multiple tasks to be assigned to one button, cutting the fuss of learning too many controls and also subtly guiding the player around its environments – it let Link adventure without worry, only being given the option to move boxes or climb when Nintendo deemed it possible.
The temples in OOT are a marvel of 3D design and execution, with each offering challenge and reward to players ready to push their understanding of the combat and platforming mechanics. Even the Water Temple, largely considered to be the toughest challenge in the game and a headache for players the world over, has proven itself to be a masterclass in spatial awareness, demonstrating a willingness to challenge convention and take risks in every area of game design.
One of the coolest aspects of Zelda games was the inclusion of an overworld, a hub that linked all levels, dungeons and areas together. This was expanded massively for OOT, a space that was large enough to make you feel like you were a small part of a world that existed around you. If you could see it, you could reach it – even if that meant searching out specific items and returning later. The sparse, realistic Hyrule overworld is still one of Nintendo’s greatest accomplishments.
All throughout the adventure, Link will acquire and collect different items and weapons that greatly expand the adventure. Many introduced new abilities, with Nintendo gradually introducing them through well-masked tutorials in the guise of puzzle solving before letting you loose with them in boss battles and, eventually, the overworld to access new areas. It has proven to be a staple of Zelda design, not to mention a process carried across into various other genres and game types.
Unlike most other Nintendo games released at the time – in which mechanics took precedence over all else – OOT had story at its centre. While joyful to playthrough, it had a dark undertone of loss and tragedy. Link’s journey across timelines, to stop a disaster he inadvertently had a hand in creating, has proven to be one of gaming’s greatest; the time-travel mechanics, be they via the Ocarina or Master Sword, were a powerful way of dragging players wholeheartedly into the adventure.
The Legend Of Zelda boss design has always been fairly simple: find the flashing bit of the enemy and hit it with whatever new item has just been gifted to you. That’s okay though, because OOT masked this with memorable and striking encounters. Zelda bosses made a wonderful transition into 3D, always looking large enough to make the task ahead seem implausibly difficult, with impossibly-tight mechanics making it seem ultimately achievable.
Ocarina Of Time is one of the greatest of all time, but where did it place in our 100 Greatest special?