The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is, without question, one of the greatest games ever created. It was originally released back in 1998 on the Nintendo 64, and it created a lot of 3D action adventure conventions that are still in wide use today. Now that the game has been rereleased on the Wii's Virtual Console service, players are getting yet another chance to revisit Ocarina's version of Hyrule, Zelda's native kingdom. The game was also released as a free bonus disc for the GameCube back in 2003, so you may already have a version of this game that plays on a Wii. But no matter how you get it, if you haven't played Ocarina before, you should. In fact, you might be a little surprised at how similar some of today's games are to Nintendo's 1998 masterpiece.
If you're familiar with either of the major Zelda games that have come out in the wake of Ocarina, you know the drill. Link is a simple village boy who doesn't have a whole lot going on, but he's quickly called upon to be a hero. At first, he is tasked with saving those around him, but he eventually gets wrapped up in a much larger plot that has him saving the world from certain destruction at the hands of the evil Ganon. Ocarina of Time's hook is a magical ocarina that you play at various points in the game to open up pathways or transport yourself around the world. While you start out as a childlike Link, the ocarina eventually gives you the power to move through time and become an adult version of Link who has slightly different abilities. Some of the game's later puzzles require you to move back and forth through time. The game's temples and puzzles are expertly crafted, and the gameplay still works just as well today as it did nine years ago. A big part of the game's success probably has to do with the fact that future Zelda games (as well as plenty of knockoffs) stuck quite close to Ocarina's blueprint. Sure, Wind Waker may have replaced the overworld with a whole bunch of water, but once you were out of the boat, the action was largely the same. Twilight Princess is an even bigger return to the scene of the crime, with the switching of the human/wolf form playing the same role that the child/adult Link plays in Ocarina.
The graphics in Ocarina of Time are showing their age here, but there's still plenty of great-looking stuff in this game. The geometry on the models is awfully simplistic, and the textures are often quite blurry when you compare them to today's standards, but there's an artistry and a design aesthetic that still come through loud and clear. The game also runs at 480p on the Wii, which sharpens up a few of the edges but doesn't make a gigantic difference. The soundtrack doesn't hold up quite as well because the increase in disc space over the years has led to more digitized orchestral scores rather than the synthesized stuff used here. But regardless of that, the music in this game is absolutely terrific, and the sound still works well.
It's hard to argue about buying a copy of Ocarina of Time when you can get it for $10. Aside from using the controls on the Classic Controller or getting used to the GameCube's gamepad, and the barely-worth-mentioning lack of rumble, this game is definitely worth playing. And if you haven't played it before, consider yourself extra lucky; the rest of us will never be able to recapture the feeling of playing this game for the first time.