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Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, The Review

  • First Released Nov 23, 1998
  • Reviewed Nov 23, 1998
  • N64

Ocarina of Time definitely follows in the footsteps of the previous games, and the result is a game that can't be called anything other than flawless.

The Legend of Zelda is one of those magical series of games that always cause huge amounts of excitement. It sprung onto the NES scene in 1987, and it was a runaway success. Remember the chip shortages that delayed the 1988 release of the Adventure of Link? Or what about the first time you saw pictures of the Japanese version of 1991's A Link to the Past? With the possible exception of Mario, no Nintendo series has caused such a level of hysteria or left behind so many great memories. Ocarina of Time definitely follows in the footsteps of the previous games, and the result is a game that can't be called anything other than flawless.

You begin the game as a child of the forest. But by the time you're done, you'll be a fisherman, an errand boy, the hero of time, and, yes, even a traveling mask salesman. The game is chock-full of minitasks and subgames that run alongside the main quest, saving Hyrule from Ganondorf's evil. This leads to an extreme feeling of freedom, even though a good portion of the game must be executed in a linear fashion. Stuck at the water temple? Then why not go scout around for some extra heart containers while you think about your dilemma?

The control really holds the game together. Most 3D game designers still haven't mastered the art of controlling characters in a 3D environment, but that's not the case here. Link moves beautifully, and controlling his various actions is a breeze. Essentially, your B button will always attack with the sword. The A button, however, acts as an action button, performing every non-item-related task in the game. At various times, A lets you climb, grab, dive, talk, and lots more. Three of the C buttons are used for items, any of which can be assigned to any of the three buttons. The top C button zooms in to a first-person perspective, which allows you to look around. The R shoulder button is used for blocking with the shield. The Z trigger is perhaps the most important button when it comes to dealing with enemies in the 3D realm. Hitting Z while looking at an enemy will cause you to lock on to that opponent. From there you can circle-strafe around them, hop from side to side, and always block in their direction. This is key to fighting all but the most basic of enemies and is extremely well conceived.

While there are some tough monsters, the main enemy in Zelda is the puzzle aspect of the game. Ocarina of Time forces you to think before you act, with numerous puzzles spread throughout the entire game. Some puzzles must be solved simply to exit a room, while other, larger puzzles sometimes cover an entire area. Some of the game's puzzles are totally optional, usually rewarding you with a piece of a heart container - which you'll need, but you won't have to collect every single one as long as you're quick with the Master Sword.The game's items are the usual assortment you've come to expect from a Zelda game. The boomerang is an invaluable tool for young Link, as is the slingshot. These weapons are mere toys for Link's adult body, however, so you'll be using the bow and the hookshot (or grappling hook) for most of the game's latter portions. Bombs, of course, come in handy no matter how old you are. The ocarina is probably the most-used item in the game. Throughout the entire game, you'll learn various tunes for the ocarina. Playing these tunes does a lot of different things, such as turning night to day, opening certain doors, calling your horse, and warping from place to place. In a world as large as Hyrule, warping is an extremely useful time-saver.

Time plays an important role throughout the game. As you proceed, time passes, and day quickly becomes night. At night, the fields of Hyrule can be a dangerous place. Time travel also comes into play, allowing you to jump seven years into the future and back again. The two times act similarly to the light and dark worlds in the SNES Zelda game, A Link to the Past. Things you do as a child will affect locations, and a few puzzles require the use of both time periods.

Graphically, Ocarina of Time is simply unmatched. Everything about the game just looks fantastic. You can see Death Mountain in the background of some portions of the game, complete with various smoke effects depending on what stage of the game you're in. The cinematics, which, of course, use the game engine, look absolutely spectacular, and the effects used (the time travel sequence is especially sweet looking) really give the game a spectacularly majestic look. The game's sound is also really quite amazing. Every tune in the game perfectly relates to the onscreen action. Even the songs you play on the ocarina are hummable. The sound effects are also perfect. The speech consists of mostly laughter, gasps, and battle yelps (heavy on the "hi-yah!") and works very, very well. The game also takes your location into consideration. Dungeons and large canyons sound appropriately echoey, while underwater, noises are nice and warbled.

In a way, Ocarina of Time is a textbook example of retro done right. It manages to combine small aspects from all the previous Zelda games, giving you the same Zelda feel but in an entirely new way. Even in its huge, fiercely 3D world, the game retains a truly classic feel. This is a sequel at its finest, expanding on previous themes and bringing plenty of new stuff to the table.

Even if you're specifically looking for it, it's hard to find fault in Ocarina of Time. OK, to be fair, there's a slight bit of slowdown in a couple locations, such as the water temple, but it isn't frequent or harmful enough to even matter. The game offers a nice challenge, a stunningly well-told story, and the gameplay to back it all up. This game is the real thing. This is the masterpiece that people will still be talking about ten years down the road. This is the game that perfectly exhibits the "quality not quantity" mantra that Nintendo has been touting since the N64 was released. In a word, perfect. To call it anything else would be a bald-faced lie.

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Jeff Gerstmann has been professionally covering the video game industry since 1994.
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Avatar image for maximus1985

I have to admit I love the fact that the development and change in videogames is no longer as steep as it was in the old days (say like in the 90s). Playing a SNES or NES game today for me is just totally out of the question, but playing Ocarina of Time or Goldeneye today often actually gives me MORE pleasure than recent similar games. Precisely because when the quality reaches a certain level you dont really need those extra pixels. I mean, i find a NES-game today kind of unsatisfying simply because its not spectacular enough. But many of the games that came in the late 90s will probably never diminish the same way an early 90s game could. Even though the graphics in Ocarina of Time may be technically inferior compared to a game like Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain or Breath of the Wild for that matter, the difference is just not big enough in my opinion. At least it doesnt make that much difference to my human eye. Besides they had an unique way of making graphics look gorgeous in N64. And when gameplay/story is basically at least the same quality then.....

Say, to me none of the FPSs today is more fun to play than Goldeneye on N64. But it would of course have been different if the graphics was below par or the flow in the gameplay wasnt the same. My point is just that games like Ocarina of Time will probably be talked about forever, not just 10 years. While most games from before 1998 will be forgotten to some degree. The development has flattened out big time.

Avatar image for heimo24

"This game is the real thing. This is the masterpiece that people will still be talking about ten years down the road."

People are talking about this now, 20 years on. And I guarantee they will be talking in 2028 as well. Few games are so impactful, that you can make statements like this on launch day with a straight face.

Avatar image for jdlok

<< LINK REMOVED >> The best game you've ever played,but an 8 out of 10.HAHA.

Avatar image for illdumpz

What's so funny :p? Let me explain in a way you could understand.

I very much like the game, but I don't think it's flawless. It's a 17 year old game, of course it isn't going to be perfect! Because of that it can't logically get a perfect score, but that doesn't mean it can't be my favorite game. It's still very good! I enjoy playing this game dispite it's flaws, I think that says allot about its integrity!

Avatar image for jdlok


Avatar image for tristamus

The Greatest Game of All Time.

Avatar image for goldenagegaming

This is the most over rated game i played to be honest its not that great

Avatar image for knightrider4410

<< LINK REMOVED >> you're kidding right OOT was one of the games that changed the industry forever the other was final fantasy 7

Avatar image for chadwick1343

Amazing game for it's time. Still fun today, when almost every other 3d game from the era is a pain to try and play now.

Avatar image for COCPORN

I cannot get the video review to work. Anyone else?

I have this game on N64, and it is beckoning.

Avatar image for widdowson91

Even 16 years after it was originally released Ocarina of Time remains the greatest video game of all time. I can't praise it enough.

Avatar image for Paragoob

This is the best game ever made.

Avatar image for BlackGenjii

If there was one game that I could say was perfect, it would be Ocarina Of Time. The graphics, gameplay, score, story, environments and that triumphant rising from beginning to end all collide in the best N64 game ever made. Amen.

Avatar image for brainiac1988

"This game is the real thing. This is the masterpiece that people will still be talking about ten years down the road. In a word, perfect. To call it anything else would be a bald-faced lie."

Only games that make you feel like this should get a 10 imo. Good review.

I'm glad I didnt read it in 1998 though :P it contains some spoilers. I myself was totally unaware of the time travelling aspect back then.

Avatar image for giedrius1001

i dont understand green elve guy in mario world, best ever action rpg??? my ass, you have to be kid or retard to call it best ever game or ever rpg or ever rpg action game, well praise it for evolution of action rpg, but otherwise is really only mediocore game like all the mario games and only good for kids, real and best rpg is elder croll and diablo, mass effect and so on, zelda is nothing just overhyped, overrated game and all series, thats why nintendo dieing, cause mario and zelda is not evolving at all, and beside them is nothing else to play, nintendo rip

Avatar image for chimekolover

<< LINK REMOVED >> A game that influences and even changes the game industry is over-rated? O.o your logic stumps me.

Avatar image for drekula2

ocarina is one of the best games ever created and it still holds up today. before you say it's nostaglia, keep in mind i first played this game only a few years ago - and not in 1998.

Avatar image for halo1399

Best ever

Avatar image for Mugzippit

Gamespot's IGN review blurb "This is the masterpiece that people will still be talking about ten years down the road." posted in 1998. Meanwhile fifteen years later...

Avatar image for DonutSupreme

There's a reason this game scores perfectly from countless sites... that's because it IS perfect. In my opinion it's the greatest game of all time.

Avatar image for Shad0wg00n

The Comment right below me ---> retarded fanboy

Avatar image for brainiac1988

the two comments below me ---> morons

Avatar image for Ezioprez9709

@brainiac1988: Proof please?

Avatar image for brainiac1988

People who say this is overrated, dont understand how this game influenced videogames, and the industry as a whole. This was a perfect example how videogames should look, sound, feel and play.

Avatar image for brainiac1988

I wish I could go back to 1998 and play Ocarina of Time for the first time. I will never, EVER forget that sh*t....


Avatar image for unohanakenpachi

i did not played ocarina of time when it came out i played it like 3 years ago when i was 15
But still its my favorite videogame so far its just perfect.
im not of those players who cares about the graphics by the way

Avatar image for GSJones1994

These days, a lot of people like to call OoT overrated, and these "people" follow these rules:

- They never played Ocarina of Time when it came out. They were watching Elmo when it came out.

-They never played a Nintendo game before 2003.

- They don't like Zelda games (or they only play Call of Duty and Halo)

- They don't go with the "Nintendo flow"

- Ocarina of Time is not overrated. It may get too much undeserved attention, but at least it's as good as the critics say it is.

- Attention haters: If you are playing Zelda games today, it's all because of this game. Welcome to the 90s.

Best Zelda game of all time.

Avatar image for godmachine0603

<< LINK REMOVED >> Ive played every zelda there is. I bought this the day it came out. I thought it was overrated then, and still do. Id put Majoras Mask and Wind Waker way above OOT.

Avatar image for guily6669

<< LINK REMOVED >> And yeah, this is a lot overrated...

Not a single game deserve 10\10. a game that has the full pontuation, must be the most perfect game ever made, and can't fail anything.

10\10 game would probably mean a game that will stay the best for a million years or so, since every god damn game fails on something.

Those Zelda games, don't even look as funny as the good Sonic for Dreamcast, and lot's of SEGA mega drive good old games...

Avatar image for guily6669

<< LINK REMOVED >> Well everyone has their tastes... I hate 99% of all those nintendo games, including those zeldas.

Anything that looks too animated, full of magic... ~not my type.

I preferred a billion, trillion times SEGA\Megadrive\PS1\Dreamcast on the 90's to the nintendo stuff. But hey, that's just me.

Avatar image for GSJones1994

A comment response to << LINK REMOVED >>.

Avatar image for GSJones1994

<< LINK REMOVED >> Yeah, but I have a different opinion. I know i'm gonna take a lot of heat for this but I think the best game of all time is Super Metroid.

Avatar image for knightrider4410

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> don't worry you're not gonna take any heat for thinking that super metroid's the best game both super metroid and zelda ocarina of time are 2 of the greatest games ever made no argument from me in this case

Avatar image for Ezioprez9709


It still is.

Avatar image for godmachine0603

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Are you INSANE! Nintendo is GARBAGE now. Look back at the NES and SNES days. The amount of fantastic games that came out then as compared to now! Thats such a huge difference i dont even know how to compare the 2!!

Avatar image for knightrider4410

@godmachine0603 @Ezioprez9709 @eliebaz are u kidding me i agree the NES and SNES had a lot of fantastic games i won't even bother to argue that with anyone but the legend of zelda ocarina of time was one of 2 games that changed the gaming industry i bet you don't even know what the second was you know what i might give you a hint if you ask nice

Avatar image for unohanakenpachi

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> yeah i agree nintendo is still great but these day kids think they are so rude just because they play M rated games and think nintendo is for kids

Avatar image for ThatOneGamerGuy

If you kiddos like this game you should play ALTTP.

Avatar image for godmachine0603

<< LINK REMOVED >> Are you kidding me?! Wtf is ALTTP. You lazy people and your acronyms!

Avatar image for brainiac1988

@godmachine0603 @ThatOneGamerGuy AlttP = The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. ;)

Its the Zelda game that came out before Ocarina of Time. (On the console generation before it. The SNES.)

Its the second best Zelda ever. Ocarina of Time being no. 1.

Avatar image for godmachine0603

<< LINK REMOVED >> Right on, thanks for the reply, I figured it out shortly after I posted. I LOVE OOT, but my personal fave is Majoras Mask. Regardless, most Zeldas are awesome!

Avatar image for Paoksis

back when games had no score

Avatar image for Luminious0


Avatar image for epic542

Quite possibly one of the greatest games i've ever played and Every person who is into gaming needs to try this game out.

Avatar image for Connor982450

Yes, the legend of Zelda. Everyone in my class (except for a few people with good taste in games) tell me that Nintendo sucks and gaming companies like sony rock. Trust me when I say this, they obviously have not played this game. This game feels like it was made level by level by angels from heaven. The gaming experience changed gaming forever. Any game that you see today with lock-on combat or auto jumping, they owe it ALL to this game. And don't even get me started on how perfectly brilliant the gameplay, story and controlls are. Score:11/10. This was, and still is the best game of all time

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The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time More Info

  • First Released Nov 23, 1998
    • 3DS
    • GameCube
    • Nintendo 64
    Ocarina of Time definitely follows in the footsteps of the previous games, and the result is a game that can't be called anything other than flawless.
    Average Rating38039 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
    Developed by:
    GREZZO, Nintendo
    Published by:
    Nintendo, Gradiente
    Action, Adventure
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence, Suggestive Themes