On this day, 25 years ago, The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time, one of the best adventures of all time, arrived in Japanese stores. In Europe we had to wait a few more days, until December 11, but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to remember one of the key titles of Nintendo 64, and the history of adventures, in general.
For those who do not remember, Zelda Ocarina of Time was the last major release of a 1998 that, like this 2023, was an exceptional year in terms of quantity and quality of titles. Among them we could enjoy Half-Life, Metal Gear Solid (which arrived in Europe in 1999), Resident Evil 2 or the first Gran Turismo, among many others.
But I’m not going to hide it: among all of them, being colossal works as they are, for me the Nintendo 64 exclusive is still a special game. Therefore, I did not want to miss the Zelda Ocarina of Time 25th Anniversary to pay tribute to a game that for me, and for many other players, still has “something unique” in many ways.
Not only does it remain one of the best adventure games of all time, whose gameplay stoically stands the test of time, but it also pioneered many things. What better time, too, to share some memories related to what the weeks before the release of The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time were like taking advantage of these 25 years?
25 years ago, the press had already played Ocarina of Time
My first contact with The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time took place in Frankfurt, Germany, on November 9, 1998. That day was a holiday in Madrid (Almudena), and it was my turn to go and cover the event. It wasn’t the first trip I had made, but I had only been working at HobbyConsolas for 8 months, and it was one of the first “big games” I had to cover. Was get nervous.
A small group of journalists left Spain for Frankfurt. Among them were an editor and a cameraman from the Canal Plus program DOF 6, pioneers in bringing this type of information to television, even if it was in paid broadcasts, and with their own aesthetics and style. I remember watching the program and seeing a 2-second glimpse of a shot of the game report. I keep the VHS lying around.
He The place chosen for the presentation of Ocarina of Time was the so-called Freilichtmuseum Hessen Parkan open-air village/museum by Kommern that was chosen for two simple reasons: it was relatively close to Nintendo’s European headquarters, and more importantly, it looked an awful lot like Kakariko, a small town straight out of The Legend saga itself. of Zelda.
It was a way to get into the atmosphere that we were going to find in the game. Thus, we entered the interior of one of these little houses and, as happened in other presentations, a few tables were waiting for us, each with its own gaming station, with a tube TV connected to a Nintendo 64. The curious thing is that The Nintendo 64 had a metal clamp like I had not seen before.
You can barely see it in the image above, but this metal piece was firmly attached to the console and made it impossible to remove the cartridge from the slot. If someone ever dreamed of taking the cartridge back home, at the very least they would need a radial to be able to break that security seal.
This first contact with Zelda Ocarina of Time we played approximately the first 3-4 hours of the adventure, (until defeating King Dodongo, the boss of the second dungeon), which was when the command was taken from our hands.
During that time we were able to play freely and try out new features such as the so-called “Z Targeting” or system of fixing the camera on an enemywhich is still valid today in many action games, or even some issues that raised eyebrows back then, such as automatic jumping (and which, in my opinion, were not so “big deal”).
If you’ve ever had the feeling of not wanting to leave a place or not wanting to stop doing something, that best sums up my first contact with Zelda Ocarina of Time. Luckily, just 2-3 weeks later I was traveling to Frankfurt again, this time to the Nintendo offices, to carry out the analysis of the game.
It was the first time that Nintendo did not send a game to the editors already in the “review” phase. and we had to go to the headquarters. As the times were quite tight, we were only going to have 3 days to play it, with “extended” hours, from first thing in the morning until 9-10 p.m. Whatever the body can endure, well.
I remember the Sunday before leaving on a trip as if it were yesterday, because a “bittersweet” feeling came over me. I was so gorilla with Metal Gear Solid (the American version, which we already had in the editorial office) that, even knowing that I was going to like what I was going to see as much or more, it bothered me to leave another of the great adventures of the year hanging.
The point is that We were only three specialized media from Spain. Apart from the undersigned, Roberto Serrano on behalf of Superjuegos (today Group Marketing Manager at PLAION) and Carlos Robles, from 64 Magazine (who would later be involved in the first stage of the official PlayStation magazine, run by MC, for the famous diazepam phrase in his analysis of Metal Gear Solid).
Of three, I was the only one who brought a laptop accompanied by a primitive external capture device, to take my own screens, which were the ones that were published in the magazine’s analysis, which you can see above these lines. What I didn’t know was that this was going to give me a little headache later…
The fact is that we arrived at the Nintendo offices, and deluded as I was, I thought we were going to see them and go somewhere “cool”, like on the previous trip. Nothing could be further from the truth. The press room was practically attached to the entrance, and was nothing special, so I saw absolutely nothing to remember (the furthest we got was the self-service at lunchtime).
The truth is The three media work hand in hand to advance the game and share our discoveries. And, although there were Nintendo staff there willing to help us with our questions, between the three of us we managed quite well to not have to resort to them, except on one occasion that I remember.
Thus, together, we discovered how to get Epona or what to do in the Dampé cemetery or how to overcome the complicated points in the dungeons (I reached the water one). I would be lying if I said that during the three days we were together a good atmosphere of camaraderie was forged between the three of us.
About to finish the trip, on the last night, the Nintendo PR who accompanied us asked me for a favor: would it be possible for me to share screenshots with at least one other media outlet? I, who am “do what I would like to be done”, did not hesitate for a second, and made packages with different captures for each one.
In theory it was something that was going to stay between us, but as soon as we returned to the office, they had already found out about the gesture, and I got a little slap on the wrist by someone who is no longer linked to HobbyConsolas and who, at that time, had some pending disputes with other media. But the thing stayed there, and it remains just another anecdote…
As soon as I returned from the trip I started writing like a madman, because the magazine was closing early to be able to publish the analysis of the game on time. I even remember the doubts with the note: I would not have hesitated to give it a 100, or a 1000, if the game had been translated into Spanishsomething that luckily was solved with the release of Ocarina of Time 3DS… but that’s another story.
Why The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time is for me the best game in the series, 25 years later
They say that memories often betray us and we tend to “idealize” things from the past… but I am clear about it. I am one of those who think that Zelda Ocarina of Time is still the best game in the series. And I defend it wherever necessary.
I’m not stupid enough to not see that it has been surpassed by later installments of the saga in many of the areas that defined it in its day. And no, I’m not just talking about the graphics.
Starting with the design, all you need to do is take a look at the three levels in which Zelda Tears of the Kingdom moves to see how its gameplay has evolved; going through Breath of the Wild and the design of its open world; or Wind Waker and its wonderful visual aesthetic… and I could go on.
But I already said it in the text of the original analysis: “There are few games that reach the category of masterpiece. This is, without a doubt, one of them: “The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time” is one of the most beautiful, complex, long, exciting and fun never experienced on a console.
And I still think the same thing. The reason why for me Ocarina of Time is still the best Zelda is very simple: “it’s the only one that keeps doing everything right”. And when I say “everything”, I am talking about the work as a whole, as the sum of each and every one of its parts.
Other deliveries have excelled in very specific aspects (freedom, combat, duration, motion controls…) but without putting the rest of its facets on the same level.
It is clear that it is something purely subjective, but in my opinion, everything in Ocarina of Time is taken care of and that is why, like Super Mario Bros., the years can already pass. When you return to it you don’t feel like a game is out of date, or that it has aged poorly.. You can test it by playing it on Nintendo Switch Online.
Thus, the narrative, although simple in Ocarina of Time, seems to me more effective and better resolved than the memories of the past of the last two installments, or the duller stories of Skyward Sword or less inspired ones like that of Twilight Princess. I insist, it is a matter of taste, I am not saying that they are bad games.
And what about the dungeons? Well then Ocarina of Time’s dungeons were among the last “memorable” onesone of those that the years go by and you continue to remember (something that doesn’t happen to me, for example, with the divine beasts of Breath of the Wild, which were the weakest in the game).
Shall we continue for the bosses? No subsequent delivery has managed to come close to the quality that the final bosses of Ocarina of Time exude.. And I’m just going to give one example: the gentleman in the painting. The Zelda series has never seen a boss as original, or imaginative, as that moment. And I could give more examples.
Or come on, let’s change the subject. What can you tell me about the soundtrack? The latest games have had bits and pieces of quality, but not a set of compositions as round in its entirety, as forceful, effective and remembered as that of Ocarina of Time, although many themes were based on previous installments. There is no equal soundtrack in the saga.
Puzzles, secrets (like the remembered magnifying glass of truth), variety of situations (really stealth zones to sneak into Hyrule Castle?)… I don’t know, The more I think about it, the clearer I see that the greatness of Ocarina of Time as a whole, and even more so if we take into account the technical limitations of the time, has not been surpassed.
Some will say that I should jump into the river, that if I am already delirious… it may be because they did not play it at the time, and now seen without the perspective of time, it is easy to underestimate their achievements, which were not few.
It may also be that I fell in love with the game in 1998, and that as happens with “first loves” in real life, its effect has left a mark on me that is too deep and unalterable over time. Be that as it may, congratulations, my dear Ocarina of Time. So another 25 years pass.