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December 28, 2006

Filed under: gaming»software»zelda

Flat Notes

Ocarina of Time is, according to Gamerankings, the greatest game of all time. It has a composite ranking of 97.9%. This is unbelievably overrated.

I'm trying to be fair to Ocarina. I recognize that it's an older title, that it was the first Zelda to move into 3D, and that countless people identify strongly with the title. I don't really expect to convince anyone else. But I'm really having to struggle to keep playing, something that didn't happen with the older 2D Zeldas, which I likewise didn't experience until much past their publication.

First of all, this is an ugly game. And I don't mean just in terms of the technical bits and pieces, since the N64 was home to the nastiest texture filtering functions ever written. Even ignoring the muddy textures that were common to consoles of the period, the art direction here varies wildly. The Great Fairies look like garish dominatrixes, for the love of all that is holy, and the Gorons are just annoying. This is even more frustrating when it's clear that a lot of work went into parts of the game, like the day/night cycle--it's irritating, largely pointless, and seems to exist just for the effect, but the shifting colors as the sun rises or sets are very pretty.

Second, the Z-targeting system doesn't work. It just doesn't, or at least not fast enough to be useful. I end up aiming at walls, random objects, or faraway enemies instead of where I actually want to strike. Putting double-duty on the trigger as a camera control was a mistake in Jet Grind Radio, and it was a mistake here. Sure, I can look where I want if I switch to first-person mode, but Link has a knack for being where I don't want him to be when I zoom in. Considering that the N64 had a d-pad that sat useless for this game, and the emulated Gamecube version simply toggles the map on and off, it's unbelievable that no-one thought to give full camera control to the player.

But what annoys me most is how stubbornly obtuse Ocarina can be. I spent probably an hour wandering the Lost Woods at the start of the game, trying to figure out where the sword was located. The annoying girl with green hair said it was in the forest, after all. Turns out it's in the training area, which is part of the level Kokiri Forest, instead of the Lost Woods, which are apparently not a forest even though they are made up of badly-textured trees. I know, I know, it's my fault for not taking her completely literally, but that's set the tone for my experience so far: blundering along, playing the titular ocarina constantly, until I finally luck into the next step.

No, I haven't even gotten to the Water Temple yet.

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