Ocarina of Time has aged with perfect grace.
Ocarina of Time is without a doubt one of my favorite games of all time. I wouldn't even know where to rank it. It's probably not my favorite Zelda though, I would give that to Link to the Past without a hesitation.
I played through Ocarina of Time, from start to finish this week for the first time in 8 or 9 years. I was amazed at how much I remembered, and that's a good thing. Orcarina of Time is hardly a forgettable game. This was the sole reason I bought an N64. I eventually picked up Goldeneye and WCW Revenge and a few others, but without Zelda, I would not have bothered with the system.
I would say it still holds up pretty well. The characters are fun, the story is still impressive, the graphics aged fairly well. The controls might have aged a little poorly from the N64 limitations, but it's hardly something to complain about.
Overall, still one of my favorite games of all time.
Ocarina of Time is the first 3D Zelda game. Ocarina of Time introduced a ton of new ideas to the 3D genres of RPGs, Adventure, Platformer or even First Person Shooters. The Z-Targeting is probably the best example. While most people take targeting for granted, Ocarina of Time was probably the first one to implement it, and it was a huge deal when it was released. The Z button targets your closest enemy, you can scroll through enemies by hitting the Z button over and over again. It works well, buuut the Z button also controls your camera. So say you want to move your camera, you might accidentally Target something. It's not perfect but it's an excellent first try.
Ocarina of Time plays out almost exactly like the original Zelda or Link to the Past. You gain heart containers through defeating bosses, or collecting four heart pieces. You can get a total of 20 Heart Containers in the game. Hear Containers are split into 4 sections, so that's over 80 HP that Link can ultimately get if you choose to find all the HP in the game.
The item feature is pretty unique. There are a ton of items in the game, it's similar to the Link of the Past system, but since Link moves through time and gets older, he can't use his childhood weapons like a Slingshot. Also, he can't go back in time and use the Megahammer. It's a pretty cool system.
Link can find Great Fairies in the world that give him magic spells. There are also Fairies that boost his overall MP stats, AND boosts his Defensive stats.
There are 3 weapons in the game, but Adult Link can only use 2 and Young Link can only use 1. The 2nd weapon that Adult Link can use is a giant Sword, which is completely optional.
While Zelda's storyline moves in a linear fashion, more so than the original Zelda (which allowed you to take on different dungeons in a variety of orders). Ocarina of Time still allows you to backtrack at any moment in the game. You're never forced down a rail, and there's a TON of sidequests to do in this game. Actually, I would say the biggest meat in Ocarina of Time is the sidequests. Between finding all the Poes, the bottles, the Spider coins, the Heart pieces, the Giant Sword, Fishing, and minigames, there's a TON of time to waste within Hyrule if you want. That's what I love about Zelda games is they give you a playground to play in and you can do what you want within them most of the time.
----------Characters / Story----------
You play as Link, a young boy born in an elvish village without a fairy. Every child in the village has a fairy but Link until one fateful day when he is finally chosen. The Fairy, Navi, summons Link to talk to the Great Deku Tree. Link learns how the world was created and the Deku Tree dies, so Link becomes an outcast. Link wonders to Hyrule Castle where he meets Princess Zelda and Gannondorf. Gannondorf eventually starts a revolution, takes over Hyrule, and Link must go into the future to make things right.
The story was pretty impressive for the time. There was a ton of unpredictable plot twists. The characters are completely unforgettable.
The graphics blew me away as a kid (Ok, I was 17 when this came out). This was my first N64 game, and it downright blew me away. I still think the graphics are impressive. It might be hard to understand, but if you play any PS1 RPG in 1998 and then play Ocarina of Time, you'll see what I mean. The character models are very impressive, with all the facial features, arm movements, and overall look. The level designs are incredible, just how they're mapped out in true 3D.
One thing worth noting is the minimap in dungeons. I'm not 100% but I think this is the first game to feature a minimap.
I adore the music to ocarina of Time. The soundtrack is one of the best ever written. Ok, so the N64 couldn't handle amazing sound quality, so it didn't have the 'real live instruments' that PS1 RPGs occasnionally had, but the songs were perfectly written. You'll remember every tune and isn't that what matters? I love how the music transitions into a dark sinister tone when you get attacked by monsters. It creates a bit of suspense.
I also love the little bit of voice acting in the game too. Ok, so the character's mostly grunt or say one word. So there's no full blown dialog record, but it's enough to get a sense of the characters personality. Imagine if Chrono Cross did this with all the weird dialects of the characters?
The world map is pretty innovative for the time. The entire world uses true 3D models, and all towns, buildings and trees are in true perspective, except for maybe the Lon Lon Ranch, but that's up for debate. Games like Dragon Quest 8 later expanded on this idea.
One thing worth noting is the lack of load times. This is why a game like OoT wasn't possible on a system like the Saturn or PS1. Not only was there no load times, but the world was pretty large. In retrospect, games like Oblivion have dwarf it, but for it's time it was huge. The world is just one big open space with connecting towns and dungeons. Brave Fencer Musashi and a billion other games have used this idea.
Ocarina of Time features a night and day system, not original but perfectly balanced. Since the game features 2 time worlds, you essentially have to go through two giant world maps some minor changes between the landscape or towns.
Walking from one town to another can be tedious, so they allow you to ward around the world with your Ocarina. There's also a completely optional way to ride through the plains, which I won't spoil but I'm sure everyone knows about it by now.
----------Time to Complete Game----------
I'm not sure how much time I sank into OoT because they don't keep track of your time. That's a shame because I love knowing how much time I sink into epic games like this. I didn't really go for ALL sidequests in this game. I did some of the easy or important ones, like getting whatever heart piece I noticed, or playing the minigames to boost my arrow count. I found all the fairies to boost my stats. I got half of the spider coins. That's really about it. I probably put 15 hours into OoT, but this is atleast my 6th time playing through it, so I was never stumped.
If it's your first time playing through, and you're not using cheats, AND trying to get all the sidequest items. Then it might be a 30-40 hour game.