Continuing on to the next chronological 3D game in the series, the Zelda playthrough arrives at Ocarina of Time. It’s a game that often tops (or nears the top) of a “greatest games ever made” list but the game was released in November 1998. There’s some validity to the critique that the game hasn’t aged all that well, although not nearly to the point of Final Fantasy VII (where the non-battle sequence or FMV character models have had people clamoring for a remake for at least a decade). While not my favorite Zelda game, Ocarina of Time can still be appreciated as a piece of game history. While there’s some wrinkles to the game, it’s also quite playable.
For the record, our group’s playthrough was based on the Master Quest version on the GameCube.
Ocarina of Time successfully brought the Zelda franchise into 3D. It was so successful, in fact, it set a template that was pretty well-established up through Skyward Sword. That template was essentially give the player a safe tutorial area to get used to the game mechanics before unleashing them on a world that’s only gated by the items the player possesses. The game also established the “collect 3 of ‘x’ (Ocarina‘s spiritual stones, Wind Waker‘s orbs, Twilight Princess‘ Fused Shadow) to open up the 2nd act of the game where you collect ‘y’ (medallions, Triforce pieces, Mirror of Twilight) so you can fight the final boss” plot.
It’s worth considering that even with Breath of the Wild opting for an open-world approach, it wouldn’t be too surprising if they kept some of the Ocarina formula.
Aside from the safe tutorial area, the above isn’t too similar from A Link to the Past. The obvious separation between Ocarina and A Link to the Past is the series’ jump to 3D, where Ocarina laid the groundwork for future 3D action-adventure games. Camera lock-on via Z-targeting allowed real time combat that was both challenging and feasible. The scale and depth of the game was only rivaled by PS1 JRPGs. While Metal Gear Solid was also released in 1998 and Ocarina’s plot isn’t nearly as complex, the game still tells a story that is epic and sensible.
Without Ocarina of Time, games like Shadow of the Colossus and Devil May Cry would have turned out very differently.