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The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time review
by Owen Helfer

This game does a lot of things pretty solidly. The world is somewhat interesting. The combat is okay, and the controls work. I like the ocarina concept, and some of the dungeons and boss battles are really fun. Overall, this is a decent N64 adventure game. My problem is that this isn't just an N64 adventure game. This is a Zelda game, and by this standard it hardly holds up. I feel that Zelda titles are sort of a reflection of the system they are released for. The first game pushed the envelope for what is possible on a home console, while asking the player to utilize their creativity. A Link to the Past took everything that was great about the first title and refined it, using the upgraded power of 16 bits to fully realize the ambition of the first.
Ocarina is very much a hostage of the N64's confused design. The main focus of this title is giving the player a 3D sandbox to explore. This is an understandable ambition, and one that worked quite well for Mario 64. However, this approach doesn't exactly fit with Zelda. This is a franchise that requires much more nuance and detail for success. ALttP presents the player with a limited but densely populated world. There are constant opportunities to interact with your environment and be rewarded for exploration. Ocarina, on the other hand, presents a large but empty world. I don't only mean Hyrule Field, but the towns as well. Everything feels very shallow. I feel that the 3D design came first, and then they could barely fill the space with interesting features and environments.
This haphazard jump to 3D carries into the combat as well. As evidenced by the N64's clusterfuck of a controller, people weren't entirely sure how to control three dimensions yet. Mario 64, with its dedicated camera buttons, sort of tells the player to figure it out for themselves. Surprisingly, this mostly works. Ocarina attempts to solve the control issue with its "z targeting". Just hold z, and you'll lock on to the nearest enemy. Except, not really. Z targeting doesn't exactly work. Locking onto the wrong thing is a constant issue, not to mention when it just doesn't work at all. This is made especially frustrating when half of the game's idea of challenge is throwing enemies behind you where you can't see them. The times the combat shines is when you are able to discard z targeting. The best enemies in the game are the iron knuckles, armoured knights that you must out maneuver and attack from behind. Similarly, the fight with Ganon is a standout moment. This is because it is a test of skill and maneuvering, not simply pressing z and shooting arrows. On the other hand, Bongo Bongo and the entire water temple are prime examples of what game design should avoid. 
I really don't hate this game. At times, I had a lot of fun with it. I just feel that it is subject to a lot of blind nostalgia, and it's worth examining this title as a successor to the Zelda franchise. This inspection reveals a fine, but ultimately disappointing experience. 

Other reviews4

An extremely good first try at the 3D Zelda formula. A little rough around the edges, and a little dull in areas, but still a revolutionary title.
«Can’t stop playing»
«Time-tested»
In recent years, this game has gotten flak for being overrated. While I don't personally believe it's the greatest game ever made, I find this title to be among the best of the best. And that's coming from someone who neither had much nostalgia for this game, nor saw the overwhelming praise it was receiving. Perfectly paced with fun combat, an engaging story and incredibly well designed dungeons. It may not be the best game ever, but it's one of the best Zelda games ever.
Best game ever.