OH DEAR GOD YES! This is it folks! The big one! I’ve been holding this one back for a while, because how do you talk about a game that everyone knows is one of the greatest of all time? Not only did this game become the blueprint for future titles in the Legend of Zelda series, but one of the most influential games in the adventure genre period. Hailed by many as the greatest game ever made, how can I start? The beginning seems like a good place.
Oh yeah, the Conan theme makes everything awesome. And that’s the official commercial when this game came out in November of 1998 for the Nintendo 64. Waiting 3 years from the first tech demo in ’95 was hard, but as we’ve learned, patience with Link’s latest adventure tends to reward us.
This bad boy is one of the few games to get the coveted 40 out of 40 in Japan’s greatest game magazine, Famitsu. The first one to get a perfect score, and one of the 15 to ever get that honor. It sold 7.6 million copies worldwide, won several awards, and its context sensitive controls and target lock-on have played a role in all 3D adventure games. And did I mention the awesome story yet?
Set at one of the earliest points in the Zelda timeline, you play yet another young boy in green named Link. This Link lives among the small forest-dwelling Kokiri, children dressed in green who have symbiotic relationships with fairies. Link’s the only one without a fairy, marking him as an outcast. The Great Deku Tree, lord of the forest, summons him, hooking up with Navi (I’ll get to her later). After a quest to stop a monster inside the Tree, Link is asked to head to Hyrule Castle to speak with the Princess Zelda, to stop the evil Ganondorf (he who will become Ganon). Link’s initial quest takes him around Hyrule to help open the Temple of Time to get to the Sacred Realm, where the legendary Triforce awaits. But Ganondorf is there, and claims the Triforce of Power. Link is then sent forward in time, where he is a grown man, revealing he’s not a Kokiri, but one of the Hylian, the main race of Hyrule. As an adult, Link wields the Master Sword to put an end to Ganondorf’s reign and save Zelda and the world.
I feel ashamed, because I consider myself a writer, but can’t do the story justice without going into more detail. It’s the greatest story from any video game (suck it Final Fantasy!), and its epic plot works so well that it’s been adapted into a manga available in English now from Viz Media.
The graphics, while slightly dated, show just how gorgeous the N64 could be. The music is outstanding. I still find myself whistling “Saria’s Song” when I’m in a happy mood. And since the titular Ocarina is used to play songs that cause magic, it works the awesome tunes in as often as you can.
The characters are all memorable, from Ganondorf and his menacing laughter, the horse Epona who you could ride across the land, the Skull Kid in the forests, the Gorons in their mines, Ruto and the Zoras. And then there’s Navi. Navi speaks for you throughout the game, since Link is a silent hero, and offers advice, as well as being the way for you to lock on to an enemy’s weak point. However, her constant cries of “HEY LISTEN!” will drive you to want to kill her with your sword.
The gameplay is… well, awesome. Combat is intuitive, the amount of subweapons always gives you options, and the ability to travel through time helps for some interesting puzzles. The Water Temple is annoying as hell, though. The bosses are incredible, the greatest one for me being the final climatic showdown with Ganon. It’s so hard for me to explain why it’s so good. You need to play this game.
It’s been re-released multiple times for the Gamecube and is available right now for the Wii’s virtual console, and it’s being remade for the upcoming Nintendo 3DS. Play this game. Play it now.