Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What was it?

Hey, look at this! A mid-week update!
 So, I recently played through The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and, as I've mentioned in the past, it's absolutely not my favourite Zelda title (in high contrast to the majority of the fans).  However, I can't argue that it was certainly the most revolutionary title in the series.  In fact, the first 3D game in a to-date-2D franchise being good would have to be revolutionary for that franchise.
Playing it got me thinking:  What was it that made this game such a big experience for so many people?  How come subsequent games which are, in my opinion, superior video games haven't been able to replicate the same effect?  After only completing the first dungeon, it hit me.  The reason is actually very simple:  Where some franchises made the transfer to 3D graphics conservatively (or just poorly), Ocarina of Time made full use of the added dimension right from the get-go.
In the Great Deku Tree, the main room is a tall open-ended tower with several floors in sight.  Not only was this just awesome to see when the game was brand new, it was also a key element in progressing through the dungeon.  For the people who don't know what I'm talking about (all 5 of them), there's a hole on the first floor covered with a web; you have to make your way to the top floor of the room and leap off the ledge and land on the web in order to break through it.
That's the first significant puzzle in the entire game and it involves clever use of height, gravity, velocity and impact, things which could not be effectively presented in a 2D world.
As the game progresses, it only continues to make clever use of its now incredibly primitive 3D graphics, and that is what I believe made the game such a big deal.  Of course, there were some other bits too that helped.
The presentation, to start, was masterfully executed.  The cut-scenes of the game use surprisingly well-thought-out cinematography that always emphasizes the point of the accompanying dialogue.  And again, this shines through right from the beginning of the game.  When Link first approaches the Great Deku Tree, the camera shifts to an angle near the ground, looking up, emphasizing a feeling of large size, authority and power; all characteristics of the speech-capable tree.  Later, after completing the first 3 dungeons, you of course have to live out the actual events of Link's recurring, prophetic nightmare.  That moment when you see Ganondorf, up close and personal, mounted on his horse, uses a similar camera angle, invoking a feeling of a powerful presence.  As well, when you see Link during this cut-scene, the camera looks down on him.  It shows both the simple fact that Ganondorf is taller than him as well as makes Link look "small" in the sense that his strength can't compare to the villain.
In fact, thinking back on it now, the story in Ocarina of Time is a totally average story.  There's really nothing that special about it.  But the beautiful presentation made it feel special.  It was, to our young selves, the most epic, fantastical and engaging story of all time.

I could probably go on for ages and this, rather than some rambling thoughts, would turn into a full-blown Outdated Review.  Instead, I'll leave it as is; my feelings on what made the "Best Game of All Time" (Nintendo Power) so great.

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