Unsheathed #1: Dethroning Ocarina

It’s not an easy task. Still revered as the greatest game to date by gamers all over the world; toppling The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time from the hierarchy in people’s hearts and replacing it with another title is a task even the greatest of developers (including Nintendo) have attempted and failed at. While some may dislike the highly acclaimed game, it is an undeniable landmark in modern gaming culture and people continue to play it again and again, and anticipate when the experience it gave will be granted to them once more by another Zelda game. Thus is the problem – Ocarina has given the Zelda franchise a downfall.

While the game is legendary, time and time again developers have stood up to plate, given their projects utmost care, released the epic, and while the titles were magnificent, they just couldn’t measure up to the glory Ocarina of Time still held. Many people are expecting great things from the upcoming Twilight Princess (which is only four months away!), and have taken Miyamoto’s comments to heart when he says he wants this game to be the best Zelda game ever. Undoubtedly it will have improved upon everything that was in Ocarina of Time and will be much vaster, more epic, and certainly have its share of memorable moments for gamers to chuckle at, shed tears to, and be filled with the courage to carry on. The problem is; will these improvements be enough to make gamers say “Move down the bench, Ocarina. This is Twilight Princess’s seat now.” I believe Twilight Princess will dwarf Ocarina in every single aspect, but my answer is “No, it will not be accepted by gamers as the substitute to Ocarina of Time”.

How can a game be ultimately better than its decade-old counterpart and still be considered runner-up? Surely the same experience will be had? No. No matter how good, how invigorating, how superb Twilight Princess proves to be, there will always be people who will prefer Ocarina to the new masterpiece. That’s not saying that Twilight Princess won’t sell; Zelda simply sells by name alone – just look at Wind Waker. The thing people wonder about is how Ocarina can still be revered as the better title when it’s hard to be oblivious to the fact Twilight Princess will be superior.

To start things off, Ocarina has pretty much got everything going for it. The game was the highly anticipated first adaptation of the Zelda franchise to the third dimension on the Nintendo 64. Previously the games had always played in two-dimensional environments with a two-dimensional character. Secondly, the game was generally amazing (but you already knew that); it had a great plot, memorable characters, a vast world, hilarious moments, touching moments, and a great control scheme. Ocarina of Time was something that no one had ever experienced. The graphics proved to be some of the best around (and are still pretty impressive even compared to the current generation of Xbox, Gamecube, and the PS2) and glitches had to be searched for in order to be found. The game was fault-free, and perhaps the most important point is that everything was new – something people had never played before, and consequentially provided one of the most memorable gaming experiences known to gamers because of it.

How does this effect Twilight Princess? While Ocarina does have the upper ground on this upcoming gem, Miyamoto and crew have been working to beat out the prior hit. Since Ocarina offered so much that was new to the gaming world, Twilight Princess has an uphill battle no matter how good it is. Nintendo has realised that in order to go above and beyond what they had done previously, they can’t have just another storyline – they’re got to recreate everything. As I previously stated, Ocarina had some of the most memorable moments in gaming and Twilight Princess must mirror the magnitude of those moments with newer, better ones. However, this is where the issue lies – people want things from Ocarina, yet want a totally new game. Miyamoto’s team is thus put up to the ultimate challenge – bringing back what some people wanted while keeping it different.

I believe that the same issue was addressed back in the N64 days with the release of Majora’s Mask. Link was placed in a new mirror world having saved Hyrule, and must now save that one. The game had made several improvements on Ocarina of Time such as playing as other characters (kind of) and was a great game at that, but it lacked the experience that Zelda fans thrived for. The issue was once again tackled with Wind Waker with the player in a future Hyrule with an updated graphics system and some new moves. Again, the experience still wasn’t enough for the title to rise above Ocarina’s magnificence.

Well, Nintendo’s done pretty much everything they could possibly do, right? They’ve tried graphics, playability, story, worlds, a new attack here and there, but still haven’t succeeded. Yes, all new titles stand at a disadvantage, but no title is infallible to defeat. Ocarina was vulnerable in several areas – it did not touch on everything it could have. But wait, is this the missing link (no pun intended!)? If Ocarina did not have everything in it, is this the part where Miyamoto climbs up a mountain and screams “I’ve got it!” into the night? It very well could be. Including the experiences that Ocarina of Time had as well as including the things it didn’t have could very well lead to the rise of a new king.

However, simply throwing random things such as romance and mass death into a game will lead to failure. Luckily enough, we’ve got a development team working that really cares for the game’s quality. The aspects must interlace with what has already been built. What Nintendo really needs is the ability to capture the gamer within the game, immerse them enough to make them forget what they dislike – what they think could be improved upon. The game needs to bring in new characters, address a new audience with perhaps a darker outlook as Wind Waker’s lighter one didn’t fare too well in a prejudiced market against a lighter world (and it still made best-seller).

The story will be one of the most important aspects of the game as it must give us the feeling that we are really in Hyrule (which will probably be established very early off) and must remain highly original to capture an audience. Something that holds true to the franchise yet still manages to hold its own in originality and delivers a sense of freshness while playing. We can’t have another Link versus Ganon showdown (although I would assume that fighting Ganon will be in the game) as it is old and overused. Putting Ganon as the issue behind the Twilight realm is all too simple and easily foreseen by players. Since Ganon is really the only villain that Link has ever had, a newer, more vile villain should be presented to outdo the menacing power Ganondorf held in Ocarina of Time. In that game, Ganondorf showed no remose, he was pure evil and was willing to destroy everything to clear himself a path to the infinite power – the triforce.

A story cannot be enough to tide someone over no matter how great it is. People will need to feel at home playing the game, and a Zelda game without at least some comic relief won’t do the trick. I can remember playing Ocarina, and when the gorons went for a “big goron hug” and a third fell down from the mountain blocking Link’s escape path with another hug, I was pretty much in tears. True, I was only a young person, but to this day I still find that short animation funny and I’ve seen it at least ten-twenty times. It is moments like these that help develop a story. Whether it’s odd villagers or Link, comedy within a serious game such as Twilight Princess or Ocarina of Time is a godsend.

Furthermore, as already revealed to us (to avoid a spoiler skip this paragraph), Link is also a wolf in this game. As with Majora’s Mask, we’re given a new way to play the game with all new attacks. I’m glad that Nintendo decided to include this as it is definitely one of the most attractive features of Majora’s Mask and will certainly add to the Twilight Princess experience. Why would Nintendo add in something like this in a Zelda game? Simple. It’s the same reason they’re releasing the Nintendo Revolution – they want something new that hasn’t been done before and will refresh the gamer. Another quest to save Zelda is old as Link will just be something done many times prior and a tweak such as changing this can influence a game more than one would think.

A couple times earlier on I mentioned that characters play a major role in the story. They could just be some idle villager who’s lost their way, or some mysterious being helping you throughout the game. Development in these characters is immensely important. It’s one of the reasons that Ocarina of Time shone so brightly – the characters were memorable and had personality. Link was a ladies man, believe it or not. Saria’s little speech at the beginning is enough to tell that they’re a little more than friends. The bridge scene upon leaving the forest is incredibly touching, and the reunion with her is even more so. Link managed to create bonds like this with several other characters. He proved himself, and they were friends until the end. If Twilight Princess falls short of this like Wind Waker did (the magic just wasn’t there, sadly), it could very well be considered to be faulty as these characters can influence how we view Link’s personality greatly.

Things that people have been wishing for since Ocarina and Majora’s mask are finally returning such as riding on horseback, a truly expansive world that we can actually walk on, and the addition of more dungeons. We don’t know exactly how many dungeons, but if it’s more than the gargantuan amount in Ocarina of Time, gamers will be a very cheery crowd. An expansive world is a given, and statements from Nintendo tell us that the world will be about three times the size of Ocarina of Time (huge, I know!). Also in great demand are side quests. A large world without a good quantity of these would be long and gruelling work, and depletes a lot from the overall play time. Zelda has always been about full freedom in your travels throughout Hyrule, and side quests only enhance it further as there is so much to do even after completing the original story.

Despite how great Twilight Princess will be, Ocarina of Time will always be a landmark. There will always be those who will continue to revere it as the more formidable of the two titles, and there will be those who will prefer the new story and more on. What some people tend to forget is that a game can be better. If the memory of an older game still resides after completion of a new one, it means that the old title was great and was worth playing. However, some people will pass this off as “I preferred the old title to this new one”. Perhaps if Eiji Aonuma can bring a new light (or darkness) to the franchise, it will be like playing Ocarina of Time again. While they cannot recreate the playing experience, they can sure as hell sugarcoat the old one until it is truly unrecognisable with all of the great new features, quests, and characters – traits of an epic.

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