[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Ocarina of Time, Ten Years Later

November 17th, 2008 by Benj Edwards

Zelda: Ocarina of Time Ad - 1998Get thee to a nunnery

Ten years ago this Friday, Nintendo released what many consider to be the greatest Zelda title of all time, if not one of the greatest video games ever created. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time went on sale in Japan on November 21, 1998 after a long period of eager anticipation on the part of Zelda fans, who hadn’t seen a home console Zelda title since 1991’s A Link to the Past on the Super NES. Nintendo hyped up the release of their new game by offering a limited edition gold-colored cartridge (seen here) to those who pre-ordered Ocarina in the US.

Sadly, I missed out on the gold carts, but I did manage to snag a copy (a very gray copy) for Christmas 1998. Honestly, since playing through Ocarina of Time almost a decade ago, that personal experience — in terms of its joy, its depth, and its enchanting, enveloping nature — has yet to be surpassed by any other title. Now that’s a good video game.

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, November 1998 ]

Discussion topic of the week: Tell us why you think the Ocarina of Time is great. How, if at all, has the game been influential to the video game industry?

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36 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Ocarina of Time, Ten Years Later”

  1. Layne Says:

    Looks to be about $20 from various eBay sources: http://shop.ebay.com/?_from=R40&_trksid=m38.l1313&_nkw=zelda+ocarina+of+time+gold&_sacat=See-All-Categories

    I haven’t personally played it, so I can’t comment on it.


  2. Andrew Says:

    The game has graphics! It has music! It has sound!

    I have no idea why it is so influential, if it even has been! (It certainly was influential to the later Zelda games right?)

    Not played it, it does raise the question if it is as influential as it’s said. Simply put; not many games are like Zelda platformers, it’s hard to gauge (and the effects should take a few years in any case).

  3. Fessic Says:

    – The vast, (mostly) open-ended world
    – The innovative use of the ‘lock-on’ function (so you could focus on timing and technique rather than steering your character)
    – The unique characters and myriad side quests
    – The horse companion (Epona was it?)
    – The music…and clever use of playing the ocarina to unlock secrets
    – The superbly designed dungeons
    – The mini-games, especially the fishing mini-game

  4. Kitsunexus Says:

    I’m not really a big fan of the game, but Fessic has it right. It has a lot of firsts, but honestly, OVERRATED.

  5. Kitsunexus Says:

    Also, gold carts are the versions that have Gannon puking up red blood, some of the grey carts do too, but most of the greys have green blood.

    Also I believe the gold carts have more beta stuff left in them that can be accessed with a Gameshark (the infamous Arwing encounter to name one)…

  6. jlanagan Says:

    I sat in a toys r us parking lot all night with a buddy camping out waiting for the morning to come to get my copy of the game (I didn’t reserve it). Morning came, time flew by, and eventually the UPS truck with the games showed up. I got home with my gold cart, played a bit and fell asleep. I continued to play the game for a few days (maybe a week), and got bored. To this day, I have never been able to appreciate this game, it was horribly boring and put me to sleep playing it countless times. I think it might have just been the wrong game at the wrong time for me, I’ve always been a 2d zelda fan, I’d take the oracles over this game any day.

    /me ducks to avoid the tomatoes flying in my direction!

  7. Nimby Says:

    I remember preordering this one and Walmart. I naively opened and spent the next couple months going through every thing in it with a fine tooth comb. It may seem “overrated” now but it really was expansive and engrossing. My biggest mistake however was not immediately selling on Ebay, which at the time was going for around $100 when I had just purchased it for $50. What did I know I was 19 and just picked a game I was jonesing to play.

  8. JackSoar Says:

    I remember eagerly anticipating this game as well, and also received a gray cartridge version for X-Mas ’98. I remember reading an issue of Nintendo Power the month before it was released, I believe, in which some spokesperson or other said something to the effect of “A 20-hour game this is not. Think more like a 50 or 100-hour game.” Well, frankly, though I love the game, it really is closer to a 20-hour game.

    When I first got it, I was a little bit let down due to the relatively boring opening levels. I lost interest for a while during the whole sneaking-into-Hyrule Castle sequence, and then picked it up a few months later and beat it in a few days.

    It really did improve the further along you went, but the game still felt smaller than I expected it to be. In later years, I played Fable, which reminded me very much of OoT – trying to convey an impression of size and depth, but being fairly constrained and narrow in reality.

    Yet I’ve picked up OoT many times over the years, and it’s one of the few N64 games I still have. Still a great game, still worthy of its praise, but that’s my experience of the game.

  9. Orsty Says:



    I find myself more and more on ebay these days. Need to stop going there before I waste all my money.

  10. Layne Says:

    I find that game length really depends on the type of gamer you are. (Along the lines of this – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bartle_Test).

    I consider myself an explorer in that I want to explore the RPG game world, see every quest, see every corner of the world, do *everything*. Others want to complete the game quickly to say they beat it. Others are what I would deem collectors — they want to collect cool stuff regardless of whether they progress the story. etc. For some types, a game like OoT would be 20 something hours, for me, it would be (just guessing since I haven’t played it) about 50 hours worth of play.


  11. Brian Deuel Says:

    I have never played a Zelda game in my life. Ever.

    I know no one cares, but I thought I would mention that 🙂

  12. EngLebuRt Says:

    Wow, just yesterday I had this exact conversation with my buddy about how I felt Ocarina of Time was the greatest video game experience of my life. I was so addicted I could not sleep until the game had been completed. Probably my fondest memory was finally being able to ride Epona.

  13. mariospants Says:

    I have one of these gold puppies! It’s a great game and while there are some issues with control (it’s not as accurate sampling as later versions/hardware – this is something I wish the GameCube and Wii version had fixed) and some areas are a little forgettable, it’s the standard by which all 3rd person 3D adventure titles are measured. From the spooky echo of sound effects in dungeons to the well thought-out dungeons, this is the most fun and least frustrating of the 3D Zeldas (no endless sailing, thank God). It and Majora’s Mask had some great moments where you had to be in the right place at the right time, or raced against the clock, which always adds a sense of urgency: something missing in most modern games.

    The design was great and the characters reminded me of playing with Playmobile toys as a kid. Getting 100% completion with the biggest sword was a fun accomplishment.

  14. taylor Says:

    in my opinion this game is the best video game everr!
    it made you feel like you realy were hyrules last hope and that you could face any evil that comes across you. also the little things like biggorons sword and the singings frogs and the spiders were fun to discover it took me a while to beat the game hence i was only 7 when i first started it but now i could beat this game no problem in an hour. but still every time i play it i love it even more! =]

  15. jas Says:

    i had no clue that was valuable.

    my son had one of those

  16. guillaume andre Says:

    hmmm perhaps u guys need to get a life a girlfriend or boyfriend is a good place to start. to me video games are something u do when u are ill or really bored. what about going out with friends and having a real adventure instead of having the same virtual on as everyone else. just an idea and do not bother posting back and saying how wrong i am i will never visit this sight again much love xxxxxxxxxx

  17. Guayo Says:

    Ocarina of time…is really hard to find appropriate words to describe such an amazing game. I think this game teared down a barrier that allows it to not only be considered as a good video game, but as a piece of history that will remain in the memories of gamers through many years all around the world.

    Playing this game is not only fun and entertaining…it is a far greater experience than that. At least that is how I felt when I first played this awesome game…it made me feel like a true hero by enchanting me with its great story and making me feel that I am a part of hyrule just like hyrule became a part of me! =D

  18. Michael Pesavage Says:

    Ocarina of time was the first Zelda game I played, and it really got me into the series. From there, I played, Legend of Zelda, Zelda 2: Adventure of Link, Link to the Past, Link’s Awakening, Majora’s Mask, the Oracles, Minish Cap, and Wind Waker.

    After Wind Waker, I decided against playing any more Zeldas, because Wind Waker was a bit of a let down, with the repetative ocean traveling, and the GET TRIFORCE SHARDS thing. It was annoying.

    However, Ocarina of Time is not my favorite, my real favorite is Majora’s Mask. Ocarina of Time had man things, true, but it was Majora’s Mask that made it worth while. It had a smaller world, I think, and it was less free-roam(heck you’re trapped in town until you get the ocarina back!) but you really FELT like you were part of a living town with people that have real lives. They all did different things, based on how you talked to them, and some side quests had touching moments.

  19. Akrid Says:

    Ocarina was one of the first games Ive ever played and I played it like crazy when I got my hands on it, without a doubt loving it. That said, it was a great game and all, but I chock up all this “Greatest game of all time” nonsense to nostalgia. It’s similar to citizen kane being the the best movie of all time in the official circles. Ocarina, like citizen kane, had many new ideas that no one had ever seen before. That said, it was also one of the first 3d games, so there was a lot to discover. I think the fact that most gamers say Majora’s mask was inferior is a bit of a microcosm of the whole situation. Majora’s mask was a big improvement over ocarina, with tons of side quests, character daily routines, different forms, etc. The storytelling itself was also vastly improved. I do not dispute there are certain aspects of ocarina that were missed in Majora’s mask, but overall, I think it was better.

  20. paul Says:

    best zelda game ever, hands down

  21. MonsterTux Says:

    Ocarina of Time was the most enjoyable one at the time at which I bought, and for how old I was. I played Majora’s Mask (The gold version) after that and I didn’t really like it because I didn’t very much understand it and it was hard. Now that I’m older I think Majora’s Mask is probably my favorite one. There is so much depth in that game. I probably spent well over 50 hours playing through it and getting all the side quests done and finding all of the secret masks and stuff. Both games are fun indeed.

  22. Jon Says:

    this was one of the best games i’ve ever played, the romance sub-plot with Zelda + Link + Ruto was captivating when i was younger, this is one of the few games that can still evoke emotion out of me. i remember i felt terrible for Ruto because she was madly in love with Link and knew she wouldn’t get him, it was very depressing to witness haha

  23. Horatio Blacksmith Says:

    I’m gonna bet we all remember the god forsaken water temple, that place was so $%!&ing confusing. Worst lvl ever. But the game kicked so much ass it was worth it. I beat the game 7 or 8 times back in the day. Good game.

  24. bobmarleypeople Says:

    I prefer Majoras Mask. Darker storyline, Less annoying faery, re-battleable bosses…

    I could go on.

  25. fortune82 Says:

    I started playing Zelda on the NES, but I really didn’t understand what it was. It was just cool to stab things. After that, I messed around a bit on OoT somewhere, and I became genuinely interested in the series. The GBC Oracle games are what I played the most though (I’ve never owned an N64).

    Now I have the Collector’s disc for the Gamecube, which has Zelda, Zelda II, OoT, and Majora’s Mask. I own Link’s Awakening, both Oracle games, and still the original NES cartridge.

    Honestly, OoT is an awesome game, but I like the Oracle games more. Actually, only Oracle of Seasons. Ages was annoying.

  26. ish Says:

    Great Game, nothing like it out at the time.
    Plus its a Zelda game…no wait THE Zelda game
    Best buy offered a binder cover with the hylian shield on it.
    (i may still have my pokemon cards in it! :-\ )
    Good times…

  27. Grend Says:

    The game was fun, and at the time really top quality.
    That’s enough in my book.

    Man, I wanted that gold cartridge, but noooo, I didn’t have the money at the time.

  28. Tom Says:

    Lol I’ve got one of the Gold Cartridge Games, and I didn’t even know they were limited edition.

    Great game. Last time I played it was only last year. My N64 has outlasted my PS2 and Its about 6 years older.

  29. Mustaqeem Says:

    This game is the greatest ever made – i play it on emulator from time to time

  30. darcy Says:

    i have the limited edition gold one still i got it at a game place only 6 or 7 years ago used 😀

  31. randy Says:

    im playing my zelda ocarina of time game right now on my nitendo64 i would rather have this game then a xbox360 its one of the coolest games ever i still have it after 10 years i started playing when i was 2 i was freakin terrible its best game ever

  32. Rose Dragonfly Says:

    I grew up watching my older brother playing the Ocarina of Time. I was always put at awe by it, but I was terrified by the game. Then I grew a little older and I played the game seven times about. I always hated that stupid water temple!!!
    When Majora’s Mask came out, I was so excited to play it, and I found how much more difficult it was to finish COMPLETELY. Getting every single mask has still not been possible for me. These games were so much more and lasted longer than most games I have played. The Twilight Princess was pretty good, but it just did not seem to last like the 64 versions.

  33. Mike Says:

    Water Temple nuff said

  34. Bob Says:

    Best game of all time by far. It kept you playing. It made you happy, scared, excited, all while being challenging but not impossible. It truly translated all the best parts of the original games into the 3D universe seamlessly. I picked it up for the first time since I was 12 or so and it still had the same appeal. Leveling up with Link keeps the game ever progressing. As for influences, the next best thing before that was Mario 64 (for 3D worlds and floating cameras). This game improved on that game. Seeing the polygons in 64-bit in the eyes of the 90’s it seemed as real as it could get. Through a child’s eyes it was the apex of technology. It was also the perfect mix of dark and light. As the days changed you really felt an unease come over you as werewolves and ghosts and mummies came after you. The mix of total immersion, revolutionary game play, a WORKING floating 3rd person camera, and great graphics for the time it was out (smooth surfaces, ect) is why this game was so influential and why it was one of the best games of all time.

  35. Brool Says:

    What annoys me about this is the use of ‘ye’ as ‘you’ ‘ye’ does not mean you, it means ‘the’. The ‘Y’ sound was an olde english abreviation for ‘th’

  36. jakdin Says:

    Ok, I know I’m late to the show here…

    The release of Ocarina Of Time was one of the most memorable experiences in my life.

    I was living near KOENJI station in Tokyo at the time, and had purchased a used N64 specifically in the anticipation of this game. The local mom&pop video game store was allowing pre-orders of the game and I jumped on board with that.

    The release was on a Saturday and I remember I was so anxious to get my hands on the game that I woke up before the store opened and rode my bicycle down to the store as fast as I could. This was the first experience for me to pre-order a game, so I was not sure what was going to happen, or when to show up, etc.

    I went into MacDonalds, which was next door, and sat with a vantage point of the store’s front in order to catch the owner enter. I think I waited a while…

    As soon as I saw him go up the stairs to the store, I burst from the fast food chain and beat a quick follow up to the store….which was LOCKED! He had not opened the store yet, so I waited again, this time on the stairs.

    I’ll make the rest quick: After he opened up, I found that his delivery had not arrived, so I went home. 1 hour later, he still had not gotten the boxes. 3 hours later, I arrived at the store at the same time a delivery guy was going up the stairs. My heart skipped a few beats. The box was being opened in the store as I entered and the owner said something to the effect that “I hope it’s in there!” and sure enough, those gleaming Ocarina boxes were staring up at the world. He handed one to me and I literally flew home.

    I think I only slept about 3 hours for the rest of the weekend, and took Monday off due to a sudden illness.

    Even though the game was Japanese I was still able to finish it, albeit not with 100% understanding, but it was the best time ever.

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