This review originally went live in 2007, and we're republishing it to mark the arrival of N64 games on Nintendo Switch Online.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time did for the Zelda series what Super Mario 64 did for the Super Mario Bros. series. It successfully brought one of the most beloved game series in video game history into the magical new world of 3D gaming. And not only that, but it added tons of amazing new game play ideas to a game that was already chock full of them. As with most Zelda titles, Ocarina of Time sold out across the world upon its initial release and stayed sold out at many retail outlets for weeks after its debut. So how has one of the greatest video games in history held up over the years and does it still have that special magic that made it one of the most successful video game titles ever made?
Of course Link got an updated play control system to go along with his 3D visual makeover and the result remains just as playable as it ever was, even if subsequent adventures refined things following the introduction here of the traditional 3D Zelda template. Link can still slash with his sword, but this time there's a bit more variety, not to mention the ability to Z-target specific enemies. And it wouldn't be a Zelda game without the boomerang, a bow & arrow and an assortment of doohickeys and tools to help you on your way — plus the eponymous ocarina, of course.
Although the look of the game does take a bit of getting used to these days, once you get a grip on it you'll soon find that Ocarina of Time remains a real joy to play. You can map certain items and weapons to specific buttons which make them quite easy to get to in a pinch. You'll also find yourself roaming around the vast areas in the game on foot, not to mention horseback, which can make traveling longer distances much faster. The dungeons are also a nice surprise and add a much better feeling of exploration when compared to the previous 2D Zelda titles. While many gamers wondered whether or not Nintendo would be able to successfully bring their much-loved Zelda series into the third dimension with the visuals that their Nintendo 64 console offered up, Nintendo once again succeeded with flying colors and changed the way Zelda would be played from that moment on.
The visuals in Ocarina of Time might look dated by today's standards, but there's no denying how impressive they were when the game was first released. Depending on where you play, the polygons can be a bit jagged, the textures might look a bit ropy at high resolutions, and the lighting effects aren't quite what we've become used to, but you'll still find moments when you'll catch yourself just marveling at what Nintendo was able to accomplish on its 64-bit console and how great the Zelda universe looks in full 3D. As with just about any game, there are some places that look better or worse than others — and you may want to investigate the remarkable 3DS remake if you find the early polygons of the era distractingly primitive — but overall Ocarina of Time stands as an impressive achievement and still holds up quite well visually all these years later.
An amazing musical score has long been a staple of the Zelda series and Ocarina of Time is certainly no exception. Koji Kondo and his team managed to not only compose some absolutely magnificent original tracks for Ocarina of Time, but also put together newer versions of the songs heard in many of the classic Zelda titles — famously minus the main Zelda theme, of course. You'd be hard-pressed to find a track in the entire game that isn't catchy or incredibly atmospheric, and every track seems to carry the mood of the game at that moment perfectly. The sound effects are executed just as impressively and make this one of the best Zelda audio experiences ever crafted.
There's a reason that The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is widely regarded as one of the greatest video games ever created and it won't take you long to (re)discover why that is. The game takes everything that was great about the Zelda series and somehow manages to bring it all into a 3D world without a single hitch on the first try. Not only that, but the developers also managed to add enough new elements to make the game truly stand out from the previous releases in the series beyond the extra dimension. Ocarina of Time is honestly as close to video game perfection as you can get and an absolute must-play for any video game fan.