I Wanted to Review Ocarina of Time, But I Can’t

I think I’ve stated a few times now that I was never a Nintendo kid and that a lot of the games folks like Shiggy and Doc What have played and loved for years are games I’ve never even touched in my life. That’s a bit of a sad thing when you think about it a lot, especially when you listen in to a conversation between people who love these games so much. Why did I miss that experience? (actually I know why, we were only allowed one main console in the house growing up and that was always a Playstation) Sometimes it sucks to feel like you’re excluded from some sense of nostalgia that everyone around you has.

So it was that I grew up without experiencing much of the Nintendo world, missing out on franchises like Zelda and Mario at times that many people would argue were their primes. Ocarina of Time in particular is often touted as one of the greatest games of all time and when something as ‘big’ as that is missing from your games library and you can’t contribute anything to a discussion about it, that can feel a little sad.

But with that little sadness came a small glimmer of hope, it just took a while to appear. With thanks to some major assistance from Beavwa I found myself spending the first half of this week keeping one eye on our mailbox in the hopes of seeing the Ocarina of Time 3DS remake show up. While I waited I thought about what I could do with it, besides, well, play it – how could I write about it?

The advantage I thought I had was that I could review Ocarina of Time from the perspective of someone with no nostalgic attachment. Admittedly I doubt that’s an original idea, but sitting between my friends who are adamant Zelda lovers with a lot of praise for the game I thought it would be interesting to hold an alternate viewpoint when playing it.

It seemed great in theory, but when the game showed up and I actually started playing it (and writing notes beside me), I quickly realized just how impossible it would be.

It’s not because Ocarina of Time is a good game, and not because it’s a bad one. The problem I’m having is simple, there’s still too much expectation. While it’s true I have no real attachment to either this game or the Zelda franchise, that difference is compelling me to find faults. I feel like I’ve already been conditioned to say ‘hey, this game isn’t as great as everyone says it is’. No nostalgia, but I’m still bound to it in some way. The concept of ‘reviewing Ocarina of Time as someone with no nostalgic attachment’ automatically sets itself up to be a challenge, and as a result everything I write and think flies under a banner of negativity and doubt.

Simply put, I don’t like it. I’m sitting here and I’m playing this game and I’m thinking ‘yes, this is fun, but is it really that great?’ when ultimately that shouldn’t be the point. Rather than judging the game for what it is, I’m taking what it isn’t and running away with it. What I hate in particular is the idea of annoying other people who love the game, saying negative things not because I necessarily believe them, but because I want my comments to challenge status quo.

So here’s what I can say about Ocarina of Time right now: I’ve been enjoying it so far. But I keep turning the 3D effects on and off and the use of the shoulder buttons can feel quite uncomfortable after a while and makes a compelling argument for getting the much larger 3DS XL. Although both of those problems weren’t present in the original game (or maybe the controls were? Who knows? You might. I don’t). Obviously it’s too early to be saying much more about the game at present – I only started yesterday! – but even while writing that out there was this lingering ‘eh…’ in the back of my mind. The expectation gets overwhelming and the experience gets dragged down as a result.

In the tiniest of ways it makes me regret my childhood. What if five-year-old-me had asked for an N64 instead of a Playstation? What would it have been like to experience Ocarina of Time as a kid, without all of the context surrounding it? I just wish that I could have that experience, unmarred by any preconceptions and expectations, to just enjoy the game by itself.

But then I wouldn’t have experienced Crash Bandicoot or Tomb Raider. What a dilemma!

So there’s not going to be a full review of the game. That advantage I was so excited about turns out to be its own sort of disadvantage. It’s not impossible to review Ocarina of Time from this perspective, but I’ll argue it colours your opinion of the game no matter how much you try to not let it, and in the end you’re left with a bunch of words on paper and no way to properly assemble them.

And that’s why you ramble about it on your website in an attempt to sound cool.

One comment

  1. I’ve been find that as I’ve been doing some writing about games as I play them, it actually detracts from my enjoyment of them. Gone is the innocent pure enjoyment of a game. It’s been replaced with the constant need to criticise and deconstruct every moment the experience. If you do that to Ocarina of Time, you’re going to have a very bad time.

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