The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was the first Legend of Zelda game to come out for the N64. At the time of release, it was often (if informally) called Zelda64, since Nintendo was trying to play up the 64-bit-ness of the N64's MIPS R4400 CPU. This is just confusing now, as the second Zelda game for N64, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, was released a couple of years later, and now the typical shorthand is just "OOT".

Released in late 1998, it proved to be an enormous hit, selling well over a million copies in the United States alone. While the gameplay style stayed much the same, the graphics took full advantage of the new hardware. While the previous Zelda games had all used 2D top-down views, Ocarnia of Time featured a (fairly) interactive 3D environment, with very smooth motion and some of the best visual designs ever done for a video game. In particular, the design of one of your final challenges, the Spirit Temple, is truly beautiful; combining the slow, haunting music, the beautiful and cohesive level design, and even a spec or two of humor, the designers created what might well be the single best level in any of the myriad Zelda games. Througout the game, the music is excellent and can really enhance the atmosphere of your travels -- it can be cheerful, tense, sad and mysterious, or downright scary, to match the location you're in. The major downside in that respect is that the music does start feeling a bit repetitive after you've spent 10 hours in a single level, but there was only so much music the designers could afford to cram onto the limited N64 cartridge design.

This episode of the adventures of our young hero, like most of the ones prior to it, centers on defeating Ganon, recovering the missing Triforce, doing a lot of dungeon crawling, and, oh yeah, saving that cute princess Zelda. You first have to collect three gems from three locations in Hyrule, which allow you to open the Temple of Time (and gives you the Master Sword). This is the first 10 or so hours of the game. After that, you must defeat 5 Temples (Forest, Fire, Water, Shadow, and Spirit), plus several smaller areas (Ice Cave, Gerudo Fortress) before attacking Ganon's castle. And along the way you collect many powerful items and abilities, including a few spells, three kinds of magic arrows, gauntlets of strength, and other goodies.

An interesting aspect is that you spend the first part of the game as a young boy, and later sections as a teenager. You can go back and forth between these two forms, and you actually have to a few times to complete the game. One sometimes frustrating point is that young Link is unable to use some of the most useful items in the game, including the bow, long sword, Megaton hammer, and hook shot. This can be very tiresome, especially when you are faced with a nasty problem that would be trivial to solve, if only you could use the @#^% hook shot. However, of course, that is the whole point of the puzzle - solving it using the limited tools you have available to you as young Link. You are accompanied in your travels by Navi, a truly irritating fairy that is constantly butting in at inopportune moments. (Your fairy friend in Majora's Mask, Tael, is much less annoying).

There is a reasonable amount of combat in the game, but it is rarely very difficult. Most of the 'regular' combat is easy, because once you know the patterns it is often very easy to beat them. There are a few exceptions, however; you will regularly encounter Stalfos, Iron Knuckles. giant lizards, and wolves, all of whom are somewhat unpredictable, in addition to having some good offensive and defensive abilities. There are also, of course, the usual lineup of bosses and mini-bosses; some are easy, some can be very tough. In addition to the often easy to find attack patterns, most attacks are simply not that damaging. And finally, even if death's cold hand does claim you, you just restart wherever you were without much in the way of penalty at all.

In contrast to the relative simplicity of combat, some of the puzzles will drive you absolutely mad. There are some that I haven't figured out after playing it through several times. But the important ones that you need to complete the game are usually "relatively" simple to figure out once you get the hang of it.

The game is quite long considering the limits of the N64 cartridge design; probably 40 or 50 hours all told the first time around. There are lots of walkthroughs and hint pages available to speed that up, if you like, though I would recommend at least trying to solve the puzzles on your own. It can be frustrating, but the satisfaction you experience when you finally get it makes it worthwhile.

Despite its age, I still enjoy this game very very much. If you haven't played it yet, you really should. N64s are dirt cheap now that the GameCube has replaced it; Ocarina of Time still sells new for $30 or $40 (simply because, along with Mario64, it was one of the best games ever made for the platform), but it's worth every penny.

A list of temples, bosses, and mini-bosses compiled just for you, by me.

An "I truly cannot believe nobody noded this yet" writeup
Also a: "Woohoo! I'm level 3 now!" writeup

Some more interesting features of this great game...

As is the fate of most forms of entertainment which feature time travel (like The Terminator and Back to the Future), this, one of the best in the Zelda series, has plot holes.

For those of you not familiar with the game (shame on you) then I will explain a little about the Song of Storms. Basically, this is a song which when learnt and played on Link's Ocarina of Time causes it to rain. This can be very useful, and it is necessary for one part of the game.

To finish the game, Link needs an item called the Lens of Truth. This is a sort of magnifying glass which sees things exactly as they are - so you can see things which are invisible (such as chests and doors) and see through things that are fake. This item is found down the bottom of a well in the past, because in the future the dungeon is blocked up (The game is set in two different time periods - one where Link is about 10 years old and one that is 7 years later - see the above writeup for more information) but unfortunately the well is full of water, and Link cannot dive that deep or breathe underwater (annoyingly, older Link can, but that's another story), so the well needs to be drained somehow. If you talk to the windmill man as old link and get out your Ocarina of Time in front of him then he will comment that "He hasn't seen one of those for 7 years" and that the last time he saw one it was being played by a really annoying kid who made him play turn really fast (For those who don't know, the windmill man stands inside a windmill winding his musical box in time with the windmill turning. When this kid came in he played a song which caused a storm and made the windmill turn faster. He had to spin his box faster. This annoyed him.) After some prompting, he teaches you the Song of Storms. You then travel back in time (by replacing the Master Sword in the Temple of Time) and as young Link you go and play the Song of Storms to him. This makes the windmill turn faster, which drains the well so you can go down it (Don't ask me how making a windmill turn fast causes the well to drain. It's a Nintendo Logic thing.).

The only problem with this lovely little sequnce of gameplay is that if you were taught the song by the Windmill guy, but only after he learnt it from you, Where the Hell did it come from?

To be fair this is not really a mistake on Nintendo's part - it is more of a nod from Shigeru Miyamoto to his fans that are clever enough to think in this way. It speaks volumes, I think, when you find out that Shigsy's favourite film is The Terminator, which has it's own version of this temporal paradox...

Another nice feature of the game is the mask trading. You go to the Happy Mask shop in Hyrule Market and "borrow" a mask to sell to someone who wants it. Once you have sold a mask, you come back and give the money to the mask shop owner (there is sometimes some good commision, it depends on the mask) and you can borrow the next one in the seuqence of masks. Once you have sold a mask you are free to borrow it for your own use at any time. Some are useless, although the Mask of Truth allows you to talk to people and find out what they are really thinking (most of them just think "What a horrible mask!"). Each mask only has one person who wants to buy it, so there may be a large amount of searching required. The Bunny Hood in particular is very hard to sell - you have to find a man jogging around Hyrule Field (the game's main hub from which most other areas are accessed), but as young Link you cannot ride Epona, you just have to slog around constantly until you find him. You get a full wallet of rupees after you find him, and are given access to the Mask of Truth after that though, so it is worth it.

What makes this feature interesting is that while in this game it was just one of a number of minor sub quests, the concept was liked so much that it was expanded upon and made one of the main elements of the sequel, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. In that game, masks gave the wearer special powers, (such as changing into a Deku Shrub, a Goron or a Zora) and many were all but essential to completing the game.

The game had an almost real time day/night cycle, and it was one of the first RPGs released in the west to have this (I know that Seiken Densetsu 3 had one, and Far East of Eden Zero even had a real time clock which carried on ticking when you weren't playing, but these were only ever released in Japan). There were "Gossip Stones" placed around the world that told you the time when you hit them, with a day passing in about half an hour IIRC. There was some gameplay to go with this gimmick though - Hyrule Market closed it's drawbridge at night, which left you stuck on the field fighting enemies all night.

As brilliant as the game was, it wasn't perfect. There was one particular sub quest which foxed many players for ages - a man, who when found, would challenge you to a race across the whole land. I can't remember where he was found*, but he always raced to some completely obscure location that would take ages to get to. But when you got there, thinking that you had probably made quite good time, you would find him there, saying "You did well, but I beat you by just one second. Try again?". Everyone naturally thought that they would be able to improve their time by 1 second easily, so they accepted. Unfortunately, the man would always beat you by one second, no matter how long you took. A bit unfair, but in the midst of a game of this quality, I can accept one annoying element. Most games have at least a handful.

As with many Zelda games, there was an ultimate weapon, called the Biggoron Sword, which did huge amounts of damage and made the final boss a lot easier. To get it though, you had to perform a trading item sequence, a little like the one found in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. However, for this version, some of the runs were timed...

  1. First you need to get an egg from the Cucoo (name for a chicken in the Zelda universe) lady in Kakariko village. Play the Sun Song (which advances time by half a day) until the egg hatches into a cucoo, and then use it to wake up Talon (he's sleeping in one of the houses in the village).
  2. Go outside and give the cucoo back to the Cucoo Lady. She'll give you Cojiro, a Cucoo which doesn't crow.
  3. Find the wierd guy sleeping in the Lost Woods and use Cojiro in front of him. It will crow, and he will be so happy that he gives you an Odd Mushroom.
  4. You then have a time limit to get this to the potion shop in Kakariko village. The lady in there makes a potion out of it.
  5. Take back the potion to the guy in the woods. He has gone, but there is a girl in his place who takes the potion and gives you a poacher's saw.
  6. Get across Gerudo's Valley either with Epona or the longshot and give the saw to the carpenter in the tent. You are then given the broken Goron Sword.
  7. Climb up to the peak of Death Mountain and meet the huge Goron up there. He says he will repair the sword, but he cannot see. He gives you a prescription for eye drops.
  8. Take this prescription to King Zora in Zora's Domain. He will give you an eyeball frog to take to the scientist who lives by Lake Hylia.
  9. Transport the frog within the time limit (you'll need Epona) and the scientist will make eyedrops from it.
  10. Transport these eyedrops from Lake Hylia to the Goron at the top of Death Mountain (this is an absolutely huge trek - and most of it needs to be done without Epona) within the time limit and you are given a claim check, as the Goron says it will take him three days. So play the Sun Song 6 times (3 for day, 3 for night) and talk to him again, and you will be given the Biggoron's Sword. This kick ass sword requires both hands (so you cannot use your shield, but it makes up for that with brute strength.
Note: There is another blade called the Giant's Knife which can be bought for 200 rupees in the Goron's Domain, which does similar damage to the Biggoron's sword but the blade breaks after a few uses so that you are left with a very short stub. Getting the Biggoron's sword replaces the Giant's Knife, whether you had one or not.

Second Note - after I spent hours getting all this written, it turns out that the Biggoron's Sword has been noded much better here by sam512. Ah well, such is life. Thanks to randombit for pointing that out.

* - Servo5678 reminded me that: "The running man came from the Gerudo Desert outskirts." and that the race ended "at the entrance to the Kokiri city, I think. I'm pretty sure the race was Shiggy's idea of a joke to players who insist that the game isn't "complete" until they finish all the tasks."

Own memory, which was jogged nicely by:
The Biggoron Sword FAQ by Patrick Allen (available at GameFAQs)
Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo GameCube in February 2003 as part of a preorder incentive for The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Anyone who put down a $15 deposit on the new game in February 2003 received a free copy of the 1998 classic while supplies lasted (along with the upgraded The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Master Quest, but I'll save discussion of that version of the game for another node).

The game plays nearly identically to its game pak-based version. The Z-Targeting method has been replaced with L-Targeting in all in-game text, plus the onscreen buttons have been remapped to their GameCube equivalents. The Nintendo 64's Z button moves to the L button, the C buttons move to the C stick, and the X, Y, and Z buttons also perform the functions of C left, C right, and C down respectively. Furthermore, while the N64's B button was blue, the GC's is red, so the onscreen B button image has become red to match. When the game reappeared in 2003's The Legend of Zelda: Collector's Edition it featured smoother textures and an increased frame rate.

It would seem that, at heart, there is some type of emulation driving the game in its disc incarnation. I'm assuming that Nintendo tweaked the original Ocarina data and then copied that ROM file to the disc where an emulator actually makes the game playable (hey, if the GameCube can emulate Sega Genesis games, why not a Nintendo 64 game?). Upon choosing to play the game from a menu screen the player is asked if they want to use the controller's rumble feature. Once a choice is made a load screen is displayed along with a message to alert that the game is loading. I believe that this load time is allowing the console to load the game's rejiggered ROM image into memory along with the Rumble Pak preference. The game plays with no added delay - load times behave exactly like the game pak version. Whenever a game is saved the screen blanks to a plain black screen and displays a message about the game being saved, then returns to the action afterwards. It would seem that the emulator in use is catching the game pak's call to save and intercepting it with it's own save-to-memory-card routine (15 blocks of memory card space, incidentially). Then the emulator passes a "save complete" message back to the main Ocarina program so that play can resume.

These emulation theories are just that: theories. If you can prove or disprove them, please /msg me with the details. In the meantime, I'm off to play more Ocarina of Time.

yerricde says "I don't think it's emulated but rather just recompiled using something analogous to winelib or cygwin. Sega Genesis emulation is different: the Genesis has an 8 MHz 68000 and a 3.6 MHz Z80, while the N64 has a 94 MHz MIPS R4K and a 60 MHz microcoded "reality coprocessor". The GCN's CPU is only a 486 MHz PPC. If it is emulated, it's done through some sort of UltraHLE type (semi-dynamic recompilation) method.

For those interested, there are actually four variants of LoZ:OOT in existance:

  • The initial version, packaged in the gold cartridge cases. Notable for the bugs that weren't caught in the testing process, especially the no-sword bug (where a player would allow Ganon to knock the Master Sword out of Link's hands in the final battle, then save and quit, allowing him to roam the world swordless).
  • A revised version that fixed many of the bugs in the game, including the no-sword bug.
  • The most common cartridge version, which introduced a new theme for the Fire Temple. The reason was because many people heard in the original theme an Islamic chant, which upset quite a few Muslims and fundamentalist Christians.
  • Finally, the Gamecube version. Added support for progressive scan, modified the control scheme (and in-game references to it) to match the GC controller, and allowed for save to memory card. Otherwise, the game is identical to the previous release.

And they say that console games don't ever get revised after release...

Stuff you do NOT need to collect in order to beat the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

OoT has an awful lot of items and collectables and many of them are optional. If you want to beat the game 100% you can get them all, but it's actually surprising what you can do without if you want to beat the game with the bare minimum of items...

Obvious stuff:

  • Money. That is, other than the 40 rupees initially necessary to first buy your Deku Shield. These are obtained early in the game, long before any other items are available, let alone necessary. You also need 10 rupees to enter the Diving Game to win the Silver Scale, but that' it.
  • Any of the optional quiver, bomb bag, wallet or Deku Seed pouch expansions, for obvious reasons.
  • Mask Of Truth. All this is used for is getting useless information from Gossip Stones.
  • Deku Nuts. You will probably pick these up by chance at some point in the quest, and if you do, using them to stun particularly large opponents such as Stalfoses can be a good idea, but there are no quest-critical objectives requiring them.
  • Heart Pieces. Heart Containers obtained after beating bosses should sustain you adequately.
  • Gold Scale. This is only useful for diving for rupees and getting one particular Heart Piece - see above.
  • Stone Of Agony. This is only useful if you have a Rumble Pak in any case - it'll vibrate when you're near a secret.
  • Gold Skulltulas. Kill these to get a reward from the cursed Skulltula family - two wallet upgrades, a Heart Piece, the Stone of Agony, some free cash, and Bombchus, depending on how many you've found. All of these are inessential except Bombchus, which can be easily obtained elsewhere when needed. Completely unnecessary.
  • Magic Beans. These - available only to young Link - can be used in two places to provide shortcuts and several others to lead to secret Skulltulas or Heart Pieces. See above.
  • Three of the four available Bottles. While useful, you can make do with the single bottle which is necessary to the quest: the one with Princess Ruto's letter in it, found in Lake Hylia.
  • Four of the six available Great Fairy gifts. These are: Magic meter extension, strengthened defence, Nayru's Love (temporary invulnerability spell), Farore's Wind (allows warping within dungeons).
  • Sun's Song. This will freeze the undead in their tracks: useful... unless just running past them is a viable option, which it always is. Can also switch rapidly from night to day and vice versa - well, just be patient.
  • Ice Arrows. It's unclear exactly how much use these are in any case, and they're a hassle to get hold of (you have to finish the tedious Gerudo Training Ground).

Non-obvious stuff:

  • Dungeon Maps or Compasses in any of the dungeons. Although it's probably advisable to get these the first time through, a good memory will see you through even the more complex dungeons without getting lost or confused.
  • Come to that, any Heart Containers, obtained after beating major bosses. Okay, I'll give you that this is foolhardy in the extreme - this will leave you on three hearts for the entire course of the game, while an Iron Knuckle can take off six with a single swipe of its gigantic axe. But if you're l33t enough, you can do without them.
  • Biggoron's Sword. This huge weapon is the product of a lengthy side quest as adult Link, but the Master Sword (or, towards the end of the game, the Megaton Hammer) will do the job perfectly well.
  • Epona or Epona's Song. While she's a quick way of getting around places, she's only really necessary for getting Biggoron's Sword: see above. There are ladders to get over the fences to Lake Hylia, and the bridge in Gerudo Valley can be crossed via Longshot.
  • Fire Arrows. This is trickier. There are a handful of occasions when it's necessary to summon flame to complete something important to the quest. Torches need lighting, wood or webbing needs burning, that sort of thing. However, if you look carefully through your inventory there is invariably an alternative to using the Fire Arrows. Using the magic spell Din's Fire is one method; shooting an arrow through an existing flame towards the target is another; finally, in Ganon's Castle, there's a place where you need to light several distant torches in order to activate some hidden platforms and cross a deep chasm. Instead, you can use your Longshot to drag yourself to one of the torches halfway across, and then on a Like Like (enemy) to drag yourself to the far side.
  • Zora Tunic. Okay, now you may be starting to think I'm crazy. The main use of the Zora Tunic is that it allows you to breathe underwater indefinitely. Without it, Link can only hold his breath for a short amount of time. This is the amount of time equal to the number of hearts you have when you jump into the water, multiplied by eight, in seconds. So if you jump in with, say, eight full hearts, which is pretty standard once you get to the Water Temple, then that's 8*4 = 64 seconds, just over a minute. Which is plenty. The longest you ever have to spend underwater in the game is in the very bottom central room of the water temple, where you have to beat about half a dozen easy enemies underwater before you can surface. This can be done in the allotted time with at least ten seconds to spare, no worries. The Zora Tunic is hence unnecessary.
  • Hylian Shield. This is also insane. Technically young Link needs it to ascend Death Mountain for the first time, because of the regular showers of molten rock that occur on the route up to the top, but if you keep rolling (which will make you momentarily invulnerable to the falling rock) you can get along the deadly pass without taking more than about one and a half hearts of damage. Easy. For the remainder of the game spent as adult Link, it DOES get dicey not having a shield: even fighting only the bare minimum of enemies, surving those nasty Stalfoses without dying is hazardous unless you're really careful. Once you reach the Spirit Temple you get the Mirror Shield (which is necessary to complete the game), so things become a little easier from then on.
  • Song of Storms. This is only required to get the...
  • Lens of Truth.

Beating OoT without the Lens of Truth

This is a seriously psycho item to skip. You need this the first time through. The Shadow Temple alone is a nightmare: invisible Hookshot targets, invisible holes in the floor and invisible platforms across chasms, invisible enemies and walls... even the boss is invisible. How do you get past all that stuff without the Lens of Truth?

Memory! Play the game through several times and you'll find it's not too hard to simply memorize the location of the invisible (or fake) things you need - platforms, blocks and chests (only a few of which are necessary). The only real skull in the room with the turning bird is always in the same place. Navi will target invisible enemies for you and even tell you what kind of enemy they are, so you know how to fight them. Invisible walls can be found through trial and error and navigated by simply following the left or right-hand side. Chasms are relatively forgiving if you have the Hover Boots, which you will need to reach the main part of the Temple. The final room before the boss has a complicated, almost totally invisible layout, but if you have the Hover Boots and a little faith, there's a simple route almost straight across which you should be able to work out the first time you see it, and navigate successfully when you return without the Lens. And for Bongo Bongo: after stunning both his hands, he will clench his fists and race across the drum towards you. Just target the point exactly between the two fists and fire an arrow, and he will turn visible.

Outside of the Shadow Temple, there are only a few more tricky sections; an invisible enemy or two in the Spirit Temple, and the invisible paths in Ganon's Castle, which can simply be circumvented with skilful use of the Hover Boots and the Longshot. As for the trip across the Haunted Wasteland: well, I won't disagree with you, it's the hardest part, but it can be done. On your first time through, memorize the ghost's movements and try to match them up with the very few physical features in the area - and as soon as you see the two flags that mark the end, forget the ghost's (needlessly complicated) route and run straight towards them. Good luck.

But why would you want to skip all that stuff?!

Speed completion of videogames - either legitimately, or using an emulator and save states to optimize every possible frame - has become the big thing in videogaming these days. While Super Mario Brothers is the current favourite - with the world record for completing the game legitimately being of the order of five minutes and fifteen seconds, and the emulated ("time attack") record only a few seconds faster - old Nintendo Zelda games have also become popular.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is no exception. Each Zelda game is longer than the previous one - OoT will provide the average gamer with at least 20 hours of play in the main quest, plus many more for the numerous side quests. However, for the experienced player, it can be beaten in under six hours. This involves a huge amount of optimization and also requires skipping the vast majority of the items on the list above, in the name of saving time.

The Lens of Truth requires a ten-minute detour from what would otherwise be a direct warp to the Shadow Temple, making it worth the trouble involved in skipping it. The Zora Tunic would require unfreezing King Zora, which would cost about a minute. Many other items are simply be done without to save minutes or seconds.

Some optional items are collected for the sake of saving time. Heart Containers would be foolish to pass up, since Twin Galaxies' record-keeping policy demands that a speed run be completed without dying, which in any case wastes time. The extra time needed to visit Lon Lon Ranch and get a second bottle more than pays for itself in the Ice Cavern where being able to hold two bottles of blue fire instead of one saves a lot of traipsing back and forth. A Magic Bean planted at Zora's River provides a handy shortcut for adult Link. Farore's Wind is perhaps the most important: it allows warping within dungeons, which can be exploited to great effect in the Water Temple in particular.

Collecting the Hylian Shield as young Link requires a detour into the Graveyard while you head through Kakariko Village towards Death Mountain - only about two minutes, but still precious time. In any case, young Link generally only faces less dangerous enemies. As an adult, you can collect the Hylian Shield in the same place, this time losing only about 20-40 seconds since you have to visit the Graveyard anyway in order to get the Hookshot before you enter the Forest Temple.

For the same reason you can skip the Zora Tunic, it's ALMOST possible to skip the Goron Tunic too. Death Mountain Crater and a number of rooms inside the Fire Temple are sweltering with heat and a countdown timer appears, exactly like it does when you're underwater. The Goron Tunic protects you from this. However, the main part of the Fire Temple isn't hot at all: the hot areas can be sprinted through with impunity. That is, until you get to the boss. As far as is known, it takes at least two minutes to beat Volvagia, which would require 15 hearts, or far too many heart pieces over the odds to make it worthwhile. A great shame.*

The record for beating OoT - timed from the moment Link jumps out of bed to the time the final blow is struck against Ganon, and including all intermediate speech and cutscenes - is 5 hours and 25 minutes, set in April 2004 by Mike "TSA" Damiani. A faster run is possible, but would be nearly flawless.

*Update: it is possible to beat OoT without the Goron Tunic, provided you acquire a bottled red fairy. This will revive you when you die halfway through the Volvagia fight, and reset the timer, effectively doubling the time you have available. This has been verified experimentally (though two red fairies are advisable for insurance). However, skipping the Goron Tunic is such a lengthy workaround that it wastes more time than it saves.

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