Hail fellow fantasy-buffs and gamers!
When the topic is Zelda, it always brings back good memories. I am not the man who played EVERY “The Legend of Zelda” game that ever existed, but every time I did, I enjoyed it vey much. The legend of Zelda introduced me, after Mario, into the gaming world, since the first one I saw being played was the second one on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).
Now, with the publication of the “Game Grumps” channel, in the first chapter of the playthrough of the SNES version, an interesting point was brought up by Jontron and Egoraptor. While discussing if “A Link to the Past” is better than “The Ocarina of Time”, they mention that the latter one is a master piece despite its mistakes. Now, to be one of the popular ones of the series, this is a strange opinion.
There is a truth to it, since the N64 version was the first Zelda to be made in 3D, while the SNES version was already the third one made in the overhead view (technically second, considering that “The Legend of Zelda 2” mas made in many parts as a platformer). Thus we have two totally different situations. If we want to make a parallel, we have to also compare “Ocarina of Time” to the first game in the series.
When “The Legend of Zelda” was published, it was a grand new adventure. Miyamoto, the mastermind behind the production of this game, had hit the nail again. The already popular home gaming system NES gained a new jewel that we, up to today behold as very precious. But, as any first try on any game idea it had its flaws. Not so recently ago I got a remake for this game on the Game Boy Advance, in the hopes to try to relive some of the moments that had made for me this cartridge the cult classic that had inspired so many great sequels. Then I remembered the horror.
Don’t get me wrong here. I am not saying that it is a bad game. But the problems of the game were oftentimes a bit frustrating, and back then, while playing it on small screen, I remembered why I had never even finished the story. It all was in the way the game carried you along the progression, or better said, how it did not guide you at all.
Now, don’t get me wrong here either! I am used to bad conveyance. My preferred game genre is the RPG, which is, especially in the first years, known for letting a player wonder where to go. But in “The Legend of Zelda” it took a new dimension. To understand what I mean, we have to set our minds to the situation:
When you initiate the game, you start at a place. Period. Three exits and one cave, not more. No sign, no arrow, nothing to help you. When I played it the first time as a child, I vaguely remember, the first thing I did was take one of the normal pathways, just to die in a terrible massacre… then another one… then another one. At one point I must have realized that the cave mas the key to start the game. You could argue I was already too used to “Link to the Past”, and I can agree with you totally on that, but still, this start was terribly confusing. Maybe game standards were different back then, but even in Final Fantasy the first thing they did was tell you where to start.
And it gets worse as you progress to the game. Something I can’t do, up to now, is locate the first dungeon! I do reach some dungeons, but I am never sure which one is the first one. It was always frustrating to enter one of the levels and utterly be defeated by an impassible obstacle. Why? Because you had entered a dungeon sooner than intended. As a kid I soon lost interest in the game. A not-so-hardcore player would have done the same
But why does something like this happen? For us today it is more than obvious to put a hint on where to start a game and what order to follow a certain set of castles and other levels and worlds. But back then it was not thought necessary. How so? We have to remember here that it was one of the first of its kind. The great thing of “A Link to the Past” is that it has already another two games for experience. That’s why it has all its consistence. The mistakes made in the past are now repaired. I really thought that putting a cave was not an obvious first choice to explore for everyone… what if it was a dungeon?
The same situation happens with “Ocarina of Time”. Zelda had not been imagined as a 3D game yet, but it had to start the transition to be sure that it would work out. As far as I know it did not only work out, but it also became an instant classic. Even with faulty mechanics or glitches, a game can make it into a classic. But when we compare games of a different epoch, we always have to take the situation as a help. When it goes to my preferred game, I choose “A Link to the Past”. It is more mature and it has a great story. If we compare the 3D Zeldas, I prefer “Twilight Princess”. The mechanics there are excellently well programmed and the game feels mature in its execution. It may be unfair to compare the game on the N64 like this, but at the end it is just a matter of taste, since most enjoy the great story of the latter one.
Because even if I don’t prefer those games, I still think they are pretty good. So much that anyone can overlook certain problems it may have and enjoy it. I, on my side, will always prefer the SNES version, never forgetting the value of its predecessors that gave the experience to make my favorite adventure/RPG game ever. Plus, I recommend to play them anyways. They may have some faults and they may get frustrating, but you will have fun nonetheless!
May they smile upon your way!