Ocarina of Time Dungeons: Inside the Deku Tree

In this series of editorials, I’ll be reviewing the dungeons of Ocarina of Time and examining them, in the same vein as I did with my Skyward Sword Dungeons series. And of course, the first dungeon in Ocarina of Time is Inside the Deku Tree, which is the last major destination of the game’s tutorial portion. In fact, this dungeon is arguably the first example of a super easy “introductory dungeon” the series has seen; other first dungeons that came before didn’t do as much hand-holding and didn’t spend as much time — if any — explaining how the game works. Inside the Deku Tree was the first.

Because it was the first 3D game in the Zelda series, there would inevitably have been players who needed introduction to the new game mechanics, like targeting, auto-jumping, and scaling climbable walls and ladders. So, while I’ve complained about other Zelda games having hand-holding introductory dungeons like it, Inside the Deku Tree was justified for doing it because of its early placement in the series overall. The dungeon is very easy — only beginners (like myself when I first played) should struggle with it — but it’s easy for a good reason.

Beyond its difficulty, there isn’t tons to be said about Inside the Deku Tree; it’s one of the simpler dungeons in the game thematically. It’s supposed to be inside a tree and it’s basically… inside a tree. It’s a simple theme, and it’s executed properly. It’s a fitting dungeon for the surrounding region of Kokiri Forest, with simple alterations from what you’d expect inside a tree, like torches and other constructions, to allow for the basic tutorial dungeon that it’s supposed to be. Most of its design is built with its role in mind, but as I said, it accomplishes its intended themes very well.

It has enough originality in its idea since it is basically the only dungeon in the series that takes place in the interior of a tree, and because of its secondary theme of infestation. The dungeon, with its bestiary of Skulltulas, Gohma Larva, its eventual boss in Gohma herself, and prevalent webbing, sells the theme of corruption while mixing it well with the interior of the tree, combining for a believable but unusual concept: A spider-infested tree. Thankfully, this speaks for most of the dungeons in Ocarina of Time, which do a decent job at preventing any dungeon from being an overly simplistic one-trick pony (as I will no doubt get into with future entries in this series).

And speaking of Gohma, the dungeon boss of Inside the Deku Tree has one of the best introductions of any foe in the game, showing herself only when the player looks at her, setting up one of the creepier boss intros in the series that well befits the young Link in his first confrontation against evil. Another important thing to note about this is that when this game first came out, it was essentially a prequel in the same way Skyward Sword is now, so whether or not players were acutely aware of it or not, this was the first time on the timeline that a Link had to face off against evil. And while easy, Gohma was an intimidating boss that befit this role.

Was Inside the Deku Tree easy? Yes. Was it simple? Definitely. But these facts were proper not only for the first 3D dungeon of the series, but for the first ordeal that Zelda fans had faced in the five years since Link’s Awakening. It established the concept of a tutorial dungeon in a time when it was still needed, and while its themes were simple, they were handled with love and care and really sold the dungeon to new players of Ocarina of Time. A worthy dungeon for the series and an excellent introduction to one of its greatest entries.

But what are your thoughts about the first dungeon of Ocarina of Time? Do you look back on it fondly? Was it challenging to you as a new gamer, or did you tackle it with enough experience that it was a breeze? Did it bore you or interest you? Tell me in the comments, and look forward to the next post where I will tackle my favorite Child Link dungeon, Dodongo’s Cavern!