We’re nearly done with the dungeon reviews for Ocarina of Time. The Spirit Temple is the last of the game’s main dungeons, located in the Desert Colossus past Gerudo Valley, the only locations in the game you’re never driven to visit until it’s time to handle their temple; every other region is visited earlier in the game as Child Link. This means that there is no sense of rediscovery with the Spirit Temple. You aren’t finding an important dungeon hidden in a previously visited, familiar area. This is new territory, and they go to some length with the design of the Haunted Wasteland to make it feel like it’s “at the end of the world” in every sense. Being found at the literal edge of the game world, separated by a mazelike, low-visibility wasteland, has that effect on a location.
From what I’ve seen, the Spirit Temple is actually a really popular dungeon amongst Ocarina of Time fans, and I guess I can see why. It’s epic, it’s long, and it’s got a lot of cool puzzles. You can even tell that the development team liked it, because a sequence from it can be found among the game demonstrations that play if you wait on the title screen. Me personally, I was never crazy about it, I guess just because it wasn’t that unusual or unique, just a cool-looking straightforward dungeon with some fresh puzzles; I thought the Forest Temple and Water Temple were more striking all in all. Where it did strike me, however, was in its music and its story presentation.
The song that plays in the Spirit Temple is a particularly epic one. Not my favorite but I can see why it would be someone else’s. Very majestic, mysterious, and beautiful, but also a little sinister or dangerous. It’s very fitting for the final area, and its Egyptian sound fits the desert. The visual design of the dungeon works with the song and the surrounding region very well, and it has some really unique rooms that look a lot different than anything you’d see in another dungeon. While I feel the dungeon was less atmospheric — or perhaps less subtle would be a better way to say it — than the Forest or Water Temples, it’s certainly no less original.
The dungeon’s layout involves solving a lot of puzzles to advance, requiring a total of two dungeon items — if you count the Child Link portion’s prize of the Silver Gauntlets — to clear it. Spread throughout are many tricky enemies and health-draining traps, which help to give the dungeon a feel reminiscent of an Egyption tomb, a place that guards secrets with traps and curses. I think this concept could have been taken farther, because the dungeon still feels very traditional in terms of how the rooms are laid out in the overall design, but it’s a nice touch, and the dungeon is a fun experience as a result. It’s challenging but never too frustrating, and its design is much more forgiving to those who need to retreat to refill their bottles than the Shadow Temple was, because it does have a central area even if you go far away from it often.
Side note: If you ever used Fire Arrows or Din’s Fire on the Anubis enemies, then I disown you. You just robbed yourself of a fun little puzzle!
Like I said before, I think where the Spirit Temple really excels is in its story and presentation. It is the most directly plot-relevant dungeon of Ocarina of Time, containing a story that ties directly into Ganondorf’s backstory. The desert region is the home of Ganondorf and his people, so it’s fitting that you never visit it until the end of the game when the confrontation with Ganondorf is nigh. And then you gain some insight into what his homeland is like, what his relationship with it was like, and how things have gone in his absence. This story is depicted somewhat in Gerudo Valley, but it’s shown the most in and immediately outside the Spirit Temple itself.
Within the Spirit Temple you meet and conspire with Nabooru as Child Link, after which you proceed to do a short Child Link section of the Spirit Temple that’s in some ways like a mini-dungeon. Then Nabooru is taken by Ganondorf’s brainwashing witches, and Nabooru herself is fought as a brainwashed Iron Knuckle at the conclusion of the dungeon, before the Twinrova are finally confronted and their relationship with Ganondorf — being his surrogate mothers — is revealed.
This is one of the earliest examples in the series of a dungeon with a story that unfolds in its midst, the only one predating it being Thieves’ Town/Gargoyle’s Domain from A Link to the Past with its Blind subplot. Others would follow, like many of the dungeons in Twilight Princess, but the Spirit Temple is one of the rare ones that deals with the main story of the game (hinting at Ganondorf’s origins) instead of just a region’s self-contained story. Either way, it’s an interesting way of doing a dungeon, and it makes the Spirit Temple a lot cooler.
The Twinrova battle is also a fun one, boasting excellent buildup with the witches’ various appearances up until that point, and good presentation with the lines they utter while their awesome theme song plays just before the battle begins:
“With my frost, I will freeze him to his soul!”
(I really, really, really like these lines!)
The battle itself is a fun one. Nothing terribly special but a good, basic use of the Mirror Shield. On the other hand, while they can be repetitive at times, I love the Iron Knuckle mini-boss fights throughout the dungeon. There are three in total, and they are such cool enemies that I have to love them. Epic Iron Knuckles for the mini-bosses, and freaky plot-relevant witches with more personality than most bosses in the series for the main dungeon boss; the Spirit Temple has good foes.
So all in all the Spirit Temple is a very solid dungeon that has an excellent place in the story, consistent storytelling within, and excellent presentation. It’s a little less atmospheric and more basic and direct than some of the game’s other dungeons, but it makes up for that by being visually unique, having great puzzle design, and an awesome song. A worthy “final destination” before Link takes the fight to Ganondorf.
But be sure to tell me what you thought about the Spirit Temple! And be sure to check back next week for the final entry in the series, Ganon’s Castle!