So far in this series I’ve reviewed Inside the Deku Tree, which I’ve said is a very easy tutorial but is justified in being so because of its place in the series, and Dodongo’s Cavern, which I’ve called my favorite of the Child Link dungeons in Ocarina of Time. Now I will review the third and final Child Link dungeon before moving onto the Adult Link portion of the game, Inside Jabu-Jabu’s Belly.
“Wait, I’m going where?”
Yeah, it’s inside a giant whale. It’s pretty weird. When I was told I was going to enter a whale for the third dungeon when I was first playing the game, I didn’t believe it. Inside the Deku Tree wasn’t that unusual overall because, while you were entering a living entity, it was a tree. Having giant trees and going inside them isn’t really unheard of in fantasy; it’s just not that weird given the genre, and not in real life either, considering real animals live in hollows. But going inside a whale? I can’t think of many stories that have their characters explore the innards of other creatures, though they do exist (Fantastic Voyage being the chief example). The few that do make no illusions about it being an intensely bizarre concept, and clearly neither did Ocarina of Time, what with the song that plays in the dungeon. I’d even venture to say it’s the most bizarre dungeon of the series, and it’s impressive it’s held that crown for so long.
I also think it’s almost strange to a fault, or at least it almost was for me. As I said last time, one of the reasons I prefer Dodongo’s Cavern over Jabu-Jabu’s Belly is its more grounded concept; Inside Jabu-Jabu’s Belly isn’t just strange… it’s downright unrealistic. There’s no rhyme or reason to the design of his interior and getting through it is a weird ride. I don’t actually mind this overall, and I enjoyed the dungeon, but since it’s basically just completely insane as opposed to Dodongo’s Cavern and its immersive, believable environment, I have to hand it to the Cavern.
Meanwhile, the actual gameplay and design of the dungeon, while more familiar than the concept of exploring the guts of a whale, are a little strange too. The most obvious departure from traditional Zelda gameplay — and the thing I’m sure everyone reading is thinking of — is Princess Ruto, the bratty Zora who you have to escort through the dungeon, using her to weigh down switches to progress. This was one of the series’ first instances of having another character to go through a dungeon with, and it made things a bit different.
There are, however, other unorthodox elements in the dungeon’s design: Most of your navigational challenges involve falling through specific pits to land on platforms below, you need to wipe out strange tentacles to open up pathways and more pits to fall in, and most of the dungeon’s enemies are difficult to kill without its dungeon item, the Boomerang.
And honestly, the things you need to do to complete the dungeon are incredibly unclear to any normal player. I don’t think it was simply my inexperience at gaming when I first played that prevented me from being able to figure out that I needed to take out the Parasitic Tentacles in order to open up the right path into the basement below. It’s a confusing puzzle that has little to no proper hinting, and it’s not based on any design logic seen before or since in the entire series, let alone within the game itself. Not to mention the entire time you spend trying to figure it out, you’ll be dodging around the Bari and Biri and many other tricky enemies. It’s the first dungeon that repeatedly forced me to reference a walkthrough to complete. However, the boss battle against Barinade, strange as it may be, is very fun. It’s a challenging fight requiring good reaction time and it isn’t too confusing. A fun battle overall.
I do think the dungeon’s design is messy and confusing, but it’s not all bad. Frustrating or not, it’s essentially a fun dungeon with entertaining challenges. I think it’s Ocarina of Time’s worst dungeon, but that’s not really saying much considering that Ocarina of Time is still often considered the best game of all-time.
So what about you? Did you think the dungeon was really weird, or did you not think much of it? How do you think its design stacks up to other dungeons in the game? Did you think it was confusing? Tell me in the comments, and look forward to next week, when I discuss the first of the Adult Link dungeons, the Forest Temple!