The Challenging Depths of Ocarina of Time’s Water Temple
Posted on September 27 2017 by Adam Barham
The Water Temple from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: arguably the most infamous dungeon in the entirety of the Zelda franchise. The name alone can drive fear and dread into the hearts of the most experienced players and trigger flashbacks of blindly stumbling through the watery depths and the maze of corridors, hoping to find some form of progress. As someone who got a later start than most in exploring the Zelda franchise, it was only recently that I took on this challenge myself on the Virtual Console version of Ocarina of Time. But is it really as bad as most people remember it? Let’s dive in and take a look.
Before playing through the Water Temple myself, I knew that I was in for a challenge; however, I was unsure if all the stories I had heard were of brave warriors making their way through a confusing labyrinth or tall tales of getting confused by simple puzzles. I was actually excited to see what this dungeon was truly like.
I had heard of the mechanic of raising and lowering the water level many times before. Because I’d heard stories of people accidentally changing the water level to something they didn’t want, I got the impression that there had to be six or more places to change the levels. I was quite surprised to discover that there were only three locations that could change the water level, each with a switch corresponding to a specific level.
Apparently the 3DS remake made the process easier by adding guidelines that showed where the switch for each water level was located and what level the switch would change the water to, but was this truly a necessary feature? It seems to me that if a player paid enough attention to the layout of the dungeon, it would be fairly clear how to find each switch and what to expect when using it. However, I can sympathize with players who might have gotten excited with the possibility of new areas to explore every time the levels were changed and forgot to explore past areas, missing things in the process.
Though I will admit that Ocarina of Time 3D letting players put on and remove the Iron Boots at will was a welcome change.
I must admit that while I played through the dungeon, I found it to be a lot less mind-boggling than most people made it out to be. I’m not saying that the dungeon wasn’t a challenge; it was the hardest dungeon I had faced so far, but I loved it because of that. With a total of six small keys, the Map, the Compass, the Longshot, and the Boss Key to gather in this dungeon, more than likely a player would overlook something as they made their way through.
But while playing, I only missed and had to go back for a single key near the end of the dungeon (though I did get quite confused attempting to figure out how to reach the second Triforce symbol). Even so, I managed to find my way through the rest of the dungeon without too much difficulty and without using a walkthrough by paying close attention to the map and re-checking locations I had already been to.
Overall, I enjoyed the dungeon thoroughly. I thought it offered a fair level of challenge with the puzzles presented and the enemies that lay within. The battle with Dark Link was especially a treat, and I almost fell in battle until I decided to use Biggoron’s Sword. The boss, Morpha, may have been rather underwhelming for such an intense dungeon leading up to it, but that didn’t affect my total view of the Water Temple in the slightest.
Personally, I think the Water Temple is underrated and the perception of its difficulty is skewed. I have no doubt that if you were playing the Water Temple for the first time as a child, that dungeon must have been positively infuriating. Even those incredibly difficult dungeons that I used to hate when I was younger I’ve grown to love, simply because of the challenge they still offer. Why can we not share more of what we appreciate about the dungeon instead of our memories of struggling through it in the past?
The theme was pleasant, while still threatening; the atmosphere, calming and peaceful. This wasn’t a dungeon with trials focusing primarily on combat; it was a dungeon with trials focusing on the mind, and I believe that is why I appreciated it as much I did. So, whenever you return to the Water Temple in Ocarina of Time, why don’t you take a step back from the pain and annoyance you remember and look at it with new eyes, appreciating what it has to offer?
Adam is a Original Content Editor for ZD-I; he likes sipping tea; follow him on Twitter.