This time I’ll be reviewing the Fire Temple from Ocarina of Time. Like I said last week, though, this is my least favorite dungeon of the game. I also said Inside Jabu-Jabu’s Belly was the worst, and I meant that. The Fire Temple isn’t a bad dungeon, but I don’t ever seem to have that much fun with it.
In terms of themes, there’s very little to say about the Fire Temple. Like Dodongo’s Cavern, several portions of the dungeon take place in rooms that appear to be little more than nondescript caverns, while others take on a more fitting temple appearance, but without an interesting style, either architecturally or atmospherically. Maybe that’s a matter of personal taste, as there are some interesting carvings throughout the dungeon and it differs in style from the game’s other temples. I’ll admit I might not be prepared to be completely objective about the Fire Temple, so definitely weigh in with your thoughts in the comments, but for me nothing about the Fire Temple jumped out at me as interesting. I think the dungeon’s music deserves a portion of the blame for that.
The Fire Temple music change is a fairly well-known bit of trivia, but for those who aren’t familiar, the dungeon’s music originally sounded like this, complete with an Islamic choir or chant, before the song was changed into this revised version. The problem is that you can tell they gutted the song. The revised version doesn’t feel to me like a full song, or at least not a good one. They replaced the choir with a synthesized MIDI voice like you hear in the rest of the game, but the song was obviously designed with the full choir in mind; the gimped “vocals” only manage to be as worthy of being a focal part of the song as the rest of the song is, effectively making the revised Fire Temple song the first example of the minimalist, unmemorable dungeon themes that appear in some of the later console games, like Twilight Princess and especially The Wind Waker. The original Fire Temple music was a complete song, was totally unique, and would have brought the dungeon’s ideas together. It has a loud, alarming noise that practically invades the song, taking center stage, which fits the dungeon’s sense of danger and theme of fire, with chanting to fit the statues and faces and sacred appearance of the temple. The revised version is just a quiet beat. Music, to me, is an important part of bringing a moment or place alive in a video game, so I think the poorly revised song hurts the dungeon a lot, and indeed I think many other dungeons in this game would be lesser if not for their music.
Beyond that, the dungeon’s tower-like layout always irritates me, as I always fall and have to use Farore’s Wind to warp back up (though I suppose it’s nice that at least one dungeon makes that spell really useful). On the positive side, it has decent puzzle design and can be pretty fun if you’re not looking for a rich atmosphere or thematically fascinating dungeon, and it has a lot of action moments. It’s also an early example in the series of a dungeon where you progress by doing a special task, which was rescuing the Gorons, and although this is a bit cheap since you’re still collecting keys in the Gorons’ cells to advance, it’s still a good combination of gameplay and story within a dungeon. With fire everywhere, it does manage to be a challenging, heart-burning (ha, get it?) dungeon, and its miniboss — the cackling, scarecrow-like Flare Dancer — is cool.
The dungeon boss, Volvagia, also ends up being one of the series’ most iconic foes. Volvagia is actually not a new boss, but appeared in Adventure of Link under the poorly translated name of “Barba”. That said, as the only dragonoid boss in the most iconic game of the fantasy series, Volvagia from Ocarina of Time is the most-remembered incarnation of this creature, and has become one of the most talked-about bosses in the franchise thanks to his non-canonical depiction as a previous pet of Link’s in the manga, and all the speculation about whether or not he would show up in Skyward Sword. Volvagia also manages to be one of those rare dungeon bosses with a lot of backstory, being an ancient evil that plagued Hyrule a long time ago.
I’ll confess I hated the Volvagia battle for a long time. Since it amounts to basically whack-a-mole with a dragon, I always thought it was essentially the same fight as the Phantom Ganon battle, just with boring holes instead of interesting paintings. However, in the time since I formed that opinion, I’ve hated the battle less and less, and upon facing Volvagia on a brutal minimalist run of Ocarina of Time, I think I’ve come to the conclusion that there is more to this boss than it seems at first. Based upon whack-a-mole? Certainly. Limited by that? No. This battle is very different from Phantom Ganon, providing a decent challenge for those who have yet to master it. Players should also remember what they’re fighting: This is an ancient evil that threatened the world in the past and would have scorched all of Hyrule if left unchecked. Volvagia was arguably one of the most fearsome enemies of the Ocarina of Time story.
As I said before, I’m not completely prepared to say that I’ve made a perfect objective analysis of the Fire Temple. It annoys me every time I play it because of mostly personal reasons, so I can’t really determine which criticisms are merely my own gripes and which ones are also design flaws. Certainly, it’s not a bad dungeon and not even the worst the game has to offer. I think what happened with its theme design and music is unfortunate, but it’s far from being a train wreck.
So how about you? Did this dungeon ever annoy you, or do you find it to be a lot of fun? Where would you place it on your list of favorites? Tell me in the comments, and come back next week, as I’ll be discussing the infamous Water Temple.