Posted on August 03 2013 by Nathanial Rumphol-Janc
Despite high sales for Twilight Princess and popular online fan bases for games like Majora’s Mask, at the end of the day we all understand that Ocarina of Time is considered by and large to be the cream of the crop for Zelda experiences. The defacto Zelda game, even if you can point to older games that did it first.
It doesn’t really matter in the end what our personal preferences are in the series for this article, it’s only important that we understand that Ocarina of Time’s popularity and following, along with its recognition as one of the best overall games ever made, is an actual thing in the gaming universe.
Repeatedly Eiji Aonuma has talked about topping Ocarina of Time, of creating that next Zelda game that is not only considered the best game in the series, but is universally praised and considered one of the finest games ever crafted. This has been his goal since he took over the series around the time Majora’s Mask came into existence. He thought he did it with The Wind Waker, but the fan base disagreed. He listened to the fans and thought he hit a home run with Twilight Princess.
Sure, it lead to great sales, but in the end Twilight Princess didn’t top the mountain. So he and Miyamoto went on to change the entire paradigm in terms of Zelda combat hoping that evolution is the jolt that propels it to one of the greatest experiences ever crafted. That didn’t work, either. Eiji feels every 3D Zelda game since Ocarina of Time is superior by all accounts, but it just can’t compare to the impact Ocarina of Time had.
Yesterday our managing editor, Colin McIsaac, posted a short and sweet editorial that hits on the topic of memories being more important than the quality of the experience in video games. I bring up this piece of work because that is entirely true for the overall gist of the Zelda world we live and breathe in every day as fan base. These memories are the same reason why fans are so passionate about a Majora’s Mask 3D remake. More importantly, these memories are why the fundamental development goal should no longer be about creating a better game than Ocarina of Time.
Ocarina of Time contains a vast array of memorable experiences, from saving the Great Deku Tree only to see him die anyways, to that initial thrill of riding Epona. There is Dead Hand in the well, and I don’t think anyone will ever forget “Hey, Listen!” For one reason or another, moments, both good and bad, are remembered from the game and will always be remembered until a day arises that we stop thinking about the Zelda series all together (it could happen! As you grow up, get married, have kids, sometimes video games just aren’t that important to life anymore).
Eiji Aonuma has focused hard on crafting superior Zelda experiences than Ocarina of Time in every possible way gameplay wise, and to that degree he has succeeded brilliantly. However, that drive to best Ocarina of Time should really come to an end. Let’s stop worrying about crafting technically superior games and focus again back on the experience that is playing a Legend of Zelda game.
A lot is said about what would make a memorable game for us in the series again. Some claim it’s an enthralling story unlike anything we have ever seen, or even a vast open world with tons of side characters that breathe life into the experience. Some argue harder difficulties, better boss fights, or amazing dungeon design. I’m not sure any of that is the right solution, because in most regards each one of those aspects has already been done. At the end of the day, this isn’t about besting Ocarina of Time; it’s about crafting a game we’ll always remember. I don’t care if the next game in the series has some glitches or a few gameplay elements that don’t work well – what I care for is that the game has so many memorable moments that I will continue to bring it up in conversations for several decades to come.
It’s time to stop trying to beat Ocarina of Time, and refocus on crafting a memorable experience. You might be surprised, Eiji Aonuma, at the results you could glean.
Top banner art by PepperWolf.