Name: Alex Plant
First Zelda Game: Ocarina of Time (N64)
Started playing Zelda: 1998 (age 10)
Favorite Zelda game

: Majora’s Mask

I remember taking my first steps into the Temple of Time, hearing the

eerie echoes of songs chanted by an unseen chorus, beholding the

marble-tiled floors, the bold red carpet, the altar and its three

indentations, and last but far from least the great door bearing the

emblem of time. With me came a powerful sense of purpose, and grim

reminders of all that my mission had cost, heightened in the presence of

this place’s ambiance of majesty and destiny.

Ocarina in hand, I approached the altar, set the three stones in their

rightful places, and played the sacred tones that the princess had left

in my care. The notes joined with those sung by that otherworldly choir,

and I felt the air of magic in the room. At the sound of that melody,

the Song of Time, the stones began to glow and the door behind the altar

reacted, creaking slowly open to admit me.

Beyond that door, the Door of Time, my destiny awaited.

song oftime.jpgIt’s been eleven years now since I reached this climactic moment in The Legend of Zelda

: Ocarina of Time, and

no other game since has come close to replacing its impact. Ocarina was my first step into the Zelda

series, my first visit to Hyrule, my first encounter with Princess

Zelda, my first battle with Ganon. What a first step it was, too – I

came into the series at its prime, when it finally broke onto the

three-dimensional scene.

Though at the time I knew next to nothing about Zelda

and even less about the upcoming Nintendo 64 edition, by a freak

coincidence I just so happened to pick up the November ‘98 edition of

Nintendo Power during a trip to the mall and saw a feature on the game. A

couple weeks later I was first in line at Sears to pick up my gold

cartridge, and for the several months that followed, Hyrule became my

world, the Sages my closest friends, the princess my secret crush. (Some

might question whether anything has changed in the years since…)

There’s so much I couldn’t have appreciated at that age, all the care

that went into building the game, from the soundtrack to the visual

design to the interactive elements, all coalescing into a broader

coherence that was the world of Hyrule. It wasn’t until four years

later, when I started playing music in high school, that I discovered

the wide range of notes available on the in-game ocarina, for example.

And yet I was as old as Link, having just reached ten years, a child who

became something greater than anyone ever expected. In this sense, I

really could see Link as an extension of myself in my journey through Ocarina of Time.

A keen example surfaced after I emerged from my seven-year sleep in the

Sacred Realm and beheld the destruction my attempted intervention had

wrought. I felt a small taste of the alarm, the sense of “what have I

gotten myself into” that Link himself must have felt. It was like the

adventure had just begun all over again, and I had finally found my

place in it. Later, when I had awakened my first Sage and found my first

chance to step back through the Door of Time, and back to the peaceful

time I had left behind, I drank in the sight of it. This was the Hyrule I

was working to restore. Impa’s words echoed back to me: “You brave

lad…We must protect this beautiful land of Hyrule!”

I sadly can’t say that any of the plot twists that came towards the end

of the game were surprises to me, since I had already read about Sheik

being Zelda, Link bearing the Triforce of Courage, and Ganondorf

bursting from the rubble of Hyrule Castle and transforming into a raging

beast. So from this point on the game’s emotional impact was somewhat

dull to me. To this day, however, the game’s depth continues to impress.

Theorists still pore over the meaning behind the closing scenes of the

game, and dabble in analysis of the role of the hero in legends, the

blood-stained corridors of the Bottom of the Well, and Hyrule’s curious

religious connection to music.

Fortunately the core gameplay

more than made up for my

mistake of spoiling the story. After all my experience playing Zelda I can’t imagine saying that Ocarina

of Time is hard while keeping a straight face, but when I was ten

years old and still pretty new to gaming, I can honestly admit that the

game posed a steep challenge unlike anything I had tackled up to that

point. The Forest and Water Temples offered logical puzzles that were

mind-boggling in their day, while the Fire and Shadow Temples were tests

of endurance (and occasionally of trial-and-error), and the Spirit

Temple rounded out the game.

As if this wasn’t enough, there was plenty to do outside of the main

quest as well, from the infamous Biggoron’s Sword trading sequence to

collecting the Heart Pieces we’ve come to know and love. More avid

adventurers tackled the Gold Skulltula challenge – it took several years

for me to finally track down all 100. For gamers who wanted to take a

break from their quest, Ocarina also adapted the

fishing pond from Link’s Awakening and into a

deeper experience. And ancient legends speak of a way to find the



There’s no denying that Ocarina of Time is one of

the best-crafted gaming experiences out there, and even though we at

Zelda Informer might have our own opinions it certainly has earned its

title of “Best-Rated Game of All Time.” The great masterpiece impressed

me in its prime, and it continues to impress to this day. But, like all

good things in gaming, Ocarina‘s story didn’t end


A few months after Ocarina of Time broke onto the

scene, whispers of a sequel drifted across the flows of time.

Tentatively titled Zelda Gaiden, this new story

followed Link’s return to the past and showed a new adventure into the

eerie wonderland called Termina. In a bold and unprecedented move for

the series, the game featured multiple playable characters as Link

donned masks to transform into a Deku Scrub, a Goron, and a Zora, three

of the most popular new races from Ocarina. The

distinct focus on masks led to a change in branding, and the new Zelda

game, now The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask,

released after only one full year in development.

Majora’s Mask is the clear favorite here at Zelda

Informer, and holds the same place in my personal book as well.

Everything that Ocarina accomplished, Majora took to the next level. The world of Termina in

particular made leaps and bounds in terms of the quality of its level

design, the intricacy and fullness of its overworld, and the depth of

its story and characters. And unlike Hyrule, which established its

connection to the player in a superficial sense, through nostalgia from

games’ past and the changes that occurred during Link’s trip through

time, Termina’s world did so in two ways: through the way its

characters’ lives wove together, and through the player’s imagination.

What compelled me most about Majora’s Mask was just

how much of it the creators left open-ended. For one, the nature of

Termina and its relationship to Hyrule is pretty much ignored

altogether, outside of the Alice in Wonderland-esque “down the rabbit

hole” scenario in the beginning of the story. We know it is a parallel

world, yes, but what does that mean? Is it an “alternate timeline” of

Hyrule? A world that exists as a reflection of Link’s psyche like

Koholint Island before it? The fact that so many of its characters are

similar yet twisted versions of Hyrulean citizens only confuses matters

even more. But it was this chaotic jumble that drew me deeper into the


In many ways, I feel like Majora’s Mask was a truer

representation of my vision of the Zelda universe

than even Ocarina of Time. Termina, not Hyrule, was

the fantasy world that I found myself wanting to visit again and again.

The touching tale of Kafei and Anju pulled at my emotions (mostly

frustration when I could not figure out what to do next!) much more than

any scenario from Ocarina. The underlying sense of

urgency that the falling moon represented drew the true courage of the

hero out of me. No Zelda game has ever impacted me

nearly as much, nor become such a truly untouchable memory of my

childhood. The recent rumors that Zelda Wii

hopes to involve the

player on the same level as Majora’s Mask give me

hope that it might offer the same sort of experience. But even should Zelda Wii surpass Majora’s Mask

in every way, it could never replace those memories.


How ironic, then, that Majora’s Mask tells the

story of a quest forgotten to both memory and time. Through the Song of

Time, Link always returns to Day One as if his adventure never happened,

but with the power he needs to press on to the next stage of his

journey. In this way, though, it establishes the closest connection

between the player and Link that we’ve seen in a Zelda

game so far. Aside from Tatl, Link’s fairy partner, the player is the

only surviving witness of Link’s trials across time. While the rest of

the world he saved carries on their lives, not knowing the price paid

for their peace, the countless alternate timelines destroyed by the

falling moon, the player alone shares this intimate knowledge with Link.

That’s on top of the great gameplay, creative dungeons, and the intense

musical score – as far as I’m concerned this game is the pinnacle of the

series in these departments. The delicacy of the Deku Scrub,

surprisingly fast-paced action of the Goron, and the grace of the Zora

bring a distinct flavor and charm that I doubt any future Zelda will ever be able to pull off again. Stone Tower

Temple still ranks as my absolute favorite dungeon in a Zelda

game, period. And can anyone argue that the Song of Healing was

anything short of touching?

My next games were the GameBoy Color outings: Link’s

Awakening first, then Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages. Collectively they served as the

perfect introduction to the 2D side of Zelda – and

these games rather fittingly are my favorite ‘retro’ titles in the

series. They brought what I would later acknowledge as the best of the

original Legend of Zelda together with the gameplay

updates in A Link to the Past, plus some unique

twists such as their original settings and the introduction of the Roc’s

Feather, all culminating in the ultimate pixel-based gaming experience.

Having been a big fan of the first two time-traveling games, Ages in particular snagged my heart and held on tight.

My crush on Zelda transferred to Nayru, and it was like I had fallen

into the world of Zelda all over again. Played

together with Seasons, the Oracles

chronicle refined the “familiar-yet-new” game world concept first

introduced in Awakening and later in Majora’s Mask by transplanting it into the Hyrule

universe. It was a perfect marriage between the worlds of Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask.

My impressions of Ocarina, Majora,

and Oracles shaped my vision of the series as more

than just its traditional gameplay, but also the unique atmospheres

that came with each new experience.

When I heard that The Wind Waker

was to be set in yet

another new environment, the Great Sea, and this time with a completely

unprecedented artistic style, I was thrilled to dive right in. I wasn’t

disappointed: Wind Waker was full of some of the

best qualities of the series. The way it continued Ocarina‘s

story in a direct means, rather than as a side-story, while firmly

rooting itself in its brave new world, impresses me to this day. As

such, Wind Waker represents the right way to carry

on old series traditions.

Wind Waker leaving.jpg

It wasn’t until after The Wind Waker that I first

experienced the true classics of the series. So, not surprisingly, I

found myself surprisingly underwhelmed. That’s not to say that I don’t

appreciate what they accomplished during their respective era or the

contributions they have made to modern Zelda titles

– I simply didn’t get the same feeling of satisfaction from them. Maybe

it’s because their stories and worlds aren’t as developed as those of

the later games, or maybe it’s just because they didn’t fit my

preconceived notions that Zelda was about exploring

new territory rather than revisiting the old. I can’t say for sure.

Twilight Princess

fell into the same

category: it too failed to fully tap into its story and its universe, as

the reduction of the Triforce, one of the hallmarks of Hyrule, to a

vague background element signifies most keenly. And like the classics

its world is too similar to that of Ocarina of Time

to cater to my taste for novelty. While it is a strong game from a

playability perspective, with a truly refined game engine, these

weaknesses keep it from ranking with my series favorites.

I found the DS outings interesting in that while the Great Sea and

Hyrule Kingdom are certainly nothing new, these games still managed to

impress me with the “true scale” of their settings. The worlds of Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks

seemed so grand and epic, even if the games themselves were

comparatively simplistic. And, in another seeming-paradox, though they

were simple, they were fun – I could embrace all

that they had to offer with the wonder of a child. That fun factor

showed me – rather, reminded me, that depth and creativity of design

aren’t everything, that games are first and foremost supposed to be enjoyable.

So, what is Zelda to me? Three things, I think: an

epic adventure, a fantasy world with a life of its own, and a playground

for the child at heart.

But that was the past. Zelda Wii is the future –

hopefully the soon-to-be present. Though Ocarina of Time

and Majora’s Mask were both masterpieces in their

day and my gateway games to the series, though the games since had

advanced or regressed from my concept of “what Zelda

is,” it’s time for the new generation to shine. As E3 draws nearer,

step back through the Door of Time, back out of the sanctuary of

childhood memories, and return to the now. Like Link, we need to lay our

comfort zones to rest, close the door on what has been, and focus on

what is, and what will be. While I don’t know what the future will hold

for The Legend of Zelda, I can say for sure that

it’s been a crazy good ride so far, and I have no regrets.

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