The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (ゼルダの伝説 時のオカリナ Zeruda no Densetsu: Toki no Okarina ) is an action-adventure video game developed by Nintendo's Entertainment Analysis and Development division for the Nintendo 64 video game console. It was released in Japan on November 21, 1998; in North America on November 23, 1998; and in Europe on December 11, 1998. Originally developed for the Nintendo 64DD peripheral, the game was instead released on a 256-megabit (32-megabyte) cartridge, which was the largest-capacity cartridge Nintendo produced at that time. Ocarina of Time is the fifth game in The Legend of Zelda series, and the first with 3D graphics. It was followed two years after its release by the sequel The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.
The player controls the series' trademark hero, Link, in the land of Hyrule. Link sets out on a quest to stop Ganondorf, King of the Gerudo tribe, from obtaining the Triforce, a sacred relic that grants the wishes of its holder. Link travels through time and navigates various dungeons to awaken sages who have the power to seal Ganondorf away forever. Music plays an important role—to progress, the player must learn to play and perform several songs on an ocarina. The game was responsible for generating an increased interest in and rise in sales of the ocarina.
Ocarina of Time's gameplay system introduced features such as a target lock system and context-sensitive buttons that have since become common elements in 3D adventure games. In Japan, it sold over 820,000 copies in 1998, becoming the tenth-best-selling game of that year. During its lifetime, Ocarina of Time sold 1.14 million copies in Japan and over 7.6 million copies worldwide. The game won the Grand Prize in the Interactive Art division at the Japan Media Arts Festival, won six honors at the 2nd Annual Interactive Achievement Awards, and received overwhelmingly positive acclaim. The title is widely considered by both critics and gamers alike to be the greatest video game ever made. In 2008 and 2010, Guinness World Records declared that Ocarina of Time is the highest-rated game ever reviewed.
Ocarina of Time has had four major re-releases, the latest being on the Nintendo 3DS. It was originally ported to the Nintendo GameCube alongside an Ocarina of Time Master Quest (which featured reworked dungeons with new puzzles), and The Legend of Zelda: Collector's Edition as a direct port. It was also ported to the iQue Player in 2003 and the Wii's Virtual Console service in 2007. These re-releases were well received: while some critics considered the relatively unchanged game to be outdated, other reviewers felt that the game has held up well over the years. Finally, the 3DS version was released in 2011, once again including Master Quest's rearranged dungeons (which were absent from the Wii and iQue versions) along with updated graphics and 3D effects.
The events of Ocarina of Time are set in the fictional kingdom of Hyrule, the setting of most Zelda games. Hyrule Field serves as the central hub connected to several outlying areas with diverse topography. Most of these areas are populated by the races of Hyrule: Hylians, Kokiri, Gorons, Zoras, Sheikahs and Gerudo.
The game opens as the fairy Navi awakens Link from a nightmare, in which Link witnesses a stormy night where a man in black armor on horseback chases after a girl on a white horse. Navi brings Link to the guardian of Link's village, the Great Deku Tree, who is cursed and near death. Link breaks the curse, but cannot stop the tree from withering. The Deku Tree tells Link a "wicked man of the desert" has cursed him and seeks to conquer the land of Hyrule and that Link must stop him. Before dying, the Great Deku Tree gives Link the spiritual stone of the forest, the Kokiri's Emerald, and sends him to Hyrule Castle to speak with the "princess of destiny." As Link is leaving, his close friend Saria bids him good luck and gives him the Fairy Ocarina, a precursor to the Ocarina of Time.
At Hyrule Castle, Link meets Princess Zelda, who has been having dreams about the future of Hyrule and foresaw Link's arrival. She believes Ganondorf, the Gerudo King of Thieves, is seeking the Triforce, a holy relic in the Sacred Realm that gives its holder god-like power. Zelda's description of Ganondorf matches that of the man who killed the Great Deku Tree, as well as the man from Link's nightmare. Zelda asks Link to obtain the three Spiritual Stones, one of which he already possesses, so that he might enter the Sacred Realm and claim the Triforce before Ganondorf reaches it. Link goes to Goron City, where he meets Darunia, the leader of the Goron race. After Link defeats King Dodongo, the boss of Dodongo's Cavern, Darunia gives him the Goron's Ruby, symbolizing brotherhood. Link next goes to Zora's Domain, where he obtains the Zora's Sapphire from Ruto, the Zora Princess, after rescuing her from the belly of Lord Jabu-Jabu (a whale-like creature sacred to the Zoras).
Link returns to Hyrule Castle, where Ganondorf is pursuing Zelda and her caretaker Impa on horseback, as in his nightmare at the start of the game. Spotting Link, Zelda throws the Ocarina of Time into the castle moat and telepathically teaches Link the "Song of Time." Link attempts to stop Ganondorf but is knocked to the ground by a bolt of energy. Ganondorf is impressed with Link's courage, but warns him not to interfere with his plans. After Ganondorf rides off, Link retrieves the Ocarina of Time and uses his newly-learned song together with the Spiritual Stones to open the door to the Sacred Realm inside the Temple of Time. Through the door, Link finds the Master Sword, a legendary sword forged to destroy evil. However, as he pulls the Master Sword from its pedestal, Ganondorf appears, having secretly followed Link into the Temple of Time, and claims the Triforce for himself.
Seven years later, an older Link awakens in a distant room of the Sacred Realm known as the Chamber of Sages and is met by Rauru, the ancient Sage of Light and one of the seven sages who protect the location of the Triforce. Rauru informs Link that his spirit was sealed for seven years until he was old enough to wield the Master Sword and defeat Ganondorf. The seven sages are capable of imprisoning Ganondorf in the Sacred Realm; however, five of the seven sages are unaware of their identities after Ganondorf transformed Hyrule into a land of darkness. Link is then returned to the Temple of Time, where he is met by the mysterious Sheik, who guides Link to rid the five temples of Hyrule from Ganondorf's monsters, allowing the power of the temples to awaken the sages.
After awakening the five sages, Sheik is revealed to be Princess Zelda and the Seventh Sage. She tells Link that Ganondorf's heart was unbalanced, causing the Triforce to split into three pieces, as predicted in an ancient prophecy. Ganondorf kept the Triforce of Power, while the other two chosen by destiny carry the remaining pieces: Zelda gained the Triforce of Wisdom and Link received the Triforce of Courage. After Zelda bestows Link with Light Arrows, weapons necessary for defeating the evil king, Ganondorf kidnaps Zelda by trapping her in a magical crystal and brings her to his tower. The remaining six sages help Link enter the tower, where he battles and defeats Ganondorf, thereby freeing Zelda. However, Ganondorf uses his remaining strength to destroy the tower in a final attempt to kill Link and Zelda. The heroes manage to escape the collapsing castle, but Ganondorf suddenly emerges from the resulting rubble and traps Link in a ring of fire. Using the Triforce of Power, he transforms from his humanoid Gerudo form into a boar-like monster named Ganon, and immediately knocks the Master Sword from Link's hand outside the ring of fire. After a long battle without the Master Sword, Link, with the aid of Zelda's paralyzing light, retrieves the Master Sword and delivers the final blow. The seven sages trap Ganondorf in the Dark Realm that his evil created; still holding the Triforce of Power, Ganondorf vows to take revenge on their descendants. Zelda uses the Ocarina of Time to send Link to his original time to live out his childhood, at which point Navi departs. The game ends with Link meeting Zelda in the castle garden once again.
First shown as a technical demo at Nintendo's Space World trade show in December 1995, Ocarina of Time was developed concurrently with Super Mario 64 by Nintendo's EAD division. Both were the first free-roaming 3D game in their respective series. Nintendo planned to release Super Mario 64 as a launch game for the Nintendo 64 and later release Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64DD, a disk drive peripheral for the system. Nintendo eventually decided to release Ocarina of Time on a cartridge instead and follow it with a 64DD expansion. At its release the 32 megabyte game was the largest game Nintendo had ever created. Early in the game's development concerns over the memory constraints of the N64 cartridge led producer and supervisor Shigeru Miyamoto to imagine a worst case scenario in which Ocarina of Time would follow a similar structure to Super Mario 64 with Link restricted to Ganondorf's castle as a central hub, and using a portal system similar to the paintings that Mario used to transport to different areas. An idea that arose from this stage of development, a battle with a doppleganger of Ganondorf that rides through paintings, ultimately made its way into the finished game as the boss of the Forest Temple dungeon.
While Shigeru Miyamoto had been the principal director of Super Mario 64, he was now in charge of several directors as a producer and supervisor of Ocarina of Time. During its development individual parts of Ocarina of Time were handled by multiple directors—a new strategy for Nintendo EAD. When things were progressing slower than expected however Miyamoto returned to the development team with a more hands-on directorial role. Although the development team was new to 3D games assistant director Makoto Miyanaga recalls a sense of "passion for creating something new and unprecedented". Miyamoto initially intended Ocarina of Time to be played in a first-person perspective, so as to enable the players to take in the vast terrain of Hyrule Field better, as well as being able to focus more on developing enemies and environments. However, the development team did not go through with it once the idea of having a child Link was introduced, and Miyamoto felt it necessary for Link to be visible on screen. The development crew involved over 120 people, including stuntmen used to capture the effects of sword fighting and Link's movement. Some of Miyamoto's ideas for the new Zelda title were instead used in Super Mario 64, since it was to be released first. Other ideas were not used due to time constraints.
Ocarina of Time originally ran on the same engine as Super Mario 64, but was so heavily modified that designer Shigeru Miyamoto considers the final products entirely different engines. One major difference between the two is camera control. The player has a lot of control over the camera in Super Mario 64, but the camera in Ocarina of Time is largely controlled by the game's AI. Miyamoto says the camera controls for Ocarina of Time are intended to reflect a focus on the game's world, whereas those of Super Mario 64 are centered on the character of Mario. Miyamoto wanted to make a game that was cinematic, but still distinguished from actual films. Takumi Kawagoe, who creates cut scenes for Nintendo, says that his top priority is to have the player feel in control of the action. To promote this feeling, cut scenes in Ocarina of Time are completely generated with real-time computing and do not use pre-recorded or full-motion video. Toru Osawa created the scenario for the game, based on a story idea by Miyamoto and Yoshiaki Koizumi. He was given support by A Link to the Past and Link's Awakening script writer Kensuke Tanabe. The dungeons were designed by Eiji Aonuma.
Customers in North America who pre-ordered the game received a limited edition box with a golden plastic card affixed, reading "Collector's Edition". This edition contained a gold-colored cartridge, a tradition for the Zelda series that began with the original game for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Demand was so great that Electronics Boutique stopped pre-selling the title on November 3, 1998. Later versions of Ocarina of Time feature minor changes such as glitch repairs, and the alteration of Ganondorf's blood from crimson to green. For a time, the Fire Temple's Islamic chant was thought to have been removed because of public outcry, however this change was made months before the game was released and its removal only happened to appear on later versions.
Shigeru Miyamoto originally maintained that it was merely a tech demo with the possibility of being developed into a full game, but Nintendo of America, via its Twitter page, officially announced the production of a Nintendo 3DS version of the game. Screenshots were found on the Nintendo E3 website on June 15, 2010. Eiji Aonuma explained about the remake that "You know the Water Temple? Who thought it was tough or even horrible? I've lived with that for the last ten odd years. But with the 3DS we have a touch screen. You had to take off and on the iron boots constantly, right? So I'd like to lay the evil shame to rest, and add a feature to make the iron boots' control much easier," showing that the controls and panels would be redone. The game was available to the public at Nintendo's Nintendo World 2011 event; the title attracted significant amounts of attention, with longer wait times to play than any other featured title.
The game was released in Japan on June 16, 2011, Europe on June 17, 2011, United States on June 19, 2011 and Australia on June 30, 2011 (June 24, 2011 at some stores). New features include the ability to quickly equip items using the touchscreen and the ability to use the handheld's built in gyroscope to aim precisely in first-person point of view while using items such as the slingshot. The Master Quest is included to the 3DS version in addition of the original game as well as a new "Boss Challenge" mode that allows player to fight all of the bosses one at a time, or in sequential order. However, this version of Master Quest differs in the fact that the entire map is mirrored, similar to what Nintendo did for the Wii port of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. The instructional videos are built in 3DS version to guide the players who are lost or stuck in certain puzzles. Ocarina of Time 3D was developed by Nintendo EAD in partnership with Grezzo, an independent Japanese studio headed by Koichi Ishii.
Ocarina of Time's music was composed by Koji Kondo, the composer in charge of music for most of the games in the Zelda series. In addition to characters having musical themes, areas of Hyrule are also associated with pieces of music. This has been called leitmotif in reverse—instead of music announcing an entering character, it now introduces a stationary environment as the player approaches. In some locations, the music is a variation of an ocarina tune the player learns, related to that area.
There is an interactive element to the design of the orchestral background music in Hyrule Field. When Link is moving through the area, the music is made up of repeated sections of a bombastic orchestral arrangement with percussion. However, when the character stays still for a while the music changes, the percussion drops out, and the themes become more calm, serene and melodic. When enemies attack, the music becomes more dire. The original game soundtrack has been altered to fit with the same sound format as the Nintendo 3DS.
Beyond providing a backdrop for the setting, music plays an integral role in gameplay. The game is cited as the "first contemporary nondance title to feature music-making as part of its gameplay". The button layout of the Nintendo 64 controller resembles the holes of the ocarinas in the game, and players must learn to play several songs to complete the game. All songs are played using the five notes available on an ocarina, although by bending pitches via the analog stick, players can play additional tones. Kondo said that creating distinct themes on the limited scale was a "major challenge", but feels that the end result is very natural. The popularity of Ocarina of Time led to an increase in ocarina sales.
The soundtrack of Ocarina of Time was produced by Pony Canyon and released in Japan on December 18, 1998. It comprises one compact disc with 82 tracks. A US version was produced with fewer tracks and different packaging artwork. Many critics praised the music in Ocarina of Time, although IGN was disappointed that the traditional Zelda overworld theme was not included. In 2001, three years after the initial release of OOT, GameSpot labeled it as one of the top ten video game soundtracks. The soundtrack, at the time, was not released in Europe, China/East Asia (excluding Japan) or Australia. However, in 2011, through a Club Nintendo offer, a new 50 track limited edition soundtrack for the 3DS version is available in a free mail out, to owners of the 3DS edition, in all regions, as an incentive to register the product.
The graphics were praised for their depth and detail, although reviewers noted they were not always the best the console had to offer. Game Revolution noted the characters' faces, the "toughest graphical challenge on 3D characters", saying that the characters' expressions and animation featured "surprising grace". IGN felt that Ocarina of Time improved on the graphics of Super Mario 64, giving a larger sense of scale. Impressive draw distances and large boss characters were also mentioned as graphical highlights. Although excelling in the use of color and the visibility and detail of the environment, reviewers noted that some graphical elements of Ocarina of Time did not perform as well as Banjo-Kazooie, a game released for the same platform earlier that year. IGN said that the frame rate and textures of Ocarina of Time were not as good as those of Banjo-Kazooie, particularly in the marketplace of Hyrule Castle, which was called "blurry".
Gameplay was generally praised as detailed, with many side quests to occupy players' time. IGN said players would be "amazed at the detail" of the environment and the "amount of thought that went into designing it". EGM enjoyed that Nintendo was able to take the elements of the older, 2D Zelda games and "translate it all into 3D flawlessly". Nintendo Power cited Ocarina of Time, along with Super Mario 64, as two games that "blazed trails" into the 3D era. The context-sensitive control system was seen as one of the strongest elements of the gameplay. Reviewers noted that it allowed for simpler control using fewer buttons, but that it occasionally caused the player to perform unintended actions. The camera control was quoted as making combat "second nature", although the new system took time for the player to get used to.
The game's audio was generally well-received, with IGN comparing some of Koji Kondo's pieces to the work of Philip Glass. Many atmospheric sounds and surround sound were said to effectively immerse the player in the game world. Some reviewers complained that the audio samples used in the game sounded dated; others considered this a benefit, calling them "retro". Game Revolution called the sound "good for the Nintendo, but not great in the larger scheme of things" and noted that the cartridge format necessitated "MIDI tunes that range from fair to terrible".
In 1998, Ocarina of Time won the Grand Prize in the Interactive Art division at the Japan Media Arts Festival. It also won six honors at the 2nd Annual Interactive Achievement Awards, including "Game of the Year", "Outstanding Achievement in Interactive Design", "Outstanding Achievement in Software Engineering", "Console Game of the Year", "Console Adventure Game of the Year" and "Console RPG of the Year". The game was placed second in Official Nintendo Magazine's "100 greatest Nintendo games of all time".
Reception for the Master Quest and Virtual Console re-releases were positive; while some considered aspects of the graphics and audio to be outdated, most thought that the game has aged well. The Master Quest version holds an average score of 89.50% on GameRankings and 91/100 on Metacritic. IGN said in their review, "Ocarina of Time has aged extremely well", and noted in regard to the game's graphics, "While the textures and models look dated, the game's wonderful visual presentation stood the test of time." Game Revolution said that although the game has "noticeably aged compared to brand new RPGs [...] it's still a terrific game", awarding 91 out of 100. Former GameSpot editor Jeff Gerstmann gave the Virtual Console port 8.9 out of 10, writing, "Even after nine years, Ocarina of Time holds up surprisingly well, offering a lengthy and often-amazing adventure". Edge magazine commented in its 2007 "The 100 Best Games" special issue, "[Ocarina of Time] was an astonishing achievement in 1998 and, almost a decade later, still serves as the landmark for its successors and 3D adventure games in general... In a series composed of awfully big adventures, Ocarina may no longer be the prettiest, or even the biggest, but it's still the best of all."