What Made Ocarina of Time So Great – Minus the Nostalgia

January 4, 2014

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We’ve seen the question, “What is the best game of all time?” And we’ve all seen the  answer, “LOZ:OOT.” Those who weren’t born between 1980 and 1999 will ask what made this game so great. Responses usually stumble over some mixture of oblivious nostalgia, talk of “unprecedented graphics” and remarks on innovative gameplay.

For me, there were two things that stood out. Unfortunately, newer games of the franchise have delivered poorly on these two elements.

Number one: the use of scale. OOT, aside from all the other achievements that came from converting to 3D from 2D, was able to build a large scale world, that for its time, literally felt huge. We weren’t use to spending so much time running back and forth.

Skyward Sword, my second favorite of the series, failed miserably on the scale part. At least in the outside world. It’s like the flying mechanic simply replaced the sailing mechanic in Wind Waker. Now, the dungeons and towns we’re excellent, but I really missed traveling on foot. Ok, I get it, Nintendo wants to explore concepts and story-lines and they aren’t into rehashing the same old same old. Even so, I miss the scale.

Number two: minimum hand-holding. OOT was able to really do a nice job of balancing explanations with giving you the freedom to explore and make mistakes.

Many games these days suffer from severe hand-holding, making the experiences extremely linear, and never giving the player a sense of “Ok, now it’s up to me to make choices.” The game that was the biggest example of this (and how unfortunate), was Diablo III. Part of the Diablo experience is about linear grinding and quest completion, but even with all the technical strides made from procedural generation of the worlds, the game never felt like it was finally time for me to get out on my own and explore. I feel like there is a general loss of “adventure” that comes with hand-holding.

Adventure, when defined as a verb, states: “to engage in hazardous and exciting activity, esp. the exploration of unknown territory.

The keyword there for me is unknown. Too much hand-holding removes this from the equation and leaves us with a lackluster experience.

I can only hope that the next title in the series will have more emphasis on these two things and give us the sense of mystery and surprise that made LOZ so great.

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