Ocarina of Time: My Gateway Drug

We weren’t allowed games consoles when I was growing up. We had an Amiga and later a PC, but for most of my tender years we were denied the simple joys of the slot-in-and-play machines that all my friends had. My mother thought they deprived children of their imaginations. As if.

Things finally changed while I was at high school. My older brother had played Goldeneye 007 on an N64 one of his classmates had brought in to school on the last day of term, and developed somewhat of an obsession. He got me on-side and together we petitioned Mum to let us buy one. Eventually she relented, we picked one up with Goldeneye and a limited-edition gold controller, and spent many happy months killing each other in multiplayer.

Fast forward a year and half, and one of the most anticipated Nintendo games of all time, came out – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I remember it having been delayed several times, so by the time of its release anticipation was at fever pitch. I, meanwhile, was immune to all the hype. I had, after all, never had the chance to play a Zelda game up till then, having spent my childhood playing Brian the Lion on my CD32 while everyone else stood in awe of Link to the Past. It was without any overwhelming expectation, then, that I picked up a copy of Ocarina of Time a month or so after its release. I must admit that I was not bowled over at first – I got frustrated by burning-out deku sticks and freefalls through spider webs – but there was a moment when I fell in love with the experience, and I can still remember it vividly. Just after leaving the forest, after being lectured to by the owl, you had to cross Hyrule field to get to Castle Town. And as I ran over the slopes, avoiding the flying peahats, I slowly began to notice the light dimming as the sun gradually fell behind the horizon. That’s all it took for me. It seems like such a trivial thing nowadays, when any adventure game or RPG worth its salt has a day/night system, but at the time I found it amazing. There was something wonderfully transgressive about wandering the backstreets of the stray dog-infested Castle Town at night, visiting people in their homes and picking up gossip you didn’t get during the day. It was oddly liberating, playing as a young hero who was allowed out at night without his parents calling him in for bedtime.

From that moment on, I was hooked. Ocarina quickly became the greatest game I’d ever played, and remains in my top three all these years later. But beyond that, it also locked me in as a Nintendo fanboy for years. Eager to learn more about Link’s past adventures, I bought a Gameboy Color (an original purple one) with Link’s Awakening DX, and a few years later picked up a Gameboy Advance, then a DS. The SpaceWorld 2000 Zelda video was enough to persuade me to get a Gamecube, even though it was near the end of the console’s life before a game resembling that footage – Twilight Princess – finally emerged. The Legend of Zelda series has always been my best reason for picking up a new Nintendo console, and remains so to this day. If I was impressed by the prospect of Kid Icarus and Pilotwings in 3D, it was the thought of an Ocarina of Time remake that sealed the deal in my mind and convinced me to splash out on a 3DS.

It’s been 14 years since I got my first Nintendo console – that’s twice as long as Link spent in stasis in the Temple of Light. And while I have one or two reservations when it comes to the remaking of a classic, I can’t wait to find out if the new Ocarina of Time can live up to its own legacy, as the game that got me hooked on console gaming for the last decade and a half.

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