Hey everyone! Sam here. For this week’s installment of “My Problematic Fave”, I struggled coming up with a game that I could talk about that fit for NWG’s Zelda Week. It’s obvious at this point, but this segment of Nasty Woman Gaming is meant to be about games we love even though they are objectively bad. And I haven’t actually played many Zelda games (probably 3 in total?), so I don’t feel like I’m qualified to say which of them are bad and which are good.
So the game in the title? Yes, it’s one of the most beloved Zelda games ever: Ocarina of Time. For many, especially people around my age, this game was so important to us. It helped us become gamers, it taught us the magic of open worlds, it shaped our gaming experience for our entire lives. But that doesn’t mean this game is perfect. In fact, it’s far from it.
The matter of the fact is that Time has not been so kind to Ocarina of Time. This game, which was so innovative back then, is now old and weary. And I know so many people say “Uh, it’s an old game, of course it feels OLD”, but that’s not a valid excuse for judging how a game has progressed through the years. There are games that are old, that you know are old, but you still go back and play and find it was just as fun as it was when you first picked it up. And Ocarina of Time just isn’t that game.
Ocarina of Time’s world, which was full of endless possibilities to me as a child, I no longer see with rose colored glasses. To say it’s as open as I believed it to be would be false. The game is far more linear than most people remember. The game itself is no longer pleasing to the eye, as 3D graphics from the 90s and early 2000s didn’t age well like bit graphics did. There’s a reason why many popular indie games use bit graphics and not the early beginnings of 3D. When compared to A Link to the Past, the story is incredibly similar; the game is far less original than initially assumed.
And I’m not saying this game is bad. Zelda games are unique in their play-style and atmosphere, that’s why so many people love them. I’m saying the game is not as good as many originally remember. And even though the game itself isn’t that great, I still find it nostalgic. If you watched my Meet The Cast, you’ll know that the music from the game makes me very emotional. It brings me joy. But why?
The truth is that it’s not the game itself that brings me joy. It’s the fun I had playing it. It was new and different and enthralling to me. I was scared going into the palace at night when the monsters would come out. I was amazed wandering around the forest with the Kokiri and seeing the Great Deku Tree. I was curious when meeting the Ruto and liberated when I could freely switch back from younger Link to adult Link and beat time itself. Nostalgia is a beautiful thing; I don’t think it’s bad to feel that way. For the people who love this game, please don’t misunderstand me; I’m one of you!
But I’m also able to admit when I can say that some games age well and some don’t, and Ocarina of Time was a game that just fell into the latter category. The game will always be near and dear to my heart; it will always make me wish for a simpler time, away from the stress of adult life and the realities of a cruel world that Link and I cannot save together. When all that mattered was solving a stupid puzzle so that I could save the princess and beat the daylights out of evil wizard Ganondorf. Not taxes, the struggle of finding a salaried job, rent I cannot make, the crumbling of American society, the racist bigot controlling my country, the fact I’m attracted to girls and guys and that some people want me to go to hell while others say I’m selfish for marrying a man, and the death of people I loved so dearly it hurts me every day.
From the depths of my heart I want to thank you, Ocarina of Time. Bad or good, you’ve given me a safe place. A place deep and hidden, like a silent room in a lonely castle, where I lift a sword and become my young self again. Where I shed the scaly skin of my adulthood and, even for the most brief of moments, the world is full of endless possibilities once again.
I think we should try to get back there.