Notes on Ocarina of Time, Part 5: Seven Years Later

This is a continuation of our Ocarina notes project. You can see all the parts here.
Part 5: Seven Years Later

Perculia: The moment where I first stepped out of the cathedral and saw how the surrounding gardens withered was powerful. It sunk in that the whole world was completely changed and I unwittingly played a part in it, making me feel guilty.

Hamlet: The light/dark world duality was introduced in Link to the Past and reprised here. The world having two layers, a friendly one and a dark one, works very well for the story of this game. We’ll be talking later about how the second act using adult Link is a sort of coming of age for the player as well–going out into a new menacing world, actually alone this time, with the skills you learned in the first act.

P: As for the Temple of Time itself, the classical medieval architecture with the sombre music is quite epic, as well as the presence of the mysterious Sheik. (what’s the backstory with them again–are they an extinct race?) Neat parallel how he gives advice and teaches Adult Link songs, while Impa similarly told Child Link about Kakariko/Death’s Peak and taught the Lullaby.

H: The Sheikah are a new addition in this game. Meant to be some kind of ancient race of protectors of the Royal Family and the Triforce (and you see the ninja-like aesthetic–a bit unusual for Zelda but works well here). Impa is the only one that you knew so far, and now Sheik. We’ll be talking more about him, you can already tell you’ll be seeing more of him. Fun side note: if you look at the adornment on the totally sweet (ahem) collector’s edition 3DS you’re playing on, you’ll see Link’s Ocarina and Sheik’s harp. (P: I noticed this :P )

P: At this point, I have a ton of anxiety–everything is changed, my weapons are greyed out, the mask (which I forgot about, oops) is also greyed out. How am I going to learn more about the guy with the red knapsack in Hyrule Castle Town, or go back and get the Magic Beans by Zora River, or boomerag the first Skulltula off the wall in Dodongo’s Cavern? Even my room of pots is changed.

H: Interesting how intimidated you were by the new world of Adult Link. You actually took a few days’ break at this point before you finally dove into the new world and got your bearings (and got rolling pretty briskly again). I think I was mostly just excited the first time. One thing I had mentioned to you before starting is that Zelda games rarely to never have permanently missable items, one of their really nice design principles. So you don’t have to obsess over finding any possible thing along the way; at each point you can meticulously explore or just plow forwards as you feel like, knowing you can find any secrets later. I wonder if you kept that in mind when you were thinking about the things above. (P: You did mention this, but I wasn’t sure how quickly I’d access the previous world, or if you were just referring to NPCs/shops transplanted like some Hyrule Castle Town ones to Kakariko Village.)

But maybe this says something about not having played non-MMO games before. You’re not used to the idea that the world can actually change.

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Notes on Ocarina of Time, Part 4: Jabu-Jabu’s Belly

This is a continuation of our Ocarina notes project. You can see all the parts here.
Part 4: Through obtaining the Master Sword

 

Perculia: When we last left off, Link was fleeing the warm yet crushing embraces of the Gorons. After seeing their reaction, I went to check the city back out. As expected, they were very happy to see me–apparently I am their brother now. (Hamlet: if you think gaining some brothers is nice, wait until you see what happens after the next dungeon). With a stash of bombs, I was now able to bomb open a secret vendor that had some adult armor pieces and bombs sold at discounted prices. I also learned how to make a vase move with fire and *still* failed at the rolling guy giving me a reward. (H: we talked about this puzzle last time and it’s even less clear than I’d remembered–you have your Bomb Bag now, and he still won’t give you the reward because it only works if you stop him at a certain point). These are two things I want to investigate at a later point still. However, it wasn’t completely a dead-end trip: I was successful at getting a heart about the Cavern through a backflip (H: unintended method, incidentally. The game never expects to you to use sidehops/backflips to solve jumping puzzles–that Heart Piece is also reachable with an item you don’t have yet).

Side Quests

P: Death Mountain: Exploring the mountain began by practiced more advanced bomb throwing on the ledge to lodge a stone, then bombing some easier rocks for fun, which rewarded me with a secret well with a cow, hearts, and rupees. There’s a hint that I’ll return to this area at a later point–Navi tells me that an instance I zone into is ‘too hot’ and I start to lose health. It’s nice that I was still able to have the option to enter, instead of feeling like the world was cut off. However, it was a bit overkill that the owl had to chime in and tell me that I was too young for part of this area in addition to Navi.

The Great Fairy has an…interesting outfit. It’s pretty different from what we’ve seen characters wear so far–traditional tunics, leggings, dresses, hair colors. She’s almost menacing with her laugh though. Again, I like the blend of discovering her through using a tool (bomb) and music (Zelda’s Lullaby).

H: Character designer Yoshiki Haruhana has said in interviews that he wasn’t given any particular direction with the Great Fairies, and simply wanted to do something different from the generic fairy everyone would expect. I think everyone who’s played Ocarina would at least agree that Haruhana-san accomplished that much.

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Notes on Ocarina of Time, Part 3: Through Dodongo’s Cavern

This is a continuation of our Ocarina notes project. You can see all the parts here.

Part 3: Through Dodongo’s Cavern

Music

Perculia: Last blog ended with Link’s secret meeting with Zelda–and we said we would talk more about the music. While there’s a fair amount of musical combinations, the three-note fragments both have to convey a distinctive mood on their own without orchestration, yet also segue effectively into a harmonized 8-bar melody. Having the themes serve as background music for appropriate zones makes the songs feel familiar and logical when we finally are taught them. In the first blog, I mainly talked about puzzles that required combat to solve them–moving forward, I’m looking forward to seeing new types of puzzles and character interactions reliant upon music.

With regards to the scene where Link met Zelda: it reminded me a bit of Saria giving Link the Ocarina, one that was emotional and conveyed a sense of grown-up responsibilities and wisdom beyond the characters’ years. It’s interesting how you don’t see Zelda much at all in Ocarina and in one sense, she’s just waiting inside the castle for all of Act 1. But her song holds a lot of power and it’s used numerous instances throughout the game, giving her a ‘voice’ as well.

Hamlet: Zelda’s Lullaby is a notable Ocarina song in that it’s the only one used before this game (it was in Link to the Past)–Ocarina doesn’t even use the well-known Zelda overworld theme. Zelda’s Lullaby is central to this game in a deeper way than I think people realize (some of the following is speculation). The Ocarina can play 5 notes, and those 5 notes had to account for every in-game song Link can play. Composer Koji Kondo put a lot of thought into choosing the 5 pitches that he would be locked into for this purpose. And the reuse of Zelda’s Lullaby required that the A, B, and D used in the opening of that theme be among the five chosen. Given that two of the five pitches would likely be a tonic and its octave, there was really only room for one added note. He went with F, completing the D-F-A-B-D quintet of pitches that are now burned into our minds, but Zelda’s Lullaby was possibly singlehandedly responsible for most of Link’s limited Ocarina palette.

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Notes on Ocarina of Time, Part 2: Through the Lost Woods

This is a continuation of our Ocarina notes project. You can see all the parts here.

Part 2: Through the Lost Woods

Hyrule Field

Perculia: I initially went to Lon Lon Ranch assuming I’d get a mount (H: well, the title screen does tip you off to the existence of a mount, but you can imagine that the game will make you get more familiar with the world on foot first). Instead, I picked up my first heart piece, had the value of exploration reinforced, and learned a bit more about moving blocks along the way. At this point, I know well enough that Epona’s Song, which seems irrelevant now, will be useful at a later point. I also developed a trend of obsessively rolling into everything–I accidentally rolled into a tree instead of a box, and it rewarded me with another Skulltula, so I got hooked. And while the mini-game to throw chickens seemed unrelated to Zelda’s recent quest, I wanted to practice my puzzle skills and was rewarded with both a bottle and consumable (H: heh). I also enjoyed finding a way to make the mini-game much easier (throwing the normal chickens into a corner away from the prize ones.)

And wow, the world really opened up here. Just running around a vast open green field without any monsters or objectives was freeing.

Hamlet: It’s great that you came up with same way to exploit/circumvent the little chicken minigame that I did when I was a kid.

Hyrule Field is great that way. I think nowadays we look back and it seems drab compared to modern game environments, and it can seem unnecessarily large to run around on foot for an area that’s just a hub. But it actually serves a function in giving a sense of world, and this ties into my earlier remark on the horse. You have to spend some time really in the world and get your hands on different parts of it for a while, before things like a horse let you start to focus on other tasks and move around more quickly. They strike a nice mix though, with things like the shortcuts from Lost Woods to Goron City or Zora’s River preventing too much tedious running. Hyrule Field I think is more carefully designed than it initially appears, to create just this reaction. Also, as you spend your whole game running back and forth across it, you will get increasingly familiar with each path and each odd little landmark. Many hours into the game, you’ll ride past a certain tree or rock in Hyrule Field that you know is always there and that you’ve ridden by a hundred times, and the world is that much more real to you.

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Introduction

If you’re reading this, you probably already know me and/or Perculia and were linked here by one of us on Twitter or somesuch. Just wanted to explain what this new site is.

We’ve occasionally collaborated on written content before, for example that long essay on WoW (“Failure…”, see below) which generated a good amount of buzz. At the time we simply posted it on Flavor Text, a WoW blog that Perc maintains with some of her other friends. But as some of you have seen, we recently started a new project relating to Ocarina of Time and that gave the impetus to set up an actual place for us to post things (rather than co-opting a blog for completely unrelated topics for 10+ posts just because one of us happened to have access to it). One of our Twitter friends (@vitaemachina) has recently been offering free blog hosting and setup to anyone he can find, so there was little to no activation energy required for us to get this rolling.

We don’t necessarily have a long-term plan, but the Ocarina project will keep us busy for a good few weeks for now. If Perc continues her newfound exploration of non-MMO gaming, that might provide ongoing material, and I myself always have various thoughts on games I’m playing, and we also have a lot of WoW thoughts from 7 years of playing that we still mean to write down. At any rate, we had at least one blogging idea and needed a place to put it, so here we are. Enjoy!

P.S. Our prior posts have been migrated over here from Flavor Text so you can see them collected in one place.

Notes on Ocarina of Time, Part 1: Introduction

Introduction through Meeting Zelda

Introduction

Hamlet: This is a project where we record our discussion while Perculia plays through a classic game, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It’s a game I am deeply familiar with, having avidly played it starting on the day it came out in 1998, and a number of times since. Perc has almost no experience with non-MMO videogames of any kind, and when I got a 3DS a few weeks ago, it seemed a prime opportunity to have her try one of the most well-loved games that has ever been made. She was very interested to see what it was that had so captivated so many of her friends. As we started talking about the game I was having a lot of fun–while I’ve replayed Ocarina in the past and it’s one of my favorite games, it’s now been 14 years since I saw it through a new player’s eyes. We realized others might enjoy the same thing.

The following is a series of notes about things she noticed while playing, and various responses from me. There’s no promise that all aspects of the game are discussed, merely whatever topics we wind up talking about along the way. If you find it interesting, comment or even add your own memories of Ocarina. If there seems to be interest we’ll try to keep it up as she plays through the entire game. You can find us both on twitter as @HamletEJ and @perculia.

Without further ado:

Kokiri Forest

Perculia: Kokiri Forest was both an effective tutorial in introducing me to gameplay controls and the environment. You’ve spoken before both on how Ocarina was radical for the sheer scope of the world/player combat, but that every Zelda game elaborates on core tropes. So it was fun to see how Link was a commoner/nobody in his little village (knowing I’d be exploring a vast world soon), while haphazardly running around getting used to the 3D setting and jumping off rooftops.

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