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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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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