1998 was a legendary year for video games. The Sony Playstation and Nintendo 64 were hitting their stride in popularity & the immense quality in games for their respective consoles. Sega technically didn't have a console for a majority of this year, until the legendary Dreamcast launched in Japan. PC gaming was experiencing a renaissance of sorts with the critical acclaim of the original Half Life (as of when I am writing this, October of 2018, Half Life 3 has yet to come to fruition, lol), along with Baldur's Gate, Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit, and Unreal to name a few.
Overall, any year that had great games like Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil 2, Xenogears, Spyro The Dragon, Sonic Adventure (in Japan), Fallout 2, and Banjo Kazooie, among other great titles, would be certainly memorable. 1998 ranks high in great years within gaming history, next to the greats of 1991, 1994, 2001, 2004, & 2007 to name a few. However, you cannot mention the greatness of 1998 & how transformative that year was within the realm of graphical capabilities, gameplay mechanics, riveting storytelling, & overall legacy/nostalgia without mentioning, arguably, one of the greatest games of all time, let alone works of art (THERE..... I SAID IT!!!). That masterpiece being; The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Released on November 21st, 1998, a day that will live infamy, this game truly was revolutionary in every sense of the word.
Theres going to be tons of tributes & memorandum surrounding this iconic anniversary, so I'll try to keep mines pretty streamlined. If you want more history surrounding the development of this game, check out this full on developmental history for the game:
In short though, this remains my favorite Zelda game and even one of my favorite video games of all time. The story was rather simplistic, but intrinsic at the same time. The typical melodrama of 'Good v. Evil' is still prevalent here, but with a twist. Time Travel.
Many video games in the 1990s were flirting with various aspects of time travel in their storylines. Most notable was the 1995 classic Chrono Trigger, in which Time Travel was an integral part of both the story & gameplay for the game itself. Ocarina of Time took a similar approach, by allowing the player to swap between their younger & older selves. Both in two completely different time periods, but in search for new tasks, acquiring new items, learning new skills, & ultimately by advancing the story.
The story itself may have been a bit redundant, even with how relatively young the series technically still was (hard to believe this masterpiece was only released 11 years after the original Zelda!). Nonetheless it was how the writers implemented the concept of time travel, especially through its usage with the mythical object of the Ocarina, that brought new life in a sense.
The Ocarina in itself represented many things. It represented Link's solace & sense of peace in a world full of carnage. It represented friendship, through the bonds that Link forms with many people by learning news songs in accompanying his journey. From learning a song from his childhood friend, which in turns helps him build a bond with the race of the Gorons. Or Link learning the song of what would eventually be (if the player allows it, lol!) his future companion & trusty steed, while of course forming a bond with a friendly country girl. The Ocarina was Link's key to the outside world. It was one of the first items he received when he left Kokiri Forest for the first time in his life.
In short, the way the player relates to music in the game is not only a vital plot element, but a way in forming relationships to the world around him/her. I mean just look at this world:
Its.... its..... a bit barren.
Yeah.... thats one element of the game that hasn't really aged that well unfortunately. Even then, at the time this hub-world was pretty groundbreaking, and in many respects, despite the dated mechanics, the way the player utilizes the Ocarina in relation to the world is still very satisfying. The game also has tons of sidequests at the player's disposal.
There are always tons of heart pieces to find, golden skulls to claim, items to carry, & even weapons to create (take THAT!!!! Skyward Sword!).
You will certainly never be bored in your adventures within this 20 year old game. I remember playing this game at friends houses & being consumed by it for hours on end. And that in a sense brings me to the point of this article, the nostalgia I have for this game.
While I unfortunately did not play the game during its initial hype back in 98' (I was too busy being a toddler back then haha), I did finally get the chance to play this masterpiece at one of my older cousin's house in circa 2000. I was 4 years old, my cousins was about 12ish, and I had played his PS1 & Dreamcast plenty of times, but rarely his N64.
Nonetheless, while I was being a mischievous little kid in his bedroom, reading (or at least attempting to read) his Sports Illustrated magazines, playing on his keyboard, & messing around with his Windows 98 Era PC, I stumbled upon his sacred N64. He rarely had this console out, unless tons of guests were over to share bonding memories playing local multiplayer games like Mario Party or Diddy Kong Racing. So this was rather shocking to this thumb sucking kid. Low & behold Ocarina of Time was already inserted, & me being as curious as I was, booted up the system & TV, and viola.
My cousin barged back in, he usually would get pissed with me messing around with his stuff. Weirdly enough, while he was still rather pissed, he was rather 'gentle', to say the least. He made me my own profile for the game & taught me the ropes, with the limited amount of knowledge regarding video game mechanics I had, and.... well.... the rest is history. I'd always anticipate coming to his house to play OOT. Eventually, I'd get the chance to play the game at various friends houses whom had N64s when I was a kid, and finally I was able to play OOT for myself in 2006. I had just gotten a GameCube & I stumbled upon the Remake of the game for GameCube at GameStop. These were pretty rare to find, so nonetheless I begged my mom & she gave in & bought it for me. Now I finally had the game that I would sporadically play at relative's/friends houses' at my fingertips, and I ultimately enjoyed every moment of it.
This.... this was the magic of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Happy 20th Birthday my friend, you got me through some good times & bad ones. You were one of the first games I ever had to honor in playing, & you'll surely be one of the last that I will hopefully have the pleasure in playing. Maybe perhaps passing it down to my kids one day! In short, happy 20 years, & hopefully your legacy of gaming excellence shall remain.