Connect with us

Editorial

How The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Changed Single-Player Games

Published

 on

Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time

Today is pleasantly poetic, as on this day twenty years ago, Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. For a game that is ostensibly about the flow of time, twenty years on from release seems like a fitting time to still be talking about it. The Nintendo 64 had an amazing catalogue of close to 400 games but, if people remember only three titles, they would probably be Super Mario 64, Goldeneye 007, and Ocarina of Time. These games not only pushed the boundaries of what was thought possible for their generation, they also went on to define and influence their respective genres for the next two decades.

Ocarina of Time marked the Zelda series’s first foray into 3D graphics and set the standard for action-adventure games throughout the late 90’s and 00’s. The game not only boasted graphical fidelity but was also an exceptionally well made title, benefitting from Nintendo’s decision to restrict the number of titles made for N64 to allow developers to focus on quality over quantity. The result is a title that many consider to be one of the finest single-player, narrative-driven games ever made.

Ocarina of Time gameplay

Technical achievements are of course important, but that is not what most gamers will remember about playing the game. They will remember the feeling they had the first time they stood at the edge of Hyrule Field, seeing the landscape reaching off into the distance. They will remember wondering if they could just waltz on over to the little farm in the middle and then their amazement when they realised they could. They will recall the sense of awe they felt at the sheer scale of the adventure laid out before them. Ocarina of Time offered players the freedom to go anywhere, talk to anyone, and smash any room full of pots… not that I did that… The game offered a story that was ready to be discovered organically and areas that could be approached in any order you liked; it did not hold your hand while you did it. I am sure I am not the only person who started to wonder if the Kokiri Forest was the only area of the game, having been stuck in there for hours!

These gameplay features may sound familiar, because every modern open-world game follows this design ethos, though few do it as well as Ocarina of Time. What sets Nintendo’s magnum opus apart from most everything else is its ability to affect the player’s emotions, and if the game is about anything else besides “time”, it is about feelings. Perhaps the most profound way in which Ocarina of Time conveys feelings is through the game’s music—Koji Kondo’s soundtrack is simply magnificent. Every area has its own, perfectly matched soundtrack that frames the mood as players progress through the game. From Lon Lon Ranch’s happy, old-timey jangle, to the melodic, tropical beats of Zora’s Domain, and the eerily choral score in the Temple of Time, Ocarina of Time guides the player not just through the game’s various areas but through the various emotions that each area conveys.

However, the genius “Nintendo touch” is in the mechanic whereby the player must learn a number of melodies, which can then be played back on the titular ocarina for various effects. Twenty years on and I can still remember the tune for “Prelude of Light”, “Saria’s Song”, and “Serenade of Water”. I loved playing those tunes so much, that I would often play them just for the sake of hearing them. Essentially, Ocarina of Time helped changed the way developers thought about how players interact with games, by building player agency into the very fabric of the game.

Ocarina of Time music gameplay

Today, as game worlds become bigger and the experiences more filmic, developers could do worse than remembering Link’s Ocarina. Of course, games takes more than a good score and things for the player to do to be great and once again, Ocarina of Time delivers with a near-flawless narrative. Link’s is a coming of age story, of a boy who grows into a man and of responsibilities and consequences. The first time I played Ocarina of Time, I was fifteen years old. Those teenage years are the awkward phase where you are trying desperately to be ‘grown up’, while still clinging to the securities of childhood. I remember my excitement at finally playing as adult Link and then the sudden, heart-wrenching horror of discovering what had happened to Hyrule in my absence. I wanted only to return to Link’s childhood, when the world was less scary and the future not yet set. Analogous to real life perhaps?

Ocarina of Time taught us that sometimes, despite our best efforts, bad things happen. However, the game also taught us the value of perseverance in the face of adversary. Ocarina of Time set the bar for what gamers expected from the genre and influenced practically every open-world game since. The focus on player mood and emotion, player agency and organic, free-form discovery — the single-player, narrative-driven game today is what it is, in no small part thanks to Ocarina of Time. I may have grown up since I first played it, but Link’s story is truly timeless. Perhaps Sheik says best:

“Time passes, people move. Like a river’s flow, it never ends. A childish mind will turn to noble ambition. Young love will become deep affection. The clear water’s surface reflects growth. Now listen to the Serenade of water to reflect upon yourself”.

Editorial

Three Single-Player Games to Watch Out for in July 2019

Published

 on

Three Single Player Games (July 2019) - Sea of Solitude, Fire Emblem Three Houses, Wolfenstein Youngblood

July, the middle of winter down here in Australia. Even in the bizarre New South Wales climate, the biting cold makes for a great excuse to stay inside and play games. 

Weirdly for single players, quite a few prestige games this month include additional co-op modes. With acclaimed designers behind them, such games will hopefully avoid the pitfalls of accommodating multiple players, as too many games have done in the past.

Sea of Solitude

Release Date: July 5, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

At first blush, Sea of Solitude looks like yet another story of a young adult struggling with questions of identity and mental health while exploring a beautiful but harsh fantasy world.

Actually, that’s what it is. ‘Quirky, life affirming indie adventure’ is a whole cottage industry these days, but the fact that such games are now more prevalent should never dismay.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was a masterpiece of refined design and storytelling, and Sea of Solitude appears be something similar—this time dealing with a fantastical vision of depression that turns ordinary people into literal monsters.

Players take charge of Kay, who has sought out the eponymous Sea—or rather, a flooded city based on Berlin—in the hope that there is a cure for monstrosity. However, despite its name, she is not the only person in the Sea. Avoiding the other monsters of the Sea seems to be a major part of the gameplay. These tense encounters are likely to provide rhythm and variety to the adventure and keep it from being a just walking simulator. (Not that being a walking simulator is inherently a problem.)

Although published by EA Originals, one would do well to remember that EA the company does not actually profit off the Originals that they publish. With a focused story and themes that still are not often explored in bigger games, Sea of Solitude should be of great interest to single player fans in a month otherwise dominated by multiplayer titles.

 

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platform: Nintendo Switch

Almost certainly the biggest single player release of the month, and tied with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 as another massive Switch exclusive, Fire Emblem: Three Houses might be exactly what single players need right now.

Lately the Fire Emblem franchise has exploded in both its popular profile and sales success, buoyed by a hunger for both deep anime RPGs and polished tactics games. Three Houses seems to have doubled down on exciting trends and features in both genres: particularly a Persona/Harry Potter inspired magic school setting and an even deeper tactical battle system that ditches the rock-paper-scissors for more nuanced character progression options. As with many Japanese RPGs, the story is also a major focus and hinges upon a time-jump.

The early part casts the player as a teacher at the Officer’s Academy, situated in the center of the game world and attended by students from the three most powerful nations. Five years later, the second and likely larger part concerns the drama between the player’s teacher and their former students, whose nations are now locked in a massive three-way conflict.

As is to be expected for a series finally coming back to consoles after a long time on the 3DS, Three Houses is a massive technical leap over its predecessors. The game boasts better realised battlefields, more detailed armies, and a slick animated style that appears much more consistent compared with the three or four different art styles on the 3DS.

With such improvements, as well as the overall pedigree of the Fire Emblem brand, Three Houses should have no trouble satisfying single player fans looking for a meaty middle-of-the-year RPG.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One

The recent Wolfenstein revival series is such a remarkable achievement in traditional shooter design and great, if goofy, sci-fi worldbuilding that the co-op focus of this latest instalment is somewhat disappointing.

Yes, as with F.E.A.R. 3 and Dead Space 3, following a well-received second chapter the Wolfenstein series now pivots to a co-operative focused chapter. Though the game is not a mandatory multiplayer experience, combat encounters and puzzles have been redesigned to accommodate the two player mode, giving single players an AI-controlled partner and bullet sponge enemies.

However, all hope is not lost for Wolfenstein: why else would it be the third game on the list? The narrative has been pushed forward in time, as B.J.’s twin daughters are now in their adolescence, now giving players a glimpse at the 1980s of Wolfenstein‘s skewed universe. Additionally, the level design itself is more freeform thanks to development assistance from Arkane, the developers of the Dishonored series.

Will Wolfenstein: Youngblood successfully deliver more of the series’s goofy charm and crazy alternate reality? Almost certainly. On the other hand, will the game be as fun to play alone as in multiplayer? That remains to be seen. Last month’s E3 demo that raised such concerns was naturally only a snapshot of a game in development, so MachineGames and Arkane have had plenty of time to resolve these potential downsides to a co-op focused game.

Those are our three big single player games to look out for this month. Other interesting titles coming soon include Stranger Things 3 on July 4 and Attack on Titan 2 on July 5, both games hitting Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

On July 12 we will see the sequel to an almost-fantastic Minecraft-like RPG spinoff, Dragon Quest Builders 2 on Switch and PlayStation 4, as well as the Switch port of “anime Monster Hunter”, God Eater 3

The week after, July 19 brings us Switch-exclusive Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, and at an undetermined time during the month Klei Entertainment’s anticipated survival-sim Oxygen Not Included will finally leave early access on PC.

Have we missed anything that you’re looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below and be sure bookmark OnlySP and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can also join the discussion in our community Discord server.

Continue Reading