I was ten when
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time came out, and had never played a Zelda game before – unless you count a very brief encounter with Link's Awakening on my cousin's original Game Boy brick – but that didn't stop me (and apparently everyone else) from recognizing that the game was something special, even at first glance (good call, past me!). Given that The Legend of Zelda series was already pretty firmly established as one of the greatest franchises of all time, the easy conclusion might be that the hype behind the game was a byproduct of the series' spectacular pedigree. But that doesn't explain how Ocarina of Time managed to build a reputation of its own as the crown jewel of the series – indeed, as the standout masterpiece of its era.
The answer to that mystery, I think, lies in the game's ambitious vision.
Ocarina of Time wasn't just a Zelda game in 3D – it completely changed the landscape for the action-adventure-RPG games that followed. It dramatically expanded the Hyrule universe through brand-new lore, brand-new races, and a vigorous re-envisioning of the franchise's setting. Its vast Hyrule's landscape set a new bar for 3D game environments. Its Z-targeting system changed the way we thought about swashbuckling sword fights in video games. In short, Ocarina of Time proved that it was worthy of staking its claim as the ultimate video game adventure.
It's been almost a year since Nintendo announced
The Legend of Zelda for Wii U, but despite the Zelda team's claims that the new game will turn the conventions of the series on its head and offer players unprecedented freedom, we've yet to see any definite evidence that positions it as a true masterpiece. So when series producer Eiji Aonuma announced that he's giving his team more time to build the "most complete Zelda game" yet, my immediate reaction was one of relief. Based on what we've seen so far, Zelda U needs a lot of work before it's ready to truly herald the birth of the ultimate Zelda experience.