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Friday, 26 February, 1999, 17:23 GMT
Review: Legend of Zelda
Link learns tunes and plays them on his Ocarina at key points
Pete Lane reviews The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo64

Nearly three years in the making, the latest episode of the Legend of Zelda series has a lot to prove.

Thankfully, from the opening sequence to the lavish end credits, Zelda not only succeeds, but arguably redefines videogaming..

Zelda offers the player an immersive world to explore, known as Hyrule. Through a series of diverse challenges, which will take most players around sixty hours to complete, the game tells a story of good versus evil and a small elf, known as Link, who travels through time.

Hyrule comes across as both a convincing environment and a charming place to be in. Visually stunning, with vistas stretching as far as anyone could expect to see, real-time changes from day to night, and natural looking weather, it is easy to become involved with Link's quest.

There are dozens of unique characters to meet, and a variety of gameplay that is unparalleled.

Link's spin attack - a skill to master if you want to defeat the larger enemies
At the game's core are 12 'dungeons', self-confined levels, normally concluding with a battle against an enormous 'boss' enemy. These dungeons combine sword-fighting, platform skills and lateral thinking puzzles to provide an often significant challenge.

Link's companion, Navi (a small fairy), ensures the player is never stuck for long by providing hints along the way. Navi also changes colour to indicate enemies or items of interest, and allows Link to lock onto them, ensuring that they do not leave his sight, a cunning device that proves exceptionally useful when fighting.

Link has a wide range of actions, including riding a horse, playing the ocarina (a recorder like instrument), horse-riding and fishing, all depicted beautifully with fluid animation and subtle real-time lighting.

All these skills need to be mastered to succeed, but the game puts an emphasis on the learn-while-you-play style, which limits frustration.

Horse-riding on Hyrule field - Walking everywhere is a more dangerous and time-consuming task
The game is divided roughly into two sections, one played as a small elf, with the larger challenge reserved for the teenage Link - although time travel allows the player to switch between these states (and this is essential for the completion of the game).

Overall, Zelda is the closest anyone has yet come to the perfect game.

It is credit to its designer, Mario-creator Shigeru Miyamoto that it innovates effortlessly, and provides the player with a whole World to explore and enjoy (and come back to even when the game is complete). If only all videogames were made this way.

See also:

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24 Dec 98 | Christmas and New Year
Santa's sack of software
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