THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: OCARINA OF TIME (NINTENDO EAD) – 1998
Wherever Ocarina Of Time (OOT) is mentioned, the words that follow usually comprise of any combination of the following words and phrases: ‘wonderful’… ‘timeless’…‘masterpiece’. The first 3D Zelda experience has racked up so many plaudits and awards over the years that it has become hard to keep count – nearly eight million copies were sold worldwide, and at release it earned over fifteen perfect review scores from various gaming publications (resulting in a sensational average of 99 out of 100 over on Metacritic). Since then, critics and gamers alike have regularly hailed Shigeru Miyamoto’s classic as ‘the greatest game ever made’, a benchmark which has rarely been touched.
There was a time when games could get by with relatively simple stories. Kill the aliens descending from the top of the screen, save the princess, get to the shiny teleporter at the end of the level; all of these were relatively standard fare before 1998. Then, a man by the name of Hideo Kojima gave the world Metal Gear Solid, and showed the world that games could deliver a narrative that rivalled anything coming out of Hollywood.
Featuring numerous detailed FMV’s that advanced the story, along with hours of CODEC conversations that revealed more about the world and the facility that Snake was infiltrating made Metal Gear Solid feel like so much more than just another game. It was more like an interactive movie, one that you could affect with some quite big consequences depending on how you reacted to certain elements of the story. The added effect of having more video footage also meant that bosses could become more fleshed out characters, leading to some pretty memorable sequences with Psycho Mantis taking the top plaudits.
And alongside this cinematic development of events, there was a totally new way to play the game. Running in with guns blazing was a sure fire way to end up dead – instead, Snake had to be as stealthy as possible, using the environment to his advantage to avoid the constantly patrolling guards. Metal Gear Solid was the first game to perfect stealth, which has become a staple feature in pretty much every action adventure game since.
The adventures of Solid Snake proved to be only a starting point for the evolution of outstanding narratives in video games. Alongside the Metal Gear Solid sequels, the likes of Grand Theft Auto, Bioshock, Mass Effect and Uncharted have all been shining examples of giving the player an engrossing story to play through whilst not sacrificing anything on the gameplay or graphical front.
12 – THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: OCARINA OF TIME (1998) – NINTENDO EAD
People will never seemingly shut up about Ocarina Of Time, which indicates that it must have done something to change the playing field. The first Legend Of Zelda game to feature the adventures of Link in three dimensions didn’t just change the much lauded series for the better, but also implemented some features that most modern games would even think twice about including.
Probably the most significant change was the introduction of the Z-targeting mechanic. The ability to lock on to a target and then move around freely whilst always keeping him in your sights allowed for a tactical element to be added to boss fights, and also allowed ranged attacks to be reliably successful. Ocarina Of Time is also credited with popularising the use of context sensitive actions where one button could be used for several different actions depending on the situation, e.g. pushing a box, opening a door, picking up bombs etc.
It wasn’t just the new mechanics that impressed though; it’s the small things that make Ocarina such a delight to play. The limitation of the use of certain items by young and adult Link means that you would have to travel forwards and backwards through time on a regular basis to solve the trickiest puzzles the game had to offer. The use of the Ocarina itself to solve puzzles was a genius idea, seamlessly integrating music into the game. The detail of the world of Hyrule, whilst looking average at best nowadays, was also well ahead of most other games released at the time.
No video game has really managed to match the legacy left behind by Ocarina Of Time. It received perfect reviews across the board upon its release, and has been voted as the greatest game of all time by no less than 13 official publications – nevermind receiving the same accolade from thousands of normal punters. It continues to be a defining, maybe the defining, moment in video game history 14 years since it first burst onto the scene.
Super Mario 64 is to platformers what Star Wars was to the film industry when it was first released – people couldn’t believe what they were seeing. The world of the Mushroom Kingdom, which has previously been limited to side scrolling high jinks, was opened up for players to run, jump and kick about in, and not only became the instant reason for wanting a Nintendo 64 (when the console was put to bed for the Gamecube, roughly 1/3rd of N64 owners had a copy of Super Mario 64), but also became the quintessential 3D platformer that even to this day has rarely been bettered.
It wasn’t just the huge colourful worlds, objective based structures and classic characters given new proportions that impressed though – it was the sense that it was so far ahead of its time. By implementing the brand new analogue stick on the N64 controller, players had the freedom to move Mario about exactly where they wanted him to go, and also allowed for a fully adjustable camera that meant that players could take in the scenery and plan where they wanted to go – looking up at the peak of Bob-Omb Mountain and then proceeding to travel there may not seem special at all nowadays, but in 1996 it was like scaling Mt. Everest. It would even force Sony to create an analogue pad of their own for the Playstation.
As with other games in this list, Super Mario 64 has somewhat of an ageless quality to it – go and play it nowadays and it still feels as taught as the day it was released. Like Elvis Presley, it has many imitators; but there can only be one true King.
8 – GOLDENEYE 007 (1997) – RARE
In a world of ‘Doom clones’, Goldeneye 007 was a bolt from the blue. Based on the fantastic film of 1995, British company Rare incorporated new elements of design that made the game one of the most legendary first person shooters to ever be released.
Eschewing the balls out action of stuff like Doom, Goldeneye 007 (one of the first FPS’s released exclusively for a console)adopted a more realistic outlook. Much work was done to make the player get the feeling that you are James Bond, as sneaking around taking out security cameras and dispatching guards as quietly as possible becomes the most desirable way to progress through the game. Rare also introduced several new features that have become staples of the genre; guards will react differently depending on where they are shot, and the zoomable scoped sniper rifle that allowed you to kill enemies from a distance is now a standard inclusion in virtually every shooting game.
Goldeneye’s legacy however primarily lies in its multiplayer mode. Featuring fully customisable game modes and four player split screen action, this game became the measuring stick from which all other multiplayer games, not just first person shooters, were judged for sheer amounts of fun. Anyone who has played this game will have fun memories of chopping people to death, racing to get the golden gun for one shot kills, and cursing the person who decided to pick Oddjob. Arguments continue to rage about whether Goldeneye is still the ultimate deathmatch template, even after the likes of Halo and Call Of Duty have come along – a testament to the games continuing quality.
There are rumours flying about at the moment that Sony is looking to collect its very best characters from first party IP’s and put them all together in a fighting game. Potentially, it could be a very good title – but the thing that amuses me is that while fans argue about the validity of putting certain characters in, I wonder why it has taken Sony so long to emulate a game that Nintendo got organised more than a decade ago, in the form of the original Super Smash Brothers. Considering the enormous success of the franchise, in particular the sequels Melee and Brawl which regularly top lists of people’s favourite multiplayer games, it seems strange that the idea of putting your very best mascots into a fighting game was a foreign concept in 1999. People generally looked towards the established names of the genre (like Tekken, Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat) if they wanted a good bout of fisticuffs, but the lure of being able to kick the crap out of Pikachu as Mario soon drew in the punters. 4.3 million sales later, and Nintendo’s little gamble (it was only ever intended to be released in Japan) gave us one of the best multiplayer games of the fifth generation. Continue reading Do You Remember When Mario Punched Link Off The Corneria? – Super Smash Brothers Review→
Conkers’ Bad Fur Day is a very rare game in several respects. First of all, it was the last game made by Rare (a tenuous link I know) for a Nintendo console for quite some time, before Microsoft bough the studio in 2002. Second; it is rare in the respect that it was one of only two games to have an enhanced 64MB cartridge for the N64, the other game being Resident Evil 2. Third, it’s a rare game: if you want an original copy you could be looking in excess of £50 for the privilege. Finally though, and most importantly, it’s a rare game in the sense that it manages to be hilariously funny and crude in a way that not many games since, the Grand Theft Auto series included, have ever come close to being.
Conker himself made his debut in a rather low-key role as a character available to race with in Diddy Kong Racing, another Rare title. This game was in production for four years and was meant to be a cutesy platformer (following on from the success of Rare’s Super Mario 64 clone, Banjo Kazooie), but at the last moment Rare decided to go back to the drawing board and in the end produced a cutesy platformer…albeit now with swearing, gore, drunken behaviour and adult themes thrown into the mix. Many adults bought this game for their children to play and were greatly shocked methinks when they saw the content on display; despite it saying on the box and the loading screens that this was a mature title and not meant for children (a rarity in itself for the family friendly N64). The game sold poorly on release due to Nintendo not advertising it properly, and as a result it was passed over by many. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore it now, because behind the profanity and blood lies one of the N64’s great titles. Continue reading All Hail King Conker – Conker’s Bad Fur Day Review→