I’m sure any fan old enough to remember the release of Ocarina of Time would agree that it was a momentous day in the history of gaming. It marked the first console release in the Zelda franchise since A Link to the Past six years earlier, and made the leap into expansive 3D environments that opened up the Zelda universe like never before. It’s a game that captured the imagination of a generation, and is heralded in some circles as one of the greatest games of all time.
Leading up to the games release, it was generating a level of hype that was unheard of at the time. I can remember the sense of anticipation amongst N64 owners, and my personal pants-wetting excitement at playing a new instalment of a series I was in love with. I had a copy of the game pre-ordered at my local video game store, Bits ‘n’ Pieces, paid off months in advance using the meagre wages from my paper round.
Come the day before, I’d planned my release day to perfection: get up, deliver the papers on my round, go to school, be schooled, finish school, run to town (likely still in my PE kit), collect Ocarina, dash home, and play for every spare minute of the day until I was forced into bed in the wee hours by a very disgruntled father.
And then the morning came — and I was sick.
Like, unable-to-get-out-of-bed sick.
No amount of unpleasant bodily functions would keep me from guiding Link through his latest quest for the first time.
I was devastated. My plan was in tatters and I knew that when I finally got hold of my copy, I’d be already miles behind my friends, who’d no doubt spoil something for me because that’s just the way that teenagers work.
But there came a saviour! My middle-sister, the dark-haired angel, begrudgingly agreed to collect my copy and bring it home if it would make me feel better, and when she came back through the door with that black and gold box, there was no amount of unpleasant bodily functions that would keep me from guiding Link through his latest quest for the first time.
My day was alternatingly spent gawping at the marvel unfolding in front of me and fighting off crippling waves of stomach cramps and nausea — and I can say honestly that I loved every moment of it.
I thankfully began to perk up over the following weekend and remember spending hours glued to the screen when I should probably have been in bed resting. Sleep wasn’t really an option though — Ocarina was the most immersive game I’d ever played and had me champing at the bit to solve the next series of puzzles and slay the next waves of enemies. It deserved the hype.
When I returned to school on Monday, the general consensus was that I had pulled a sickie to play the game all day, and while that wasn’t the intention, I have to admit that it had mostly turned out that way. Other kids gave me a fair amount of grief for being ‘the nerd who skipped school to play a video game’, but I didn’t care. I knew the truth: it was an awkward coincidence and without the distraction of the game, I’d likely have spent the whole weekend in bed feeling sorry for myself — dragged back to the rigours of high school still feeling grouchy and under the weather.
But I took my medicine. Ocarina of Time filled up my Heart Containers when they were getting low.