Christmas of 1998 was special to me: it is one of only a few holiday memories that I can recall offhand. A mysterious bunch of boxes sat beneath the tree; each of them containing a treasure greater than the Fairy Bow. I tore through the wrapping paper like a maniac and found myself staring at a Nintendo 64. The smaller boxes each contained a game, four games altogether: Diddy Kong Racing, Banjo-Kazooie, Star Fox 64, and of course, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The first game I played on the new system was Banjo-Kazooie. Moving in three dimensions felt unusual because I was accustomed to two-dimensional side-scrollers, like the Donkey Kong Country series. Eventually, I became used to the new graphics and learned to embrace the weird polygons. After some time passed, I decided to give Ocarina of Time a chance.
Realm of Memories is a series where we reflect on our absolute favorite moments in The Legend of Zelda games. These could be the times we first fell in love with a game, were moved by the events of the story or actions of a character, felt triumphant when overcoming a tough boss or challenge, or we had an experience so unique that the adventure truly became our own. The Zelda series has touched our lives in many ways, and just as Hyrule has endless stories to share, so do our writers!
My first experiences playing Ocarina of Time are tied with my father. We played the game together, trying to help each other through it. The game had us completely in the dark. We had no idea about the dungeons, barely understood the controls, and kept dying. After having a difficult time activating the first boss, we were handed defeat after defeat by Queen Gohma (a simple first boss). After numerous failed attempts, we got some help from my friend’s brother, who also taught us how to play the game.
We continually improved as we progressed through the game; learning each dungeon as well as the location of the Heart Pieces and Golden Skulltulas. Eventually, the day came when we made Ganondorf spit green blood; we finally beat the game. At least we thought that until he turned into Ganon. Defeating him ended the game and also marked a moment which stood as a grand achievement for my dad and me, not only because of the game’s difficulty but also because of the incredible adventure we embarked upon. The cutscenes were fun, the characters were interesting, the adventure was unique. It was the perfect game for a father and son to experience together.
Then we played it again and again; it was a game I revisited multiple times as a kid and teenager. My dad had a similar attitude towards the game but he never became as skilled as me. I was the first to find all the Golden Skulltulas and Heart Pieces. He hated finding the Heart Piece in the graveyard and never bothered with Dampe as Child Link. I was also better at the mini-games than him. I always took the time to score 1,500 points in the archery game so I could obtain the quiver upgrade, while he settled for the 1,000 points just so he could get the Heart Piece.
Despite the gap in skill, we always talked about Ocarina of Time. We ripped Navi apart for how she would interrupt gameplay to state that Death Mountain had a weird ring around it. We made fun of how Zelda and Kaepora Gaebora seemed to talk without end. We cursed King Zora because he took too long to move out of the way and let us advance to Zora’s Fountain. We also talked about the enemies, dungeons and the many secrets within the game. One of our favorite secrets was that Link could steal the fisherman’s hat. I’m not sure who found that between the two of us, but considering how much time my dad spent in the fishing hole, it was probably him.
When I left for college, my father would often call me to ask questions about Ocarina of Time. Even when I didn’t have the game, it would still have a presence in my life. Not many games hold this honor, but two Zelda games have it: Ocarina of Time and Breath of the Wild. The reason these two games hold this honor is because I experienced them together with my father. We may have played on separate save files but we played these games together, always exchanging stories and secrets. My hope for the future is that Nintendo will make another great Zelda game so we have another game to experience together.