Zelda: Breath of the Wild vs Ocarina of Time

I sure love asking the complicated questions, don’t I? After a RetroNight dedicated to Ocarina of Time and a review of Breath of the Wild, I think it’s time...

I sure love asking the complicated questions, don’t I? After a RetroNight dedicated to Ocarina of Time and a review of Breath of the Wild, I think it’s time to do a comparison of the two. This is going to replace this week’s RetroNight, but best believe you’re in for quite a bit of a ride.

Ocarina of Time has long been hailed as the peak of the Zelda franchise, as well as the peak of Game Design across a large chunk of the industry. Many developers reference the game, or use it as inspiration for some of the more prominently enjoyed adventure experiences.

Ocarina of Time

Credit to ZeldaDungeon

Ocarina is a pretty straightforward adventure game, that carries you through a surprisingly unique narrative where Link, the young Hylian boy, must muster up the strength to rescue Princess Zelda from Ganondorf, a villain who has usurped control of the kingdom of Hyrule. This narrative is given weight by the many areas of the world and characters you encounter.

Because of the nature of the game’s dependence on time, traveling between past and future specifically, it manages to maintain a sort of dual tone. This is incredibly complex, as the first half of the game is a beautifully cheerful coming of age experience, carrying a boy through frightening adventures and self discovery. Even for the Nintendo 64, the storytelling was as advance and complex as could be, offering a narrative experience we’d expect from the games of today. Simple elements, such as Link meeting someone in each new town as a kid, offers insight into his need to explore and his love of the world around him.

The naturally heroic aspects of his personality shine through, and allows you to forge through on a truly massive quest, the likes of which up until that point, Nintendo had never developed before.

Fast-forward to March of 2017, we get Breath of the Wild, which despite having an operating narrative, foregoes its importance in favor of unencumbered exploration and adventuring, allowing you to develop your own personal connection with the world. Admittedly, while serving as an incredibly vast playground for which to test every facet of the game’s mechanics, the tone in Breath of the Wild is far less defined, with the game showcasing elements of a dystopia, and a few emotionally stimulating characters, while also attempting to achieve the same level of humor and lightheartedness that the youthful Link experienced in Ocarina.

There seems to be no definitive moment in the narrative for the game to become bleak, and that doesn’t feel as authentic.

In terms of gameplay, I’d argue that Breath of the Wild surpasses Ocarina of Time in most major ways. Its combat is stellar, the way you interact with the physical layout of the world is much more calculated and interactive than the somewhat open Hyrule Field of old. Players have the freedom to design their own adventure, and the plan of attack is entirely dependent on your style. I for instance, chose to pursue all of the towers first. I wanted to build up my map before I handled any problems in specific areas. It was a fun way of becoming briefly acquainted with the world, and without having any points of reference, it was a really awesome chance to watch the journey unfold more authentically.

The biggest difference between the two is that Ocarina is a definitive yet masterful experience and Breath of the Wild is many experiences, developed to be manufactured and chosen by the player. So this still begs the question, which game is best? Which game achieves its goal in the most effective way.

That is an entire separate post all on its own, and it will be coming soon.

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Mustapha is a young yet spirited university student majoring in Game Art and Development. While he's but a senior in college, he has an extensive history with the art of gaming journalism. Managing his own game review blog for several years, as well as attending events such as Boston FIG and PAX East has given him extensive experience in covering game news. His knowledge of game design also serves as a tool to develop finite understanding of what makes games work.
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