Sunday, December 8, 2013

Ocarina of Time, The Poet's Tale and the Legend of Life

I'm taking a quick pause from A Link Between Worlds for exam week (especially since we're about to address my favorite character in that game).  However, I wanted to write something in light of having beat Ocarina of Time yet again recently.

Legend of Zelda:  Ocarina of Time is considered by many to be the greatest video game ever made.  On metacritic, it holds a rating of 99 for universal acclaim.  If you know me personally, I've never been much of a fan of representing quality by a quantifiable number, but I think it is a start in the beginning of understanding this game's impact and what it means for the art and industry of video games.  

At the beginning of my series on Majora's Mask, I briefly described the world of Ocarina of Time when it first came out.  It moved the two dimensional world of Zelda into the third dimension and took the traditional alongside the new and exciting.  There was mystery and fear and love and life and death and power and weakness and responsibility and everything that makes a legend legendary.  However, this is merely the sum of its parts, and Ocarina of Time exceeds these qualities.  While the polygon world of Hyrule has long since been exceeded graphically, Ocarina of Time was a piece of art extending beyond its story and its gameplay.  Ocarina of Time is a symphony and an epic told by a poet's look upon the universe.  

And by poet, I mean this poet.  

Sheik is one of the defining features of Ocarina of Time.  He shows up shortly after Link's gone to the future where everything is terrible and guides Link on his quest by discussing the fate of the world and the truths of life.  Sheik usually appears when Link is off to see someone or do something that involves his past in light of the present.  Finally, Sheik does so through poetry and music using the harp that has made him famous.

Sheik teaches Link:
The Prelude of Light
The Minuet of Forest
The Bolero of Fire
The Serenade of Water
The Nocturne of Shadow
and The Requiem of Spirit

With each song Sheik says these words before teaching it.

Minuet of Forest
The flow of time is always cruel
Its speed seems different for each person
But no one can change it.
A thing that doesn't change with time
Is a memory of younger days
In order to come back here again
Play the minuet of forest

Prelude of Light (technically taught after Minuet of Forest)
     There really isn't anything too poetic said with this song, but it is where Sheik gives Link his quest and tells him that the Master Sword and Ocarina of Time will give him what he needs to succeed.  
Bolero of Fire
It is something that grows over time
A true friendship
A feeling in the heart that becomes even stronger
Over time
The passion of friendship will soon blossom into a righteous flower
And through it
You will know which way to go
This song is dedicated to the power of the heart
Listen to the Bolero of Fire

Serenade of Water
(This one's probably my favorite)
Time passes, people move
Like a river's flow, it never ends
A childish mind will turn to noble ambition
Young love will become deep affection
The clear water's surface reflects growth
Now listen to the Serenade of Water
and reflect upon yourself

Nocturne of Shadow
This is the melody that will draw you 
Into the infinite darkness that absorbs even time
Listen to this
The Nocturne of Shadow!

(admittedly, Sheik is in a hurry with this one given a demon gets released into the world and the village where he meets Link is on fire.  The song itself is very chilling and really stuck out to me this time through.)

Requiem of Spirit
Past, present, future
The Master Sword is a ship with which you can sail upstream and downstream
Through time's river
The port for that ship is in the Temple of Time
To restore the Desert Colossus and enter the Spirit Temple
you must travel back through time's flow
Listen to this Requiem of Spirit
This melody will lead a child back to the desert.

The music in this game is fantastic by the way.

After hearing Sheik say these words, I realized what Ocarina of Time is really all about.  

Shigeru Miyamoto, the man responsible for Mario and Zelda and many other famous Nintendo characters made the first Legend of Zelda game inspired by the caves around his childhood home.  He revisited those caves as an adult after Mario and Donkey Kong had put him on a track for being the future of video games for the next ten to fifteen years.  Ocarina of Time is the culmination of that journey and is a timeless lesson for the target audience of children in the 90s.  It is a lesson of life.  

Link, who begins the game as a child, sees seven years into his future where all of his friends and loved ones could be one day. His friend Saria and the forest represent his past and all things that remain timeless in the past that give us our beginnings but only carry with us to the present and future in memory. Darunia the brother in arms of the fiery mountain represent the challenges of life that will not be faced alone by the strength of the bonds we build with others.  Princess Ruto of the aquatic Zora people represent the love and ambitions of childhood that will either live or be left behind with the passage of time but should be looked upon and celebrated for all they represent.  Impa of the destroyed Sheikah people represent the loss experienced in life that all must go through but the resolute strength that must be kept to keep living.  Finally, the desert, which has always represented strife and its sands that represent time, recognizes that what we do in the past is not without consequence and we can always remind ourselves of the past to do what must be done in the present.  Link saves the thief Nabooru from her mental imprisonment, and she remembers Link as the kid who had helped her seven years ago.  

Life is a matter of time, something Miyamoto recognized, and in life all things that were, are, and could be are instrumental in carrying us through.  A prelude suggests all that is to come, so the Prelude of Light suggests that though the journey is tough and there will be sacrifices, it will be vibrant and worthy of celebration if we respect the past and work in the present for a brighter future even if hardships seem to be all we are destined for.  

At the end, Sheik turns out to be Princess Zelda (y'see, you thought I was making typos this whole time, I know that everyone knows Sheik is Zelda now, but back in '98 everyone thought Sheik was a man. It was a shocking reveal.)  Zelda has lived the seven years Link has been absent, and she has learned all the lessons she taught as Sheik.  In the end, she returns Link to his childhood telling him to live now that his quest has ended.  She gives Link a second chance in life to do all he can for a brighter future following what the two  had seen and fought for as adults.  Link is a vicarious representation of that first audience back in '98 who have this game as a formative part of their childhood and all the lessons it shared.  

I feel this is really what makes Ocarina of Time the enduring title it continues to be.  

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