The Obsession with... Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Published: 31 Jan 2022

Probably one of the greatest videogames of all time, and certainly the greatest on the N64, Ocarina of Time was a regular fixture in N64 magazine from the very first issue, to its release in December 1998 and for many months beyond. Barely an issue went by without some sort of feature on the game, charting its progress right from the barebones tech demo at Shoshinkai in the November of 96.

Issue 1 - Future Look

The first issue looked through everything that had been released so far about the game. The game at that point was very different looking to the final game, but all the hallmarks were there - an adult Link had his sword and shield, fighting stalfos, as well as wandering around some sort of town. From the screenshots, it seems as though Link is walking around a fully 3D Hyrule Castle Town - of course, when we got to the final game, this was turned into pre-rendered backgrounds.

Issue 3 - Coming Soon (RPG News)

Issue 3 came with the big news that there was to be 2 Zelda games on the N64. One which was to become Ocarina of time, and a second game on the 64DD. The third issue had a bunch more shots from Nintendo, which showed more signs of what the final game was to become, such as Lake Hylia and the Spirit Temple.

Issue 5 - Coming Soon (RPG News)

Issue 5 came from E3, with yet more brand new screenshots from a gameplay trailer Nintendo had shown. Further evolution showed link bombing some dodongos - albeit as Adult link (Young Link had yet to be shown). There was also footage of a top down view from within one of the many houses. Have a look at some footage below to see how the game looked back in June 1997.


Issue 6 - RPG News Special

Issue 6 was N64 magazine's RPG special, with Link appearing on the front cover for the very first time. There wasn’t really much new information in this issue, with mostly a lowdown on everything that had come previously. It got an anticipation score of 9/10 by FuSoYa (Wil Overton in disguise), praising this as the RPG with the most potential.

Issue 7 - Coming Soon (RPG News)

For issue 7, there was more in-depth information coming from Nintendo, the Heads-up-display was now re-vamped, and  pretty much the same as the final version. Also present was the first appearances of Link’s horse Epona and the first boss Ghoma (again with Adult Link). We also got glimpses of the Fire Temple and Link fighting Lizalfos. The game was also announced as being the biggest ever N64 game at 256 megabits (or 32 megabytes) - in comparison to today’s games of over 32 gigabytes, it was tiny! 

Issue 8 - Coming Soon (RPG News)

Finally, Young Link was shown in issue 8, with another bunch of screenshots. An interview with Shigeru Miyamoto, gave some further information about the game, such as the fact that - shock horror - there’s a boomerang in the game.

Issue 9 - Coming Soon (RPG News)

Only a little bit of information came in this issue, just confirmation that there were two versions of Link in the game, and a bit of an explanation of the differences between the two.

Issue 10 - Future Look

Zelda finally got it’s name with this issue, with Ocarina of Time finally being revealed to the world. This issue was mainly a rundown of everything that had come before, showcasing many of the features of the game. 

Issue 11 - Future Look

Issue 11 came direct from Spaceworld ‘97 - with a whole heap of information about Ocarina of Time. By this time, the game was looking almost complete, looking very similar to the finished product. The screenshots showed more of the features of the game like horse riding and parts of Dodongo’s Cavern, including King Dodongo himself. 

Issue 12 - Coming Soon (RPG News)

For Issue 12 the magazine had more screenshots showcasing Young Link’s part of the adventure, including the first shots of the Gorons.

Issue 14 - Coming Soon (RPG News)

Even more shots came within issue 14’s pages, again showing more of Young Link. As well as his journey up Death Mountain, there were screenshots of the fairy fountain, the boomerang, inside Dodongo’s Cavern and finally some of the revamped Hyrule Castle Town. 

Issue 15 - Coming Soon (RPG News)

As usual, even more screenshots were shown in issue 15. This issue also showcased the z-targeting system in a bit more detail. At this point, the game still had a speculative release date of April in Japan (despite this being the May issue), although the team now were sure that the game would be delayed, even though it seemed complete.

Issue 16 - Coming Soon (RPG News)

More updates for issue 16 with the game officially delayed until Q4 2018 - almost a year later than first anticipated. Screenshots this issue looked at Jabu Jabu’s belly, the forest temple and some of the cut-scenes.

Issue 17 - Coming Soon (RPG News)

Issue 17 came with the headline that the release date was finally set in the USA. The team had actually got to play the game at E3, and over 100 different scenes to play, so had plenty to report on. 

Issue 18 - Special Investigation

Issue 18 put together everything previously seen about Ocarina of Time and went into great detail. Explaining the story, the controls and some of the characters. There was also a Q & A with Shigeru Miyamoto that explained more detail about some of the ins and outs of the game and his experience producing the game.

Issue 20 - Coming Soon (RPG News)

Strangely despite having a US launch date there was still no sign of an Japanese release. Issue 20 looked at different parts of the footage seen at E3, including Lon-Lon ranch (both as Young and Adult Link) and footage of Sheikh.

Issue 21 - Special Investigation

Issue 21 came with the news that there were two possible release dates, either 27th November or 4th December. Footage this month looked at young Link’s journey through Hyrule, with areas such as Zora’s domain and the innards of Kokiri village seen for the first time.

Issue 23 - Review (Part 1)

Zelda managed to hit the second of the two estimated release dates, and was duly reviewed in the Christmas 1998 issue - well at least some of it anyway. Unfortunately the team didn’t get their own review cart, but were able to send Wil to a journalists summit where he could play the game. The review focussed on the first hour or two of the game, looking at Kokiri Forest, the Deku Tree, Hyrule Castle, Lon Lon Ranch and Kakariko Village. Because they had only played the first bit of the game, the magazine couldn’t give a score, although they were sure it would be a star game!

Issue 24 - Review (Part 2)

In the intervening month, the magazine managed to play the full game, handing the duties to Jes Bickham in a mammoth 14 page review. They went into more depth on the first dungeon, and looked at all the major locations of the game - both young and adult versions. The other members of the magazine’s team also had their say on the game, although of course these were overwhelmingly positive. The final score they gave the game was 98%, bettering Mario 64 as the greatest game on the N64. 

Issue 25 - How to... get all the weapons and equipment in The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time

The following issues of N64 magazine covered several aspects of the game, starting in issue 25 with a guide of how to find all the weapons and equipment in the game, this included all the Great Fairies and a detailed guide of how to get Biggoron's Sword.

Issue 26 - How to… find all sorts of stuff in The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time.

This issue covered many of the side quests, and mostly things not essential to the completion of the game. It went into great depth of the mask trading quest, the Poe collection and Cucco collecting in Kakariko village. As an added bonus, there was also an explanation of the warps available through the game.

Issue 27 - Tickled Link

Issue 27 threw it over to the readers, and featured clever things they had found in the game, as well as the ocarina melodies they had devised. They also listed the favourite things that readers wrote in about, including fishing and the clever cut scenes.

Issue 28 - How to discover rewarding little secrets in the Legend of Zelda

This one was thrown over to reader Thomas McAlinden, who wrote in to explain some of Zelda’s secrets, such as getting the Hylian Loach, the locations of all the reviving fairies, and how to get on top of the castle’s drawbridge.

So that’s it pretty much, but the magazine certainly didn’t just ignore the game after that. There were plenty of mentions throughout the magazine, as well as almost every platformer/action/RPG being compared to it in some way or another. Just as the game had a major influence on video games generally, it had a massive influence on the magazine and everything that followed.