On The Level

The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time - Water Temple

The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time—“Water Temple”

The infamous dungeon is Zelda’s equivalent of a “bottle episode.”

By Steve Heisler • June 27, 2012

In television, when budgets threaten to run dry, producers will sometimes create what’s called a “bottle episode.” It’s pretty simple: They take an existing set from the show and focus the entire episode in that singular location. Less money for cutaways and location shoots equals more money for the grand season finale with the CGI papasan chair.

The conventional wisdom among TV aficionados is that bottle episodes are generally great. It’s counterintuitive at first, because you’d think that, stripped of the lavish pageantry of modern television, these bottle episodes would be no more than throwaway—a vacation for the writers as they burn their way to the elusive end-of-season break. But limits enhance creativity. Bottle episodes are forced, by circumstance, to find inventive ways to tell stories. For any Breaking Bad fans out there, “Fly” is one of the latest and greatest examples of a bottle episode done right: Trapped in their meth lab when a contaminant (in this case, a fly) refuses to be contained, Walter White and Jesse Pinkman go mad from lack of sleep, revealing secrets to each other in heated, tense exchanges.

The Water Temple in The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time is as close in spirit to a bottle episode as any video game level can be. In his quest to rescue Princess Ruto (one of the Zora, a race of fish-people), Link, our spritely elf hero/national treasure, essentially travels up and down a large vertical chamber by raising and lowering the amount of water inside it, often with little guidance or clue as to what’s next. The level’s treasure is also laughably low-budget: You’ve been using the Hookshot, a tool for reaching high places and knocking down enemies, for a while already; now you get the Longshot, which is the same thing as the Hookshot, just…longer.

The Water Temple isn’t flashy. It isn’t full of menacing bad guys who torture Link in new and interesting ways. And other than a few short jaunts, it takes place in one giant room. But it’s also the purest distillation of The Legend Of Zelda since the original title, and likely the last time it’ll happen; a demand for unalloyed repetition and tenacity, the brutal undercurrents of every Zelda game.

Most of your time in the temple is spent changing the water level of the main chamber, which you do by going to one of three spots and playing “Zelda’s Lullaby” (number five on Hyrule’s Billboard 100) with your ocarina. One spot raises the water all the way up, one drains it completely, and one brings it to somewhere in the middle. There are small chambers along the walls, each handful only accessible at certain water levels.

The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time - Water Temple

At first, running through the Water Temple’s rinse cycle, so to speak, is pretty straightforward. The water begins as high as it gets, and the first realization you have is that no door is open or accessible just yet. Sooner or later, you exercise your only option: You put on your metal boots and sink to the bottom. Your blue tunic, recently acquired, keeps you alive, though the only weapon accessible in the depths is that blasted Hookshot; the Master Sword, your powerful and holy sidearm, won’t work. This is how the Water Temple strips you down.

Only one pathway is open to you, and it leads to the first of three spots from which the water level can be shifted. This one drains it all away. Then there’s a door into the center pillar. In there, you can raise the water to the halfway point. Yet this, too, leaves only one pathway open—you’re led to the final water control station, which refloods the entire level. Consider this the opening credits.

This initial exploration gives way to an often-frustrating repetition. You inch your way into side hallways, often stopped by a locked door—in a dungeon where keys are hard to come by. In most Zelda levels, you’re able to use the map to find unexplored terrain (i.e., where you ought to go next). In the Water Temple, simply getting to the terrain is a challenge. The water can only go from full to empty, then to half, then back to full—there’s no way to rearrange the process—to say, go from half-full to empty.

You might have a hunch that the missing key is somewhere in the middle of this infernal tower, and after playing “Zelda’s Lullaby” to the point where the notes lose all meaning, you might well discover that you were wrong. Maybe it’s at the bottom. Or worse yet, maybe it’s at the bottom, but the water has to be at the top, so that you can free-float over obstacles, using your iron boots as an occasional anchor that you can cast off whenever you want. Exploration takes time, even though the physical area is relatively small.

The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time - Water Temple

A bottle episode of television cannot hold too many characters. It’s a logistical limitation: The space is only so big. Instead of building itself around the breadth of its ensemble, the script for a good bottle episode offers deep insight into the few characters it can fit into the frame. Fittingly, the mini-boss of the Water Temple is yourself. Specifically, it’s a shadow version of yourself, slashing his sword roughly when you slash, and occasionally jumping onto the edge of your own blade to taunt you. It’s Ocarina’s personal crisis of conscience, made possible by a level that quite literally goes deeper than any other.

The careful slaying of yourself and subsequent acquisition of the Longshot offers little respite: What seems like an opportunity to skip the water-leveling entirely is instead just another way to reach higher ground and see exactly where you need the water to be. So there’s less research but still just as much backtracking and ocarina-playing. Like the best bottle episodes of TV, which reward patience and subtle acting, each step you take becomes important, because the alternative of careful advancement—that you waste a whole lot of time guessing—is far scarier.

A long time later (and really, this temple takes a while), you meet the final boss, which is a disappointment. Billed as “Giant Aquatic Amoeba: MORPHA,” it’s a long, gooey arm with a little ball inside that you grab with your new gadget. The monster looks like something out of a cheap SyFy movie, and in its own way, that’s an appropriately low-budget end to this minimalist dungeon. The Water Temple isn’t about spectacle. It’s a pure example of the Zelda series’ ability to cast exhausting repetition as a prelude to cathartic celebration.

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  • RidleyFGJ

    The Water Temple: it sure gave your N64′s start button a lot to do!

    • BarbleBapkins

      This is kind of oddly specific praise, but I loved the pause menu sound effects in OoT. Made switching out the Iron Boots for the 30th time a little less unbearable.

      • CivilizationHasFailed

        True, although I always hated the slight delay switching between screens.

  • http://www.onelinetaxcode.com/ root (1ltc)

    I’m not trying to say that Gameological is not covering a very wide variety of topics on games, but I think that after this article, and the Tubular article ( http://gameological.com/2012/05/super-mario-world-tubular ), and the article comparing MM to Dark Souls ( http://gameological.com/2012/04/games-played-in-inches/ ), and the recent alternate soundtrack article featuring SMW ( http://gameological.com/2012/06/super-mario-world-beastie-boys-check-your-head/ ), you have met your coverage of Nintendo material for several months to come.

    Because analogies are always understood and never misconstrued: Whenever I hear music discussion about The Beatles, my brain immediately shuts off and my attention goes elsewhere, because I refuse to believe that there is anything to be said about The Beatles that hasn’t been said a hundred million times before. This is how I feel about Nintendo and their games.

     There is no shortage of Nintendo game analysis and discussion on thousands of other web sites. If it were my choice, I’d always want to feature articles which do not discuss their games, because literally everyone else does. It’s been done.

    • blue vodka lemonade

      Yes, this, Nintendo, sick of it. Mario’s great, yeah, Zelda? Sure, sure, if that’s your bag. Sick of 8-bit this, 8-bit that, hey look I cross-stitched the Legend of Zelda start screen, oh I painted my walls with a billion Bloopers.

      There’s a place for endless discussion of Nintendo games, and it’s called The Entire Internet. I love the variety on this site, love that it embraces all kinds of gaming, but I’m already getting sick of all the articles about Nintendo.

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

        Counterpoint: I love to read and talk about Nintendo games. I thought this article was great. Pretty genius to compare it to a bottle episode, I always just associate the water temple with frustration. 

        I get the point on over saturation, but honestly, this website is still pretty young. I enjoyed this piece. I don’t think it’s a problem yet. 

        I’m still hoping for a “minority perspective on gaming” article or column or something though, but that may be too political or something. It’s still something I’d love to read/discuss.

      • JokersNuts

        As someone who grew up with Nintendo games, as many of us did, I have no problem with this.

        • NFET

          I have no shame in admitting I’ve only ever owned Nintendo consoles. I generally only have enough money for one per generation and I have brand loyalty.

        • Ziegfelding

          Exactly. The main appeal here is nostalgia which is a commodity Nintendo still has plenty of and I, as a reader, still have a desire for. My console progression was Atari 2600, Nintendo, SNES, N64, PS1, GameCube, Wii, 360 so there’s an awful lot of history there to be mined for me.

      • NFET

        Can we at least get some Metroid coverage first? That would be fun.

        • RidleyFGJ

          If any level from a Metroid game deserves to be featured in an On the Level article, it has to be the initial approach of Crateria prior to “life” being restored. Many horror games released since Super Metroid could barely match the unbelievable atmosphere that was on display. And then the realization of going through the original final area from the first game backwards? Just incredible.

        • Alkaron

          I’d love to see an On the Level about one of the Metroid Prime games. I tried to post a list of possible choices, but all of the areas in those three games are so lovingly designed and fully realized that I would have to list pretty much every level in the entire series. My personal favorites are the Space Frigate and Phazon Mines in Prime 1 and the Phazon planet of Prime 3′s final level.

          A big reason the level design and story in those games work so well is the scan visor. An entire article could be written on the scan visor and the new possibilities it opened up for level design and world-building. The scan visor was the best thing to happen to the franchise, IMO.

        • PaganPoet

          @RidleyFGJ, I’ve always wanted Metroid to sort of “up” the horror aspect of its games. It doesn’t need to be Dead Space, mind you, just a little more unnerving and creepy. And you’re right about that section of Super Metroid, perfect atmospheric music and sound effects…gave me the chills first time I played it.

        • rvb1023

           @PaganPoet:disqus The Prime games atmospheres’ are nearly unparalleled as it is.  So few games give off that feeling of isolation.  I’d argue that going through the ruined Phazon Mines was more terrifying than anything in Dead Space.  To up the horror anymore would cause the series to loose it’s “T” rating.

        • Matthew McGrath

           @RidleyFGJ:disqus My other favorite sorta-scary moment in SM is when you defeat Crocomire; he sinks into the lava and it gets quiet.  You walk right, nothing.  You walk left…and BAM up pops Crocomire ahhh…oh wait, he’s just a skeleton now, haha…and then he fades away.

      • Justin Wheatley

        Something tells me there isn’t another article on the internet about how this temple compares to a bottle episode. Just a hunch. 

        • blue vodka lemonade

          I know, I know. I just spend a lot of time reading about/thinking about/playing games, more than is probably healthy, and what gets discussed more than anything else (unless it’s a news piece) is Nintendo. I don’t necessarily want there to be less of that thing, but I do wish there were more of other things.

        • Justin Wheatley

          Fair enough. That makes sense.

      • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

        I’m certainly glad you’ve been enjoying the variety of the site. I’m not convinced that four articles over the course of three months about one of the most prolific and influential game companies of all time qualifies as an outlandish editorial choice. We can disagree on that.

        There are many different ways for a writer to add something new and worthwhile to the conversation about games. You can talk about games that other people aren’t talking about. You can have a novel perspective on games that plenty of people talk about. When Steve pitched me this piece, I was excited because I felt it qualified as the latter. We’ve published four Nintendo articles and six articles about British game shows (which I’m sure also bored the shit out of some people). The mainstream lives alongside the obscure.

        Again, you may disagree with our choices. Nintendo just doesn’t interest you. I respect that. Let’s not pretend, though, that a burden has been placed on anyone with the publication of a few articles that fail to tickle your fancy. Don’t get me wrong; I have a lot of affection for the readers and especially for loyal commenters like you. I’m interested in their feedback and ideas. But when that feedback amounts to “I’m sick of this,” my response is usually going to be a shrug, because I already know not everything pleases everybody. My ears tend to perk up more when people have something to add.

        • Fixda Fernback

          I don’t mean this to be as rude towards @root1ltc:disqus as it probably sounds… but, I think it’s fine for you to not take to heart the opinion of someone that dismisses people talking about a specific subject, just because they’re sure everything possible to say has been said (In that case, we may as well stop talking about anything, ever, because with as many people saying as many things as there are, I’m sure most subjects have been covered front to back numerous times over).

    • rvb1023

       Particularly this Zelda game.

    • Steve Heisler

      I’m sure you noticed, but I wrote three of those four pieces, including this one. Write what you know, they always say…

      • HobbesMkii

         You need to expand your horizons. Have you considered one of the many bland, pasty “modern” shooters?

      • George_Liquor

         I’m gonna ship you a Genesis and a copy of Shining Force 2. Get to work, Heisler.

        • Asinus

           I don’t remember if I played that one, but I have fond memories of the first one for sure. I never had a Genesis, but had friends who did, and one summer we sat around and watched him play through that (providing input for strategies, etc). Fun stuff!

    • Zachary Moore

       I don’t get all the articles about games shows. Video games and game shows are two completely different things. Also I’m not at all interested in reading about game shows.

      • Fixda Fernback

        Very good! Video games and game shows are two different things! I’m proud of the progress you’re making in differentiating two different things (or even two different types of things) from one another. Sadly, your reading comprehension is still lacking, however: 

        The Gameological Society is an independent-minded online magazine that explores games as works of art and pop culture.

        As you may note, they explore games in general, not just video games. But, hey, at least now you know… And knowing is half the battle!!

        • Zachary Moore

           haha fuck you

  • ImANarc

    To me, despite how tedious the Water Temple is, it’s not nearly as annoying as the Ice Cavern.  Multiple enemies whose sole purpose is to freeze you, slipping around on the floor evading Blade Traps, having to use that stupid blue fire all the time with at most four bottles, and did I mention those stupid bats that freeze you?  The final room with the Iron Boots and the new song almost make up for it, but not quite.

    • http://twitter.com/opennoise Chris Kopcow

      Here, here! I personally have never had THAT huge an issue with the Water Temple. It’s annoying in a way, but it doesn’t piss me off like the Ice Cavern can. Damn Ice Keese.

    • http://www.facebook.com/samhuddy Sam Aronow Huddy

      I actually like the Ice Cavern for its straightforwardness and weird atmosphere– the leftover from an abandoned temple.

      But that Zora’s Domain never thaws? bullshit.

      • ImANarc

        But, man, don’t you know if you get 2000 points on the horseback archery contest you get the black tunic and then can go through the ice in Zora’s Domain and find the Megaton Hammer+ and then shatter the remaining ice.

        • bunnyvision

          at the age of ten i ate this kind of shit up with a spoon.

          I remember a really plausible lie that involved getting up real high where you shouldn’t be in kakariko village, turning on your blue magic and jumping down at the dude who’s talking about seeing you descend from the sky in blue light. then something amazing happens presumably

          I was so disappointed

        • The Sputnik Sweethearts

          Me too, bunnyvision. A kid on the bus swore up and down that he read in Nintendo
          Power that after answering Zelda’s questions “No” about helping her or
          whatever a hundred times, she would start slapping you, and if you keep
          saying no, she’d kiss you, and eventually, get naked(?!?! Pervy Nintendo and 10 year old boys).

          Ten years old are dumb, and obviously I immediately went home to try it out.

    • BarbleBapkins

      I never found the Water Temple too difficult either. It is definitely frustrating at times, but I never thought it was much harder than the other dungeons.

      On the other hand, I have heard that it’s possible to make it unwinnable by using the keys in juuust the wrong order, which would have been absolute torture back in the 90s before ready access to the internet.

  • TwoBigMilkshakes

    Ugh. The Water Temple was the worst. Not because its puzzles were extraordinarily difficult on their own, but because it was so easy to get lost in it. Each entrance to each room looked exactly the same and it took forever to find the right room. This is not to mention how extremely tedious it was to have to open the Start menu hundreds of times, equipping and unequipping those God forsaken boots. The 3DS rerelease alleviated this problem, but it still couldn’t improve the impossibility of finding the right rooms in the right sequence. The Water Temple isn’t even challenging in a fun way; it’s challenging in a tremendously monotonous and frustrating way.

    The Ocarina of Time is my favorite video game ever and probably one of the best (if not THE best) of all time, but the Water Temple brings back terrible memories.

    • grizzledyoungman

       You hear that Gameological?  You’re triggering your readers’ PTSD.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Johnson/501651 Kevin Johnson

      The Water Temple taught me (or, I should say, reminded me), in essence, how to think like a Zelda game. The last time was a Link to the Past, the one dungeon where you had to drop blocks from the floor above to trigger switches below you. THAT was hard.

      SPOILERS KINDA

      The trick to the Water Temple is to go slow, and pay attention. Look at every room and everything in it. Then, you’ll get stuck anyway, and it’s that point you have to go UNDERNEATH THE CENTER ELEVATOR WHEN THE WATER IS FULL (I think this is the part that confuses most gamers), and then the level begins to unravel. It’s picking apart a puzzle, piece by piece.

    • PugsMalone

      I had no problem with the Water Temple itself because I got a strategy guide when I got the game for Hanukkah.

      What really flustered me was the battle with Dark Link. I never thought of using the Megaton Hammer, so I just had to come in with a full magic meter and spam Din’s Fire.

      • WL14

        Dark Link was the only part of this that I remembered clearly. I can still clearly see that bastard perched on the sword thrust I was sure would hit him this time…

    • http://twitter.com/daleof Dale O’Flaherty

      I’ve never played Ocarina of Time but the water temple in Oracle of Ages gave me a headache.

    • MrTusks

      I actually quite like the Water Temple. It’s the only level of a game that still befuddles me time and time again, and I don’t think any Zelda dungeon has achieved that level of difficulty since.

  • Victor Prime

    The worst part wasn’t the repetition of the song-playing and water-moving, it was the original’s stupid placement of the Iron Boots as EQUIPMENT and not an item – meaning, rather than a convenient button press to don or shed the boots, you instead had to pause, wait for the menu to appear, switch to the equipment screen, move the cursor to the boots, and press A, then press START to return to the game. Often you needed the boots for only a few seconds, necessitating multiple pauses within a minute’s time.

    Fortunately, the 3DS remake turns the boots into a regular item, making this much easier, and it even gives a few extra hints as to the order or operations within the Temple. It doesn’t change the sheer pain-in-the-ass design of the level, it merely softens the pain.

    • George_Liquor

       I have the N64 version, but I have yet to finish playing it. I think the 3DS version spoiled me.

  • blue vodka lemonade

    I’ve never played Ocarina of Time except for very short bursts at my aunt and uncle’s house around Hanukkah some time between 1999 and 2003.

    It gets tossed around a lot as The Greatest Game Ever Made, or at least the greatest game of it generation. Mostly, to me, it looks pretty frustrating, and the Zelda formula doesn’t have any particular appeal.

    What is it that makes this game so special? I mean this honestly. Never having an N64 means I never played a pretty large swath of Great games, but with most of them I feel like I have a handle on what I’m missing, because I understand them as precursors to other games in the same genre which I HAVE played, or because I’ve read enough about them to get what made them special, or impactful, or whatever.

    Why is Ocarina of Time so great?

    • rjonathon

      aside from the water dungeon, the game isn’t too frustrating.  i think it’s biggest drawbacks nowadays are the chunky graphics and somewhat poor controls.  (Similar to FFVII in that respect).

      but what makes it great is the sense that you’re exploring a real world…it’s just the perfect size to occasionally get lost in, but never for too long.  and it has the appeal of every zelda game…using the new weapons/equipment you pick up to unlock new areas.  and trying to use that new stuff to figure out how the heck to beat a dungeon or boss.

      really nothing in OOT hasn’t been done as well in another Zelda game…but it has all the right elements together, and very few weakness.  and it was the first 3D zelda, which is a plus

    • worker201

      I don’t know. Maybe you just had to be there. I was there, and my finger is twitching just from reading this article.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      You’re not really missing a large swath of great games, having missed out on the N64 – you’re mostly missing out on the most clunky, ugly entrants in the most clunky, ugly generation of games (at least since the Atari 2600). There are a few games of historical note for the system (Mario 64, Zelda 64…uh…Maybe Smash Brothers?) but overall the N64 was kind of a disappointing system. There’s a reason it led to Nintendo’s undisputed king-of-gaming status slipping behind Sony’s freshman video game effort.

      Caveat: Bear in mind I say this as a member of the tiny minority of folks who never enjoyed Ocarina of Time very much, found it a step down in quality from previous Zelda games at the time, and overall see it as one of the weakest entries in the series rather than the glittering apex of all Zelda was meant to be.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia

        Interesting.  For me, Ocarina was one of the rare anesthetics to numb the pain of those beautiful, detailed sprites being replaced with muddy, artless polygons.
           There was something about seeing the entirety of Hyrule field spread out in front of me that finally impressed upon me what 3d might be capable of.
           But it was a difficult acclimation period, coming as it did at the expense of my beloved SNES.    

      • Alkaron

        Goldeneye. That is all.

      • George_Liquor

        Mario Kart 64 is reason enough to own an N64.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        Counterpoint: Super Mario 64.

      • X_the_Anonymous_Man_or_Woman

         Perfect Dark
        Blast Corps
        Banjo Kazooie
        Starfox
        Diddy Kong Racing

        Just to add to others that have been mentioned.

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

        Also, Majora’s Mask is awesome. 
        I’ll be the first to admit that the N64 was a huge disappointment in retrospect coming after the SNES. AS kid I was all about it, but I was a stupid kid. The cartridge format killed it with 3rd party devs and that controller is pretty goddamn clunky.That said, the games on there look MUCH better than 3D games on the original Playstation. So if you’re talking clunky and ugly, you’ve gotta give it to the Playstation (and I guess the Sega Saturn).

        • George_Liquor

          They were all transitional systems, released at the beginning of the 3D era. You gotta crawl before you can walk.

          In the Saturn’s defense, there are some jaw-dropping gorgeous 2D games available for it, like the Street Fighter Alpha series and scads of shmups.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           Majora’s Mask is so awesome, and may be my favorite game in the series. I didn’t play it for a long, long time, as it was always described by friends as a broken, inferior derivative of OoT, and since I didn’t like OoT very much, I figured I’d not enjoy MM at all. I played through it during a completionist run-through of the series in 2005 (inspired by finishing Wind Waker and being voracious for more Zelda), and it turns out IT WAS AWESOME.

          It’s tone, innovative gameplay, and imaginative world were more than enough to overcome the aesthetic and ludic growing pains of the N64 generation – OoT, not so much.

          I found the games on N64 much uglier than those on the PSX, actually. Everything on the N64 always looked so smeary and blurry, and textures were often recycled or especially low-res due to storage concerns on the cartridge. The extra storage of the CD-ROM afforded a wider variety of textures on the PSX, as well as the use of pre-rendered FMV (even in-game, such as the animated backgrounds in several Final Fantasy games from that generation, which lightened the polygonal load and freed up more resources for the player characters), which served better to mask the graphical limitations, in my opinion. The stuff Squaresoft in particular was putting out later in the PSX’s lifecycle (even fully 3D games like Vagrant Story) trumped graphically anything on the N64, and what few ports there were (I’ve thinking of MegaMan Legends in mind) seemed to suffer graphically.

          @George_Liquor:disqus  is right, though, I’m splitting hairs, and both systems were part of a transitional generation that was overall ugly as sin. I liken it to the Atari generation for 2-D games, as it was a generation where many key gameplay ideas were solidified, but most of the games are hideous, and many are so rudimentary or clumsy as to be almost unplayable (or perhaps not worth playing).

        • Asinus

           Nintendo’s games work really well with the controller in my opinion, and I didn’t get one until long after it was in the past. I always thought it looked weird, but when I used it with mario64 and Zelda, i got it, it worked. It seems like 3rd party developers didn’t know what to make of it and wanted it to be a playstation controller and it just never quite worked. It seemed like Nintendo tried to figure out the best scheme for Mario and designed specifically for that game.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/TKMJ6RJLFJZC2F2RUIRLSL3B5Y Kevbo

          There were two major problems with the N64. One was the controller–analog stick was ahead of its time, but it was positioned very awkwardly, and few games used it effectively. The second was their stubborn insistence on using cartridges. Yes, it did allow them to avoid the load times common on CD-ROMs, but the tradeoff in data available wasn’t worth it. So you had this system with better graphics and sound capabilities than the PSX, but they had to compress everything and lower the sound/graphics quality so most things wound up looking and sounding worse on the N64 than on other systems.

    • The_Misanthrope

       I may be wrong, but didn’t OoT essentially invent lock-on targeting in 3D platformers and the contextual-action button?  I guess it gets some points for being the first 3D Zelda game and one of the first action-adventure games to do 3D gameplay well.  And the horse riding is probably better than any game had managed thus far, though it is damned frustrating when Epona hits the jump at an imperfect angle and you have to circle his fat-ass around to try again.

      Apart from that, I can say that it is a pretty immersive experience.  When you finally get to leave your stupid elf tutorial village for the wider world of Hyrule, there is quite the sense of unbridaled freedom.  The graphics suffer a bit from that early polygon-graphics look, but this is mostly mitigated by the cartooniness of the characters.

      Perhaps the one crack in the case for OoT as Greatest Zelda Ever was Navi the fairy.  I’m not sure where the trend in modern games toward hand-holding the player through the game started, but I’m sure Navi must’ve have been one of the leaders.  There is nothing quite as patronizing/rage-inducing as having Navi yelling “Hey! Listen!” and giving you the same piece of advice for the hundredth time.

      Personally, I always liked A Link To The Past more.  It has its flaws, too–an overstuffed inventory of tools (some of which were only useful in a few very specific contexts) and some hard-to-figure puzzles–but it just felt so expansive and exciting.

      • RidleyFGJ

        OoT introduced a lot of stuff that we take for granted these days; even something like the automatic platforming, which was quite the controversial detail back in 1998, is now pretty much a standard component in all sorts of games these days.

      • PaganPoet

        What was the deal with that stupid cane that made blocks in A Link to the Past? Aside from the Turtle Rock Dungeon which required it, there’s nothing you would ever use that thing for.

        • doyourealize

          That’s the nature of the beast. In Zelda 2, you go through an entire temple to get the raft, an item you use exactly once to get to the second continent.

        • PaganPoet

          @doyourealize, ugh, yeah, that too. And those temples in Zelda 2 are no cakewalk…damned knights with their damned shields!

        • Asinus

           Yeah, but when the single use item opens a second continent, that seems okay. It’s the damn whistle/flute in the first 2 zelda games that was the most disappointing. Even though you use the raft twice in LoZ, it’s a much lamer use of the raft (but at the time i thought it was awesome).

          The knights in Zelda 2 were kind of tricky, but once you got the hop-slash timing down you own them. Well, except for the blue ones and those jumping fuckers in the last palace. Goddamn those sons of bitches.

      • doyourealize

        “I’m not sure where the trend in modern games toward hand-holding the player through the game started, but I’m sure Navi must’ve have been one of the leaders.”

        I’ve always wondered this, too. Was this the first game to open with an incredibly long and boring tutorial section? At least the first game considered a “classic”?

        • Asinus

           HEY! LISTEN!

          But, yeah, that might be it. Navi spoils a lot of mini puzzles by telling you how to do them before you even try. It does make a sort of sense, though, this was an entirely new perspective for a zelda game (and for console games in general), but there’s NO FUCKING REASON to keep that “feature” in games any more.

          Games that make tutorials optional will always get a full letter grade bump in my mindgrades. I just started Red Steel 2. Love the controls, hate the required training. Eat a dick. Let me play.

        • ThoseEyebrows

          @The_Asinus:disqus Or even better than making tutorials optional, games could skip tutorials entirely and actually have the player learn the mechanics organically throughout the first few levels, Super Mario Bros-style.

          • doyourealize

            I will say this. It’s a little harder to learn “organically” with a d-pad, two analog sticks, and 8 buttons (even more with a keyboard) than it is to learn with a d-pad and 2 buttons. Tutorials might be necessary, but the Navi route is just long and boring.

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

        I agree that Link to the Past is the better game. An amazing game, even. Maybe if Link to the Past (and Link’s Awakening) hadn’t been so great, Zelda 64 wouldn’t have been as much of a disappointment. And it was immediately followed by Majora’s Mask, which was so much more inventive and interesting. At the time of release, it felt like a step down to me, and now, in retrospect, its position between such stronger games makes it look like a nadir.

         I would say the graphics are certainly another crack in the case. Rather than “suffering a bit” from the low-poly look that is mitigated by a cartoony art direction, I see possibly questionable art direction (link transformed into a saucer-eyed anime elf with Jonathan Brandis hair) rendered in a uniformly hideous style (link transformed into a smeary, jaundiced, garishly-colored cardboard construction representing a saucer-eyed anime elf with Jonathan
        Brandis hair
        …). Ugly ugly ugly. Ugliest non-CD-i Zelda by a mile!

        • The_Misanthrope

          I can’t remember where I read it, bit I remember an article that attempted to reevaluate the CD-i Zeldas, coming down on the side that they aren’t as people think, that their legacy as bad games/canon-breakers far overshadows their actual quality (I want to say the article was in Kill Screen, but I can’t seem to locate it). I can’t aver to the claim, since all I’ve ever played of them is maybe a couple minutes at a Best Buy demo station. Though if I was ambitious enough, the ISO is available for emulation.

          It caught a lot of flack for it, but Wind Waker’s use of a bright cartoony style will likely keep its graphics from aging badly. This should be an object lesson for all game designers: When limits on new tech (or your ability to use new tech well) mean realistic depictions are not possible, go for more stylistic flair.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_756IDO2F7YT3FGA3JRVJELULPE JaredA

    I just recently played the 3ds remake, and while it was still challenging, there were some helpful changes. The doors leading to the water level rooms were color coded. Also, Dark Link was an extremely easy fight in this version, all I had to do was not Z Target and hit him.

    Also, I never got the blue tunic (the whole time I was thinking that was the dungeon’s item) but running out of air was never really a problem as long as i had most of my hearts.

    • worker201

      I always thought Dark Link was an interesting sub-boss, and the room he occupies is pretty cool. In the original version, if you have the Biggoron Sword, you can just wail away at Dark Link with the Z-targeting on. 30 seconds of button mashing and he’s toast, and you lose maybe a heart or two.

      I think you get the blue mail by unfreezing King Zora.

  • worker201

    I actually kinda enjoyed the boss in this level. More fun than the damn level, that’s for sure. The whirlpool stream is the worst worst worst worst thing ever.

    • http://www.facebook.com/samhuddy Sam Aronow Huddy

      As opposed to the Forest Temple, which is just boring.

      • worker201

        It works well as an intro to the adult dungeons, I think. The first time I met those two wolves outside the front door, I almost jumped out of my skin. Now, I get the Biggoron sword before I enter the Forest Temple, and cut through them with ease.

        • Cheese

           I always left the Forest Temple as soon as I got the bow and got the Biggoron sword then.

  • http://www.facebook.com/samhuddy Sam Aronow Huddy

    At the risk of being a linkmonger, I wanted to post this. If you have a particular memory of the Water Temple, be my guest.

    http://thewritersamhuddy.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/background-music-koji-kondo-water-temple/

    Serious question: Ocarina is weirdly episodic for having such a massive, wide-open world, but if the Water Temple is a bottle episode, what’s the Shadow Temple?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_756IDO2F7YT3FGA3JRVJELULPE JaredA

      Did not enjoy the Shadow Temple. Or maybe it was the well before the Shadow Temple. It took me forever to figure out how to get in there; I don’t remember having a decent hint, and the solution didn’t seem to follow

    • the__gooch

      The best episode of the whole damn series!

    • evanwaters

      Ugh, the Shadow Temple. That one was a real marathon. The Water Temple takes a while to puzzle out, but I never felt a lot of pressure, whereas with the Shadow Temple you’ve always got something threatening to kill you.

  • Haughty Todd

    I always thought “Fly” was one of the worst episodes of Breaking Bad, personally.  The entire plot is driven by Walt’s incredibly frustrating, inexplicable irrationality.  Do fans of the show really consider it a great episode?

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

      It’s probably the most polarizing episode of the series so far. 

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

       ”The entire plot is driven by Walt’s incredibly frustrating, inexplicable irrationality.”

      That’s a complaint that can be leveled at the whole series, and in fact one that led me to give up the series after the first season. I’ve since given it another chance, and by the end of season 2 was won over. But the whole first season just felt like Walter inexplicably deciding on the path that the writers felt would lead to the most agony/drama, without that decision making any apparent sense – at the time I found it disingenuous and manipulative. The second season did some character work that retroactively fleshed out Walter’s pride and so on, which gave me more patience for his bullshit, I guess.

      • Haughty Todd

        Yeah, it’s definitely one of my major complaints of the show (of which I have many).  But for me, the writers’ tendency to make characters behave irrationally to create drama is never more frustrating than it is in this episode.  I just cannot understand Walt’s side of the argument.

        • Alkaron

          I don’t think you’re supposed to. Over the course of the show, the writers have been establishing Walt as a guy whose milquetoast existence has caused his ambition and technical competence to curdle into arrogance and an overriding desire to have control over the world around him. “Fly” is just another step along that path. As someone who has some perfectionism issues, I can say that it was perfectly plausible to me that a person like Walt would become totally obsessed with that stupid, insignificant fly. It’s ridiculous and inexplicable, but that’s the point. Walt’s lost all sense of perspective.

          And even if it is unrealistic in the strictest sense, as drama it makes perfect sense. This is a man whose hubris and obsessions are gradually dismantling his life, piece by piece, and almost every episode (including “Fly”) finds a way to illustrate this dramatically.

          Sorry, this is getting off-topic. But I love talking about Breaking Bad. I think it’s brilliant.

        • TaumpyTearrs

          I understood the whole incident as Walt reacting to the fact that he suspects Jesse is stealing and might get them killed. The Fly just represents Jesse as the seemingly insignificant uncontrollable element in Walt’s life (which he wrongly thinks he is in control of), or it could just represent any of the unpredictable elements of his world that could bring his double-life crashing down.

          I also realised at certain point in the last season the true significance of the Fly: Walt is the Fly in Gus’ massive, meticulous operation. I forget what episode it was, but at a certain moment i paused it and said to my friend, “Jesse’s not the Fly, Walt is the Fly!” I then had to explain my seemingly crazy random comment.

          I

    • blue vodka lemonade

       I feel like it showed up in an AVC Q&A where someone mentioned it as the worst episode of their favorite show, or something similar. It was weird reverse-deja-vu to see it praised here.

      • Asinus

         It’s 110 and humid today… your name is killing me.

        • blue vodka lemonade

          I am delicious.

    • Afghamistam

      A show derives drama from a personality flaw of one of its protagonists?!?!

      • HobbesMkii

         Mmmm, that’s gooooood snark.

      • Haughty Todd

         It’s not personality flaws I take issue with– it’s out-of-character personality flaws that seemed shoehorned into a character to create drama.  Take, for instance, Hank’s collecting of rocks.  Sorry, minerals.

  • bunnyvision

    my main beef with the water temple is that it doesn’t fit the style of the game very well- in a game where you venture through giant trees, mysterious volcano temples and passages to the underworld, this one sort of seems like An Outing To The Pool

    also, truh be told, the Great Bay Temple from Majora’s Mask is a thousand times worse. it is teeth-gnashingly frustrating and has a goddamned time limit

    • NFET

       Zelda Water Dungeons in general are just awful. There was one in Oracle of Ages that was rip your hair out frustrating too.

      • bradwestness

        Similarly, the water levels in the Genesis Sonic games are history’s greatest monsters.

      • George_Liquor

        The one in Twilight Princess is a slog, too. I guess it’s meant to be an homage to OoT’s water temple, but it seems more like a retread.

      • ImANarc

        Counterpoint: The Ancient Cistern in Skyward Sword.  That place was beautiful, not frustrating, and the final boss is pretty damn cool.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1632136094 Aaron Solle

    This level was the first time I used an internet guide in order to complete it

  • Spacemonkey Mafia

    Everyone agrees that water levels in video games have the best music, right?  Soothing, dreamy and melodic.
       Bubbleman’s stage in Mega Man 2, Ocarina’s water temple and that echoey Mario 64 aquatic tune.
       

    • PaganPoet

      Don’t forget “Aquatic Ambience” from Donkey Kong Country. The DKC games had the best water levels ever <3

      • http://twitter.com/roundthewheel RTW

        I’d put Splash Woman’s theme from Mega Man 9 right up there with Bubble Man’s—probably even above it. 
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Werhxskcbk0

        The water temple from 3D Dot Game Heroes is also pretty great: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIRjqKXicZ0&feature=results_video&playnext=1&list=PLC07718E6EE2C797F

    • LoadRanPimp420

      all of Ecco the Dolphin….particularly the title

  • Techee44

    It’s funny that this is up to, considering I just played through the Water Temple on the 3DS yesterday. I’m ashamed to say it was my first time going through it – not because of my age, but because when I was younger we got a Playstation One instead of the Nintendo 64, and I just never got back around to playing Ocarina til I got a 3DS.

    Anyway. I know for a lot of these comments are about people bringing back old memories of going through the Water Temple, but since my first time was yesterday (on the semi-fixed version on the 3DS), I really can’t do that. I can say the Water Temple made me feel oddly claustrophobic, and reading this brought that feeling I had just experienced back.

    It was the pathways, I swear. I felt trapped, man, trapped.

    • doyourealize

      According to @google-06ba71cd25c3e704a983c7cb4ce9d387:disqus earlier, the 3DS version places the Iron Boots in an item slot, rather than in the equip screen, as it was in the original. This alone makes the Water Temple much more tolerable. Hitting a button to don and remove them is now almost a second thought, whereas when it was in the menu screen, you felt cheated if you put the boots when you weren’t supposed to.

      Add to that the addition of some extra “hints” (again brought up by Victor, I haven’t played the 3DS version), and it seems like you dodged a good amount of frustration that us old-timers had to deal with. And that’s a good thing.

    • http://twitter.com/occono Anthony O’ Brien

      The Ocarina/Master Quest bonus disc that came with Wind Waker pre-orders in the US came free with every cop of the PAL version. That was great.

  • http://twitter.com/Blair_McMillan Blair McMillan

    uuuh, couldn’t you compare any temple to a bottle episode?

    • George_Liquor

      I guess so, but some of the Zelda ‘temples’, like the
      Lanayru Mining Facility in Skyward Sword are actually pretty sprawling.

    • Mr_Upthrust

      You could, but the water temple is the bottlest bottle among them. You’re working mostly in one room with just a few enemies and aren’t even introduced to any new weapons. It’s notoriously weird, and it sticks out because of that.

      • Fixda Fernback

        Not only that, but as noted in the article, it actually strips away many of your items and weapons which you’re used to depending on.

  • ferrarimanf355

    I still think Ocarina of Time is overrated by a lot. It isn’t even the best game to come out of 1998.

    The true answer is Daytona USA 2. Pure bliss at its finest.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jacob-Crites/100000578799999 Jacob Crites

    Amazing article.

  • Pgoodso

    I never got the hate for the Water Temple. It was difficult, but not insanely hard, nor was it that huge a time sink. At least not for me. I have less enthusiasm for my memories of the Forest Temple. I feel like I got stuck there longer not knowing what to do (or, rather, not knowing where to look for a key I had missed). At least in the Water Temple I was always moving.

    Now, because I don’t know where else to put this, may I derail and ask if there’s at least a minor article coming up about the Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut? I want to talk about it with the smart people here, but this article obviously isn’t a great place. Even if it was a small blurb saying “Here’s a space to talk about this”, I’d be appreciative to know what people think about it (short story: just completed it, was pleasantly surprised. More is better. Need other opinions to help justify/explicate my 180, because the events of the ending really didn’t change all that much)

    • ocelotfox

       Not much was changed, to be sure, but all the possible endings were more thoroughly fleshed out. 

      SPOILERS ARE AHEAD, TRAVEL CAREFULLY:

      The Synthesis ending is a lot easier to understand as an appealing choice with the new scenes of unity.  EDI’s narration gives a good sense of familiarity, and the visual of Reapers cooperating with the (formally) organic races was pretty idyllic.  However, it’s still not the ending I chose (the idea of uniting with the Reapers in any way seemed like a betrayal).

      The Control ending ends up seeming more badass post-DLC, since post-death Shepard is evidently a Reaper-god hybrid who is guiding the universe with his/her almighty charisma.  It’s also kind of stupid, and thus, not my ending either.

      The Destroy ending feels the best, to me at least.  The Reapers are dead, the Relays crippled (but not destroyed, nice retcon), and the races returning to their home planets (not sure if FTL works that way, but hey, at least it was a shot at closing a plot hole).  Sad to have sacrificed EDI and the Geth, and all of the progress that had been made between synthetic and organic life during the course of the game, but those lessons could be remembered and replicated.  And of course, this is the ONLY ending where Shepard “lives”, which also factored into my decision.

      Altogether, it was an improvement on the prior endings in that it expanded the consequences of each choice.  Much of the consequences are identical among the three endings (Krogan babies, human squadmates being leaders, etc.), but the extra time spent giving you answers makes it far more satisfying.  If only they could’ve gotten rid of the Stargazer thing entirely in each ending…

      The biggest issue for me was the new fourth ending, which reeks of a “F*** You” from BioWare to anyone who questioned their use of the “Catalyst” as a narrative tool (felt spiteful and resentful towards anyone who liked the “Indoctrination Theory”).  Absolutely idiotic on their part, because it clearly wasn’t a thought that came up during the main game development.

      • Pgoodso

        SPOILER-IFFIC!

        Firstly, I am definitely on board with all the fleshing out and fixing of the plot holes from the previous ending. The Normandy being part of a detachment of the fleet that’s attempting to prevent the Reapers from reaching the beam during your run towards it, one of your squadmates is injured and evacuated with the other squad member on the now nearby Normandy, and, at the end, the ship is running from the Crucible as ordered by Admiral Hatchett: nice and easy fix.

        The about 15 minutes of extra talking with the Catalyst before the BIG CHOICE are also very welcome, contextualizing the choice you’re about to make, and fleshing out the motivations of the Catalyst.

        For me, I was happy with the blatant emotional manipulation of the synthesis ending. Hearing EDI say “I am alive, and I am not alone” at the end nearly choked me up.

        Now, here’s the thing: I found these endings better only as a result of playing the last 3 hours of the game, from the Cerberus base onwards. This made my gameplay experience at the end largely ABOUT EDI’s transition to sentience, because she is a forced squadmate for that penultimate mission. From this standpoint, the ending being about the philosophical ramifications and ultimate results of the conflict between synthetics and organics didn’t seem so far out of nowhere as I felt the first time I played it through. Then I realized that I may not feel the same way if I played it through from the beginning (or if I chose the Destroy or Control endings). Those extra 15 minutes with the Catalyst do do well to smooth the transition from “saving Earth and the galaxy” to “considering and then choosing the ultimate fate of the galaxy as represented by the 3 choices given to you by the Reaper god”, but it may still seem jarring if you played from the beginning (or, God help you, from ME1).

        Talking with some friends about it, it also does little to mitigate some problems that may be too ingrained in the design of the game to fix (at least if you have a problem with it), mostly dealing with the reduction of your choices in the games to, basically, a wall of bodies around the Crucible. It fits with the desperate nature of the battle, and when the galaxy is on the line against an implacable foe, it makes sense that the Crucible was the most important thing and needed to be protected at all costs, reducing every person in the galaxy to an expendable foot soldier, but, some may still see that as a lack of the player’s choices mattering. Hell, even if you kill the Rachni Queen in ME1, you’ll still be faced with the Rachni Reapers in ME3, and other than a “Red 4 standing by” sequence, you don’t even see most of the races that supposedly comprise your fleet. There’s not much I can say to that, because that’s entirely true, and again, maybe that’d matter more to me if I played through the whole game again. I see it as a flawed but acceptable transition from personal to galactic choices. Hm.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=16831741 Eric J. Baker

    Great new take on the classic Water Temple! A couple things I want to mention:

    First, I loved that the item you get in that temple was the Longshot. Sure it seems kinda lame, since it’s just an upgrade on an item you already have, but the way they present it is genius. In most Zelda dungeons, you can figure out pretty early on the areas you can’t access until you acquire that dungeon’s item. Oftentimes you even have enough clues to figure out what the item is. But in the Water Temple, the clues go right over your head because the areas you need the Longshot to reach look just like the areas you’ve been using your hookshot to get to this whole time! My first time through the Water Temple I got so frustrated by these hookshot targets that were just barely out of my reach. I didn’t suspect that I’d be acquiring a new hookshot with a longer reach (because that seemed silly), rather I thought I was just screwing up. I wasn’t getting close enough, I was missing some hidden platform or ledge somewhere that would get me within range. I just felt like I wasn’t using the hookshot right, until I got the Longshot and it alllllll made sense. That is my favorite memory from my first time through the Water Temple, the realization that I wasn’t at fault, I needed a new item.

    Second, I know many subsequent Zelda games have tried to recreate the magic of the Water Temple, some not so well (Twilight Princess’s version didn’t seem nearly as well thought through), but I think the Great Bay Temple in Majora’s Mask actually improved on it, replacing the water level mechanic with a water flow mechanic, which created a whole new set of nightmares, especially if you were trying to track down all the fairies. Fantastic game.

  • Devin Hildebrand

    “focus an entire episode on a single location” … All the temples in Ocarina of Time take place at a single location. There’s no reason to call the water temple any more of a “bottle episode” than any of the other temples, or, for that matter, any “dungeon” in practically any game, where the hero battles through puzzles and monsters at a single location for an extended amount of time.

    • chillin chum

       I have to disagree with you there, I see your point though.
      As stated in the actual article, you not only have no really new dangers and enemies (other then the water), you get your existing inventory brought in reduced, which changes the gameplay almost completely, being different from the gameplay flow of other temples.
      In addition, most of the temple’s of OoT (and the series in general I think), have reasons to leave momentarily and get other things:
      -resuppling:This also apply’s to the water temple as well as the rest, but the water temple has little reason to ever do so. few enemies, very easily dodged traps (yes, those water streams after getting the long shot are easy I found, but you may have to toggle iron boots.)
      -story: In general, the case in point in general for temples you might have to leave and come back are the shadow and spirit temple, those were also more difficult and would likely have you needing to resupply as a result.
      -Insufficient equipment: I hear link to the past allows a lot of bypassing parts of the game entirely, or at least in different orders, leading to the story’s order getting messed up, OoT is more stringent in preventing that, which is surprising, for an early 3d game. this didn’t fit most trends, where early physics mechanics allowed things to go off the rails spectacularly.

      But anyway, a tight water-filled bottle that is frustrating is still better then a pipe you shoot through and clean with a pipe cleaner, only going forward, never backwards. Frankly a game which only was a water temple (In some ways like Aquaphobia, but even that game is more linear.), could have more potential then the way too well designed, and unispired games you see today, which, in fact does include more then shooters.
      In general, consider games like CoD or other shooters to be your McDonalds or Burger King, they taste/play good occasionally, but they aren’t good for you to eat/play too much, and negatively affect your physical/mental abilities if you do.

       At least this annoying area of a game is challenging, and like some point and click games and other adventure titles, encourage problem solving skills and thinking outside the box. (the space under the platform inside the central pillar anyone? Literally outside the box.)
      Better then meth(odically) smoking a pipe that leaves you stupider. But ah, just keep it all in moderation? Ok?
      And I now realize this is a necro-post, but I needed to have my say, ok?