Ever since I was very young, video games were a curiosity to me. They were something I would always see and sometimes get to touch, but never enough to satisfy me. My two older brothers owned an SNES and had a wide range of games they only rarely let me play. When I finally got the opportunity to wrap my hands around a controller, it would only be for a level in Super Mario World, or for one fight in Super Punch Out, but afterwards they would always take it back. I was amazed at what video games were capable of and I desperately wanted a system or heck, even just a game, to call my own.
Fast forward to Christmas of 2003, when I opened up a medium sized present, and came face to face with my very first console, the Nintendo GameCube. To go along with my new purple lunchbox, my parents gave me two games, Simpsons Road Rage, and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time/Master Quest. I was excited to get Road Rage, since I was a huge fan of the Simpsons at the time, but my eyes were stuck on Ocarina of Time.
I had heard about the game from my older brothers, who had since owned and sold their Nintendo 64 and they absolutely raved about it. Around the same time, I had found the manual for the game in their bedroom and actually ended up taking it home with me. I spent way too much time soaking in everything it had and I was blown away at just how expansive the game seemed. From how massive Hyrule was, to the multiple races, to just how much equipment Link could have, it really made me want the game. So you can imagine my surprise and happiness when I was holding a copy of the game that cold Christmas morning.
I wasted no time pleading for my parents to set it up on the family TV, and after a small wait listening to my dad cursing at it, my GameCube was finally set up. I threw the disk in and held my breath, waiting for the game to boot up. The screen turns to Link riding Epona through Hyrule Field, and the theme played: a song that still puts a shiver down my spine to this very day. I entered my game's file name: Link, of course, because I had to stay as close to the source material as possible. After a brief introduction that gave us some context to the story and showed off the first person view from Navi, I was finally in control. Walking out of Link's house and into the bright and vibrant Kokiri Forest blew my little nine year old mind. I had never experienced 3-D graphics up until then and I was shocked at how real and beautiful it was. I probably spent a good hour just walking around, talking to every Kokiri child I came across and interacting with every object I found.
Once I completed a few objectives, I finally found my way to the Great Deku Tree and was introduced to more of the story. Upon hearing the history of Hyrule and Ganondorf's true ambitions, I realized something...this felt like an actual adventure. Since I had never really played with games before, and certainly not ones with this much story, I truly felt like I was about to embark on an epic journey to save this land from evil.
After you quest to rid the Great Deku Tree from the horrors of Queen Gohma, the game presents you with a hopeless scene. Despite beating the foul parasite, your efforts were in vain as the grand protector of the forest dies before your very eyes. This is an important point in the game, showing not just how powerful Ganondorf already is, but making you feel small in comparison to him. You're just a kid, who upon picking up a sword and shield tried to save the only protector Link has ever known, but failed the task. The entire beginning compels the player to hate Ganondorf for what he is trying to do, but also fear what he is capable of.
As I left the safety of my forest home, and into the grand embrace of Hyrule, I knew, even back then, that this was going to be something special. From the well done time travel concept, to the wonderful music, to the simply amazing dungeons (yes even the dreaded Water Temple), Ocarina of Time fulfilled everything I had ever expected from it, and much more. It all came together in a package that seemed so ahead of it's time, even though I was playing it years after it originally came out.
I won't go over every little thing that amazed me while I played the game because, simply put, this would be beyond long and probably boring to anyone who can't relate to how I feel about the game. Ocarina of Time is my favorite game I've ever played, and without a doubt always will be, but it means more to me than just an amazing experience I had when I was young. It was my first exposure to a game and adventure I could call my own. No older brothers to snatch the controller away if I took too long: I had as much time as I wanted to explore every single inch of the game to my hearts content.
By the time I had vanquished Ganon and saved the world from the King of Evil I was in love, not only with the game, but with video games in general. It showed me how wonderful and truly magical video games can be. It's the game I can say, without a doubt, introduced me to one of my greatest passions in life and, while I've played so many fantastic games since my first adventure in Hyrule, nothing will ever top it. It's given me so much joy over the years, to the point where I try and play through it once a year. And while no playthrough feels quite as magical as the first time, I can't help myself from smiling when I play it. People can claim my love for it comes from nostalgia or rose colored glasses, but they couldn't be more wrong. Simply put, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, is the reason I'm a gamer, hell possibly the person I am today. And I will never be able to thank it enough.