At this point I was trying to write a new post on Ocarina of Time after every dungeon, but as always tends to happen, life gets in the way. Which is unfortunate, as the Gorons and Death Mountain are very interesting and go a long way towards expanding this sort of pseudo-culturalism within the Zelda universe. Dodongo’s Cavern, while a very well designed dungeon, is a pretty staid grotto and the bombs a fairly basic tool, so I’ll just keep on truckin’ and try to keep up a little better from here on out.
As with the Gorons, the Zoras have stepped up from obnoxious sea-dwelling nuisance to being an additional race that adds quite a bit to the world development and in turn the scope of the game. They’re interesting in that they went from being these fish-faced creeps who spit projectiles at you from out of reach to this almost narcissistic yet noble mer-people who almost border on being aloof. I never paid it any mind until this most recent play through, and while on general principle people who act like that kind of rub me the wrong way, it does give the Hyrule of Ocarina of Time a nice, rounded presence.
While still fairly linear in progression, your path to the Zora’s Sapphire isn’t always so clearly laid out for you. When you go to visit the king, he’s too distraught about his daughter having gone missing that helping you save the land from Ganondorf is the least of his worries. That’s par for the course in videogames though; tracking down trinkets and doing mundane tasks in lieu of important information are a non-playable characters’ specialty. Upon further inspection, you are lead to Lake Hylia to retrieve a bottle with a message in it.
Before I move on, I would like to point out a couple of things that irked me and didn’t really make themselves known until I hit this point in the game. And, in all honesty, it has less to do with general game design and more to do with some legacy issues that could have been addressed in this 3DS remake.
The first being that when you save the game, you’ll always start off back at your house in the Kokiri Forest. If you find yourself in a dungeon, the game will graciously allow you to start off from there. But if you’re on an errant side quest or just investigating the land, you’ll always start off rather far away. Being that this is a portable iteration, it eats up a lot of time to do that kind of backtracking. A quick save option would have been nice, or at the very least additional starting points. This made me wish that fast travel, or the option to jump about quickly, comes a little too late in the game for my liking.
Anyways, enough digression – let’s talk about Jabu-Jabu.
At this point, the game starts to take off the training wheels even further. Much like finding the hidden message in the bottle earlier, realizing you need to catch a fish in said bottle and present it to Jabu-Jabu isn’t explicitly spelled out for you. Which if fine; there are still sly allusions to doing so, you just need to put one and one together. I like this approach; it’s not super hand-holdy but also not archaically obtuse as to be frustrating.
Much like inside the Deku Tree, the interior of Lord Jabu-Jabu is creative. Just like Pinnochio, I had to enter the belly of the beast to rescue…well, somebody not nearly as endearing as Geppetto. We’ll get to that in a moment.
The dungeon is interesting because it is so un-Zelda-like. Many doors open by striking what looks like a uvula; hell, doors are in all actually sphincters. Enemies all stem from the end boss, an electrically-based parasite. Unlike the previous dungeons, Jabu-Jabu requires a little more exploration and experimentation on your part. Your path isn’t immediately laid out before you, which is much more akin to the NES original.
After eventually falling into what could best be described as an open ulcer, you meet Princess Ruto. Much like her Zora brethren, she too is a bit aloof. But whereas you can see it as a cultural thing in the grand scheme of things, Ruto just comes across as snooty, demanding and — to be honest — annoying. In fact, her personality is so grating that it has kind of colored my viewpoint of the Zora in every subsequent game thereafter. The cherry on the top of the cake is the fact that rather than being a bothersome escort mission to get her out, you have to carry her happy ass around while doing everything else you’ve set out to do.
As kind of a compliment to the proceedings, the boomerang likewise is about equal parts tricky as it is useful. The boomerang is a staple — you know what you’re getting into every time you earn one in a Zelda game. While it does all the things you expect: crossing barriers Link can’t pass to hit switches, being a versatile ranged attack and bringing back goods; it is also an exercise in frustration.
It’s one of the few points in this otherwise stellar game that you realize that Nintendo didn’t quite have it down pat. It lolls in its path very slowly; unless you’re locked onto an enemy, the wait for it to come back can be excruciating. Even when you are locked on, the propensity for you taking damage is high because you’re stuck in a behind-the-back camera angle and tend to run into things or have no way of defending yourself. Thankfully its main use is in this dungeon and is only necessary a few more times after that, so it doesn’t become a game-wide problem.
Whereas Dodongo’s cavern made up for its mediocrity by having an epic boss battle, the uniqueness of Jabu-Jabu is offset by the plainness of the parasitic core. But I guess is serves the story well, so it was for the best, but it’s definitely not an interesting fight by any means.
Now that we’ve gotten out proverbial sea legs under us, the next step is to bring the Spiritual Stones to Zelda and obviously save the world from Ganondorf’s endless evil…