So last week I wrote a relatively thoughtful article that created a great discussion in the comments and gave the impression that maybe Lusipurr.com could be a place where important and interesting things could be discussed. But unfortunately, I do not have such depth of character. So instead I am going to gush about the Forest Temple from Ocarina of Time.
So much of the success of the beloved title comes from excellent emotional pacing. Link is both belittled and made special off the top. He is taunted or – at the very least – tip-toed around by most of the other residents of Kokiri Village, and being in the favour of the Great Deku Tree seems to only make things worse. Considering that Link is a child, it is an immediately compelling dynamic, especially when compared to the more dry openings in later iterations.
Link is then thrown into a series of adventures in which he is both not taken as seriously as he should be, but also given more responsibility than a ten-year-old child really should be given. It is a bit of a whirlwind and the game appropriately has Link outsmarted by the villain. He is a sheltered child, after all.
But I am sure a plot recap is not necessary, dear LusiSwords. We all know that Link ends up frozen for seven years and awakens as a svelt young man to a grim future of his formerly bright homeland. Questions of Link’s maturity never really get answered. Is it a ten-year-old’s mind in an adult’s body? Does he have some sense of gravitas inherent in his adult psyche despite not being conscious during his growth? We never find out, but we do know that his memories remain. Therefore it is such a sobering moment for Link to visit Kokiri Village for the first time as an adult.
This whole section of the game – topped off by the Forest Temple – is so perfectly executed in my mind. It is a reflection of how the development team understood the emotional complexities of returning to such a place. Link is older now, but everybody he knew as a child is still a kid. His rival speaks openly about his own divided feelings about Link without knowing that he is speaking to Link himself. Saria’s relationship with Link is forced to evolve due to the nature of their different races. On top of this, the forest has been overrun with monsters and the fact that the Great Deku Tree has been dead for years has not helped the cause.
All these strange sights and layered reactions serve as the perfect springboard for Link’s first true challenge as an adult. All the adventures Link had as a child are suddenly given a new light in comparison to the Forest Temple. Just like I might reflect on something I found terrifying as a kid but now seems laughable, Ocarina of Time gives the player the exact same experience through Link. The feeling is growing the entire time, but it is the moment Link steps inside the Forest Temple when he says “things are different now”. Shit gets real. Enemies are more plentiful and badass. The atmosphere is more menacing and steeped in black magic. Link is an adult now and the world is going to treat him that way.
Skeletons rise from the dead, spirits hide inside paintings and taunt our hero, hallways shatter perceptions, and undead hands relentlessly chase from the ceiling. The Forest Temple pulls out all the stops to let both the player and Link know that the world has changed and it is not pleasant.
The setting of the forest helps this cause immensely. It is easier to picture dark and twisted things growing in the woods over the near decade that Link has been away. Exploring the Deko Tree and Lost Woods as a child alludes to some of the strangeness in just the right ways to make the Forest Temple’s world be both surprising and make perfect sense.
The music is perfect as well. Far more melodic than almost any other Zelda dungeon theme, the Forest Temple music almost serves as a character theme. As if the dungeon itself is a living entity, toying with Link with a dark playfulness. The boss fits into this idea as well, giving Link a direct view into what it will be like to face off against the final villain of the piece, but in a haunting way. Link is viewed as special in Ocarina of Time, but he has to adapt fast and often. He grows up faster than he should (in more ways than one) and has to face his demons with little warning. To me, The Forest Temple (and the events leading up to it) is the thesis for the entire game. Perhaps that is why it has such a secure place in my heart.
What about you, LusiTwistedHallways? What locations stuck out to you in Ocarina? I know there are a few OoT detractors in the Lusipurr.com community, so to you I ask: what is your favourite location in a video game?