Twilight Princess is better than Ocarina of Time

(This article contains minor spoilers for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.)

Having never been a Nintendo 64 owner, I’ve never had the chance to play The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time until Nintendo upgraded the graphics and rereleased the game for the Nintendo 3DS earlier this month.

I guess that makes me a bit of a late bloomer, but at the same time, I’m fortunate because I get to experience the game for the first time with a fresh 2011 perspective. Because I’m not tied to any sense of nostalgia, I actually noticed a lot of issues with Ocarina of Time that slowly helped me realize why Twilight Princess, despite its disrepute among fans, is overall a better game in every conceivable way.

Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time 3D
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

The reason I’m comparing the two games — as opposed to Wind Waker or any other Zelda title — is simple: Unlike Wind Waker, which features a Hyrule drowned beneath a vast ocean, the world and characters of Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess are quite similar.

To start, Ocarina of Time has more than its fair share of annoyances. First and foremost is Navi. She is rarely helpful. Like a sugar-addled child with ADHD, she zooms around willy-nilly, often flying over to random objects and calling attention to them, even though they’re of no importance.

By contrast, Midna actually has a personality and is tremendously likable. She’s mostly stays out of your way, but in the instances that the player gets stuck, Midna jumps in with helpful, precise advice about where to go and what to do. Navi offers only generic, idle chatter that generally amounts to something like “Hey, let’s go to the next dungeon!”

Some of the puzzles in Ocarina of Time really bothered me, too. I’m not talking about finding heart-container pieces and Gold Skulltulas. Such collectibles are par for the course in any Zelda. It’s the puzzles you have to solve in order to keep the story going that get to me.

The challenges seem arbitrary compared to Twilight Princess. I would have never in a million years guessed that playing the Song of Storms at the windmill would drain the well water or that I’d have to take a leap of faith by walking through the wall at the bottom the well.

The same goes for the Spirit Temple. After realizing that I need to become a kid in order to pass through the small hole, I hastily warped back to the Temple of Time. Only then did I realize that I needed to walk outside the Spirit Temple first in order to get Sheik to teach me the Requiem of Spirit. Without it, young Link isn’t allowed to pass through the Gerudo Fortress. In the end, I had to turn back into adult Link, warp back to the Spirit temple, reenter the temple, and exit the temple normally in order to initiate the cut scene with Sheik.

I know I probably acted too fast for my own good, but what player would trudge all the way back to the Temple of Time by foot when they could easily warp to the destination? It would’ve been fine if Nintendo had provided some kind of barrier or advice (i.e., an actual reason for Navi to interrupt me) against prematurely leaving the temple. In Twilight Princess, players are not able to warp inside of dungeons, period.

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

The puzzles in Twilight Princess arise more organically. For example, when someone stole the medicine-soaked wooden statue, I instinctively knew to seek out the scent and locate it. People might think these puzzles are too straightforward, but at the very least they make sense.

I understand there’s an eight-year gap between the two original releases, but playing Ocarina of Time makes me appreciate what a great game Twilight Princess really is and why it deserves more recognition than it gets. When I finally returned to Twilight Princess after finishing Ocarina of Time, the detailed hubbub of the castle’s town market left me speechless.

Twilight Princess’ art direction is unbelievable. The fully developed characters populate a vast world and fill out a compelling story. The dungeons are challenging, and the minigames are bountiful. And best of all, it has the series’ most epic Ganondorf showdown. Players have always yearned for a darker, more mature Zelda game, and with Twilight Princess, Nintendo delivered.

Twilight Princess seems to correct many of Ocarina of Time’s misses while simultaneously hitting all the right notes with the things it changes. So what is keeping it from being an all-time fan favorite? Is it because it’s too similar to Ocarina of Time? Or is it because Ocarina of Time was the first encounter fans had with an open-ended Zelda experience? Maybe it’s just plain, old franchise fatigue.

I’m not saying Ocarina of Time is a bad game by any means. But playing Ocarina of Time so far after its original release simply made me more aware of the improvements Nintendo implemented with each successive Zelda. That said, it has been five years since Twilight Princess came out, and I am eager to see how Nintendo will take another step forward with the upcoming Skyward Sword.

Update: This post has since been featured on the front page at Bitmob.com!

Spent: Can you survive a month on $1,000?

Spent Logo - Play Spent at http://playspent.org

Over 14 million Americans are unemployed.

Now imagine you’re one of them.

Your savings are gone.

You’ve lost your house.

And you’re down to your last $1,000.

Can you make it through the month?

I recently heard on NPR about this simulation game called Spent. It’s about surviving a month with your last $1,000. The game is a collaboration between McKinney and the Urban Ministries of Durham.

I must say, the game intrigued me from the very beginning. I’ve always thought that I live a fairly frugal lifestyle, so living a month with $1,000 didn’t sound like a big challenge. Boy, was I taken for a ride.

The presentation is dark and grim from the very beginning. It truly sets the tone that you have nothing else, and this $1,000 is your last resort. The game barely has any graphics other than a few representative icons on the menu bar, but the way Spent captures your attention is through a ticking time line. With each passing day, the thin red line moves down a 30-day calendar along with your new bank balance.

You start off by picking one of the three jobs: restaurant worker, warehouse worker, or an office temp. These all have different pay scales, but they also come with different requirements. Being a restaurant worker means you have to buy a uniform, a warehouse worker means you need a car, while being an office temp means you have to pass a typing test.

I fortunately passed the typing test, but my friend who also played the game didn’t. Chances are, if you’re from a lower-class background like many of those in this everyday scenario, you may not have adequate computer skills to pass the test, either.

Days go by quickly, but not without making some tough decisions. You have a fever — do you call in sick or go to work anyway? Your landlord raises rent — do you pay or do you move out? A collecting agency calls — do you answer? These are just a few questions that make surviving a non-stop stressful experience.

And then there’s a twist: You also have a child to support. So how do you make these tough decisions while also caring for your kid? I won’t list all the questions, but some of the choices are even more difficult to make when you’re trying to decide between spending what you barely have on short-term survival or investing in your child’s future.

I played several times to see how I could save the most money. There was one time I was able to save up to $500, but that was after skipping out on car registration payments and not giving my mother money for operation. And either way, I could never have enough money for next month’s rent.

This game truly opened my eyes. Not in the sense that I need to stop spending money (since I’ve never been a big spender), but in how much life’s unexpected things cost. With a child to support, the game also gave me a renewed sense of gratitude for my own parents that no other simulation has before.

I recommend everyone to give Spent a try to see how much you’re able to save or how long you’re able to survive at all.

Update: This article has been featured on the front page of Bitmob.com!