It was always going to be difficult for any game to go against the titanic Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. In fact, some of our listeners joked that this present tournament was just an elaborate way to say that Ocarina of Time was the best game of 1998. That could not be farther from the truth.
The beauty of this tournament is that it allows us to look at each individual game on its own merits and see how it stacks up pound for pound. This means that a game like Resident Evil 2, which in many years would be considered the best game released that year, has a fighting chance when it goes up against Ocarina of Time. Thus, on our newest episode, Ozzy, Geoff and Anthony try to look at each game based on its own merits.
Let us look at the tale of the tape:
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Platform: Nintendo 64
Release Date: November 23, 1998
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Director: Toru Osawa; Yoichi Yamada; Eiji Anouma; Yoshiaki Koizumu; Toshio Iwawaki
Producer: Shigeru Miyamoto
Composer: Koji Kondo
Metacritic: 99 (!)
Lifetime Sales: 7,600,000 copies
Resident Evil 2
Release Date: January 21, 1998
Director: Hideki Kamiya
Producer: Shinji Mikami
Composer: Masami Ueda; Shusaku Uchiyama; Syun Nishigaki
Lifetime Sales: 4,960,000 copies
This match up serves as perfect bookends to the year that was 1998. In a sense, Resident Evil 2 opened the onslaught of great games that would follow thereafter by releasing in January, although it is hard to think that many could anticipate the sheer amount of quality that would be released over a 12 month span.
If Resident Evil 2 served as the opening chapter, Ocarina of Time served as the climax, releasing in late November 1998, just three days before the Thanksgiving break in the United States, giving eager fans plenty of time to absorb the beauty of Hyrule Fields.
Yet despite releasing 10 months apart, it is striking how these are two games that were not guaranteed to be as polished and excellent as they turned out to be. Both games faced significant delays that made many in the media wonder what was happening at Capcom and Nintendo, respectively.
For Resident Evil 2, it was a significant expansion from what came before it, moving its action from a contained claustrophobic mansion to the scene of Raccoon City after the zombie outbreak has decimated it. The project went through a first draft that was in the advanced stages of development, that would ultimately became known as Resident Evil 1.5. This version would ultimately be scrapped, as it was determined to not be fun (you can listen to our Resident Evil episode for more info). Hideki Kamiya, the young madman at the helm of the project, was eventually able to harness his efforts and those of his team to create the game that would ultimately be released to great acclaim.
As for Link’s maiden voyage into the 3D realm, Ocarina of Time was slated to be released as a follow up to Nintendo’s phenomenal launch title in Super Mario 64. The release date was Christmas of 1997, a date that would pass without Link making an appearance. Ultimately, the game would take five directors developing the title, amongst them Eiji Anouma, who would later become the steward of Zelda and follow up Ocarina of Time by directing Majora’s Mask a short time thereafter. Steering these five directors was Shigeru Miyamoto, who by then was already legendary, and for whom Ocarina of Time marked a transitional period in which he settled comfortably into his role as Producer at Nintendo. The game would eventually release to universal acclaim, holding the distinction of highest score on review aggregators for any game to this day.
Thus, regardless of how this episode turns out, let us appreciate the hard work that went into them, and that though there were many ways in which they could have stumbled, they managed to become some of the best remembered games in their respective franchises.