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The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Dreams is the sequel to The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past and The Legend Of Zelda: Link's Awakening, the conclusion of what comes to be known as the “Link To The Past trilogy”. It features essentially the same classic top-down Zelda gameplay as the other games in the series, with mostly graphical enhancements and a new enhanced soundtrack designed to take advantage of the Super Nintendo CD's capabilities. Character sprites are significantly more detailed, though they retain a somewhat similar look as A Link To The Past, not going a more realistic route but instead adding more detailed animation to the sprites, enemy sprites receive an equal amount of detail and bosses become much more complex, boss fights do as well, taking place in rooms that span more than one screen in several cases. The game takes place soon after Link's Awakening, with peace restored to Hyrule and Link spending his time resting.
The game begins with Link getting an urgent telepathic message from Princess Zelda, summoning him to Hyrule Castle where there has been a theft of a valuable treasure: The Ocarina of Dreams, a musical instrument with the ability to bring dreams into reality. Zelda says that the thief has been trapped in the castle catacombs but that Link is needed to track him down and retrieve the ocarina. The catacombs are the introductory dungeon to the game, similar to Hyrule Castle in A Link To The Past. Link makes his way through the catacombs and confronts the thief, a young man named Gaddis who says that he'll use the ocarina's power to make his dream of ruling all of Hyrule come true. Before he can use it, Link attacks him and the ocarina is broken into three pieces, which Zelda uses her magic to scatter to all parts of Hyrule. Angered, Gaddis attacks Link but is repelled and he escapes, vowing to hunt down the ocarina pieces. This triggers the beginning of the quest and the first three dungeons. For this part of the game, the world is like a slightly enlarged version of the Light World from the original Link To The Past, a few new areas are opened up but the terrain is mostly familiar. The first three dungeons are as follows:
- Lost Labyrinth- The game's first real dungeon located deep in the Lost Woods, it's full of creepy insect monsters and you get the Bow in here, the boss of the dungeon is Gohma, a huge scorpion monster.
- City Of The Dead- Located under the Sanctuary Graveyard, this dungeon is full of creepy Poes and other undead creatures. You get the Roc's Feather in this dungeon and the boss is an enormous Poe called Ghoulord.
- Uncharted Marsh -This is a swamp-like area that connects several small dungeons together, you'll find a brand new item, the Soul Stone that allows you to make a copy of Link that you can leave on switches. The boss of this dungeon is Tongura, a huge toad monster with a dangerous tongue.
After collecting the pieces of the ocarina from the first three dungeons, Gaddis invades Hyrule Castle and takes Zelda hostage, demanding the ocarina in exchange for her safe return. Link doesn't give it to him and Zelda manages to get away from him on her own, Gaddis attacks Link and injures him, and Zelda tells him to play the ocarina. He does so, but Gaddis gets a hand on it as he plays it and the dream that forms is a corrupted version of Link's dream...
When Link awakens he finds himself in a new world, a twisted combination of Hyrule and Koholint. Unlike in A Link To The Past, you can't travel between the two worlds. However, any treasures missed in the original Hyrule will be able to be acquired in the new world, in different locations. This new Hyrule is ruled over by eight Nightmare Lords, one of whom is Gaddis. In order to restore peace and freedom to this strange new world, Link must defeat the eight Nightmare Lords and liberate the area under their control. The Nightmare Lords inhabit eight dungeons, and the first one is Gaddis, the thief who set this whole thing in motion. Gaddis rules his realm from the former Kahariko Village, now an enormous but corrupt city steeped in vice and featuring a huge coliseum in the center. Link must make his way to the coliseum but before he can get in, he is required to retrieve his Master Sword. As he goes to retrieve it he meets up with Marin (this is where he discovers that Koholint is part of this world as well). Marin begs Link not to try and liberate the world, because she fears that once the magic of the ocarina has faded, everyone who lived in Koholint before will once again fade away. For now, Link continues on his mission, determined to find the Master Sword and also to reunite with Zelda. After a quick trial, Link retrieves the sword and can access the first dungeon of the new world, which happens to be the labyrinthine halls below the coliseum. Once Link gets the dungeon's treasure (the first Power Bracelet), and the Boss Key, he makes his way up to the arena itself and battles Gaddis in a fierce boss fight (Gaddis is the only of the eight Nightmare Lords who doesn't transform into a huge monster upon fighting Link). Once Gaddis is defeated he gives Link a cryptic clue as to the Nightmare Lords' true intentions before dying. Gaddis is beaten, but seven Nightmare Lords remain and a huge new world stands open...
Once Link gets the Master Sword, he can reforge it by hunting down six pieces of Silver Ore. The sixth piece can't be found until Link has beaten the fourth Nightmare Lord, once that's found the blacksmith can forge the Silver Sword for Link. That sets Link forth on a new quest to find six pieces of Golden Ore that can be used to forge the Golden Sword once Link beats the seventh Nightmare Lord. There are 11 Heart Containers in this game (from beating the three bosses) and 24 Pieces of Heart to be found.
The remaining dungeons are as follows...
- Hanging CliffA dungeon in a huge cliff side overhang, you get the Hook shot as your treasure here and battle Kristia, the first of two female Nightmare Lords, who transforms into a huge rock beast upon Link entering the boss room.
- The Menagerie- - A dungeon in the middle of a huge jungle that was made from the twisted corruption of Animal Village, Link must free his animal friends from both Link To The Past and Link's Awakening by retrieving the Gust Bellows treasure and fighting the Nightmare Lord Zaphic, who transforms into an enormous evil flower monster to battle Link.
- Zero Core - A strange futuristic ice dungeon, the first appearance of a futuristic environment in a Zelda game, this dungeon is the creation of the Nightmare Lord Baska, who transforms into a huge robotic creature to battle Link, who must use his new Electro Rod to fight Baska off.
- Shadow Hollow -A dungeon that combines the environments of Misery Mire and the Face Dungeon, this horrifying dungeon was created by the dark wizard and Nightmare Lord Aravec, who turns into a shape-shifting shadow creature. You'll use the Mirror Shield gained in this dungeon to shine some light on Aravec and drive him away.
- Oceanic Tower- An enormous tower in the middle of a vast ocean, this is the game's obligatory water dungeon, though it's surprisingly one of the most beloved in the series with complex but intuitive puzzles and beautiful imagery, starting a trend of good water dungeons in later Zelda games. You get the Living Bomb here. The boss is Zanithera, the second female Nightmare Lord, who turns into a huge dragon beast to attack Link.
- Hadean Crater- A fire dungeon on the sight of the former Death Mountain, which exploded in an enormous volcanic eruption. Here, you get the Ice Rod, and you'll need it to face Vanaxu, who transforms into a lava-dwelling demon-like beast during his boss fight.
After seven dungeons are defeated, there's still no sign of Zelda. All the while, Link has been finding more mysterious clues as to the Nightmare Lords' true purpose, while he's also been encountering Marin and other Koholint residents more and more, and is still unsure about whether or not to finish his quest, not wanting to destroy the dream that the Koholint denizens are a part of. He puts those doubts aside long enough to venture into the eighth dungeon, a twisted combination of Mt. Tamaranch and Hyrule Castle, where the eighth Nightmare Lord Calavir resides. Calavir has made appearances throughout the second half of the game and is clearly the ringleader of the Nightmare Lords, having recruited a naive and grief-stricken Gaddis into his circle after the deaths of Gaddis' parents at the hand of a band of thieves consumed him with a lust for power so that he'd never be helpless to help those he loves again. Halfway through the eighth dungeon, Link comes across Zelda's room and finds it sealed by a mysterious force. Approaching the door he finds that he is able to enter, and there, having been in her room the entire time, is Princess Zelda... nursing a wounded but still-alive Gaddis back to health. She explains that Calavir's true purpose is to awaken the fallen Ganon using the dream of the Wind Fish, trapped in the castle in a corrupted form. The Nightmare Lords have been siphoning the life energy of the people of Hyrule and Koholint into the castle, where, combined with the Wind Fish's energy, it can ressurect Ganon from the dead. Gaddis apologizes to Link and says that he was a fool to listen to Calavir's lies. After this scene, Zelda gives Link the final dungeon treasure, the Silver Arrows, and implores him to stop Calavir once and for all. Link goes to the final part of the dungeon and there he finds Calavir who has absorbed the power of the Wind Fish. The Calavir battle is similar in a lot of ways to the final Nightmare battle from Link's Awakening but with entirely different and more complex forms that it will take almost all of Link's accumulated items to defeat. Finally, Calavir falls and the game seems to be over, only for Ganon's evil theme to be heard as the dark villain returns to full strength and appears behind Calavir. Calavir bows down to Ganon and begs to be given enough power to defeat Link, but Ganon merely absorbs him, laughing and calling him a fool. He then attacks Link only to be hit with a wave of light energy from Zelda, who rushes into the room with Gaddis. Ganon goes to kidnap Zelda, only for Gaddis to put himself in the way. He is struck down by Ganon, this time for good, and Ganon escapes with the princess and the ocarina, using it to construct a huge castle in the center of Hyrule. A distraught Link is met outside by Marin, along with a lot of other people from Koholint and Hyrule. Marin says that she finally understands that as the Hero of Hyrule, Link has a duty to protect as many people as he can and that no matter what happens to her or her people, Link must do what's right and fight evil.
The final dungeon is Ganon's Castle and it's truly enormous, the most complex and difficult dungeon in the game, even making Hyrule Castle seem like a cake walk. The challenges of the castle will test everything Link's gained throughout his journey and you'll even re-battle versions of several of the game's previous bosses. Finally, Link battles Ganon and instead of being an oversized pig-like monster, he's a huge, multi-screen spanning beast, the battle is in multiple phases and features a fully orchestrated final boss theme complete with chorus. During the final boss battle, Link frees Zelda, and both she and Marin help with various phases of the fight. Finally, Ganon is defeated, and light is restored to Hyrule. The ocarina's power is drained, but due to the goodness of Link's heart, it uses the light within him to recreate Hyrule... no longer twisted and evil, but pure and light, and fully integrated with the dream world of Koholint, brought into reality by Link's goodness and courage. The people of Hyrule and Koholint celebrate an era of eternal peace in their new world, and Link lays the Master Sword to rest once more.
Released for the Super Nintendo CD in North America on June 26, 1995, just under three months after its Japanese release. The game shattered records in Japan and in North America it became the third fastest selling Super Nintendo CD game to date. It received an enormous number of overwhelming positive reviews from practically every publication, beating Sonic the Hedgehog 3's record for average review score. Electronic Gaming Monthly, which gave it four 9.5s out of 10, was its worst review score on initial release and that was merely because of the current editorial policy not to give a perfect 10 to a game unless it was truly without flaw (Ed Semrad would later say in 1998 that he considers this policy one of his biggest mistakes and that without it, Ocarina of Dreams absolutely would've received a perfect 10 from all four reviewers and would have gotten the magazine's first Platinum Award). Due to these positive reviews and extraordinary word of mouth, Ocarina of Dreams would remain in the top ten sales list for the Super Nintendo CD until the end of its lifespan. In addition to the excellent software sales, the game also produced more sales of the Super Nintendo CD peripheral than any other game except perhaps for Mortal Kombat. It was cited as the last major push for SNES owners to purchase the CD peripheral and would become a pack-in game for the peripheral and the Playstation Combo Set later in the year. The game receives a 32-page cover article in the June 1995 issue of Nintendo Power, unprecedented coverage at the time, with the issue swelling to 130 pages to accommodate all the Zelda coverage. It would also have five strategy guides published for it in North America alone: the official guide by Nintendo and unofficial strategy guides by Prima, BradyGames, GamePro and Infotainment World Books. Despite the glut of strategy guides available, the game's release would produce the largest spike in the history of Nintendo's phone-in hint lines (and last major such spike before the advent of the internet).