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The Legend Of Zelda: Temple Of Time is the TTL counterpart of The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and though the two games share many similarities, there are key differences in gameplay, plot, and game progression that distinguish the two. All the familiar systems from Ocarina of Time are present in Temple of Time, including Z-targeting. The right analog stick is used to control the camera (or the player can allow for automatic or semi-automatic control as IOTL), while the X,Y, and the two L and R trigger buttons are used to access items, allowing Link to have up to four items ready at once, in addition to his sword and shield which are utilized with the A and B buttons. The major gameplay addition to TTL's game is the addition of the Courage meter, which is powered by Link's companion Farore (Navi is not in this game, instead, Farore accompanies Link, her spirit accompanying him in his courageous heart, and popping out when she is necessary, Farore also powers the Z-targeting and gives gameplay advice, though she's not as annoying as OTL's Navi, she doesn't yell “Hey!” and “Listen!”). The Courage meter fills up as Link fights enemies. If he chooses to block an attack instead of simply dodging it, for example, he'll gain Courage. He can spend this courage to use spells without depleting his Magic meter or to execute special attacks during battle, indeed, if Link saves his Courage up he can unleash a powerful combo attack that can shorten a boss fight dramatically. The Courage meter adds an extra layer of strategy to battles. Certain items from Ocarina of Dreams do not return, most notably Roc's Feather, though Link can jump as in the OTL Ocarina of Time game by approaching ledges at the proper angle. The game's graphics are vastly superior to OTL's Ocarina of Time, though ITTL, they're slightly less impressive than The Dreamers, Ballistic Limit 2, and Gran Turismo. The music is, like IOTL, composed by Koji Kondo, and while much of OTL's soundtrack remains (including “Song of Storms” and “Hyrule Field”), about half of it is original TTL. The ocarina appears in this game but its significance is greatly diminished, most of the plot related songs are butterflied away, though many of the utility songs remain, the ocarina is largely relegated to a convenience item. There is very little voice acting, only a few cutscene narrations throughout the game are voiced, some by the Great Deku Tree and others by Farore. Link's grunts and exclamations remain and other character sounds (such as crying or laughter) appear, but there is nothing in the way of formal voice acting outside of narration.
The Link who appears in Temple of Time is completely distinct from the one who appeared in the two NES games, the Link to the Past trilogy, or the Mystic Mirror game on Game Boy Color, though this game is closely related to Mystic Mirror in terms of the mythology surrounding the goddesses Din, Nayru, and Farore. As in Mystic Mirror, the goddesses appear in this game in the flesh once again to guide Link on his journey. The Hyrule in Temple of Time is heavily connected to the goddesses, particularly Din, who governs the passing of the seasons, and Nayru, who governs the flow of time. Thus, the game does borrow somewhat from OTL's Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages. While those games are butterflied away, a few of the ideas from those games do seep into this game and others. The Hyrule in Temple of Time exists constantly divided between the four seasons. Rather than being governed by the tilt of the Earth, Hyrule's seasons are governed by the will of Din, who keeps the seasons moving along so that one-fourth of Hyrule is always in spring, another fourth is always in summer, another fourth is always in fall, and another fourth is always in winter. These seasons change every three months as they do in our world, and it's the constant flow of the seasons that keeps life in Hyrule stable and peaceful.
It's in this world that Link lives as a 10-year-old boy in Kokiri Forest. One day, he is awakened by a voice. It belongs to Farore, and she appears before Link, saying that once in a generation, she appears before the most courageous person in the land, and that she has chosen Link. She initially gives him the courage to give a present to his friend Saria, then she helps him to find a sword and a shield so he can seek out the great Deku Tree. Link explores the Great Deku Tree, which is largely like OTL's Great Deku Tree dungeon, he finds a slingshot and at the end of the dungeon, he battles the boss, a giant evil flower named Manhandla (replacing OTL's Gohma, who appeared in Ocarina of DreamsITTL). After Link defeats the boss, he is given the Vernal Light by the Great Deku Tree, who tells Link that a great evil threatens Hyrule and that he must gather together the lights of the four seasons so that he may summon forth Din to confront this evil. Link then leaves Kokiri Forest and sets out on his adventure. He visits Hyrule Town and tries to get to the castle, but is told that the royal family is on a summer outing out on the Great Bay. He heads out to the Great Bay and sneaks into the royal family's summer castle, where Zelda gives him Zelda's Lullaby and tells him that the Spark of Summer is with the Zoras in their cave. But as Link leaves, he sees Zelda being kidnapped. Zelda's kidnappers are a pair of Zoras, a brother and sister. The sister's name is Ruto, and Link pursues her to the Zora Caves, where he gets Ruto's older brother to admit that they are being forced to sacrifice Zelda by an evil spirit who lives deep below the bay. The spirit is demanding the spirit of a pure princess, and instead of sacrificing Ruto, Ruto is going to sacrifice Zelda instead. Link makes his way to the next dungeon, a big sunken ship, where Ruto is planning to sacrifice Zelda to the evil spirit within. Zelda manages to get away from Ruto and it's revealed that Ruto is jealous of Zelda. Link must explore the ship while also tracking down the quarreling girls. He finds a treasure, the Electro Rod, along the way, and after finding the girls, he must use the rod to defeat the evil Octopax boss to rescue them and claim the Spark of Summer. With the spirit defeated, there is no longer any need for a sacrifice, and Ruto apologizes to Zelda and thanks Link, telling him she's going to marry him someday, which makes Link and Zelda blush. Link returns Zelda back to her summer castle and is given a clue to go to Kakariko Village, where the fall harvest is occuring. The people of the village are also celebrating Halloween, but some pranksters are causing trouble and ruining the harvest. Link must track the pranksters to their lair, a large graveyard/maze dungeon. He finds the Boomerang here and uses it to make it through to the boss, a living pumpkin man named Jack O'Lantern. He defeats Jack, ridding the evil spirit from his body, and the pranksters promise not to interfere with the harvest, bestowing upon Link the Autumnal Glow. Link then returns to Hyrule Castle, where Zelda and her family have returned after her vacation ended. She tells him he must make his way up Death Mountain in the winter, up to the home of the Gorons, who have been disappearing one by one. The wintry caves of Death Mountain form the fourth dungeon, and Link obtains the Hammer here, which he can use to smash through certain blocks of ice. He can also use it on the dungeon's boss, a giant yeti named Abominatu, who has been capturing Gorons in order to cook and eat them. Link defeats the yeti, freeing the Gorons, whose leader Darunia bestows the Flash of Winter on Link. Now armed with the Lights of the Four Seasons, Link makes his way back to Hyrule Castle Town, where the Shrine of the Seasons is located. However, the castle town is under siege by Ganondorf. Zelda is spirited away by Impa, while Link goes to the temple only to find it shattered and Din being dragged away in chains by a victorious Ganondorf, who has taken her power to give himself the Triforce of Courage. Ganondorf sets his sights upon Link, but Link is saved by a shield generated by the goddess Nayru, who spirits Link away to the Temple of Time. Nayru tells Link that she must suspend him in time until he is ready to wield the Master Sword and slay evil.
When Link awakens, he is an adult who can wield the Master Sword, but it is seven years into the future and Hyrule is a dismal place, governed now by darkness. The seasons are twisted and contorted into dark mirror images of themselves and Link realizes he needs to return to Kokiri Forest to see what has happened. The forest is under siege, the growth of spring has accelerated hideously and plants have grown huge and monstrous. Saria is nowhere to be found. Link must penetrate deep into the Lost Woods, where the Temple of Spring is located, he must reactivate the Vernal Light by finding the Sage of Spring. After fighting his way through the temple, claiming the Bow and battling Phantom Ganon, Link finds Saria, who is now the Sage of Spring. She re-activates the Vernal Light and instructs Link that instead of visiting the Summerlands next, he must make his trip through the seasons in reverse, going instead to winter and back to Death Mountain. Death Mountain, however, is a dark and gloomy place. It has erupted as a supervolcano, covering the land around it for miles in ash and dropping the temperature to bone-chilling proportions. Ironically, the Temple of Winter now lies in the middle of a giant magma field, and instead of being ice cold, the temple is one of fire. Link claims the Ice Arrows within, which he uses to freeze lava flows and gradually restore the temple to its normal cold self. However, one hot room remains at the volcano's core. Link enters the room and must battle King Dodongo (who is far, FAR stronger and more difficult than he was in OTL Ocarina of Time). After defeating this tough boss, Link finds Darunia, now the Sage of Winter, who restores Link's Flash of Winter. He also forges Link's Hammer into a much stronger Magic Hammer that can smash much bigger things. Link then leaves Death Mountain, but as he departs, he encounters a mysterious person identifying themselves as Sheik. Sheik offers to help Link clear out the terrible invasion of dark spirits that have overrun Kakariko Village. These spirits are far more evil than the mischievous Halloween pranksters of the past, they are deadly and frightening and they are pouring out of the Temple of Autumn, a dark and twisted place of evil much like OTL's Shadow Temple. Link enters the Temple of Autumn, and there he finds the Cane of Byrna, which Link must use to make it through the illusions and false walls of the temple (managing Link's Courage meter is crucial for this). Once Link reaches the end of the temple, he battles the terrifying being Amorphus, which is somewhat like OTL's boss Morpha, but instead of being a water blob, Amorphus changes forms between various terrifying creatures, somewhat like the final boss of Link's Awakening. Once Link defeats Amorphus, he reunites with Impa, the Sage of Autumn, who re-charges Link's Autumnal Glow and instructs him that to defeat Ganondorf, he must go to the place where Ganondorf was born and raised: Gerudo Valley. Gerudo Valley has been made accessible by the recession of the vast ocean on which Hyrule's summer vacation palace once stood overlooking a vast cliff, it now overlooks an enormous desert. Link must make his way out past the burning salt flats to reach Gerudo Valley. Link learns that the Gerudo have been capturing Zora refugees and keeping them as caged pets. After rescuing Ruto's brother from a Gerudo warrior, he tells Link that the Temple of Summer is no longer accessible in this era. Link must become a child somehow without returning to Hyrule Castle Town in order to reach it (similarly to how Link had to explore the Spirit Temple as both a child and as an adult in Ocarina of Time). In fact, the Temple of Summer is caught between two ages: past and future, and is a twisted puzzle maze of both desert and water based dungeons. Just as Ruto fought with Zelda in the past, in the future we see a now grown Ruto in pursuit of Nabooru, wanting revenge for the captivity of her people. The two are seen fighting back and forth as Link pursues them through the future segment of the temple. In one room in the past segment of the temple, however, Ruto appears again as a child, and is attacked by the witches Koume and Kotake. They try to capture her, but Nabooru pushes her out of the way and is taken instead. Ruto makes Link promise to help her repay her debt to Nabooru in the future, and thus, in the future, Ruto helps Link out in his battle against the Iron Knuckle inside which Nabooru is trapped. When Nabooru is freed, Ruto expresses gratitude, and Nabooru promises to make the other Gerudo set the Zora free. But just as the two are becoming friends, the witches appear again and capture them both. Link must reach the boss room with the help of the Mirror Shield treasure and battle Twinrova to save both Ruto and Nabooru. After defeating Twinrova, Ruto and Nabooru are revealed to be the two Sages of Summer, and working together, they restore Link's Spark of Summer. Ruto is seen to still be jealous of Nabooru, thinking that Nabooru has the hots for Link, but Nabooru has no idea what Ruto is talking about.
Finally, Link has re-charged the four Lights with the power of the Sages, and returns to the Temple of Time, where Nayru can use the Lights to free her sister from Ganondorf's control. It's here that Sheik reveals herself as Zelda, and Nayru bestows upon her the Triforce of Wisdom. However, Ganondorf once again appears, taking both Nayru and Zelda to his grand tower in the center of Hyrule. Ganondorf's Tower is a four-part dungeon, divided into three towers: the Tower of Power, the Tower of Wisdom, and the Tower of Courage. Link must ascend the three towers, completing their trials in turn. The three towers alone aren't as long or involved as a normal dungeon, but combined, they form the longest dungeon in the game thus far. In the Tower of Power, Link must face mostly battle trials, culminating in a mini-boss battle with Dark Din at the end. In the Tower of Wisdom, Link must face puzzle trials, culminating in a mini-boss battle with Dark Nayru. As Link and Farore approach the Tower of Courage, Farore is confident, since Link has her by his side. But, just before Link enters, Farore is captured by Ganondorf as well, and Link must face the Tower of Courage's trials, a mix of battles, puzzles, and challenges that test the player's courage, without the use of Z-targeting or the Courage meter, making it a difficult mission. After defeating Dark Farore at the top of the tower, Link must then climb Ganon's Tower in the center. It's a mostly straightforward, simple climb up, and at the end, he battles Ganondorf in a battle that's somewhat like the battle from OTL's Ocarina of Time, only with the added challenge of freeing the three goddesses from their crystal prisons. It's best to free Farore first to restore your Z-Targeting and Courage meter, though freeing Din will dramatically reduce the power of Ganondorf's attacks, and defeating Nayru will reduce Ganondorf's speed and defenses. Once the goddesses are freed and Link defeats Ganondorf and frees Zelda, the rest of the game plays out largely as IOTL. Link and Zelda must race down the collapsing tower before the timer reaches zero, then outside, must battle an enormous pig-like beast. After Ganon is defeated, Nayru uses her power to reverse the tragedies that Ganon has wreaked on Hyrule. Din restores the balance of the seasons, while Farore returns to her home inside the Master Sword, where she will wait until the next great hero comes along. After a sequence showing how peace has been restored to Hyrule and its denizens, with Link and Zelda returned to their childhood pasts, the final scene of the ending again plays out largely as it did IOTL: Link approaches Zelda's window at Hyrule Castle to pay her one last visit. She notices him, and the game ends.
Released for the Ultra Nintendo on November 21, 1998. It is an immediate and massive hit. Reviews are glowing from every game review outlet, surpassing even the amazing reviews its predecessor, Ocarina of Dreams, achieved upon its release back in 1995. The game sells as quickly as any other Ultra Nintendo game that year, with only Goldeneye 007 having more opening day sales, and then only barely. When Black Friday comes, Temple of Time's opening week races past Goldeneye's and it becomes the biggest opening week for any non pack-in video game ever in terms of sales, breaking even Ultra Mario Kart and Sonic the Hedgehog 3's records. The game lives up to and even exceeds all the hype leading up to its release.
Shigeru Miyamoto has yet another masterpiece on his hands, and the game is considered to be his magnum opus. Over the years to come, many game critics would acclaim Temple of Time the greatest video game ever made.
And yet, the game barely puts a dent in the hot sales of Sega's Ring peripheral. Tom Kalinske would later comment, “Sega has loyal fans. If you were gonna buy the Ring before Temple of Time came out, you're still gonna buy it after it comes out. If you have both systems, you might play the Ring a little bit less, but you're still gonna buy it.”
The Ultra Nintendo had another smash hit. But Sega still had a chance to win the holidays.