Ocarina of Time holds a unique place in the world of video games. Aside from being honored as one of the greatest video games ever made, its sidekick character Navi is often regarded around the Internet as among the most annoying characters in gaming. Quantifying how annoying Navi can be or how often she held the player’s hand throughout an average playthrough of Ocarina of Time was always one of my main reasons for conducting this audit of Zelda games, and I hope readers will be as satisfied with the results as I am.
For those new to Hey, Look, Listen, this is a series of articles that seeks to objectively analyze how much a collection of Zelda games—namely Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword—hold the player’s hand and excessively guides them through the experience each game offers. Basically, this is a look at backseat driving in video games, focusing on titles in the Zelda franchise.
I have decided the best way to analyze handholding objectively in Zelda games is to conduct an audit of the five Zelda games mentioned above. In this audit, I measure how many times things that could be considered handholding occur over the course of what I consider to be an average playthrough of each of these Zelda games.
You can read more about my methodology, how I define each of the measured criteria, the purposes for conducting this audit, and more in the first article of the Hey, Look, Listen series, here. You can also read my completed audits of Skyward Sword here, Majora’s Mask here, and Twilight Princess here. Today, I will analyze the data on handholding gathered from my playthrough of Ocarina of Time — with infographics, raw numbers, and commentary.
Before I analyze the data I’ve gathered, I want to clarify that my playthrough of Ocarina of Time was anything but average. I grew up with this game. My childhood was filled with playing Ocarina of Time on my Nintendo 64, and reading the official strategy guide over and over again. I know the Biggoron Sword and Happy Mask Shop sidequests by heart, and while I do not have the layout of every dungeon memorized, I completed all the overworld quests between dungeons with practiced efficiency.
I’m no speedrunner, but I did manage to beat Ocarina of Time in just 19 hours and 50 minutes. I blew through the Dodongo’s Cavern in just over half an hour, I transformed Link into an adult less than six hours into my playthrough, and I freed Epona in just 14 minutes. I’m sure that a new player could have spent upwards of 35 hours playing Ocarina of Time from start to finish, but my extreme familiarity of this game yielded what I believe to be a shorter-than-average playthrough. As a result, I’m going to focus more on absolute numbers than hourly rates for my counters in this analysis.
Gameplay Interruptions (GPIs)
A Gameplay Interruption (GPI) is a moment in a Zelda game where my control over Link and events happening on the screen are unexpectedly suspended. This does not include moments when I activated switches in dungeons, but it does include moments when the camera cuts to something or Navi suddenly initiates a conversation with me while I’m just walking along not expecting anything outside of the ordinary to happen.
I encountered 87 GPIs during my playthrough of Ocarina of Time, which is leagues less than the 205 GPIs I encountered in my playthrough of Twilight Princess and just a bit more than the 79 I encountered in my Majora’s Mask playthrough. Yes, the notorious owl Kaeppora Gaebora accounted for some of these, but I bumped into him only six times throughout my playthrough, so he wasn’t the biggest contributor here. Navi contributed quite a bit to this counter, but I’ll discuss her in more detail momentarily.
The distribution of GPIs in Ocarina of Time was fairly modest except for four major spikes during the Forest Temple, the Fire Temple, the Shadow Temple, and the escape from Ganon’s Castle with Princess Zelda.
For the Forrest Temple, the major culprit of GPIs was Navi, who halted my gameplay five times to tell me a twisted hallway was twisted, or that I should watch out for wall crawlers. The Fire Temple also had a fire wall that the game stopped to show me every time I jumped onto a platform, and my struggle through this dungeon took me through the room multiple times, gathering eight tallies along the way — Navi only contributed to one GPI in this temple.
The Shadow Temple contained an annoyingly high number of moments where my gameplay was interrupted so I could read a message, presumably from the dungeon itself, reminding me of the importance of having the Lens of Truth. The path to the Dungeon Map in particular was littered with these GPIs, so this temple racked up an impressive 13 GPIs alone. As for the escape from Ganon’s Castle with Princess Zelda, I counted the 12 times Zelda stopped to open a barred door or get captured by a ring of fire as GPIs (I also counted them as camera movements), which definitely was a major contributor to the 15 total GPIs this final stretch of the game contained.
Companion GPIs are Gameplay Interruptions caused directly by Link’s Companion, which in this game is Navi. Navi has a reputation for being a constant nuisance to players, but over the course of my playthrough I found Navi interrupted my gameplay only 21 times, which is the same number of Companion GPIs that Tatl accumulated during my playthrough of Majora’s Mask. In fact, Midna interrupted my gameplay in Twilight Princess more than Navi did in Ocarina of Time.
As for distribution of Navi’s GPIs, the only spikes came Inside the Deku Tree, (the first dungeon of the first 3D Zelda game, where a little more handholding should be expected) and in the Forrest Temple for the reasons I mentioned earlier. Aside from this, the number of GPIs Navi caused were definitely lower than my expectations.
As with my analysis of Twilight Princess, I also kept a separate tally of GPIs from characters other than Navi in my playthrough of Ocarina of Time who could be considered Companions. This was done out of consideration for Wind Waker, where Link’s Companion debatably includes Tetra, Medli, and Makar in addition to the King of Red Lions, due to their involvement in some of that game’s dungeons. Ultimately, this separate tally for possible Companion GPIs could add another 14 points to this counter: two from Princess Ruto Inside Jabu-Jabu’s Belly and the Water Temple, and 12 from Princess Zelda during the escape from Ganon’s Castle.
A Chime is any time in a Zelda game when a part of the player’s HUD lights up and gives the player an audio cue to let them know they need to press a certain button, usually to provide them with optional information about an area they’ve entered. In Ocarina of Time, this counter effectively measured every time Navi shouted, “hey,” and asked me to tap C-UP to listen to her. Unfortunately, measuring Chimes in Ocarina of Time proved to be a much more challenging task than I anticipated, because the way that Ocarina of Time handles Chimes is so different from almost the other Zelda games analyzed in this audit.
The crux of the problem with Chimes in Ocarina of Time is this: depending on factors arbitrary to the core gameplay, including player competency, the length of each play session, and how often the player is exploring the game world, a playthrough of Ocarina of Time can feature anywhere from six Chimes to more than 100 Chimes. As a result, I kept track of some Chimes for this counter and deliberately excluded others. I have included a lengthy explanation for why I counted Chimes the way I did under the “Other Handholding Factors” section at the end of this article.
The bottom line on Chimes in my playthrough of Ocarina of Time is I encountered only 23 of them, and 17 of those are questionable. Even if you count all the Chimes of any sort that occurred in my playthrough, Ocarina of Time still has fewer Chimes than any game analyzed by this audit thus far.
I counted a total of 263 moments in my playthrough of Ocarina of Time where the camera moved to show me a door opening because of an activated switch, a chest dropping because I defeated all enemies in a room, or other event that was either expected or unexpected. While this technically means my playthrough of Ocarina of Time provided the least number of Camera Movements of the Zelda games I’ve audited so far, it’s not that far behind the Camera Movements encountered in my playthroughs of Skyward Sword and Majora’s Mask. In fact, the results from Ocarina of Time are only serving to solidify my assertion that the 505 Camera Movements in my playthrough of Twilight Princess were a uniquely high number.
Like Skyward Sword and Twilight Princess, the majority of the Camera Movements in my playthrough of Ocarina of Time took place in its dungeons. In fact, 72 percent of the Camera Movements in my Ocarina of Time playthrough were found in its dungeons, which is a higher percentage than any of the games analyzed in this audit so far.
Like with Camera Movements, the total number of instances where characters re-stated painfully obvious information or repeated information other sources had mentioned using slightly different wording was roughly in line with other games I’ve analyzed in this audit so far. My Ocarina of Time playthrough included 21 instances of Redundant Information, which is exactly as many as I encountered in my Twilight Princess playthrough, substantially more than I encountered in my Majora’s Mask playthrough, and substantially fewer than I encountered in my Skyward Sword playthrough.
Frustration and Joy
If you’re still upset that this article isn’t making a good case for labeling Navi as an objectively annoying sidekick, you’ll be pleased to find one part of my audit conform to popular opinion: The Water Temple was the most frustrating part of my playthrough! Just too many keys in there.
Over the course of this audit, I have kept track of the moments during my playthroughs when I experience spikes in difficulty and disappointment, or moments of amazement just as tediously as my other counters. However, since these counters for Frustration and Joy are based on extremely subjective inputs and have become increasingly skewed as this audit has dragged on, I have placed less and less stock in their credibility.
Overall, my playthrough of Ocarina of Time provided me with 27 instances of Frustration and 154 instances of Joy. This ties it with Majora’s Mask in the running for most Frustrating game of the audit so far, and second only to Twilight Princess in the running for game with the most Joyful moments.
I also have to admit I walked into this audit with a bit of a hidden agenda. I wanted to gather some objective data to prove that Kaeppora Gaebora really isn’t as annoying or frustrating as popular opinion would have us believe — after all the owl does provide some useful information for first-time players, and his messages are easily skippable with a tap of the B button… right? Well, somehow this avian advisor got on my nerves.
Despite showing up less than half a dozen times throughout the entire game and providing information that was entirely relevant to a first-time playthrough, Kaeppora Gaebora managed to Frustrate me simply by showing up so many times early in the game. I don’t think I can objectively measure why Kaeppora Gaebora upset me, but I can tell you he contributed to a few of my Frustration counters… and a few GPIs and Camera Movements as well.
I encountered 69 Cutscenes during my playthrough of Ocarina of Time, placing it ahead of other games in this audit, but not by too much, especially when compared to the differences between games for some of my other counters. More than half of Ocarina of Time‘s Cutscenes occurred in the final third of the game — around the time Sheik is thrown about by the monster escaping from the well in Kakariko Village.
Other Handholding Factors — Important Things I Couldn’t Count
One of the biggest handholding elements I did not measure for this audit is a behavior of Navi that I call Highlighting, where Link’s fairy Companion hoovers over a variety of points of interest to draw attention to them or allow the player to Z-target them. Since Tatl also exhibits this same Highlighting behavior in Majora’s Mask, you can read the Other Handholding Factors section of my analysis of that particular game here, if you want to know more about it or why I did not measure it.
Another thing I did not measure in my Ocarina of Time playthrough are those short chest-opening sequences that occur every time Link opens a large chest. I know these chest-opening sequences are a point of annoyance for some players, but I argue that they are not indicative of handholding in Ocarina of Time; they are short scenes meant to serve as a reward and quasi-cinematic buildup to the the revelation of the mystery that each chest in the game embodies. On their own, they do not convey extra information to the player, nor do they direct them to perform a certain task.
Chest-opening sequences also won’t fit into any of my counters for this audit. They are too short to be tallied as Cutscenes. They keep Link firmly at the center of the camera’s attention, which disqualifies them from my Camera Movement counter. And, they are expected interruptions of gameplay because the player must directly activate them, so they are not Gameplay Interruptions, either.
I made the decision to not include chest-opening sequences for any of these Zelda games long before I started gathering data, so rest assured that I am not making an exception just for Ocarina of Time here.
I also, unfortunately, did not keep track of the messages that occasionally appear on screen to explain very specific information to the player, but that do not halt gameplay. One of these happens when entering Death Mountain Crater without a Goron Tunic on, and another happens when the ferry in the Shadow Temple reaches the end of its route. I cannot count these messages as GPIs, Companion GPIs, Camera Movements, or Redundant Information.
These messages that do not disrupt player control are simply a part of Ocarina of Time that caught me completely by surprise, and I failed to take them into consideration. Fortunately, they were not prevalent during my playthrough, and their silent nature made them even less intrusive than Chimes, so I’ll consider them a minor indicator of handholding in the game.
Speaking of Chimes, let’s talk about the ones I didn’t count in my playthrough of Ocarina of Time!
Put on your thinking caps, because this final section on uncounted handholding factors is complicated, and is only intended to be read by those with a deep interest in how I counted Chimes for my playthrough of Ocarina of Time. If this particular topic does not interest you, feel free to skip to the “What’s Next?” section.
I identified three types of Chimes that Navi emits during gameplay; each one triggered by different circumstances. For the sake of reader convenience, I’ve given each of these Chimes different names and descriptions as follows:
- Context Chimes: Occur when the player enters a specific area, or after a specific event or action has occurred. These Chimes are most similar to the Chimes from the other Zelda games I’ve analyzed in this audit.
- Time Chimes: Navi will Chime to remind the player of their overarching objective after the first few minutes of game time of every play session, and every half-hour after that. Navi will not sound a Time Chime if the player enters a dungeon or is already inside one at the start of the play session.
- Door Chimes: Navi will shout, “hey,” any time Link touches a barred door or a locked door without a key. Unique to Ocarina of Time, Door Chimes are unlikely to be encountered except by accident, but can be triggered by touching any locked or barred door in the game, regardless of play time or progress.
Among these different Chimes, I concluded that Context Chimes were the fairest to measure, since they are the most similar to Chimes from other Zelda games in this audit, and will therefor provide the best comparison between games. I encountered only six Context Chimes during my playthrough of Ocarina of Time, which is minuscule when compared to the other games in this audit.
However, I’m not about to completely disregard the other Chimes in my Ocarina of Time playthrough.
I encountered 17 Time Chimes during my playthrough of Ocarina of Time. But as I stated earlier, my playthrough of Ocarina of Time lasted only 19 hours and 50 minutes, so I believe I would have encountered more Time Chimes if I had taken longer to complete the game, or had spread my playthrough out over shorter play sessions. None of my counters throughout this audit are time-sensitive, but Time Chimes definitely are, so I cannot measure them as accurately as the other counters in this audit. However, I will include Time Chimes in my tallies because I believe almost any playthrough is going to include some amount Time Chimes, and I did include similar Time Chimes sounded by Tatl in my playthrough of Majora’s Mask — although Tatl is coded to sound Time Chimes much less frequently than Navi. For these reason, I’m including the Time Chimes I encountered during my playthrough, but they’ll have an asterisk next to them.
As for Door Chimes, these only happen if the player does something completely irrational and outside the realm of what a competent player would do: touching a barred door or touching a locked door without a key. Players have no reason to perform either of these actions, so the only reason for Door Chimes to trigger is by accident. For the record, I did trigger four Door Chimes throughout my playthrough, which is the main reason I know about this mechanic in the first place, and I won’t count any of them in my Chime counter because that would take me down a slippery slope that could throw the Chime counter off.
If I accidentally touch a single barred door 15 times, I would have to add 15 tallies to my Chimes counter if I were counting Door Chimes. Bumping into a single barred door 15 times is clearly outside the realm of an average playthrough, but so is bumping into a barred door in the first place. And if every barred or locked door presents the potential for at least one Door Chime, then must I add a tally to my Chime counter for every locked and barred door in the game?
I agree that Door Chimes are very much a handholding mechanic, because they remind players even very late in the game of painfully obvious information that was learned many hours earlier. But deliberately touching every locked and barred door in the game just to inflate my Chime counter is something I simply will not do, for the same reason I stopped adding to my Chime counter in Majora’s Mask after I had already encountered all the Garo Robe enemies in Ikana Canyon. The potential for an infinite number of Chimes does not mean I have to tally an infinite number of Chimes.
Even if I were hell-bent on twisting this audit into a smear campaign against Navi by including every “hey,” she shouted that was not caused by Z-targeting something, I could only say that Navi Chimed a total of 27 times during my playthrough of Ocarina of Time, which is less than the Chime counter for any other other Zelda game analyzed in this audit thus far. I’m sorry to disappoint anyone who was hoping this article would provide measurable evidence that Navi is an intrusive companion, but I stand by the findings of my research.
The final Zelda game my audit will analyze is the cel-shaded adventure from 2002, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. This is the first time in over a decade that I’ve played Wind Waker, and I’ve already made healthy progress on my playthrough of this gem from the GameCube era. Yes, I’m playing the original version, not the HD remake because of the alterations to gameplay in the Wii U version. If all goes according to plan, my analysis of Wind Waker will be posted here on February 8.
After that, I’ll cap off the Hey, Look, Listen series with a final detailed look at all five games I’ve analyzed. In that final article, I will draw my conclusions about handholding in the five home console 3D Zelda games, issue verdicts on which one has the most or least handholding, and I will use those conclusions to make some projections about what we can expect from handholding in Zelda U. Expect that article to be posted on February 22.
Full Spreadsheet of Ocarina of Time Playthrough Data
Other Articles in the Hey, Look, Listen Series
- Analyzing Handholding in Zelda — Methodology and Definitions — December 11, 2014
- Analyzing Handholding in Skyward Sword — December 22, 2014
- Analyzing Handholding in Majora’s Mask — January 16, 2014
- Analyzing Handholding in Twilight Princess — January 16, 2015
- Analyzing Handholding in Ocarina of Time — March 5, 2015
- Analyzing Handholding in The Wind Waker — March 5, 2015
- UPDATE Analyzing Handholding in Skyward Sword — March 5, 2015
- Reanalyzing Handholding in Skyward Sword — March 25, 2015