Stop Whining About the Water Temple
Hello, N64 faithful. I originally had a different plan for this week’s N64 Connoisseur piece, but something has been brought to my attention in the last week. Something near and dear to my heart that I was blissfully unaware of and it needs to be addressed by someone so I guess I will have to be that guy. You see, I have been playing Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time 3D this week and I have been semi-live tweeting it. Eventually, I came to the Water Temple and that is when I learned the deep dark secret you have all been hiding. You guys hate the Water Temple. You fear it. Many of you find it to be the most difficult level in the history of gaming. I am flabbergasted.
Urban Dictionary defines the Water Temple, among many similar things, as:
“Considered by many to be the equivalent to a complete rectal examination.
The Water Temple from Zelda 64, which has to be the hardest, most difficult level known to man. Ever. Filled with traps, mazes, puzzles, illusions, and who knows how many times you have to raise and lower the water level.
Every gamer I have spoken with has only rude, vulgar things to say about the Water Temple – and many stories of trial and error – using the wrong keys on the wrong doors, saving and screwing up in the wrong places, forgetting which rooms were which… it’s a hellhole.
It is also used outside of the gaming world to describe a problem that is virtually impossible to solve.
The only thing I don’t get is why they put the hardest level in the middle of the game.”
Most people may not sound this dumb when they describe it. For example, I have never played Zelda 64, but I hope to some day. Nonetheless, the sentiment is usually the same. Can I ask why? Really. What is the problem here? Did you expect to breeze through the game with no challenge whatsoever? I mean, had you played any other game in the series before? Were any of them a wee bit on the difficult side? I guess what I am missing here is what exactly everyone’s expectation was. Did anyone even play Zelda II?
So, let’s take a look at the Water Temple at its core. It is basically a 3 story puzzle. There are things that must be done on each story. You can get to the other stories by changing the level of the water. Sometimes you have to do something on one story which unlocks something on a different story. You then have to go do something on that story in order to finish something on the original story. That isn’t a very difficult concept. Once you figure out where you can change the water levels, the only remaining challenge to this level is remembering which rooms you still need to go into to get the room keys and the Longshot. Once you get all of that, you go and fight a joke of a boss. Not that hard. For the love of Hyrule, they even put giant slits in the walls you had to bomb. What else did you want? Giant neon arrows? The only really difficult part is fighting your own shadow but once you figure out the trick to that (Stop. Hammer time!), that isn’t that hard either.
Is it kind of a pain to figure out the way in which the Water Temple is structured? Sure, the first time through. Is that not most of what makes Zelda games so much fun and so addicting? They always feature a ton of puzzles to figure out and they always force you to think. Why else would people love them so much? For the story? Peter Pan fights a desert dwelling warlock over 3 triangles. Fun, but not very compelling on its own. Gameplay is what makes this series so great. High level puzzle solving with not overly challenging combat is the formula that keeps selling copies.
So is it that the level is really that hard? I don’t think so. I think it is a gradual softening of gamers in general. There are people who can defeat Contra without dying once, people who laugh in the face of Captain Skyhawk, and have their way with Ghosts n Goblins. Since the days of those games, right around the time Ocarina of Time came out, the internet was beginning to blossom. Suddenly, no one had to figure anything out anymore and they didn’t. At that time, Nintendo Power was becoming more liberal with tips and tricks and the kids who used to have to figure out how to beat games on their own were teenagers with jobs who could afford strategy guides. It softened gamers in general so when something came around that forced people to think, they couldn’t handle it and it stayed with them even 15 years later. So now, here they are, posting definitions on Urban Dictionary using atrocious grammar.
I appeal to the gamer in all of you. Give the Water Temple a break. Go back and play it again now. Try to remember what a game is supposed to be like. Try to remember what a challenge was like before the internet. Once you do all of that, enjoy. Enjoy the carefully thought out puzzles and well designed dungeon. Have fun unraveling the mystery laid out before you. Above all else, stop whining about the Water Temple.