The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of time is one of the most celebrated games of all time. It was recently remade for the Nintendo 3DS, and both the remake and the Nintendo 64 original are enjoyed by millions every day. The ocarina plays a central role in the game's plot, and is used vigorously throughout the adventure as Link plays many magical melodies on it, but what exactly is an ocarina? Where did it come from? Was it invented by Nintendo just for the Zelda games? Was Ocarina of Time the first game in the series to use an ocarina? All of these questions will soon be answered within this 3 part article..
The Ocarina in Zelda
It is somewhat likely that The Legend of Zelda is the only reason the word ocarina is in your vocabulary, but that is why I am writing this. So, was Ocarina of Time the first Zelda game to feature an ocarina? The answer is no. The first Zelda game to feature the ocarina was A Link to the Past. Although the item is referred to as a flute by in-game text, the sprite clearly is an image of an ocarina.
The sprite in the middle of the second row from the bottom is the "flute". The sprite clearly depicts an ocarina.
The "flute" can be played while in the light world to summon a duck that will allow Link to travel quickly to his destination. The next game to feature the ocarina was Link's Awakening for the Gameboy. This was also the first game where the item was actually referred to as an ocarina. In Link's awakening, the ocarina can play 3 songs - which was,a t that time, the most songs an instrument in a Zelda game could play, as previously instruments played only a single melody. The songs were "Manbo's Mambo", which would warp Link to Mambo's pond, "Frog's Song of Soul", which has the power to raise the dead or awaken the sleeping, and finally "Ballad of the Wind Fish" which is used to awaken the islands sleeping guardian.
"Ballad of the Windfish" from Link's Awakening
The next Zelda game to have an ocarina in it also featured the instrument in its name - The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. In fact, this game featured not only 1, but 2 ocarinas! The first was the Fairy Ocarina, given to Link by Saria to remember her by. The second was the ocarina of time itself - a magical instrument passed down through the Hyrule royal family for generations. Link plays many songs on the ocarina of time, all wiht varying magical effects. From "Song of Storms" which brings about storm clouds to the various ballads and requiems that grant him access to the game's dungeons.
Official artwork of the ocarina of time.
So, the ocarina was in two other Zelda games before it was in Ocarina of Time, so why is it that makes the ocarina in Ocarina of Time so special? well, perhaps it is the fact that the ocarina in this can literally be played! Using the C-buttons, an the A button the player can actually perform the songs on the instrument. You can even use the control stick to alter the step, and R and Z buttons to make a note sharp or flat! Pretty impressive range for something that doesn't even physically exist!
The next game to feature the ocarina was Majora's Mask, a direct sequel to Ocarina of Time in which Link uses the same ocarina as he did previously. In this game, players can play songs themselves just like they could in Ocarina of Time. Link's Ocarina get's stolen by a mischievous Skull Kid in the beginning of Majora's Mask, but it is quickly recovered, and must them be used to summon the four giants to stop the moon from crushing the land of Termina.
Link learns "Oath to Order" from on of the four giants.
The last and most recent appearance the ocarina has made in the Zelda series, aside from the remake of Ocarina of Time, is The Minish Cap for Gameboy Advance. The ocarina in this game is called The Ocarina of Wind, and functions the same way as the "flute" in A Link to the Past.
Artwork of The Ocarina of Wind.
The ocarina has obviously played a large role in the Zelda series, but did Nintendo create the ocarina? The answer is no, and Zelda is far from the only form of media to feature this instrument. Many movies, books and games have ocarinas, and that is what we will discuss in Part II - The Ocarina in Popular Culture.