You hear that high-pitch squeal coming from the Internet? That’s the legions of Link fangirls screeching in glee that an official manga, based on what seems to be everyone’s favourite Zelda game, The Ocarina of Time, has been released. It’s so official it even has the Official Nintendo Seal. It even has a little blurb about how awesome the game is and how many copies it sold. It could only be more official if it came with its own Navi fairy that flies around overhead screaming “HEY! LISTEN!” repeatedly into your eardrums until all reality and purpose lose their meaning and you mutter “Hey! Listen!” for the rest of your life while rocking back and forth in a padded room. God I hate that fairy.
So yes, here we are. It's all well and good that we have a manga based on everyone’s favourite video game, but now the questions have to be asked - did we really need a manga series based on a video game and does it do any justice to the legacy of the series?
As per the Ocarina of Time storyline, the manga follows the growth of young Link, a boy in the care of the child-like Kokiris under the guidance of The Great Deku Tree. Link is tasked to deliver the Kokiris Emerald to Hyrule Castle, but discovers along the way that his destiny is much, much larger than that.
If you know the basic storyline of Ocarina of Time, then you’ve pretty much read the manga. While it does take a few creative liberties to help the flow, the story across the two volumes seems incredibly rushed. One cardinal sin is that Link talks. Not only does he talk, he doesn’t shut the hell up. Then again I suppose staying quiet for twenty years will do that to a person. It is a creative liberty and having a main character in a manga not talk for the entire thing would be dull and boring, but a lot of the dialogue feels forced and just doesn’t seem to bring out the right kind of character.
The other main issue with the manga is that it isn’t in the least bit interesting. Once the excitement of reading about Link and his adventures has passed, you then realise that you're reading a very standard manga that could be so easily interchanged with an array of different characters and settings and still keep the same basic plot.
It’s boring and even worse things are done at a lightning pace. While it would be difficult to draw and create plotlines involving the dungeons in great detail (that’s a given) but most of the time the story will jump straight into a “boss” fight, where Link uses his new abilities / tool that is given to him before facing said boss, defeats it in about three pages and moves on. In a game, you’re given these items as a means of achievement and progression. In a book, it’s a quick and easy plot device which seems to appear for that one section before disappearing again completely. “I’ve found some plants that are actually bombs. Oh look, I can throw them and make that large lizard thing explode. Hoorah. I’ll never need these again!” It makes you wonder why bother having them in the manga at all - Link might as well just solve everything with his sword and be done with it.
I could rant on and on about how this manga series has gotten hold of the Zelda DNA and rewritten it into an unloved and unwanted creature, but I think it is safe to say you have my feelings on this already.
Taken as a manga in its own right and forgetting the license, then it’s unlikely that it would even blip on anyone’s radar. The manga is quite forgettable and has some awful pacing as we whirlwind through dozens of scenarios and have already worked through half of the “game” by the end of the first volume. There is nothing to keep you hooked to the storyline and you end up caring nothing about the characters or the setting. It loses the charm that it’s source material was renowned for, which just makes this title an even bigger disappointment.
Yes the “Viz Kids” branding is going to be pointed at and the words “this isn’t aimed at you” are going to spoken. That is true in some respects, but anything with the Legend of Zelda title will always be picked up by the fans and be opening-criticized, no matter what age group it is aimed at. To its credit, younger readers may find the story interesting to start with and could easily get a new generation of gamers into the series. But as soon as that flicker appears, you need to rip the book out of their hands and replace it with a Gamecube controller.
Fine, I have been incredibly critical of the manga, especially being a huge Zelda fan. But even as a standalone manga, this series has very few redeeming features. Once the wow factor of “OMG ZELDA MANGA! W00T!” has been and gone, it all starts to feel like a very substandard homage, with very little care and attention paid to what actually makes the series such an engrossing adventure.