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The Theme and Artstyle of Ocarina of Time and Fable: TLC


Staff member
There was always something that looked and felt different from Ocarina of Time. Even compared to Skyward Sword which had (probably) a style that was closest to it. But now, after some thinking, I think I've isolated the elements that made it unique. Funnily enough, I also realized this style applied as well to the first Fable, so that's why it's included. Note that we're not gonna get into the actual story themes of either game. We're just talking about game design here. Also note that I'm asking for all of the below to be implemented in every single game. That would be silly. So, what separates Ocarina of Time from so many other RPGs and even games in the same series, theme and artstyle wise?

1. Color

This is definitely the most obvious one. Unlike Twilight Princess, Ocarina of Time is not muted in its color palette, and it uses the full color spectrum to great advantage. It even highlights certain words and phrases in specific colors to further associate those things and places with a mood and (obviously) a specific color. The woods are green and gently magical. The water temple is a deep mysterious blue. Gerudo valley is a striking yellow with pools of blue clear water occasionally mixed in. The shadow temple is a foreboding grey and brown. Again, the full spectrum is used here, and almost every color is used appropriately.

2. Consistency

Alongside color is another equally important attribute, though it's not nearly as noticeable, and that is world/theme consistency. This means that you're not going to find orange fire motifs in your water temple. You're not going to prominently feature a volcano in your mystical forest. You're not going to have a dreary forested graveyard in the bright desert. This sounds simple, but you can see this issue time and time and time again in other games (especially modern ones for some reason.) A really infamous example I like to use for this is Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolt's maps. You'll see so many themes that just clash hard such as a terrarium. In space. wat? Which is even weirder too considering both Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie are all really great examples of really damn good world consistency.

3. Cleanliness

This applies both in a world design sense and in a visual sense. For the former, this means not having the environments too cluttered. Pick some prominent things you want to emphasize in the current environment and stick to those. For the latter, this means literally having things look clean, not grungy. So that sword you pick up will look utterly brand new. A marketplace will not have a dirt scuff anywhere. A temple will have clean, polished floors and etc.

4. Usefulness

And finally, coming out of character and environmental design, we're heading straight into an element of gameplay. Usefulness means that every single item, power, and enhancement you gain will be useful and desired in some way. Ocarina of Time does this REALLY damn well, which is actually what makes it so well suited to randomization over pretty much any other game. Having said that though, Fable doesn't do this quite as well as OoT due to some weapons and armor becoming straight up worse than redundant when you get a better tier of weapon or armor, but Fable mostly keeps that reigned in to reasonable levels, unlike some games... *cough* Diablo *cough*

With all these elements together, it makes both Fable and OoT feel like a myth or legend on the screen. Where things, places, and emotions are all more pronounced at least a little bit and are in their most appropriate and "presentable" form. Actually, the creators of Dungeons and Dragons must have thought of these same things because D&D does have a plane called the Feywild which is pretty much what was just described. Now again, this theme and artstyle doesn't need to be used for, or even belongs in every game, but it is quite useful to keep these things in mind when designing any other game which might benefit greatly from these directions they took in making OoT and Fable.
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