I realized something as I stepped inside Lord Jabu-Jabu’s mouth to start Ocarina of Time’s third dungeon: I’d done this before.
And I don’t just mean re-playing 1998’s Nintendo 64 classic The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
I’ve specifically walked into the mouth of a giant monster to start a dungeon.
In fact, Ocarina of Time’s first three dungeons all take place inside the bodies of giant monsters. The first dungeon takes place inside a giant talking tree, and is appropriately called “Inside the Deku Tree”. The second dungeon, Dodongo’s Cavern, features a large skull in its central room. Link must complete puzzles to open the skull’s mouth and reach the dungeon’s boss. The third dungeon, Inside Jabu-Jabu’s Belly, takes place inside a giant fish. Inside Jabu-Jabu’s Belly is particularly cool in the Master Quest version, which has cows and other things the giant fish has eaten lodged in the walls.
In the previous four mainline Zelda games, the dungeons were entirely grid-based. I think the reason Ocarina of Time’s opening dungeons take place inside giant monsters is to showcase the power of the Nintendo 64, by having dungeon maps with non-standard shapes and walls.
I find it strange that Ocarina of Time went to this well not once, not twice, but thrice in its opening act. Usually such a set piece would appear in one dungeon or every dungeon – and nothing in between. But I’m not complaining; it’s a nice aesthetic choice. And I love that Ocarina of Time never calls attention to the fact that its characters live in a world where monsters can house entire ecosystems in their bodies.