The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
December 13, 2002 (JP)
March 24, 2003 (NA)
May 2, 2003 (EU)
May 7, 2003 (AU)
When The Wind Waker was first revealed, many people were turned off by Link’s new look and the cartoony visuals of the game. Under its cute and colorful exterior, though, lies a Zelda game through and through, with tight combat, an epic story, and mind-bending puzzles.
The first complaint many people had when this game was first revealed was about the graphics. Nintendo chose a cel-shaded graphics scheme for The Wind Waker, giving it a cartoon-like look. However, the cel-shading allows for more expressive facial animations and sharper, crisper graphics overall. There are never any slowdowns, graphical glitches, or framerate drops, and load times are non-existent. When you’re sailing, you can see faraway islands in the distance, that gradually grow in size and detail as you draw near to them. The grass, boat sails, and trees all move naturally with the wind. Cartoony or not, The Wind Waker’s graphics are unmatched by most other Gamecube games, and even look better than a lot of HD games from this generation. The style is one that will stand the test of time, and while “realistic” graphics will be outdone by a game that’s more realistic over time, The Wind Waker’s cel-shaded visuals will always look incredible.
It will probably take you about 20-25 hours to complete The Wind Waker the first time you play it through, unless you undertake the game’s massive amount of sidequests to gather items, take pictures, and complete minigames. If you do all the sidequests, you can easily get 40-50 hours from this game. Once you beat it, you can replay it again in an alternate costume, with such enhancements as the Deluxe Pictobox and the ability to understand ancient Hylian. There is a disappointing number of dungeons in the game, but all are fairly lengthy. It’s just a shame that some of the planned dungeons had to be cut in order to release the game on time (as mentioned in an interview with Eiji Aonuma).
As with all other Zelda games, there is no voice acting. This allows you to identify more with Link, instead of him being a totally separate character that the player simply controls. The sound effects are traditional Zelda-esque shouts and yelps when Link attacks. Every time you land a hit, a chord is played, and if you get a lot of hits in succession, then the chords gradually get louder and escalate into a type of tune. Speaking of tunes, the music is traditional Zelda music (a lot from Ocarina of Time), and it sounds great. No orchestrated music, but the MIDI allows for the music to be more dynamic and change seamlessly based on the situation in-game.
The controls are near-flawless. Ocarina and Majora’s awkward-at-times camera angles are fixed with a camera that can rotate 360 degrees with the c-stick. The L-targeting is simply superb, and the use of the X, Y, and Z buttons allows quick access to your items. The new items, including the Deku Leaf – which allows you to glide across chasms and blow gusts of wind at enemies – join together with the traditional Zelda items such as the boomerang and hookshot to allow Link to do many things he could never do before.
The story goes beyond the “Princess Zelda has been kidnapped! Rescue her!” storyline of many earlier games in the series. There are some pretty interesting (even though pretty expected) plot twists and new angles from a storyline perspective. Certain characters are much more fleshed-out than they’ve ever been. And the climactic final battle, while extremely easy, is absolutely amazing, taking place in an awe-inspiring setting with a sense of real urgency.
The sailing portions of the game do get a bit tedious after a while, until you get the song that allows you to teleport to different spots on the map. The problem is that most of the islands are tiny. Really tiny. As in, big enough for a house or shrine and that’s it. The larger islands such as Outset, Windfall, and Dragon Roost offer welcome relief from the sailing, but it would still be nice to have a bit more of an explorable overworld. The Triforce hunt at the end may possibly be one of the most hated parts of any game in existence, but it’s only about two or three hours long. It just takes away the sense of urgency that the final third of the game should have (the fate of the world is resting on Link’s shoulders – oh wait, time for a fetch quest!). The tedious sailing really drags out the hunt, it requires a lot of rupees (which, granted, the game will shower you with during said hunt) and it’s just really no fun.
The game is extremely easy compared to earlier games in the series. Most enemies deal only a quarter heart of damage, and the most you’ll ever have to worry about losing is two hearts (compared to four or five from getting hit by an Iron Knuckle in Ocarina). This game really started the trend for Zelda games becoming less difficult, continuing with the handheld title The Minish Cap and even Twilight Princess (which was barely harder than The Wind Waker). On one hand, the lower difficulty means an easier time for newcomers to the series to be introduced to Zelda, but Zelda veterans may be turned off by the lack of any real challenge. Perhaps Nintendo should implement difficulty levels (Easy, Medium, Hard) in future Zelda titles.
Overall, The Wind Waker is a solid addition to the Zelda series and a great game in itself. It has a few tedious moments, and some Zelda fans may find it to be relatively easy and short, but it’s definitely worth the $15 or $20 that it costs now. Although you may be turned off by the cel-shaded graphics in the beginning, you’ll eventually see how they allow for much more expression and impressive environments than the realistic graphics of Ocarina of Time. Despite its strikingly different style, t’s a Zelda game through and through, and it’s a perfect choice for Zelda fans and series newcomers alike.
Absolutely beautiful visuals.
Most fluid Zelda gameplay yet.
Too few dungeons.
The Triforce hunt.