Reviews: The Legend Of Zelda The Wind Waker

High Highs Low Lows

The Legend of Zelda The Wind Waker is perhaps the hardest game in the Zelda series to review. On the one hand it showed a huge improvement in both dungeon design and combat over its N64 predecessors. On the other hand it contains the worst moments of any 3d Zelda game and is lacking in content compared to other games.

The minute to minute gameplay of The Wind Waker is much more fun than the minute to minute gameplay of any Zelda that came before it. It is the first 3d Zelda game to truly have satisfying combat, and the first half is full of memorable moments and moves at a good pace most of the time.

There are two major problems with The Wind Waker. One is how tedious sailing becomes after the first few times. The other, more serious problem is the late-game padding to make up for the two dungeons that were cut so the game wouldn't be delayed further. The tri-force quest is the single worst part of any 3d Zelda game (it isn't as bad as the CDI games or Zelda 2, but still pretty bad.

Ultimately, The Wind Waker is a case of soaring highs the likes of which Zelda hadn't seen before, but also very low lows. Had the missing dungeons been added it might have been the greatest Zelda ever, but that loss hurts the game even more than it would have had they simply left it a shorter game.

The highs, which also include that beautiful graphics and music, outweigh the lows by a wide margin, but it is a shame that the lows are there to begin with.

I Coveted The Wind...

The thing I hate about Post-Apocalyptic stories are that they are very arrogant. At least Western ones tend to be. They are basically enabling fantasies about how important contemporary society and the status-quo are, any other alternative is crazy to imagine. Apocalypse in the original Greek sense meant change, and you can't resist change no more than you can resist the wind.

The Wind Waker is thus a profoundly radical corrective and deconstruction of this concept. Put it simply, however great, magical and wonderful a civilization is or was, it can be buried, it can be drowned and new life can follow, new possibilities can arise. The Great Sea is a beautiful sea, the Art Style emphasizes this. The blues of the waters and the skies are magical to see. The characters are all bright and colourful and put it simply children are happy in this world, children live here, have fun and play, and what better expression of the future's indifference to the past than seeing a little girl on a perch staring at the sea with her telescope.

Zelda is the most mature franchise I know because, for all its fantasy, its human. It's about people, about community and life. The fact that we like Ganondorf at the end, that he becomes the tragic representative of Old Hyrule more than the King himself is a wonderful touch. Ganondorf's final dialogues in the last stage is one of the few times you have quality dialogue in games, dialogue without being spoken. There's great sadness in those words, "I coveted that wind, I suppose...".

The first Zelda game I completed

Honestly, that's the best I can say about Wind Waker. It's a shame too. There was potential here, but none of it ever amounted to anything. I've never been a fan of 3D Zelda, but I wanted to like this game very badly and it let me down.

What drew me in here was the presentation. I absolutely loved the art style and the atmosphere the game went with. Zelda games are fairly low key, so the bright, vibrant world was exactly what I needed to get me interested. The Forsaken Fortress and Dragon's peak were great introductory dungeons that got me excited for the rest of the game.

The problems, however, began to become apparent as soon as I finished that second dungeon. Yes, the sailing is padding in its purest form, somehow even more blatantly so than other 3D Zelda overworlds. But more than that, I noticed that the game's locales were... lacking, shall we say. Most islands just didn't seem to have any identity to me, whether it was because they were too small, they weren't unique, they had no interesting (or logical) context, and/or there were no landmarks. For as much ocean as there was, there sure wasn't much to see on land.

And the same could be said of the plot as well. I wasn't expecting anything interesting or complex, but I was at least expecting more to do. I could sum up the game's story in less than a paragraph. Most of the play time is spent on sailing and sidequests. I'd be fine with that - having a more atmospheric type of experience - if it were not for the above issue of many of the islands being indistinct. And it was all the more frustrating because the game actually did hint towards some form of continuity, gave us the most expressive Link yet and actually tried to give Ganon some sort of motivation and depth. There could have been so much more. And yet, there wasn't.

Other than that, I had some minor issues like the occasional Moon Logic Puzzle, an environment or two not fitting in with the theme and the lack of soundtrack in some areas. The game also had some other good things as well in its charming characters and the continued usefulness of the tools throughout the game, but much like the rest game, it wasn't enough.

A victim of circumstance

I have many problems with Wind Waker. These do not include its art style or its plot (though the graphical limitations of the Gamecube meant the former didn't quite match the gorgeous concept art). I also think the idea of the game (a Zelda on the high seas) was fairly novel for the time, but it was not executed in a satisfactory matter.

The problem with the sailing is that traveling from A to B in a game must be engaging on some level. You should be doing things. In Wind Waker, when sailing, it's entirely possible to let the game idle while you check your e-mail, heat up some leftover pizza, and go to the bathroom without missing anything. It's true that you can stop at various points of interest, but those are entirely optional and merely serve to delay my trip, not enhance it. While this is eventually overcame with the Ballad Of Gales, it becomes a major issue in the first third or so of the game.

Which is brought up again in the Triforce Hunt. While at least two dungeons were originally planned for this section, the designers instead opted to create a sequence where we were forced to not only hunt for ridiculous amounts of Rupees, but then purchase maps to travel to a tedious amount of locations strewn across the sea. Fetch quests may not be uncommon in the Zelda franchise, but all this did was made me seasick.

What Wind Waker ultimately comes to is an average action/adventure game with some noteworthy visuals and plot points, particularly the fleshing out of Ganondorf's character and Hyrule's placement as a lost kingdom. It's not a terrible game, but it's not a very good Zelda game. I'd take any of the other 3-D entries in the franchise over it rather quickly.

It's a good balancing act.

When I was a kid, and I first saw the ad for this game, my first thought was "OMG! HE'S CARRYING A PIG!" The style change didn't occur to me until a few seconds later. Why? Because it was a new Zelda game.

Anyhoo, there are a lot of things I like about the game, and a lot that I didn't like.

Liked: - How smooth the animations and movements were. They were fluid. - The characters. - The little things; the cute little moments, the way Link's expression changed and how he looked at key items. - The music.

Didn't like: - Most islands didn't have background music, which made them feel 'empty' or that something was missing. - The sailing. The main overworld was HUGE, but most of it was water, making it feel like filler. - How Zelda kept shooting you with the Light arrows when you were too busy running from Ganondorf. - The beginning felt a bit 'rushed'. - Link's voice (sorry!)

I think part of the reason it was able to 'get away' with such dark themes was because of the cutesy style. To some people, it made it all the more scarier. To me, it seemed to take the edge off of it. Not exactly a bad thing, though. It was able to include the dark themes that it wanted to include, without completely scaring away younger audiences. The style can appeal to younger players and older ones, and the dark themes can be enjoyed by older players.

I think the game balanced things pretty well, overall. You had some scary and sad moments and really cutesy happy ones too.

So.. yeah, that's my opinion, sorry!

Most underrated Zelda game ever.

First let me begin by saying: If you're the type who hates on a game simply for being colorful or "kiddie", you're playing the wrong series. When it comes down to it, Wind Waker has the same gameplay elements, story progression and dungeon aspects as any other title barring Adventure of Link.

One thing that makes Wind Waker a step up from the N64 Zelda titles is the enhanced controls. While being able to parry makes some fights a little too easy, it's nice to be able to L-Target on reflex and avoid being bombarded by Keese.

I'll give that sailing can get tedious, but unlike the DS titles you rarely have to focus on the game. Nine out of ten times I can just do something else while checking over my shoulder. There are also less dungeons in the game than I'd like, but the abundant amount of side quests make up for it. One of the things I loved most about the game is the dozens of little islands, each bringing their own unique surprises. The secret caverns inside Boating Course and Shark Islands are especially fun.

The story brings to the table a rare treat for the Zelda series: Confirmed continuity. Not a doubt is left in your mind that this game takes place after Ocarina. I actually played WW first, so it was interesting to go back and see how the legend of the hero of time started.

Another thing rarely seen among Zelda games is the abundance of characters, each with their own little name and story to tell, from the young woman who returned to Outset to take care of her sickly father, to the arrogant rich man who learns a lesson in humility after his daughter is kidnapped. That of course has little relevance to the true plot, but it's one of the touches that make the game endearing.

The dungeons themselves are never particularly frustrating, nor are they exceedingly easy the first time. I can admit having to run to Gamefaqs a couple times, but otherwise it was a fun ride. None of the dungeons create that dread OOT players have from the Water Temple. The monsters themselves aren't too difficult (especially thanks to the aforementioned parry) but some of them can be really annoying. Floormasters.

And those of you who've wished that the Princess for whom the series is named would actually DO SOMETHING, you get your wish in the form of one of the most spectacular final battles in the series.

Second Best Zelda Game

The Wind Waker gets a lot of hate, none of which it deserves. We've all heard the back-and-forth dung-flicking about "kiddification" on one side and "uncomfortable with your masculinity" on the other, and I'm not going there. The hate I'm talking about is the hate it gets strictly as a game. It's been called slow, ugly, weird, a black sheep. I'm here to argue that it's none of those things. It's a spiffy lollipop of a game, one that brings back the most interesting aspects of The Legend Of Zelda franchise as a whole and adds its own, unique brand of flavoring. After Ocarina Of Time, this is quite possibly the best of the lot.

Remember that thing Shigeru Miyamoto said about wanting the franchise to be about exploring the world as a young child? The Wind Waker is probably the purest realization of that dream. A lot of eyebrows have been raised about the animesque art style, but say what you will about it, it did a bang-up job of presenting the world as disorted through the eyes of a young boy: clashing colors, strange proportions, light and dark as utterly separate entities that never, ever merge. The cartoony look and feel of the game paved the way for things you can't do in the realistic installments. A frightened Link is surrounded by dark, angular, hollow shapes; a place of safety is soft, round, candy-colored.

The sailing is probably the most controversial aspect of it. I have no problem with it. It makes the whole business of moving around a bit more obtuse than it needs to be, but it serves another purpose: it adds a tinge of the foreign to Link's interaction with both his environment and its inhabitants. Never before has encountering a great fairy felt so much like discovering kindness in an intimidating stranger for the first time; meeting and working with Medli is a little boy's first interaction with the opposite sex; doing the same with Makar allows you to rediscover what it feels like to care for someone younger. And when Link steps off the King of Red Lions and onto a strange new island, he becomes Ulysses, wondering what strange new threats await him on lands unknown.

The Wind Waker is far from the low point of the series; it's a fresh approach to an old ballgame.

If you haven't played it, do. If you have, it's time to play it again.