With the new The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword out just recently, many eager fans are already adventuring with Link in his latest quest. Unfortunately, with its $50 price tag, some gamers are not readily willing to check out the latest chapter. Additionally, the new game does require people to own either a Motion Plus accessory or a Wii Remote+ controller to play. For people who are not getting The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword anytimes soon, they might want to check out The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. It is an easily forgotten game, but fortunately, we're reviewing it now, so that young Zelda fans and nonbelievers alike might go pick up what could be the best Zelda game ever.
Console: Nintendo Gamecube
Release Date: 12/13/02 (JP); 03/24/02 (NA); 05/02/02 (EU); 05/07/02 (AU)
Developer: Nintendo EAD
ESRB Rating: E
Wind Waker starts off with a retelling of a legend of a boy clad in green who descended from the sky to vanquish evil. People still remember this hero, and on a certain island, it is customary for boys to dress in green when they come of age in hopes that they will show the same courage and bravery as the hero of legend. With that in mind, the game starts off with Link dressed in blue and soundly asleep. Link's sister, Aryll wakes Link up and informs him that it is his birthday. Shortly afterwards, Link receives the traditional green tunic from his grandmother and gets to use his sister's special telescope.
With the telescope, Link spots a giant bird approaching the town. Following it is a pirate ship which manages to shoot the bird and forces the winged beast to drop something from its claw. Link decides to go examine the dropped item which turns out to be a girl, and after rescuing the girl, the giant bird ends up taking Link's sister away. From there, the adventure begins.
Without giving too much away, the main story involves Link, sailing the open sea, and moving from dungeon to dungeon, in hopes of finding ancient relics to defeat the evil that sent this bird. As it turns out, this giant feathered menace has been abducting young, blond maidens, which unfortunately includes Aryll. In order to get her and the other girls back, Link must strengthen himself as a warrior. The only way to do that is to go get some sweet equipment and magical help to beat down this bird and his owner. Now those are the basics, but anyone who's played a Zelda game before knows that there are hours and hours of sidequests and nonessential exploring. Additionally, most of the gameplay in the actual story goes on in the vast overworld as opposed to the various dungeons.
The artwork of Wind Waker has always been a debated topic among Zelda enthusiasts. Some people like the mature Link from Twilight Princess who looks more serious and heroic. Wind Waker uses cell shading which makes things appear as if they were straight out of a cartoon. While some people say that this was done out of laziness on Nintendo's part, the graphics are put together to make the game look beautiful if not realistic. They're cartoony, funny, and endearing. Link's expressions are hilarious, especially when he's peeking around corners, following people across towns at night, or finding himself standing too close to a bomb. The other characters are well-done too. Deku's are adorable, and the bosses look very good, if not particularly frightening. The landscapes are awe-inspiring, and there's nothing like seeing a new area for the first time.
Additionally, the lighting is very good. There are periods when Link enters a dark cave or tunnel; in these situations not being able to see is part of the game. Other than that general visibility is very good, and players can still play through without squinting at the screen. This is possible because of the right blend of hues and colors along with the cartoonish graphics of Wind Waker.
The controls are admittedly nothing to brag about, but they also aren't a weak spot. The Z, Y, and X buttons allow the gamer to assign 3 items or weapons at once, so players can pull out a variety of gear without going to the equipment page. The A button is a standard action button. Press it to open doors and treasure chests, pick up items, or press Link up against walls. The B button controls standard sword attacks, and when combined with other moves, it allows Link to perform spin attacks, thrusts, jumping strikes, and rolls. The L button centers the camera behind Link as well as targeting enemies while the R button is used to crouch or defend with the shield.
The enemy lock is particularly useful, so people don't find themselves constantly trying to keep track of an enemy. Combat is fluid, and enemies often are invincible to all but a specific attack or a well-timed combo. Realistically though, there are better combat games than the Zelda series which focuses on puzzle-solving and exploring. In that department though, Wind Waker can't be beat.
There are some things in Wind Waker that are simply unlike anything else in any other game I’ve ever played. The dungeons all have thought-invoking and interconnected puzzles that will keep people busy. The sea you travel across has a whole host of interesting islands which contain either a vital part to the game or an equally interesting sidequest. Sailing from island to island gets a little tedious, but you're eventually given a faster method of traveling so you can continue your sea exploration.
Zelda fans know that sound is important, and Wind Waker delivers. I can still remember the music that plays when you're at sea at dawn. The Dragonroost island theme song is one that I'll never forget. Wind Waker has a multitude of excellent musical scores to accompany journeys, legends, villains, and much more. The characters don't talk which may come as a shock to some. Instead, their words are captured in a text box as each character makes laughs, grunts, or sounds of indignation accordingly. It's really quite adorable, and made better by the cartoon effect of the game. The sound and music are one of the best aspects of this game.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker can last for a long time. My first playthrough took me over 50 hours because I was distracted by so many alluring sidequests, confounded by certain puzzles, and generally caught goofing around various islands. Keep in mind I didn't rush through it, and I spent a ridiculous amount of time doing fun exploring and re-exploring that doesn't even rightfully count as a sidequest. If you really wanted to, you could get through it much more quickly, but that would be leaving out what makes Wind Waker special. Out of all the Zelda games, Wind Waker without a doubt has the most sidequests, and it kept me occupied the longest. I don't usually play games twice, but I did with this one, and I did without fear of getting bored.
Additionally, after completing the game the first time, you unlock some weird stuff. During your second gameplay, you get, "invisible hero's clothes," which means you play through the whole game in your adorable homemade sweater and funny-colored pants. Also, you start with a color pictobox, which seems kind of cheesy. However, I'll let you in on a little secret; somewhere in the wide world, there is a man who collects pictures and turns them into figurines. It became my mission to collect pictures of all the characters in the game and turn them into figurines. It is because of little sidequests like this that make Wind Waker last so long the first time, and make it fun to play the game a second and a third time.
Overall, Wind Waker is close to the best game ever conceived. It could be the longest game in its series, and that’s saying something. The story is good, and the characters are all amazing and quirky. The controls and gameplay feel natural, especially when the GameCube was the current system. The music in Wind Waker is tremendous, and the sidequests provide hours and hours of entertainment. For those of you who aren’t willing to pay $50 to try the new Skyward Sword, try its equally impressive predecessor; and for those of you who will or have already rushed through Skyward Sword and need more Zelda now, pick up a copy of Wind Waker. At just $20, you really can’t go wrong.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker receives an 9.5 out of 10.