The Legend of Zelda - Review  

Link's Sailing Opus
by Lucky Melchior

Less than 20 Hours
+ Excellent battle system.
+ Excellent score.
+ Stunning cel-shaded graphics
- Sailing can be tedious.
- Not for everybody.
Click here for scoring definitions 

   The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was released in North America in 2003 for the Gamecube. It was the first Zelda title to grace the Gamecube and was the first Nintendo developed Zelda title since Majora's Mask was released on the Nintendo 64 in 2000. Wind Waker was released to a lot of skepticism due to the drastic change in graphical style. Was this criticism warranted?

   The story takes place after the events of Ocarina of Time, but it is unclear where this game fits in the timeline compared to the other Zelda titles, it may be that it is an alternate timeline or takes place far in the future. Either way this link is not part of the bloodline of the links in Ocarina of Time, Link to the Past and the original Legend of Zelda. Well this story takes place in a world that is almost completely covered with water and Hyrule is a distant memory. But, people still remember the legend of the Hero of Time and boys when they reach a certain age dress up as the hero on their birthday. This game's Link has reached that age and starts off the day reluctantly donning the garb of the hero at his grandmother's insistence. However, his sister is kidnapped and he sets off on an adventure to rescue her. All along uncovering the mysteries of the ancient land of Hyrule and the Hero of Time. The story is limited as with any action adventure game, but is average overall.

    Windwaker's most prominent feature is the visuals. While many will not enjoy the cartoony theme of the graphics, one cannot argue with their quality. Wind Waker utilizes cel-shaded graphics and they are stunning. While Link is a mute main character, as usual, you will instantly know what he is feeling based on his detailed facial expressions. The attention to detail is also apparent from the grass blowing in the wind, to the detailed waves along with the ebb and flow of the tide, to the dust flying up in the air as you drop an item on the floor. If one can get over the cartoon theme of the graphics one will find Wind Waker has outstanding visual presentation.

A Full Inventory Some cool new tools.

    This game employs the famous Zelda battle system.You encounter enemies in real-time in dungeons and on the overworld. You have a trusty sword that you can hack and slash at enemies with by using the "B" button, as well as a shield to repel certain projectiles. Both your sword and shield can be upgraded as you progress through the game. Link fights in a 3d world and can utilize several sword strokes and combinations. As with Ocarina of Time, you can lock on to an enemy. Wind Waker also introduces counter-attacks. If you hit "A" at just the right moment before an enemy you have locked onto attacks you will initiate a devastating counter-attack. Some foes are only vulnerable to counter-attacks. As with most Zelda games you also have a cache of other tools and equipment to use. Again like with Ocarina of Time, you can assign up to three different tools to use at one time. These tools range from classic zelda equipment such as bombs, bow & arrows, and the hookshot, to new tools such as a leaf to use as a parachute. As with most Zelda titles much of the gameplay is comprised of puzzle solving elements. Most dungeons have puzzles that much be solved to continue. This game also relies heavily on stealth at times. Since Link is so small you will be able to to crouch and crawl through small tunnels to avoid detection. You can also hide under barrels, sidle against a wall and you can peer around corners while sidling. You can also use the sidle action to cross thin ledges that you normally wouldn't be able to cross. Overall the battle system and gameplay are excellent, with some innovations and are some of the chief reasons to play this game.

   As with most Zelda titles, music plays an integral role. More specifically, as in Ocarina of Time, the music is important to the gameplay as well as the aesthetic presentation of the game. While in Ocarina of Time you actively played many songs on your Ocarina, in Wind Waker you conduct music using a magical baton called the Wind Waker. You will learn songs to conduct that will do various things such as change the direction of the wind, warp to different areas or solve puzzles. If you have a musical background, like myself, this will enhance your enjoyment of the game as you will switch conducting in various times and can appreciate the nuances. As for the actual score, it is excellent as is par for the course for Zelda games. The famous Zelda theme and various remixes are of course present throughout the game. There are many new songs, many of which feature the flute and other woodwinds prominently and they fit the game's seafaring theme. These tracks are enjoyable if not altogether memorable. The biggest drawback to the soundtrack is that, like with Ocarina of Time, it often relies too much on ambiance. This is especially the case at night-time and during storms. The sound effects are enjoyable and are especially detailed when it comes to the ocean. You can here the rise and fall of the waves as well as the distinct sound of seagulls when you sail the high seas. Overall, the games musical presentation is excellent.

Stunning cel-shaded graphics Stunning cel-shaded graphics

   The game's interaction and interface are a bit of a mixed bag. The menu system itself is simple and easy to navigate. Pressing start brings up the menu which is divided into two screens. The first screen displays all of your tools. You can select which three tools you want equipped. On the other screen your quest status is displayed. This will show all your default equipped items such as your sword and shield. Also displayed here is the songs you've learned to conduct, pieces of heart, treasure charts collected and the relics you've collected so far. The negative part of the interaction is the sailing. Since the world is almost entirely covered in water you will have to traverse great distances to hop from island to island. What makes this exceedingly frustrating is that you can only travel quickly in the direction the wind is blowing. You will often have to stop sailing, conduct a song to change the wind's direction and then sail off again. This and the vast ocean in between islands can make sailing and exploring quite tedious. It is also important to note that Wind Waker supports GBA connectivety. If you have a GBA and a link cable you can connect your GBA to your gambecube and use it to view extra maps, if you have a certain item.

   The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker is not for everybody. Some fans of the series may be disapointed and turned off by the tedious sailing and cartoon themed graphics. On the other hand those who can look past these annoances may embrace the game. Overall it is an outstanding game with many innovations while still adhering to classic Zelda gameplay. However, it can fall into the category of love it or hate it, therefore I recomend renting the game first, even for diehard fans of the series.

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