The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker - Staff Retroview  

A Refreshing Wind
by Michael "Macstorm" Cunningham

10-30 Hours


Rating definitions 

   The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, the Nintendo GameCube's answer to the three year Zelda console drought, is a controversial game. While it was not met with much love due to the drastic change to cel-shaded character designs, this is still a Zelda game through and through. While Wind Waker does vary quite a bit from past Zelda titles, it still maintains a classic feel while taking the series off in a new direction.

   As with many action RPGs, story takes a backseat to gameplay and exploration; Wind Waker is no exception to that rule. The hero begins his quest on Outset Island, where he lives with his grandmother and sister, Aryll. It is not long before their peaceful existence on the island is cut short when a giant bird captures Aryll. As the hero ventures off to find his sister, he soon learns that young girls all over the world are being kidnaped. The gamer must now sail across the sea, fight numerous enemies, and hunt down various treasures to rescue his sister. Wind Waker is not without plot twists as a few hours into the game, the adventure becomes greater than a simple rescue quest. As basic as it is, the story is well laid out and will not confuse gamers.

   Unlike prior Zelda titles, the overworld is no longer a varied landscape, but a water covered one. Gamers will sail from island to island, hunting treasure and fighting battles. The adjustment from a land-based world to a water covered one is not as major as it may seem, though the size of the world and the distance of separation between islands adds up to quite a bit of travel during the first half of the game. Once the hero learns the Ballad of Gales, travel time is greatly reduced. This is one of the biggest complaints people have had about the game, but having a water covered world does allow for greater exploration. The sea is wide open for exploration from very near the beginning of the quest and while not everything is accessible until later on, gamers do have more freedom to explore.

Conducting Fish A little louder in the carp section.

   Combat is fluid and very customizable. The hero is equipped with a sword/shield combination and can set up to three other items to use during combat. The boomerang is available to stun enemies and to draw items to the hero. A grappling hook is available for not only traversing gaps but also allows gamers to rob enemies of items. The normal bow and arrow combo as well as bombs are still intact. Battles are smooth and allow for the hero to dodge, jump, parry, and even counterattack. Boss battles are very methodical and are quite easy with the correct strategy and equipment.

   The most dramatic change that Wind Waker brings is cel-shaded characters. Gamers were shown a Zelda demo prior to Wind Waker's release that featured a very realistic Link and Ganon. It was assumed that this would be that title, but that assumption was incorrect. This change has caused much hate for the GameCube title, solely upon the looks. Taking disappointment out of the factor and looking at Wind Waker on its own, it is bright and colorful. The cel-shaded characters are highly detailed with many varied expressions visible such as anger or surprise. While the realistic look might be gone, the world of Wind Waker is still visually stunning.

Swimmy time I hate baths!

   The music throughout Wind Waker is ideal. None of the pieces are truly memorable outside of the game, though each piece serves its purpose of setting a mood for a certain area or event. This could be the bright, happy theme that plays when the sun begins to rise or the ominous piece that plays as enemies approach. Nothing really stands out as each piece blends together the whole experience that is Wind Waker.

   Wind Waker can be quite tough. While combating normal enemies and bosses can be rather easy, the true challenge of the game is knowing what to do next. Whether in a dungeon trying a solve a puzzle in order to progress or sailing the sea in search of a chart, gamers are not held by the hand. This added challenge is exciting at times, but can also be quite frustrating later on in the game as there are some points where players can become completely lost as to what to do next.

   This is a very original title with a solid foundation in classic Zelda mechanics. While combat may be similar to normal Zelda games, the unique twist of the water-based world and the cel-shaded characters give Wind Waker a fun, playful edge. Exploring the Great Sea, fishing out heart pieces, and charting the unknown make for a fresh Zelda title. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker is not what people have come to expect of a Zelda title. However, when looked at on its own merits, the sum of its parts is quite wonderful. So for gamers that were turned off by screenshots of the cel-shaded characters or just by the hate that this title has generated, please try it before being dissuaded away.

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