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The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GameCube) artwork

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GameCube) review

"The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. If you haven't heard of the latest title in Nintendo's Legend of Zelda franchise yet, there's a good possibility you're either very secluded, or living underneath a large rock. Or secluded under a large rock; it doesn't really matter which. In any case, the vast majority of people reading this will have heard of the game, and in fact, probably already love it or despise it depending on a number of factors. Do me a favor, and put any prejudgments aside rig..."

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. If you haven't heard of the latest title in Nintendo's Legend of Zelda franchise yet, there's a good possibility you're either very secluded, or living underneath a large rock. Or secluded under a large rock; it doesn't really matter which. In any case, the vast majority of people reading this will have heard of the game, and in fact, probably already love it or despise it depending on a number of factors. Do me a favor, and put any prejudgments aside right now before you bother reading this review. Forget that it's Nintendo. Forget that it's Zelda, in fact. And forget that it's cel-shaded, if that's giving you any doubts. The graphic style may or may not be traditional Zelda fare, but that shouldn't bother you in the slightest if you're a true Zelda fan, and this is a game you should be playing.

I have a long-standing tradition of relaying my gripes with a game before I get to the good stuff. No sense in changing that now, right?

To begin with, it may or may not have been my imagination but the controls seem a tad bit clunky. Link's movement sometimes isn't as precise as I'd have liked, the L-targeting feels kind of twitchy, and there seems to be anywhere between a half second and a three seccond delay between uses of certain weapons that wasn't there in the previous two Zelda games. I don't know if this is intentional, but it bothered me a bit. I also had a strange deal of trouble adjusting to the item menu on the pause screen, as I had a tendency to try to use the C-stick rather than the joystick to navigate it. That's probably just me, though.

The Wind Waker itself, by which I mean the enchanted conductor's baton that Link is given, is something of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it was nice of Nintendo to try to mix things up a little, but on the other hand actually PLAYING the Wind Waker (or conducting with it, I should say) is annoyingly difficult at first. It takes a good deal of practice with it to get the timing down, and then you're thrown off a little by the switch from conducting in 3/4 time to 4/4 time and then later 6/8 time. It's not a severe hindrance by any means, but I found myself missing the Ocarina of Time if for no other reason than the fact I could play whatever I wanted on it. Admittedly I spent way too much of my free time trying to play the Hyrule Overture on it, but that's besides the point.

Picture this. The world is an ocean, and your destination is all the way across the world from where you are. It's a scenario that occurs often enough in this game, and it bears mention that the sailing aspect of The Wind Waker can get a bit tedious, particularly towards the end of the game when you're spending hours at a time sailing around the world trying to hunt down a set of sea charts that Link needs. As it is, the water is very bland in a graphical sense, and killing what few sea-based enemies there are can get annoying while on your boat, as most of the time you're going to get knocked out of the boat before you can get a shot off. I really think this aspect of the game could've used a bit of improvement; that being the case, however, I was still a bit taken with the charm of it, much the same way as I was taken with the charm of being able to ride a horse in Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask. It's a love/hate thing, really, and it's not bad to the point where you won't want to play the game. Even if you do get frustrated with it.

The difficulty level of this title seems a bit lower than I expected, which isn't a problem outright, but combine that with the Majora's Mask-esque number of dungeons, and the game just feels a little too short. Admittedly, it took me twenty-two hours to finish the game. But that's taking my time to complete puzzles and hunt down things, and how much of that time do you want to bet was spent sailing around? I'm willing to bet at least a few hours of it.

All that aside, this game really is worth the time to play. There are some awesome things thrown in the mix; the storyline will have you enthralled as it unfolds and the dungeons, few of them as there are, are great (even if the difficulty seems toned down). Let's take a closer look at the game's good points.

I'll get the graphics out of the way right now, as I'm sure some are wondering what I might have to say about them. I'll say this: they're wonderful. Aside from the aforementioned bland water effects, everything is lush, colorful, and highly detailed. On the surface world, at least. In the dungeons, things are dark, dank, dreary, and highly detailed, just as they should be. The characters themselves, I think, are given a little more personality with the added detail given by the GameCube's processing power. Facial expressions do a lot of communicating in the real world, and it's just the same here. I'll be the first to admit that I wasn't fond of the way Link looked at first, but the style has grown on me. All of the characters benefit from the same detail Link has received in this area, and things are better for it. On a related note, the bosses look incredible, and you really do get the sense that this is just a twelve-year-old boy drawn into something he has no control over trying to take down these gigantic beasts.

Sound is pretty damn nice as well, I have to say. Though I find myself wishing Link could've talked a bit more than he did (you can make him yell ''come on!'' in three of the dungeons, for reasons I won't spoil), but that's nothing unusual there. Some of the game's tunes do grate on my nerves--such as the title screen music--but it's all good. There's plenty of other accurate mood music to make up for it. The music in the final areas is mostly remixed Zelda 1 music, so I was digging that too. Some of the sound effects are familiar as well, while some of the new ones more fitting of the game's cartoony graphical style will just make you giggle like an idiot when you hear them. And of course there's also stuff you're not going to laugh at in a million years, like the high-pitched, terrifying scream of a Re-dead as it locks its glowing red eyes on Link. There are a few terrifying instances like these in the game, and the sound effects that go along with them are so suitably creepy you'll be shaking in your boots. Or maybe not, but still, they're good.

The Wind Waker's storyline starts off with Link trying to rescue his kidnapped younger sister, and winds up with him getting involved in things that go further and further beyond the realm of his understanding as time passes. As things unfold, you'll discover some starting revelations. Some familiar characters will play a role in the story as well, and though I'm not going to spoil anything, there are definitely a few points in the story that will leave you stunned.

The gameplay is typical Zelda fare, but we like it that way, right? Those of you who played Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask should be at least vaguely familiar with the control scheme, though there are some differences designed to accomodate the GameCube controller. You'll find your usual assortment of items of course--bow & arrows, bombs, boomerang, hookshot, and you'll even find a few new toys to play with as well. Link has no fairy partner this time, so descriptions of enemies and such don't exist, which is unfortunate for us geeks who like to read every little bit of information available about what we're fighting. I think it's made up for with Link's new fancier swordplay, such as the parry maneuver, which I might say looks pretty damn sweet to pull off during the middle of a heated battle. There've been a few additions to the gameplay engine as well; Link can now press himself against walls to sidle across narrow ledges, for one thing, and there's even a couple of areas that employ Metal Gear-esque sneaking tactics.

Overall, Nintendo's put together a fine package for our enjoyment. Despite its minor flaws, it's a damn good game that any fan of Zelda should pick up and play through a few times.

Now if only they'd bring back the Hyrule Overture...

kieran's avatar
Community review by kieran (April 09, 2003)

Kieran Greyloch is an automotive technology student who enjoys wasting every moment of his spare time playing videogames and tabletop RPGs.

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