"The Legend of Zelda. You've all heard of it, and most of you love it. It's the tale of a boy who, against all odds, fights courageously against the forces of evil to rescue the princess and recover the Triforce. Every Zelda game seems like a masterpiece, from the very first NES game to the stunning A Link to the Past to the legendary Ocarina of Time. But Nintendo, the geniuses behind these games, have been through hell and high water just because the next Zelda game would be..."
The Legend of Zelda. You've all heard of it, and most of you love it. It's the tale of a boy who, against all odds, fights courageously against the forces of evil to rescue the princess and recover the Triforce. Every Zelda game seems like a masterpiece, from the very first NES game to the stunning A Link to the Past to the legendary Ocarina of Time. But Nintendo, the geniuses behind these games, have been through hell and high water just because the next Zelda game would be cel-shaded. Once the game came out the conversations on graphics died down, and people focused on the gameplay. Rest assured, the worst part of this game isn't the fact that Link looks like one of the Powerpuff Girls.
When you start playing The Wind Waker, you'll find out that the game takes place hundreds of years after the events of Ocarina of Time. In that game, the Triforce was created, and the evil Ganondorf stole it. The triforce is a magical item that grants wishes, so it turned the land of Hyrule into a barren wasteland. Link defeated Ganon, and all was good. Until he showed up again, that is. The citizens of Hyrule prayed for Link to reappear, but he never showed up. Then, the gods flooded the land with water, and the new world is one filled with islands. On one certain island, young boys wear the same clothing as the legendary hero when they are the same age as the one who defeated Ganon. It just happens to be Neo-Link's birthday, and his kid sister wakes him up so he can get his tights on. Unfortunately, said sister ends up being kidnapped by a giant bird and Link has to join forces with a gang of pirates to save his sister because, well, he's the hero. Like all Zelda games, this will eventually turn into a quest to completely save the world from impending doom, doing pointless sidequests along the way.
Our young hero quickly finds out that his sister is locked in the Forsaken Fortress, and the pirates think it's just a great idea that they should just fire poor Link into the prison so he won't get caught by the guard. Too bad their aim really sucks, because Link ends up crashing against a wall, and falling to the floor below. Now he has to save his sister by climbing up to the top of the fortress without a sword. You heard me, the sword ends up at the top as well. So, your first ''dungeon'' will be composed of sneaking past the Moblin guards in a barrel, deactivating the lights by defeating small enemies with a stick, and sidling on walls. If I wanted stealth, I'd play Metal Gear Solid, thank you very much. Luckily the dungeon isn't that big, and Link quickly finds his sister...
...only to get caught by that damn bird again. D'oh! Luckily, the game gets better. Once you get into the real dungeons of the game, you'll be slashing baddies and solving puzzles like there's no tomorrow. Picture this: you find an armored monster called a Darknut. He's invulnerable to your sword, your boomerang, and your bombs, and it looks like you've been outmatched. With a look of pure rage on his face, he raises his sword and slashes down...but wait! You're not dead yet! On the contrary, Link has swiftly evaded a devastating blow and all you had to do is press the A button. Rolling to the side, Link draws his sword and slashes at his foe's backside, knocking down the armor. Now, the battle is a piece of cake. Link charges and stabs the Darknut. He slashes again and again as the music suddenly becomes more dramatic. In desperation, the Darknut tries to block, but his futile attempts cost him his blade. Link pauses for a minute, runs over, and picks up a humongous sword and slashes for the final hit. The beast roars, and fades away into nothingness. A chest suddenly appears, and Link opens it. Congratulations! You got the Hero's Bow! And you can experience these thrills again and again on the sixty-floored side dungeon filled with nothing but battles.
Speaking of which, The Wind Waker has a variety of items you'll use. Some, like the bow and boomerang, are standard items in Zelda games. Others, like Magic Armor and the Deku Leaf (which lets you glide and create gusts of wind) are completely new. Each item is used in a certain puzzle, and they are also useful in battle. For example, the Grappling Hook is primarily used for grappling onto poles to reach new areas (like the grapple beam in Metroid Prime), but you can also use it to steal items from the bad guys. Some items have been improved in Wind Waker: the boomerang can now target up to five objects or enemies at once. And, of course, there will be some puzzles that require no items at all, such as moving blocks or lighting fires.
The Wind Waker, like most Zelda games, has some excellent dungeons, possibly rivaling those of Ocarina of Time or A Link to the Past. But dungeons, as fun as they are, are very scarce in the world of the Wind Waker. There are only six real dungeons in the game (Forsaken Fortress doesn't count), and most of your time will be spent in the overworld, like Majora's Mask. Because of this, Wind Waker feels far too short. Even considering the many sidequests of the game, Wind Waker will only last for around 20 hours. But Nintendo, generous as they are, decided to pad out the game length with...here it comes...
Yes, since Wind Waker world is full of islands and water, the only way Link can get from point A to point B is by sailing on a friendly boat called the King of Red Lions. But the wind isn't always very cooperative, so you'll need something to make it blow in the right direction. Enter the Wind Waker, the object where the game gets its subtitle from. The Wind Waker is a little baton which you conduct by pressing the C-stick in the right directions. Like the Ocarina of Time, you'll use it often in order to complete the game. You can control statues, change day into night, and do other things with it, but its main function is to control the direction of the wind to make sailing easier. However, sailing is t-e-d-i-o-u-s. When you're sailing from Outset Island to Windfall Island (which is on the other side of the map, by the way), there's not much you can do but read a book and hope you won't fight any bad guys.
Yes, you will have enemy encounters on the boat, but they are as tedious as sailing itself. The main weapons you'll use to defend yourself on the boat are the pitifully weak boomerang, your horribly inaccurate bombs, or the bow, which you won't get until you've completed two-thirds of the game. Since you have to actually stop sailing in order to use any of these weapons, your mobility is far lower than that of the sharks or octopi that are attacking you. And once they do attack you, you're pretty much hopeless to take damage, unless you abandon ship and drown anyway.
Luckily, Nintendo abbreviated this problem by adding the ability to warp from one location to another, but you'll need the bow in order to earn this ability. As I mentioned before, you won't actually have the bow until you're 2/3 through the game. In addition, you can only warp to a select few points on the map, so the other areas still require a lot of sailing to reach.
But all these seem minor problems compared to the biggest of them all: treasure hunting. Most of the better goodies are found underwater, so you'll need to use your grappling hook to reach down and then reel the treasure in. Picture this situation: you're sailing on your merry way, about to reach an island where you have to go next. Suddenly, you notice light shining at the surface of the water. ''Aha!'' you say. ''There's some treasure here!'' So, you turn a little bit and sail towards the gold, and suddenly, the light disappears. You guess that you must be near to the treasure, so you ''put away'' your sail for now. Unfortunately, momentum gets in the way and your boat sails past the treasure. Should you play your Wind Waker to go in the other direction, or simply cruise back until the light disappears again? You decide the former option would be better, and you decide to stop earlier this time. Luckily, you're close enough, so you pull out your grappling hook and try to get some goodies. But it’s to no avail, so you try in the other direction. Still, you find nothing. Then you decide you should either consult your treasure chart or ignore the treasure entirely. You look for your treasure charts, but none of them match the situation. So you have to then find another treasure chart, return to this same area, and find more treasure.
It's these situations that ruin the beauty of The Wind Waker, and it may have been better if the world had no oceans in it at all. Even worse, you are eventually forced to feel this torture because you have to recover a few pieces of the Triforce. But before you can do that, you'll need the treasure charts. Once you get one of the charts, you'll have to go to a small island and have a man decipher the charts for a ridiculously high price, and then find the treasure in the same tedious, frustrating method you'd find any other treasure.
Did I mention that The Wind Waker is as easy as hell? Most Zelda games have never been extremely difficult, but Wind Waker makes the rest seem impossible. Most of this is thanks to the battles. What little enemies that dare to challenge our hero are usually ripped to shreds by his parry attack and combos. In addition, they give you so much health, money, and ammunition that multistaged battles are never too hard. While the boss fights certainly are very exciting (especially the final showdown), they are pretty easy once you figure out how to beat the boss. Sidequests are also somewhat easy, but not as much as the battles of the game.
Despite what it sounds like, Wind Waker isn't a bad game. The controls are excellent, and the dungeons (when you're actually in one) are simply awesome. If it weren't for the difficulty and sailing, Wind Waker would probably find a spot in more people's hearts. To think that the main reason people hated the game at first were its graphics! Despite what people said in 2002, Wind Waker is a work of art. Characters move so naturally and there's so much detail in the game you'd think that you were playing a painting in motion. There's an astonishing level of quality in the islands of the game: Dragon Roost Island looks so good you'll love the place the second you see it. There is a bit of distasteful humor in the cartoon graphics (such as a kid with snot going straight to the ground), but everything else looks excellent, from the explosion of a bomb to the chill of the Ice Arrow.
One really cool feature about the graphics is Link's emotions, which probably wouldn't be possible if it weren't for his enormous head. If he notices a point of interest, he'll curiously look towards that thing. When he defeats a boss monster, he'll jump up and down with a look of pure joy on his face. Watch him laugh with glee as his blade successfully hits his enemy, or see him clench his teeth when he's about to be blasted onto an island. But this isn't restricted to the Hylian hero: it also shows up in his foes. If you sneak past a Moblin, they'll stare blankly as if they were asked to solve a simple addition problem. The small Bokoblins will sneer at you and then strike in rage.
And graphics aren't the only things that give the game atmosphere: the sound helps as well. Many of the classic Zelda tunes are here: from a violin rendition of the original overworld theme to a piano remix of Hyrule Castle in A Link to the Past. While the new tunes aren’t as good as the older games, they can still hold their own against some of today’s best. For example, the ocean theme is extremely catchy, and never gets boring. The boss themes are great, as is the final boss tune. To make the action even more exciting, little ditties play whenever you hit an enemy with your sword. Sound effects are top-notch, but Link’s voice is a little bit to high-pitched for my tastes.
Overall, The Wind Waker is certainly better than the average game on store shelves, mostly thanks to the awesome dungeons and stunning ambience. But “above average” is just not good enough for a Zelda title. Next!
Community review by eoib (August 27, 2004)
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