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

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

"When Nintendo unveiled the first screens for Wind Waker back in 2001 (it was still being called simply "The Legend of Zelda" at the time), the game's cel-shading graphical style was a great source of controversy among the gaming community. What happened to the badass Link vs. Ganon tech demo that we saw back during Spaceworld 2000? Why does Nintendo feel the need to jump on the cel-shading bandwagon along with every other company? Why does Link have beetle eyes? "

When Nintendo unveiled the first screens for Wind Waker back in 2001 (it was still being called simply "The Legend of Zelda" at the time), the game's cel-shading graphical style was a great source of controversy among the gaming community. What happened to the badass Link vs. Ganon tech demo that we saw back during Spaceworld 2000? Why does Nintendo feel the need to jump on the cel-shading bandwagon along with every other company? Why does Link have beetle eyes?

...A small sect of gamers, including me, were overjoyed at the new direction for the series. It seemed like a throwback to the cartoony visuals of A Link to the Past; what could be better than that?...Aside from it looking like a more-realistic version of Ocarina of Time? It seems that was what everyone wanted, and if Nintendo was trying to shed its kiddie image, this game did not help. At all.

I eagerly took the shrink-wrap off of the game case when I finally got my hands on it during March 2003 and began playing it.

However, as I progressed through it, an unexpected facet of the game continuously became more and more apparent: it was easily the worst game in the series.

I'll lay it flat out right now: I don't like Majora's Mask. I don't like its clunky mask system, excruciatingly boring first half, its moronic save system, the fact that there's only four dungeons, or how the whole game is basically one big side quest.

So, when I heard the first gameplay details about Wind Waker, it seemed like it was going to cut out all the stupid stuff from Majora's Mask, fix the few minor flaws in Ocarina of Time, and further refine the gameplay of the 3D Zeldas. Instead, it ended up being significantly worse than either of them.

The first of the game's many issues slapped me in the face before the game had hardly began. The concern here is with the storyline; specifically, how it feels more like a cheesy fanfic than canon material due to its blatant discontinuity with the rest of the series.

The most glaring example of this is how Ganon has, once again, been somehow revived and is kidnapping every pointy-eared girl that he can get his hands on. Nevermind the fact that this suggests some sort of strange underage Hylian sexual fetish. The point I'm trying to make here is that it should be impossible for Ganon to be revived in the first place. What happened to the "seal" that was placed upon him in Ocarina of Time? At the end of that game, you see him floating around in purgatory, swearing that he'll get his revenge one day. Yet, somehow, it seems that he's escaped. Doesn't the Master Sword have to be removed from its pedestal to unlock the seal (which, of course, raises the question of why anybody would want the sword in the first place)? The player is never given an explanation for this in the game.

The next problem with the game's story is how it's set in a post-apocalyptic Hyrule, yet nobody in the game seems to know this. How in God's name does this even make sense? Wind Waker takes place only 100 years after Ocarina of Time. Did nobody have their grandfather give them an eye-witness description of the event? Unless they all had Alzheimer's, this is completely baffling. Instead, it seems that only a "legend" has been passed down since the tragedy a century ago, which merely describes a "great kingdom" mysteriously disappearing when a "great evil" arrived. For the whole game, the plot felt like it was eating a moron sandwich and proceeded to wash it down with a fresh glass of dumbass.

Phediuk, you're a stupid idiot. The plot doesn't matter. The focus of the Zelda series always has, and always will be, the gameplay.

A fair enough statement. Unfortunately, for however bad the plot is, the gameplay gives you an extra kick in the balls and stuffs elephant feces down your throat.

I know I'm big-banging a Jesusaur at this point by bringing this complaint up, but the sailing aspect of the game is absolutely atrocious. It easily surpasses Majora's Mask's moronic three-day system as the single most ill-conceived, boring, unintuitive gameplay concept ever to grace the series.

Sailing in this game is nothing more than pointing your boat in the same direction as the wind currents and waiting to reach your destination. During the longer trips across the ocean, this can easily take upwards of five minutes. You can let go of the controller whenever you start sailing anywhere in Wind Waker; you aren't needed. Aside from a couple of octopi that conveniently never pop up directly in the path of your boat, you're cruising over open water. What was once a minor issue in Ocarina of Time has become a game-breaking one.

The game attempts to fix this by giving you a warp song later on, but there's only seven different locations that you can warp to. This means that you'll STILL be sailing around for ages trying to get anywhere.

I suppose I should use this opportunity to bring up the game's namesake-the Wind Waker itself. It's a complete ripoff of the Ocarina from OoT, MM, Link's Awakening, and A Link to the Past aside from the fact that it takes twice as long to play any songs.

The next devastating flaw in the game is its difficulty-that is to say, the lack thereof. This is one of the easiest, most braindead games I've ever played. Ocarina of Time is already too easy; did Nintendo really need to dumb down the difficulty even more? Practically every new combat feature in the game seems to exist solely to exploit this flaw as much as possible.

First on the list is the new "parry" technique. Basically, when an enemy is about to hit you, you can press the A button to dodge their strike while throwing in a counterattack of your own. This move is exceptionally simple to pull off, so in addition to the backflip and side-jump maneuvers you also have at your disposal, it's virtually impossible for a sentient being to ever be damaged while locked onto an enemy.

Next, enemy weapons. Any enemy that's carrying a sword, spear, or any other weapon that's not attached to their body can have it stolen from them simply by grabbing them with your Grappling Hook (which you get early on in the game.) Once your enemies are disarmed, not only are they completely helpless, but you can pick up their own obscenely overpowered weapons and use them for yourself! As long as you have two hands, how can an enemy ever harm you?

Next off, Elixir Soup. Quite simply, I've never been more insulted about my gaming ability in my life than when I received my first bottle of it. Merely bring one fairy to grandma (which are easily found), and she'll give you an infinite number of Elixir Soups, which restore your hearts and magic to full, and make your attacks twice as powerful until you're damaged (which never happens.) And there's two servings of it per bottle.

Do we really need to go on with all of this? Do we really need to bring up the ridiculously abusive whirlwind attack, which turns Link into an spinning, invincible kamikaze for about 20 seconds and kills almost everything in one hit? Do we really need to bring up the fact that your shield is useless due to the fact that you're absurdly powerful while your enemies don't even try? Do we really need to bring up the fact that you can hook up your GBA to the GameCube while playing Wind Waker to buy health-restoring potions and a floating ability from Tingle at any time? Do we really need to bring up the fact that you almost never take more than a quarter of a heart's damage from any attack?

Honestly, almost all the challenge in this game comes from convincing yourself that it is indeed called Wind Waker, not Walker. Which isn't very hard.

Onto the third major flaw in the game-it's way too short. 10 to 15 hours simply isn't acceptable anymore for a console game, Nintendo. Sorry. It took me significantly longer than that to beat Ocarina of Time on my first playthrough (though I can beat it in about the same amount of time now.)

To be quite honest, the fact that Wind Waker has only 5 dungeons as opposed to Ocarina of Time's 8 while managing to be the same length serves as a testament to how much time is wasted from sailing in this game.

The copious amount of treasure hunting near the end of the game is the icing on the cake for The Wind Waker. I never thought that Nintendo would stoop to such low levels in order to pad out a game's length, but there I was, hunting for treasure maps for at LEAST three of the ten to fifteen hours that it took me to finish the game the first time around. Unless you have a guide in your lap the entire time, be prepared for an immeasurably boring segment of the game which consists of hunting down the fish in each map square to fill in your chart, and then proceeding to cross-reference your completed chart with Triforce map locations. Once you do that, you'll need to hunt down the maps themselves, which takes ages, and then gather about 3000 Rupees to get them deciphered. Even then, you'll have to again cross-reference your chart and your maps in order to pinpoint the exact locations of the Triforce shards, which are random, so don't bother trying to cut any corners. Sound annoying? It's about ten times as irritating once you actually have to do it in the game.

In the aesthetics department, Wind Waker holds up quite well. The cel-shading is no longer the biggest issue that people have with the game, due to the fact that it's executed well and is the closest to a cartoon that any game's ever looked. My only gripe with it, other than the fact that Ganon doesn't look very good as a cartoon, is that there's very few parts of the game that seem to be specifically designed to take advantage of the animated style. This has caused me to theorize that Nintendo's primary reason for using cel-shading in The Wind Waker was to draw attention away from the fact that no significant strides to the gameplay have been made from previous Zeldas.

As for the game's audio, it's great as well. Link's battle cries are a little high-pitched and grating after awhile, but other than that, everything sounds as it should. I gotta admit, though, that I'm a bit disappointed with the lack of voice acting within the game. Get with the times, Nintendo.

As for the music, it's the best part of the game. Everything fits the mood of the game perfectly, and remixed themes from older Zelda games (from games other than A Link to the Past this time-I'm looking at you, OoT) fit in perfectly with brand-new compositions. Nothing to complain about here.

The game's controls are also quite good. While I would've preferred to use the C-Stick to use items rather than Y, X, and Z, what's here works just fine.

Perhaps the most depressing part about Wind Waker is that beneath all of the game's flaws, there lies an excellent game, waiting to be decrappified. If the game was way more challenging and didn't have a Phuket tsunami's worth of sailing, it would be a much better game. Perhaps the most important thing to come as a result of Wind Waker is the proof that one can make a mechanically sound game, yet still miss the mark.

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Featured community review by phediuk (March 22, 2006)

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