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The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Review By:  AJ Middleton

Developer:  Nintendo
Publisher:  Nintendo
# of Players:  1
Genre:  Adventure
ESRB:  Everyone
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card, Progressive Scan, GBA/GCN Link Cable (Tingle Tuner)
Date Posted:  6-17-03

Finally!  The long awaited installment to one of Nintendoís most popular series has arrived at last!  No, itís not the Spaceworld demo that we stared at in awe a few years ago.  Nor is it the kiddy field day that many fans first thought when the cel-shaded graphics were revealed.  The Wind Waker is a big step for the Zelda series and for Nintendo themselves.  However, this game is not a true golden gem, for it has its share of faults to balance, and maybe even to outweigh, its shine.

Control-wise, donít worry about it.  They take very little getting used to, because they basically mimic Ocarina of Timeís.  In fact, if youíve played the GCN version of OoT, youíre set already.  Maybe those bonus disks, besides being a great bribe to preorder, were created to get the player used to the controls of the new game.

The graphics and their effects are what everyone wants to know about, so letís get to those next.  Only one word describes them - outstanding.  Itís funny how gamers originally looked at cel-shading and thought ďflatĒ and ďsimple.Ē  Oh boy, cel-shading is most definitely NOT flat and simple.  Itís as 3D as texture mapping, more detailed, and even more complex in areas.  At first, youíll feel like youíre playing an FMV.  After the intro is done and you take control of Link, it will just feel wrong.  I had to continuously tell myself that it was the actual game and not a cutscene.  On top of that, everything moves smoothly and cleanly.  Amazing technology, and itís definitely more appealing then the traditional 3D texturing.

But enough about the technology itself.  What does it do for the game?  Wonders.  The original concern was that the graphics style would make Zelda, a serious series, too light and childish.  For example, gamers were appalled at the scene of moblins holding their rears while bouncing in pain.  Many thought this would only be the start of a kiddy game.  But no, thatís not the effect at all.  The cel-shading allows for a healthy dose of comic relief that couldnít be done correctly otherwise.  Aside from the moblins, there are heavily armed baddies who lose their armor after being hit and then look around in shock.  Also, there are little annoying imps who look more menacing then any Ocarina of Time enemy ever did, all because of the cel-shading.  Many classic Zelda enemies return with a new look.  But the appearances of the characters arenít all that has changed.  Shadowing and lighting are greatly enhanced.  Mix dynamic lighting with smooth graphics and awesome shading and shadows, and you have yourself the recipe for a visual adventure like no other.

Donít even get me started on the battles.  Engaging on combat results in a fighting style never before seen in Zelda, let alone on the GameCube.  Every strike made by Linkís sword results in a sound effect and a flash. If your enemy is targeted, angles will change as Link moves.  The music also changes to set the mood.  Add in your recipe for the ďvisual adventure like no other,Ē and youíve made some simply amazing battle sequences.  Sometimes you want to start a fight just to witness them.  And the great thing is, it never seems to get old. 

Many Zelda fans hated what was done to Link in The Wind Waker.  But, do not despair. All is not lost.  In fact, more is gained.  Linkís appearance takes a little while to get used to, but when it does, the player will easily enjoy the new style.  The Hero becomes more realistic with the cel-shading technology.  Not only does he makes his usual grunts, cheers, and moans, but his face has some character to it.  For almost every situation, Link has a different facial expression.  Heíll get serious in combat, become frozen in fright when placed face-to-face with a Redead, and struggle under the weight of a heavy object.  For once, Link appears to be alive.  Oh, and the expressions donít stop with making Link seem more realistic.  A good place to look when stuck is at Linkís eyes.  His big eyes will automatically look at enemies, poles to swing from, and sometimes even at solutions to puzzles.  Wind Waker Link may just be the first hero to actually take some initiative to solve his own problems.

Like past episodes of the Zelda saga, Wind Waker dazzles us with music.  Being that it takes place on the sea, many of the tunes have a pirate island theme.  In the intro and title themes, we hear flutes, violins, and even various pipes.  A great majority of the music in the game is a skillfully hidden version of something from WWís predecessor, The Ocarina of Time.  Although the Great Sea Theme gets boring and old easily, overall, WW presents us with a great musical score.

Link always tends to discover an array of equipment on his adventures, and The Wind Waker is no exception.  Letís start with the weapons.  Of course, thereís the sword.  It contains all of its old tricks, plus an added parry attack that can be used when defending.  Old favorites return, like bombs and the Boomerang.  The Boomerangís usefulness has increased, for it can now hone in to multiple targets at once.  Two interesting new additions are the Deku Leaf and the Grappling Hook.  The Leaf can be used to blow air blasts at enemies and switches, and can also serve as a glider to float on the wind at the cost of magic power.  The Grapping Hook is like a special Hookshot.  It can latch on to horizontal rods and serve as a swinging rope for Link.  It can also be used to steal items from enemies.  On the sea, it works as a crane to uncover inundated treasure.  There are additional weapons and items, but I donít want to give it all away.  Although the arsenal is not even close to the size of Linkís in A Link to the Past, it still contains a few more new surprises and classics.  

Along with new items also comes new item organization.  Link now carries three different item bags.  The Spoils Bag carries special items that are won after defeating enemies.  The Bait Bag is used to store different types of bait that are used to attract sea animals.  And finally, the Delivery Bag holds mail and other trading items.  Really, the bags have no big advantage, but itís a new and interesting feature for the series.

And then thereís the item that wins the title of the game: the Wind Waker.  Since Ocarina of Time, Nintendo seems to like to throw some musical instrument into Linkís adventure and have it serve as major part of the plot.  Actually, if you think about it, the ocarina has been in the series since A Link to the Past, but it was never as vital as the legendary Ocarina.  The Wind Waker differs slightly because it isnít an instrument, but instead a conductorís baton.  Other than that, itís the Ocarina of Time with a different design.  But with the new technology comes a new level of complexity.  With the Ocarina, it didnít matter how the notes were played as long as they were played in the right order.  The Wind Waker must be set to the correct time, using the control stick, before a song can be played.  The time signatures are, for those who know their music, 3/4, 4/4, and 6/4.  And then, the note can only be played when the flashing yellow light on a metronome hits the center.  Yikes.  Luckily, Nintendo prepared for those who arenít musically talented.  The time is nothing more than the number of notes in the song.  The metronome thing isnít bad at all; you can hold the C-stick to make the note before the metronome hits center, but the sound wonít register until it does.  The whole concept is neat, but can turn out to be more of a bother in some instances. 

The Wind Waker, just like its Ocarina predecessor, learns a variety of songs.  Although there arenít as many as there are in Ocarina of Time, the melodies are still vital to the plot.  The plot.  The Wind Waker has a story like one never before seen in the Zelda series.  For a start, it affirms the theory that there is more than one Link.  WWís opening story, and therefore the game itself, revolves around the actions of Adult Link in OoT.  The Legend of the Hero of Time has been passed down through generations.  The legend states that after the hero originally sealed away the great evil of his kingdom, it broke free and wrecked havoc on the land again.  The people hoped that the Hero would return, but he never did.  No one knows what happened to the kingdom, but the stories about it traveled on the wind and ended up on far away islands.  Interesting, huh?  The game starts with Link reaching the age of the Hero.  At this time, boys are required to dress like him.  Soon after receiving his new outfit, Linkís sister, Aryll, is kidnapped by a strange bird.  And it is here that his adventure beginsÖ

It sounds bland at first, but remember its connection to Ocarina of Time.  This opens up new plot twists and a desire to continue to see how it all works out.  Being that itís the first game in the series to contain a different Link and to be a direct sequel, it proves an awesome and promising approach for the newest Zelda.  Also, remember that WW takes place after Link turns into an adult to save Hyrule.  In other words, this is a completely different reality from that of Child LinkísÖ

Again, unlike past Zeldas, The Wind Waker isnít a land game.  A majority of the travel will take place on the Great Sea.  This gigantic body of water makes Lake Hylia from OoT look like a puddle.  In fact, it makes Hyrule Field itself look like an island.  Hereís a size comparison:  In OoT, it takes little over 2 minutes to walk from the entrance in Kakariko Village to the entrance of Lake Hylia.  So Hyrule Field, at its widest diameter, is 2 minutes across.  Now, in WW, the map is divided into 49 squares, making the Great Sea a 7x7 block.  Each square is 3 minutes across.  Do the math, and youíll see that it takes about 21 minutes to cross the Great Sea.  See?  A gigantic body of water.  THIS is the huge world that weíve all been waiting for the GameCube to reveal. 

The map of the sea must be assembled, square by square, by acquiring pieces of it from fish that live in that area.  Each square is named by the major island that it contains.  Yes, that means that there are 49 different major island chains.  But donít get too excited.  Although they all contain a treasure of some sort, most of them are small.  And by small I mean you can walk across them in 10 seconds or less.  In fact, it isnít necessary to even touch most of the islands in order to beat the game.  Out of the 49, only 16 have a purpose in the adventure, and 3 of those are only a statue on a piece of land. 

The world size is the beginning of what brings The Wind Waker out of the perfect game league.  The Great Sea is big, showing off the capabilities of the GameCube, but itís too big.  Itís so big that itís excessive.  Now, this wouldnít be bad if it was equal in excess with everything.  But sadly, itís not.  The adventure is good, but itís way too short.  Not short like Luigiís Mansion, but too short for the doors that it opened.  When the climax of the game hits, youíll expect a lot to come from it.  However, this is when it starts to die.  The whole end section of the game is short and choppy.  At one point, you have to gather a set of items that lie under the sea.  There are no bosses.  You just have to find their locations and pull them up with the Grappling Hook.  The only challenge is to stop yourself from being bored to death.  Instead of putting these items into their own dungeons with bosses, Nintendo chose to have you go on a giant scavenger hunt.  Not fun, and not the most effective way to present the task.

The dungeons are another disappointment.  By themselves, they are excellent.  Each dungeon lives up to Zelda standards with innovation, puzzles, and fun factor, and some even exceed it.  For example, two of them require that Link team up with another character that you can also control.  Itís only by using the skills of Link and his temporary ally that you can beat the dungeon.  This is a great element that is simply amazing. 

The first disappointment lies in the difficulty of the bosses.  Unfortunately, almost every boss in the game follows the old lucky number rule- every boss is defeated in 3 hits.  This isnít enough for the boss to change their attack pattern.  Boss battles look great, but they are way too easy.  Theyíre almost an insult to veteran gamers.

The dungeons show their biggest disappointment when looked at overall.  There are too few.  And unlike in Majoraís Mask where its number of dungeons worked, The Wind Waker had a chance to make more and it needed them.  Again, the set of items near the end all could have had their own dungeons, and thereís a part in the game where a character just gives you an event item.  When you look at the massive Great Sea and then at the low difficulty and should-have-been dungeons, you wonder what the guys at Nintendo were thinking about.

With 49 island chains, itís sad to say that so many are useless.  Even the Kakariko Village-like Windfall Island only has two purposes in the game.  Itís a pity too, because so much goes on there.  But Windfall faces the fate of the other 33 islands and becomes a side quest haven.  The side quests are entertaining, yes, but thereís an excess.  All of the work that went into a great majority of these extra islands could have gone into enhancing the plot, making more dungeons, or making the bosses more difficult.  Or, if space was the issue, they should have made the game two disks long!  Could you imagine how much of a treat a two-disk Zelda adventure would have been?

For those with a GBA and a GCN to GBA link cable, thereís an extra goodie.  You can summon everyoneís favorite character, Tingle!  Tingle can perform a variety of services for Link, which include showing the dungeon map, giving hints, dropping bombs, granting limited invincibility, and letting Link float.  He also unlocks certain secrets and side quests in dungeons as well.  Tingle isnít a necessity to beat the game, but itís a neat feature.         

Highs:

  • Latest installment in the Zelda series
  • Beautiful graphics and detail
  • Unique music
  • Many old items return plus inventive new ones
  • A great story unlike that of any other Zelda
  • A massive world; almost 10 times larger than Ocarina of Time's
  • True and innovative dungeons
  • Overall fun to play

Lows:

  • The world is almost TOO big
  • A weakening plot
  • Too easy
  • Too short in comparison to what it could be
  • The excess is in all of the wrong places

Final Verdict:

The newest Zelda game has finally arrived.  The series has broken some boundaries, and Nintendo has showed us that they can do looks and sizeÖsorta.  They finally succeed in making a huge world, but the game length remains short.  Argh.  I guess you canít say that they didnít try.  I just wish that they could get it right for their next hyped game.  Nevertheless, I would recommend The Wind Waker to fans of all adventure games.  Just donít expect to be overwhelmed.

Overall Score: 8.9

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