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The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Review By:  Andrew Joy

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

If you ever doubted the new style chosen for the latest Legend of Zelda game, the Wind Waker, then beg for forgiveness.  Bow before "KNOWTENDO!"  Nintendo knows best and they have proven once again; I am currently in my own process of seeking redemption (between playing their latest masterpiece, of course).  After being blown away by the sheer brilliance and quality of Wind Waker, I realize what many other probably already have: the epic scale of this game can hardly be put into words.  However, since this is what I am here for and I am not one to disappoint, I will do my best.  Outlining the grand features of Wind Waker is perhaps the next best thing.  Of course, as hard as it may be to fathom, that also means pointing out some of the games not-so-grand features, too.

Now knowing it in full, I would have to say that the intriguing and amazingly woven story of Wind Waker is one of the most alluring features of the game.  If you do not want any spoilers, at all, then be forewarned and you would probably benefit to just skip to the next paragraph.  To keep from revealing to much to those of you who do want an idea, I will just point out a few things.  Okay, in short, every generation a new Link is born, or simply a new hero is.  As you might have guessed, that hero is you and you have to save the Great Sea and its many islands from the grasp of Ganondorf.  The Great Sea is, as is later revealed, the world made anew above the flooded ruins of Hyrule Kingdom.  The islands are the tops of Hyrule's ancient mountains and lands.  Of course, when your journey starts out, your hero knows none of this and is just on a quest to save his sister from the giant bird, the Helmaroc King, who stole her and many other girls.

Of course, even as it good as it may be, many avid gamers probably already know that a good story can only go so far on its own.  The rest of that load must be pulled by the graphics.  And, while several games have managed to slip past my often-harsh eye just because the story is so exceptional, Zelda did not. Because it didn't need to!  The graphics of Wind Waker, as controversial as they once were, fully compliment the exceptional story.  This is not to mention that, coupled with the awesome story, the graphics raise the bar on how good video games should be.  Imagine, if you will, a vast and flowing ocean with crisp waves, washed over with swirls of powerful winds, and studded with a myriad of fantastically shaped and inhabited islands, filled with the most imaginative characters and creatures you could ever imagine.  Now, imagine such a beautiful picture cast amazingly in the cartoon-shaded graphics, which had snowballed so much debate before the game's release.  Even with all that, you hardly have a glimpse of how great the graphics of Zelda are, though it does give you a nice starting point.

From the swirl of purple smoke from a vanquished foe to the look on link's face when he reacts to his surroundings and actions, Wind Waker is lush with detail.  With its epic attention to such detail, it was very rare I noticed bad interaction with the environment.  However, even when I did, I think I perhaps turned a blind eye to it, too amazed at the rest to care; when a game can accomplish so much, it seems only fair to overlook the small areas where I would normally scrutinize any other game.

Perhaps part of the simple and great Zelda tradition and a powerful ingredient in the games winning formula, the level design is as amazing as ever.  The puzzles in Wind Waker may at first seem as though they are quite easy, however, you will soon learn otherwise.  While it is true that you can get quite far by just ambling through the first levels and often time relying on sheer dumb luck to find the right way, a little more work may be required on your part to get along later in the games.  It is not as though the work is really that hard, but in the end it is just a matter of talking to the right people and using your eyes; that, of course, has a double meaning.  When you come to a point where you are stuck, it is quite important to scan the room carefully and, if you notice it, looking at Link's eyes for help.  When there is an opportunity or direction to go, Link's eyes will generally drift towards that item or way.  After that, it is pretty much just a matter of deciding whether to use your Hookshot, Bow, Bomb, or other.  Speaking of those items, the levels of Wind Waker often require the use of your latest required item, or items.  This game mechanic only further adds to the fun levels of a game that focuses on knowledge and exploration, just as much as skill.  If you are the type who prefers to not waste time hunting for items and clues, you will most surely benefit from a good game guide.  Having received on free with my purchase, I highly recommend you try the game without it first, because I found the already short game breezes by much quicker with it.

Of course, as we all know, the cherry in top of any game level is the boss.  Needless to say, the Wind Waker's were absolutely stunning, as usual.  But, between the sometime mind-racking puzzle and the often-overpowering bosses, there was a gap that needed to be filled.  And, to fill that, Nintendo delivered perhaps the best developed and intriguing characters to ever grace a Nintendo game; well, that's just my opinion, at least.  Not just the villainous monsters who roam the wild and precede boss battles stalking the dungeon halls, but also the terrific cast of spectacular characters that inhabit the islands and the Great Sea, all tying together the story.  A perfect blend of classic characters and the fantastic new ones, the two eras continue on a legacy.

Undoubtedly, some of the appeal to the purchase of any game is the consideration of replay value.  Where other games make up for it with multiplayer and various difficulties, some to be unlocked by special performance levels, Wind Waker serves up a whole package designed for replay.  Perhaps in part to make up for the games breeze-through game play and lack of any epic length, Wind Waker allows you to play through the game a second time.  As perhaps as dull and cheap as may at first seem, there is more to it than merely playing the same short game again.  The game also adds a few extras to that second playing, they are not much, but they do make up for some of the games shortness, if nothing else.  Assuming that you opened the special Nintendo Club area the first time around and got the Deluxe Picto box, you can now start the adventure with your upgraded camera, taking pictures of some of the rarer people who you missed the first time around.  Take clear and "inspiring" pictures of any man or beast to Carlvo, the Nintendo Club carver to have him fill the many rooms with small, detailed sculptures that even include character descriptions.  Though I have yet to finish my collection yet, I hear a special statue awaits you when you finally do.  Also, when you start your adventure anew, there are new costumes for you and your sister.  Your sister's shirt is decorated with the seagull pears, while your own costume is the same that your wore in the games start, a sort of golfer-gone-wrong look.

And now, with the seemingly endless parade of merits out of the way, it is time for the dreaded, if not even unbelievable, list of the game's downfalls.  First off, one of the things continued to disturb me through most of the game was the fact that the cinemas were often choppier and less fluid than the games actual game play.  A small point to argue about?  Perhaps, but once you see the choppy video of Link's grappling hook hundreds of times, it will start to irk you too.  Also, until you get the Ballad of Gales, the game is predominately sailing, often for several uneventful minutes on end.  And, for such a short game, that is not a good thing.  In fact, because of this, there are still areas on my map I have yet to explore, simply because I hate sailing that much now, even with the self-made favorable wind.  Taking control over another character, and even Link sometimes, also seemed to be noticeably twitchy.

Highs:

  • Beautiful, eye-boggling and even awe-inspiring graphics.  Wordy, but true.

  • Epic story that will, for better or for worse, suck you in and never let you go.

  • Commendable level design, traditional with Zelda games, that keeps game play fresh until the end.

  • Unrivaled character design that makes you stop and watch (or, in some cases, photograph) the characters for a moment, even the enemies.

  • The grand detail of the game, demonstrating some of the best character and environment action I have seen so far.

  • Fantastic music, as always, that sets the perfect mood for every level.

  • Replay, even if it does seem to try and compensate for something, it is still better than nothing, and somewhat original.

Lows:

  • The mere thought that the actual game can be more fluid than the cinemas simply boggles the mind.

  • Water, water everywhere and not a damn place to learn the Ballad of Gales until I get the friggin' Hero's Bow.

  • Twitchy character control of other characters and sometimes even Link. Though it is still better than, say, the sniping in Turok Evolution.

Final Verdict:

If great stories, graphics, characters (both good and evil), music and levels are a Zelda tradition, than The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker upholds it perfectly. Proving to be just as great, if not even better, than all the other Zelda games, Wind Waker doesn't miss a step.  The pros were many and its cons were few, it doesn't exactly take a mathematician to figure out that this game is a must have; heck, with an equation like that, it doesn't even take a gamer!

Supporter of cartoon shaded graphics or not, fan of Zelda or not, GameCube owner or not, I cannot think of a single reason why this game should not instantly become part of your video game collection.  If you don't get it now, but are waiting for the best seller price (as it will no doubt achieve soon), you should at least rent this game.  As I understand it, another Zelda game is supposedly in the works already, as is the next Nintendo console.  And, while I am certain that gamers will be playing this for a long time down the road, you don't deserve to won a game system if you remain a virgin to this instant classic.

Overall Score: 9.5

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