#527 The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Posted: 10th March 2011 by Mulholland in Games
Tags: , , , , ,

37th game played so far

Genre: Action/Adventure
Platform: Gamecube
Year of Release: 2002
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

Time again to visit the land of Hyrule and indulge in a little Zelda action. Today my friend Kat’s game collection takes us to the 2002 classic game The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker which was the console-based sequel to the earlier covered Majora’s Mask. Despite these games being released one after the other they really are worlds apart. The lush landscapes are now replaced with a vast expanse of oceans and the graphics underwent a direction which no fan of the series could have expected.

Our Thoughts

So here’s another Zelda. Now the Gamecube’s Wind Waker. No fart jokes today, we promise. I am so embarrassed with you for that remark. Seriously, you just needed to go there. No, I’m just saying we’re not going to …and I’m an ovum. I haven’t noticed that yet…

The Wind Waker will always be special to me as it was the first console game of Zelda that I ever owned (not counting Ocarina of Time which was packaged with my copy of The Wind Waker). This is similar as to how Link’s Awakening will always occupy a soft spot in my heart as it was my first on a handheld. Since I had previously played Majora’s Mask at a friend’s house I was already aware of the graphic style of the typical Zelda game… something which The Wind Waker famously deviated away from.

For those who cannot remember, or did not pay attention, to the controversy leading up to the release of this game (Link’s first foray onto the Gamecube) I guess a brief explanation in order:

Normal console Zelda games had always attempted to have some degree of realism to them whilst also being able to allow for the fantasy elements of staple races such as the Deku. Here in The Wind Waker the developers instead opted for a cel-shaded animation feel where 2-dimensional sprites were found in the 3-dimensional world. This later caused the game to be dubbed as Celda (and caused many Zelda-purists to denounce the game before it’s release).

Thing is… I never found a problem with the graphics. I have always been a fan of stylised graphics in a game as the look and feel of it is far less likely to age when compared to it’s contemporaries. If you’ll allow me to interject here, yeah, the graphics are clearly a different style, and I can see how it bothers people. The thing is that the simplification in graphics did not have the same effect on gameplay or story – this is still a difficult game – but its looks are deceiving here. Thing is, between the different games in the series, the graphic style already has its changes, and the SNES Link to the Past already had a similar change in graphics, so I can’t see exactly where it comes from. The main thing that bothered me is that because it looks this way, Link actually look quite a bit younger – which can be a bit weird. You have this ten year old kid fighting bosses and running around volcanoes. He might have been intended of a similar age in previous games, it looks weird.

This age relates to the beginning of Ocarina of Time where Link starts out as 10 and then ends up at 17 after the time jump… if I remember correctly. He is definitely in his late teens in Twilight Princess. Making him younger than most games in this one… and it feels weird. Anyway, it does mean that his emotions look a bit more exaggerated. He looks very determined just sidling past a ledge. The look of concentration on his face is just darling. He also throws a mini strop if you stop playing for a while; he gets a little bit bored and sways back and forth until you start playing again. Yeah, he’s a sweet young kid, I suppose.

What’s interesting about using a cel-shaded look (apart from making it look like an anime) is that there is a bit of a contrast between the violence and the childlike surroundings. Very true, actually. The NPCs look funny and sweet. At the same time, the enemies are dark and somewhat frightening at times. At the same time, the environments work in the same way. You have bright environments in the towns and cities, and then in the dungeons it’s dark, filled with skulls, with just torchlight lighting up some of the areas.

An aspect where the cel-shading helps make it slightly creepy is the eyes. No matter how dark it gets the eyes of Link and the NPCs still stay fully lit. With Link it’s cute, with the rats and bats it’s rather macabre. This can make the game rather jumpy at times; e specially during the (rather un-Zelda) stealth parts. Those early stealth parts really did shake me, this was helped incredibly by the use of incidental music. Yeah. Not helped by the fact that you have no weapon or anything else to defend yourself with it. Add to that that getting back after that takes a long time, making it awkward, complicated, and frustrating. It’s very tense.

There is also a great freedom in this game which comes from your need to sail between the islands (using the Wind Waker’s power to bend the breeze to your will). Yeah, they creating a feeling of a large world without boundaries, where you actually need to cover some ground before you get somewhere. At the same way it does remove the more detailed overworld with stuff happening as you travel between parts of the overworld, which is (mostly) replaced by endless oceans. All without a loading screen, which was impressive considering the size of the area related to the consoles processing power. That’s true. It’s all seamless, so they never break immersion. It’s smooth and simple.

Last thing I’d like to say, a fairly small thing – the voicing. I’m sorry, but not only does he look cute, Link sounds even cuter in this game. Adorable, that’s the only word I have for it.

That’s the thing; The Wind Waker does feel adorable which probably stands as the reason that is rarely mentioned in the same heartbeat of Zelda console games as Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess. It’s my favourite game of the Zelda series since I feel that they were able to contribute a great degree of gaming depth with some very distinctive graphics. It has it’s own identity separate from the rest of the series (minus Phantom Hourglass) and while that is The Wind Waker’s greatest strength it is the sole thing going against it in the annals of gaming history… it visually looks a bit too much like child’s play. And because of that, the best way to do this is probably that this is a great game… just possibly not the best example of a Zelda game. Although to just hold its graphics against that would also seem… petty. In gameplay and difficulty, it’s worthy of the name.

Final Thoughts

So that’s Wind Waker, the second Zelda game we’ve covered here, after previously covering Majora’s Mask. (Ocarina of Time is coming up Very Soon too, so keep an eye out for that). Looks-wise, sound-wise, it’s more kidsy, cuter at times than the other installments, but at the same time it’s challenging. It’s far from impossible, but it’s at that right level of difficulty where it’s challenging, but you know you can beat it.

Is it perfect? Personally, I have a few issues with the sea mechanism, but that’s mostly due to me comparing it to the other Zelda games – it seems better than just randomly warping somewhere clicking on a location on the worldmap – at least for a game like this.

  1. […] we played the Gamecube port (available with the first release of The Wind Waker), so I’m not sure whether the graphics were upgraded there, but it felt not – they feel […]

  2. […] so so SO often though that when you stylise your graphics and you do it well (as is the case with The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, No More Heroes and Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles) then you could have a timeless looking game […]

  3. […] dated but this looks just as good as when I first played it years ago (same thing as when we played The Wind Waker a few years ago). I understand that the original version featured a slightly over the top papyrus […]