One thing I would like to make clear here at Toy-TMA is that I am just as excited for the next big Legend of Zelda title as anyone. It would not be much of a stretch to say I was first hired here by my editor Mr. Pranger to write as an advocate for Sony fans. This is very true. I love my PS3 and its exclusive library of high quality games I can’t play on anything else. Yet I personally consider myself just as much a Nintendo fan. In fact, dare I say, I am probably more anxious for the release of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword than I am for any one of Sony’s several big releases, (though it is a very close race between it and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception). Most people would never know this about me, seeing as Mr. Pranger has always in the past, and most certainly this holiday, be covering any new Zelda/Mario/Kirby/etc properties. Therefore, I’ve decided to share my own thoughts on the Zelda series by recommending the game I’ve been playing in preparation/anticipation for the release of Skyward Sword. A game I know Chris will never dedicate a whole article to. So I will. [Pranger’s Note: I have since changed my ways and come to appreciate The Wind Waker, so such snark will probably only yield a Master Sword to the face.] Oh… well then great, let’s begin.
Long ago, the three virtues of Hyrule held the world together in harmony.
Then, everything changed when the Demon King Ganon attacked.
Only the Hero of Time, Master of the Triforce of Courage, could stop him,
But when the world needed him most… he vanished.
A hundred years passed, and my crew and I discovered a new Hero of Time,
A Wind Waker named Link,
And although his wind waking skills are great,
He has a lot to learn before he’s ready to save anyone.
But I believe Link can save the world.
Unlike my editor, I am a relatively new Zelda fan. Sure, I have been familiar with the franchise for a long time, but it took a while before I actually sat down and gave it my undivided attention. I played all the way through my first Zelda game, Ocarina of Time, during my freshmen year of college five years ago. Immediately I was hooked. Instant classic. Soon afterwards, I moved onto my second game, Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Despite all controversy surrounding it and how it quickly became known as, how my old college buddy Kevin put it, “The freak of the series,” the transition from Ocarina to this felt perfectly natural to me.
[Sidenote: Don’t get my friend Kevin wrong, as he loves this game. Likewise for his then-girlfriend-now-wife Alexz, who is an amazingly stunning artist in her own right. Both wonderful acquaintances of mine that celebrated their first year anniversary just yesterday, and more relevantly, helped fuel my love for this game long after I completed it.]
Ironically enough, Wind Waker opens with a retelling of the events of Ocarina of Time, where upon rescuing the land of Hyrule from Ganon and being returned to his childhood (where the events of Majora’s Mask will take place), Link disappears from the future timeline, leaving the world defenseless upon Ganon’s inevitable resurrection. Fast Forward a hundred years and the land of Hyrule is completely submerged under water, while the legends surrounding the Hero of Time have become just that: Legends. People’s only reminder of a time and land long forgotten is a small tradition of forcing young boys to dress in the Hero’s trademark tunic and cap upon their thirteenth birthday.
Enter our protagonist.
So if I’m to understand this correctly, the dark, serious, badass Link from the Ocarina/Majora era mysteriously “disappears” just as the world re-enters peril, and in a hundred years, once Hyrule has gone to compete hell (or in this case, Davy Jones’ Locker), his duty as the world savior is inherited by his future life, who just happens to be some random light-hearted carefree boy who is handed this destiny before he could have ever conceivably been ready for it. Oh, and he can bend air. Yeah, that sounds awfully familiar to a… certain favorite show of mine, eh?
Now, I fully understand longtime Zelda fans’ desire to continue the series down deeper more mature routes. With the exception of Metroid, Zelda is Nintendo’s only other dark franchise, and while I have not played all the way through Majora’s Mask yet (one of Chris’ favorites) I am aware that the themes and tones it established set up the series to go down some strange and scary places. But for today, I should really only speak for myself, and personally I loved this new Link. He was cute, funny, expressive, when we first meet him he’s got like surfer dude hair and beach clothes, and he lives with his family in one of the only two remaining human populated towns on the surface. In Ocarina, Link started off already a bona fide woodsman, as well as an outcast, and his events are set in motion because… a glowing ball with wings and a talking tree told him to. In Wind Waker, Link’s adventure sets in motion because his little sister gets taken away. I myself am the oldest of four, so that I can totally get behind.
The two complaints everyone has heard a million and one times about this game are about the visuals and the sailing. To start, I am in the middle of my second playthrough now, and still, five years later (eight if you count the games’ actual release) after I got my bright shiny Blu Ray system on my Dad’s Plasma TV, this game still stands as one of the best looking games I’ve ever played. Visually, Graphically, Aesthetically, however the heck you want to put it, this game has aged better than any Zelda title to date. Honestly, I do believe we have the stylized cartoony art style to thank for that. A huge aesthetic flaw in many last-gen games was that the more they tried to look realistic, the more the graphical limitations of the time showed through, and the more they looked fake. Wind Waker is just beautiful to look at. The colors are so rich and vibrant and little things like how ocean waves and explosions are depicted are so pleasing.
Now for the second complaint. Despite micromanaging the wind being a little tedious, I got really into the sailing of this game a lot. The scale of this game’s world is grand. You’d see a small dot on the sea’s horizon and watch as it got bigger and bigger; it was so addicting. I could spend hours searching across the ocean for stuff to do, goodies to unearth, sea monsters to fight, and getting every square of my map marked off. And once you were done, you could learn a tempest move that could teleport you anywhere just a league away, if not instantaneously.
So in essence, the two most frequent negatives concerning this game aren’t really negatives as far as I’m concerned. Not only that, once those two hurdles are overcome, the rest of the game is pretty much familiar territory. The controls from the N64 era were translated to the GameCube almost seamlessly. The dungeons are all unique and varied and there are side quests galore. Your sidekick comes in the form of your animate ship, the King of Red Lions, who is just about the most perfect combination of Navi and Epona. He tells you what you need to do once, then trusts you to get there on your own time, all the while serving as your transportation. It’s also cool how he can take certain items you find on your quest and give them a second function by attaching them to his sail.
Which brings me to another love of mine, the game’s supporting the cast. Other Zelda titles I’ve played, I meet maybe one or two side characters that I really care about and the rest just feel kind of bland. In this game, it felt like everyone I met was bleeding with personality. The dialogue was genuinely funny too. The Ritos in particular, the Bird-people of Dragon Roost Island, became one of my all time favorite species of the entire Zelda mythos. There’s even a few dungeons where Link gets to “possess” some of the side characters whom you get to momentarily play as and use their abilities to help solve the dungeon’s puzzles. I also like how this is the first game where Zelda actually fights in the final confrontation with Ganon. Yeah, they totally played up how Shiek was suppose to be this badass ninja in Ocarina of Time that would fight along side you, but in the end, all she did was show up right before every dungeon, dump some exposition, get her ass kicked once by the shadow boss, teach me a new song that will teleport me to a place I’m already at, then disappear again before I even start the dungeon. Kay thanks.
The overarching story of Wind Waker, while primitive and somewhat juvenile compared to other Zelda titles, feels at least consistent with a nice sense of progression. Both the Master Sword and Link’s musical instrument were weaved into the story excellently (two facets that ended up feeling very forced in the plot of Twilight Princess, as if they had to shoehorn them in somewhere because they are a requirement). Another strong point in the story was how they put effort into giving Link actual motives and reasons to traverse each dungeon, beyond just “look for such-and-such mcguffin.” All joking aside, I truly stand by the parallels I made to my favorite show, Avatar the Last Airbender. Both stories open with a dark melancholy intro of the world’s predicament. They then proceed to begin the adventure on a fun, lighthearted tone. Slowly but surely their plots thicken and grow more perilous over time. By end, each story gives us an epic and satisfying conclusion that proves just because something is made for children doesn’t mean it can’t be deep, moving, and just as fun for an older audience. And while this does not segue at all, it’s worth mentioning that were it not for Wind Waker, my all time best character on Super Smash Bros. Brawl would not exist. So thanks for that.
For someone who owns just about every console Zelda game in some form or another, several of which I still have yet to complete, it says something that of all the games, the one I chose to revisit in preparation for Skyward Sword is undoubtedly the black sheep of the series. [Pranger’s Note: The officially sanctioned “Black Sheep” of the Zelda series has been designated Zelda II: The Adventure of Link according to Gaming History. Carry on.] My rational behind this is that while Skyward Sword is technically classified as a prequel to Ocarina of Time, its brightly colored cell-shaded art style and game play mechanic of flying birdback across a sea of clouds to small islands scattered throughout the sky make it sound more and more like a spiritual sequel to this game. How much the final product will actually feel like that when it’s released to us this November, only time will tell.
Until then, there you have it. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, the Zelda adventure that launched its own cult following. Why not go play it in the meantime?