Finally the day so many videogaming-enthusiasts had been waiting for came, and passed, just as swiftly as an ordinary day. However this day, March 26th 2003, will not be forgotten just as quick as your average day as it was the day the most anticipated game in the history of videogaming was released. Yes what you heard is true, The Wind Waker now holds the world record which was was held by another true Zelda classic, Ocarina of Time — “Most pre-ordered game of all time”. Even before the game was out on in the stores more than 600,000 Americans, Canadians and some crazy Europeans who imported the game because they couldn’t stand waiting two extra months for the PAL release of the game, reserved and payed for a game. These numbers speak for themselves, but did the game really live up the hype Nintendo succeeded so well in building for this game?
In the preview I wrote for the game I said that, and I quote: “The Wind Waker will be a brand new gaming experience, not like any other Zelda game, or videogame for that matter, ever known before”. These were big words, and that reflects the expectations I had for this game. They were not big, nor were they huge, no for my expectations they were infact impossible! By that I mean that I expected nothing less but pure excellency from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and naturally that will reflect my view of the game, so do not complain if you feel that I am being picky, because it is Nintendo’s own fault. Time and time over again they have spoiled us Zelda fans with excellent games, and time and time they have made us mad by making seemingly idiotic changes and twists to the games we love so much, and time and time we have had to eat our words after finding ourselves praising Nintendo’s changes as work of a genius. The Wind Waker is no exception!
Outlook – 15/15 Points
Clean and easy-to-navigate game menus has always been a trademark for the Zelda series, and The Wind Waker does not break away from that. The menus are just as easy to work with as in the previous games, and the screen looks very tidy and neat both when playing and navigating the menus. Saving is not much of a hassle either, simply go to the to the menu and select “save”, and the job will be done. The team behind the game also succeeded unlikely well in making up for the lack of voice-acting, which I will get back to later, by using emotional expressions and sound effects in just the right places at all the right times, and that made the overall impression of the game a lot better. To sum it up there is really nothing to complain about in this category, as the overall perception of the game and the way they blended all of the different aspects such as the graphics and sounds work perfectly together!
Gameplay – 15/15 Points
To many good gameplay is what makes a good game. Well let me tell you straight away, if you are one of those persons, you will worship The Wind Waker as if it was a divine artifact made by the man upstairs himself. Many do of course remember the excellent gameplay introduced in the Nintendo 64 Zelda game, Ocarina of Time, where most of the gameplay was built around the Z-Targeting feature. Well in The Wind Waker you have L-Targeting, which is basically the same, other than the fact that you have to keep the L button down to target. This opens up new opportunities for faster and more intense fighting, as you are allowed to switch between enemies much faster, and this game takes advantage of that to the fullest! In other aspects of the game apart from fighting, the L-Targeting lock-on system is not as central as it was in the N64 games, as the fairies who guided you are gone, and none are there to replace them. For me this left a somewhat empty feeling, as I felt that having a simple arrow there instead of a living and breathing partner to guide me through the game was just not quite as satisfactory. The absence of the fairies also brings up another “issue”. There is no now way to find out the names of the bosses and enemies during the most intense gameplay, and that was one of the things I really appreciated with the N64 games. Instead you now have to capture images of the characters, bosses and enemies you want information on, and take them to the Nintendo Gallery, where they will keep you informed!
As you probably know, or not know, by now the game takes place on a great sea fittingly called the Great Sea. As a result the game involves a lot of sailing between the many different islands which reside on the sea, and after a while this does become a little tedious. Thankfully Nintendo did stay true to the series, and added a warp-function to the this game as well, and that makes it a lot more fun because you won’t have to sail all the way from the north-eastern part of the sea to the south-western part over and over again. What is slightly disappointing however is the huge lack of actual land-based areas to explore apart from the dungeons. While many found it fun to roam over the seas and visit the small islands upon it, I personally felt that the game could have needed some “continents”, with that I mean larger islands that offered some good old fashion exploring, Ocarina of Time style!
Camera angles is a keyword in 3D games like The Wind Waker, and if I must say so myself they did a truly amazing job with it this time around. Vast improvements have been made since the last time Zelda hit the screen, and I actually never found myself annoyed by the camera angles in this game. Much of that is owed to the new “Free-Mode” which you can select whenever you feel like it, and that will allow you to set the camera to what you consider the ideal angle at the time, and once you are done simply hit a button to center the camera behind you again, which is the standard camera-mode, and definately the one used the most throughout the game.
I already mentioned that the fighting in the game is faster and more intense than ever before, and I still stand by that. What is new this time around however, is that every now and then enemies will hit each other, and the look on a Moblin’s face when he realize that he hit another Moblin instead of Link is just priceless, you are bound to laugh! With that I am already over on another part of the gameplay, the humour. The Wind Waker is perhaps the most humour-filled “serious” game ever, and it is very admirable that they put so many amusing elements into the game, and still managed to make you feel that you have a life-important task ahead of you that must be completed at all costs.
All in all the gameplay is as near to perfection as you can ever come in a videogame, with the excellent camera, the humour, and the most intense enemy and boss fights ever seen! It is a shame it had to end so soon, but I will definitely get back to that, so just keep reading.
Visuals – 15/15 Points
When Nintendo showcased the first actual footage of this game in all its cel-shaded glory, it came as a huge shock to many that they had gone away from the stunningly beautiful real-like graphics they showed in a Nintendo GameCube demo at the SpaceWorld 2000 convention. Many a Zelda fan, me included, sent e-mails and letters to Nintendo threatening them that we would not purchase the game, or perhaps even not a GameCube if they did not change the graphics back to the SpaceWorld 2000 tech-demo. Fortunately they ignored us!
The graphics, or the visuals as I prefer to call them, are simply amazing in this game, perhaps the best I have seen so far! Do not be fooled by those ignorant fools to think that the cartoon-like graphics are childish, and technologically old and remote, because that is as far from the truth as you can come. The visual technique used in this game which is known as cel-shading is infact far more advanced than the polygons that are standard in most games today, and they also require much more resources from the hardware. The reason the development team decided to go in the direction of cel-shading with this game is that they feel it perfectly suits the series, and that it allows for much more details in the game that would be impossible to do with polygons. Take the wind for example, you can always see which direction it blows in. Of course that is helpful when one of the main aspects of the game is to use the wind and its direction to your advance! Seeing the grass move when you walk through it, and the water dripping from you when you finish a swim is just awesome, it is art in shape of a videogame!
I would actually go as far as claiming that the graphical style of the game makes it more mature rather than childish, because you must have a certain degree of maturity to understand why and appreciate the choices the developers did in the visual department of the game! Take the water for instance, many say it looks terribly bad, and after getting access to some of the water in the early development stages of the game, where they did it Super Mario Sunshine style, quite a few have complained that they didn’t use the same style of transparent water in the game. Come on, could you honestly say that the water effects in the actual game does not fit the rest of the game’s style like a hand in a glove? I think not! I guess I should draw a conclusion in this category as well, and that would have to be that I can easily see how some immature early-teens will brush this game off as immature after they take a glance at a screenshot, but quite frankly I could not care less because it is their and only their loss.
Audio – 13/15 Points
As a hard-core Zelda fan it is hard for me to admit that the newest installment is not perfect, but as a reviewer it is my duty to let you know my actual feelings about the quality of the game, to give you an accurate as possible impression of the game. Now that what has to be said has been said, lets move on the to audio. Just because it did not get a perfect score, that does not mean that the sound and music in this game is bad, no that is not true, not by a long shot (no pun intended).
If you have played many games in the same genre as Zelda before you put The Wind Waker in your GameCube, you should be prepared that this game does not have (poor) voice acting, like many of these games of today do. This means that playing the game involves a lot of reading, but quite honestly this is not a problem at all, because the sound effects do a magnificent job in making the text very light and interesting to read. Of course the fact that an estimated amount of 98% of the text in the game is interesting also helps a bit on that as well. In a conclusion the sound effects in the game are very well done, and especially the mumbling heard when characters speak in an ancient Hylian language illustrates exactly how much you are supposed to understand out of that! For those who have a decent stereo connected to your TeleVision, this game also supports surround sound, which adds another dimension to the audio of the game.
So why did the game not get a perfect score in the audio category? It is all in the music. While the game certainly has its peaks in the musical aspect, with magnificent and catchy new and remastered old Zelda tunes, such as the introduction music, and the theme for Dragon Roost Island, the overall standard is just not as high as we have come to expect from a Zelda game. Take the overworld (Great Sea) theme for instance. First impression: An alright remix of the original Zelda theme. Impression after playing halfway through the game, and hours of sailing: Will somebody please turn down the volume!? So much of the music is good in this game, and after hearing some of that brilliant music it made me wonder what went wrong in the bad parts, the Great Sea included.
Another thing I noticed with the music was actually the lack of it. For some reason the head of this department of the game development seems to think that no music does infact supply a fealing of fear and cautious unawareness. Well that can be true to a certain extent, but personall I know I would prefer scary music over no music any day, this became obvious to me in one of the last scenes of the game, right before the final showdown with the last boss.
Storyline – 10/10 Points
This is perhaps the most important thing of all Zelda games after the original for the NES, where the in-game storyline was virtually absent. Quite contrary to Ocarina of Time which was in many ways a 3D version of the A Link to the Past story, The Wind Waker adds a brand new story to the Zelda lore. In many ways it is also what has been missing for so long, as it fills many of the gaps that have been found in the Zelda timeline, one of them being the one or multiple Link discussion — In this game we finally get it confirmed that there are in fact more than one Links.
The game starts out with Link living on a peaceful island called Outset, together with his Grandmother known as Link’s Grandmother, and his sister Aryll. After a series of events it ends up with Aryll being kidnapped by a giant bird known as the Helmaroc King! Link sets out together with a group of pirates to save her, and after sneaking his way to the top of the Forsaken Fortress where Aryll is currently held prisoner, Link himself is snatched by the Helmaroc King and taken to the its evil master who confronts Link.
I will not reveal more of the storyline, as I feel that there is no need to spoil the biggest surprises. What I will say though, is that this storyline is as true to the Zelda series as we will ever get it, and it is so to speak the direct sequel to Ocarina of Time which we never got, as Majora’s Mask was more of a spin-off. The storyline involves many great and unexpected suprises, and it answers many questions, and at the same time it opens up the door for many new ones. In other words, it is the story of a true Zelda game! Oh and before you open up Outlook Express and e-mail us to ask this, yes, Princess Zelda is in the game, and she plays a very important role as well!
Environment – 8/10 Points
I am well aware of the fact that this game offers the richest and most detailed environment seen in any Zelda game up until today, and that is all good and well. However, my problem lies not in the environment itself, but rather which environment we get in this game. Simply one glance at the old Hyrule from Ocarina of Time made me so sad, because I realized that instead of exploring Hyrule Field in its full cel-shaded glory, I would have to settle with a vast sea, and some small islands.
Do not get me wrong, the environmental details are supreme, especially in dungeons and towns, but using the words of a Zelda fan: “I want to see Hyrule with those incredible details and the environmental excellence we saw in The Wind Waker — A sea does simply not do the same job, even though I know that I am stepping on the same mountain peaks I could spot far up there in Ocarina of Time”.
Ambiance – 10/10 Points
Many of you will probably ask what in the name of the Triforce ambiance means. Well, short said it is the feeling the game gives you. Does it suck you in and lead you think that you are infact a part of the world it presents, or does it leave you with a feeling that you are simply playing a videogame?
The Wind Waker does the first, and more. While playing you will simply forget all about that controller in your hands, and you will actually be sailing your boat on the Great Sea. My mother had to actually hit me, not hard of course, before I realized that she was standing next to me telling me dinner was ready. Had it not been for that lucky break, I would probably have had an accident because I did not even notice that it was time for a bathroom visit.
This is simply the kind of game that is not a mere game, just like Jumanji it sucks you in and it will not let you leave before you have completed your task and the Great Sea is once again safe from those evil forces that threaten the land. If this game does not make you stay up all night just to find out who is actually behind the evil which caused Hyrule to be forgotten under a vast sea, no game ever will! That is just how addictive this game and its story is.
Zelda Sense – 5/5 Points
Perhaps the strongest point of the game, and I almost wanted to give it an extra point in this category. The Wind Waker perfectly captures the Zelda sense into the detailed cel-shading, if possible even better than Ocarina of Time did with the transition from 2D to 3D.
Every single detail in the game, from the little crests on the jewelry of the Rito people that gives you a hint that they have a connection to the Zora tribe, and the glowing Master Sword simply cries Zelda. And with a storyline which is perhaps the best one as of today, this game is probably the most Zelda-ish game of them all!
Overall Effectiveness – 5/5 Points
Even though I already stated this, I must say that this game simply sucks you in and you forget all about the fact that it is a mere videogame. Once you have finished it, you really do feel like you have saved the land from evil once more, and you really do feel like the modest hero Link, the Hero of Winds.
Once again Miyamoto and Aonuma succeeded in making a game that, after you have finished it, gives you a feeling that you have accomplished something which actually means something, and not just a videogame. If you feel that nothing is going in your direction, and life is just a big mess, then playing this game will help, believe me I speak from experience. And that, my friend, is what separates The Wind Waker from other video games out on the market today!
Total Score – 96/100 Points
Wow, I did not think that I would end up giving this game such as good score! Even though it offered an excellent experience, I do not feel that it surpasses the excellence of Ocarina of Time. Another strength of this game is that it is just as good, if not even better the second time around. If you have not purchased this game already, well then you are missing out on one of the greatest videogames of all time, and I can only say that I do feel sorry for you!