The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker review
Sailing across that fine line between fun and tedious
The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker is a bit of a tricky game to review. While it's certainly got its good points, its bad points aren't slouches. Not necessarily of the “game breaking” variety, but competence doesn't really mean you should play it. The way I see it, a game has to be fun above all else, and while Wind Waker has many fun moments, it also has a few tedious moments. To put it simply, when it's good, it's definitely good, but when it's tedious, yeah, it's tedious.
It begins with Link having to rescue his sister after she's kidnapped by a giant bird. With the help of the pirates (one of which was actually the intended target), he gets to the Forsaken Fortress and tries to rescue her, but he gets his ass kicked, then the bird throws him out to sea. He's rescued by a boat known as the King Of Red Lions, and from there, he'll have to find three orbs so he can find a powerful sword that can vanquish evil and save his sister. It eventually turns into a “save the world” type of situation at the halfway point, but the twists that come out of this story, although obvious after the first hour, are delivered quite well. It's really the build up to them that make them stand out. At the beginning, you learn of the hero of time (the Link from Ocarina Of Time) and how he had slain the evil Ganon, and then when you play, you notice that the world around you is surrounded by sea with all but a few islands... come up with your conclusions and see if you got the right one when you play through it.
Like the other 3D Zeldas, the idea is to go around the world to find the dungeons, get into them, go through them and beat the boss, then rinse, lather and repeat. Sounds reasonable enough. For the most part, Wind Waker doesn't do much all that differently from its predecessors Ocarina Of Time and Majora's Mask (well, except that it can balance out main quest and sidequests a bit better than those two). The dungeons are still designed to give you things to do in each room, like a puzzle or two (either related to wind, or using blocks and switches), or killing a few enemies. There isn't much more to say about the dungeon designs, other than... well, they do their job alright.
While on the subject of the N64 Zeldas, while both of them had good button layouts, allowing you to use items and your sword and shield with ease, although the camera controls were practically non existent. Well, with the Wind Waker, it turns out all the N64 needed was a second analog stick! Yep, with the C-stick, you can freely control the camera with no problems, and it really helps you see a lot of shit. Beyond that, it controls tightly and is mapped for ease of use throughout the game, especially combat. Combat may appear simple – just hammer the B button, but occasionally, you'll see the A button on the screen flash and have many points around it, and when you press A, Link will either roll around the enemy or jump over the enemy and deliver a powerful strike. VERY useful in a jam and against enemies with frontal armor... it's pretty sick and gives combat a bit more depth, just so you aren't just hammering the B button.
I suppose I should say something about the item that's featured on the title... the Wind Waker. It's a baton, so you'll basically be conducting songs. Whether it's to tell the gods to change wind direction (and believe me when I say that you'll be doing that a lot) or to conduct a sage to play a song that opens up their respective dungeons, let's just say that it's going to be rather important throughout your quest...
Unlike pretty much every other Zelda game out there, you're not walking through open fields; you're sailing across the open seas. That sounds pretty cool, but then you actually do it... and that's when you ditch the sleeping pills. See, while sailing is a cool thing to do in real life, watching somebody else do it (particularly a video game character) is just lame. It wouldn't be such an issue, except damn, this world is pretty *bleep*ing big! There's quite a lot of sea between each island, most of which aren't much bigger than a small house. That means it'll take a long time to get from destination to destination, and to make things worse, there's hardly anything to do. Sure, a couple of sections have big enemies you'll have to kill.. though they're not on your way to islands you'll be required to go through. Sure, a few sharks may pop up, but they're easy to dodge and there just aren't enough to keep you on your toes. So yeah, it's boring. Sure, accuse me of having ADD, but like I said, a game has to be fun above all else – this isn't fun, and it's something you'll be doing for a prolonged period of time, therefore, it's badly executed.
Unfortunately, the biggest issue is with difficulty, or lack thereof. Wind Waker may be good, but *bleep*, it's easy. I don't expect a Zelda game to be as hard as a Contra game, but some challenge is expected. While a boss or two may give you some resistance, ultimately, the game is just too easy for its own good. The puzzles have obvious solutions. Sure, a couple may throw a curve ball your way, but that's nothing a little experimenting can't solve, like using light to petrify a large slime drip... actually, I wish all the puzzles were more like that. Instead, it's like they're either half done for you, or if you just use common sense (and I know that these days it's actually so rare that it could be a super power, but still). Sadly, the bosses aren't much better in the difficulty department. Sure, a couple of bosses offer a decent amount of resistance, but just get out the dungeon's item, use it and them slash them with your sword... easy.
But if there's something that's actually impressive, it's that they're still fun. Well, not necessarily the puzzles, they're just things you do to progress through the dungeons. Whether they're fun or not is not really their concern. It's the bosses that will really entertain you. Whether it's because they constantly stay on your ass or have their minions distract you (and I have to say, even though I tend to *bleep*ing hate it when bosses bring their minions along, somehow, the one boss here that does it doesn't send me into fits of rage... maybe it's because the minions don't score cheap hits and the boss actually does something), there's always something to do while fighting the bosses.
When it's not easy, it's tedious. Towards the end of the game, you'll have to sail around the world to find charts that will lead you to various pieces of a big, important and powerful treasure. That, alone, is tedious because there is a lot of sailing involved, and as I've already made clear, it's sleep inducing at best. At least they had the courtesy to include some arena-esque situations where you have to kill some enemies in different rooms for a few of the charts, but that's it. Other than that, well, I hope you enjoy sailing... not to mention, seriously, we need CHARTS!? Just *bleep*ing give us the pieces! Plus, it'd avoid what makes this part just plain *bleep*ing annoying – it costs roughly 400 rupees to get each chart translated. I mean, when I play a Zelda game, the first thing I want to do before getting to the last dungeon is farm for a million rupees... not at all a tedious waste of time or anything!
Ah well, at least there's nothing that could be polarizing or terrible about the graphics. In fact, they look *bleep*ing awesome! Sure, they look like they're tripping on some serious shit (look at their eyeballs – they're *bleep*ing huge!), but it looks so lively! Between the vivid colors, the cel shaded models and landscapes, and fluid animations, you can definitely tell that a lot of effort was put into those graphics to make the game look fantastic.
Sadly, I can't give that sort of praise to the sound department. The soundtrack is simply okay. The tune that plays while you're sailing really gives you that kickass “I'M OUT TO SET SAIL FOR THE GRAND LINE!” vibe... the first few minutes you hear it, but after a while, it just drones on and on... can't blame it, really, because the gameplay segment itself drags on for like an eternity! As for the other songs, they pretty much define background music. A couple of the songs will stick to your head, but as far as the more ambient tracks go... they're okay, but don't really give off the dungeon vibe. They just feel like lesser town/island tunes repetitively played just to seem ambient, even though they aren't exactly.
The dungeons may have obvious solutions, as do the bosses, but the sailing just doesn't have enough to do in it to justify it being as long as it is... or existing, for that matter.
They're all tight and responsive, and the camera works out rather well.
Starts off rather standard, but then comes the big twist, and even though you see it coming, it's still like “oh shit you high brah?!”.
Right, let's all attack the best part... looks great with some damn fluid animations... sure is kiddy!!
Literally background music. Not much really stands out and even the dungeon music isn't all that good. It's... meh. The sound effects at least suit the graphics.
It should only take about 10 or so hours to beat the story, but there's still a lot of things to get... the only question is “can you tolerate sailing for that long”.
Although (or because) they're simple, the bosses carry the most fun in this game. The dungeons aren't too bad, but they just aren't as fun as the bosses. The sailing will probably put you to sleep.
Make no mistake - The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker is a pretty damn good game. The dungeons are reasonably well designed and the bosses are just fun to fight. Sure, they're easy as hell, but it goes well with my gaming philosophy – it has to be fun above all else. Unfortunately, the sailing kills the game. Anything involving a prolonged amount of time on the boat is boring, tedious and plain poorly executed.
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