The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker review
A Charming, but Simple Addition to the Zelda Series

The good:

Visuals/Music perfectly portray the overall theme of the game
Straightforward game play familiar to all Zelda fans
Fascinating plot that offers a slight change of pace
An array of side quests

The bad:

Cel-shading technique certainly not for everyone
Can be too easy at times
Sailing can become bothersome and tedious


The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker can be considered one of the most controversial titles of the Zelda franchise right from its very first stages of development. Packed with more visual power and specs, the Nintendo GameCube produced an array of high expectations and eager fans waiting to see the most realistic Link to date. What they received was nothing short of chaotic to even the most open minded of gamers. As Link appeared on the screen, the “horror” began to sink in right from the first few seconds. Filled with over the top explosions, a colorful ocean, and what looked like a new cartoon series featuring Link, the Wind Waker began its controversial voyage into skepticism, irrational critique, and a very cold shoulder from a majority of Zelda fans worldwide. To add to the turbulence, the game experienced frequent and lengthy delays, pushing some into a sense of apathy never really seen before in the Zelda franchise. After the classic titles that graced the GameCube several years back, how could Nintendo possibly push the envelope even more than before? While Majora’s Mask was certainly unique in plot, Wind Waker showed the world that the company was not afraid to distort a proven formula to provide even more ground breaking titles. As Wind Waker began to hit shelves in late 2002/early 2003, the loud criticism suddenly reduced to mere whispers. Despite such drastic differences in graphics, the Wind Waker proved to be an enjoyable, light hearted addition to the Zelda collection. Realism has no place in Onset Island and the rest of the Great Sea, contrary to the doomsday-esque nature of the previous two Zelda titles for the N64. Even in its darkest moments, the world within the Wind Waker is still incredibly tranquil and charming. Make no mistake about it, there are some downsides to this friendly looking title, but nothing as horrific as people so prematurely assumed. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is a worthy title for the Nintendo GameCube that can leave anyone pleasantly surprised.

The “new” Link appears to be mimicking fan’s reactions during Spaceworld 2001…

Plot/Game Play
Opening scenes are nothing short of dramatic in The Legend of Zelda series. Whether it’s a prophetic dream and strolling into a dark forest, the chaos is usually seen right within the first few seconds of the game. The Wind Waker totally flips this theory on its side in exchange for a beginning that seems to echo the light hearted nature of this title. We are guided into the game by a tale told in a storybook fashion, describing the all too familiar events of the hero we’ve come to see in the Ocarina of Time. Right from the start, it’s obvious to the player that this is not the same Link of old, but a descendent of the hero himself. Our much younger version of Link is celebrating his 9th birthday on Onset Island, a peaceful place that seems void of any sort of typical Zelda drama. Weapons are generally looked down upon, with the only person with knowledge of sword technique being an older man named Orca. The serene nature is soon diminished by a massive bird that grabs Link’s sister and carries here off into the sun. Link befriends a band of pirates that will aid him in his quest, despite their “tough love” approach to the newest member of their crew. Here Link will meet Tetra, the captain of the ship and its mates. However, Link will eventually realize that there’s a little bit more to Tetra than first perceived. Here is where we see the first shining positive in Wind Waker. This time around, the plot is not straightforward, but abstract with many twists and turns to always keep the player at the edge of their seat. What seems like the ending point to one plot, becomes the beginning of another much larger scheme. As Link’s voyage continues, characters will be exposed and landmarks that seem quite familiar will begin to blend in with the Great Sea, resulting in a suspenseful and enjoyable title. Just when you think you’ve solved one puzzle and killed off the last boss, another one jumps right in to cause further havoc. But that’s the beauty of it. Plot wise, you never really know what to expect in this unique, but well executed game.

Tetra is just one of the many suspicious characters found within Wind Waker

As one can easily assume, the Great Sea is a vast environment that appeals to any gamer looking for a more open world to explore. Hyrule and Termina were diverse, but lacked the depth to make it anything truly immersive. The Wind Waker delivers when it comes to environment and atmosphere. One can spend hours sailing around the ocean looking for treasure, islands, and enemy hideouts. But what makes this game so special from the rest is the array of islands in which Link can explore. Some islands are a mere ten steps long and totally desolate in nature, while others are bustling areas of trade and personality. Windfall Island is easily one of the most impressive areas in the entire Zelda series, and can result in an extended period of game play just through exploring. This is no Castle Town, nor is this Clock Town. Characters are full of life, but are generally carefree in nature. Instead of solving marriage issues for a mask, or relinquishing a ghost’s pain and suffering, you will be taking pictures with the new Pictograph, helping a school teacher deal with a few rebellious kids, and serve as a wingman for one infatuated member of the island. Trivial, too resembling of high school you say? Not in the least, as all of these conflicts come with rewards, some which are crucial for the progression of Link’s main journey. These certainly aren’t life or death situations, but they are no less suspenseful or interesting. The Wind Waker does a fantastic job of supplementing side quests to make for a more complete title. Treasure is certainly abundant in the Great Sea, and the feeling of finding that silver rupee in the depths of the ocean is nothing short of rewarding. A vast world compromised of many errands and quests await anyone who has yet to try such an impressive piece to the Zelda series. Fascinating side quests and a suspense ridden plot make this game a must play for adventure fans of all ages.

As concrete as the factors mentioned above appear to be, the game play sticks to the traditional (but no less impressive) Zelda formula. Link will collect an array of items, keys, and maps to venture through temples and avoid getting lost in the Great Sea. Items such as the grappling hook and Deku leaf make their debut in the game, allowing for more obstacles never seen before within other adventure games. Other items serve as a temporary purpose, but are no less useful than the permanent ones. Link will have to purchase bait and fruit to receive the aid of a few unlikely creatures. The most unique factor of game play comes from the use of the Wind Waker, a mystical instrument capable of controlling the winds and unlocking hidden doors of folklore. It operates with the same mechanics as the Ocarina, just with a much larger array of abilities. Don’t feel like sailing to every island back and forth? Not a problem, as Link can learn a song that can transport him back and forth within seconds. (With the help of a most irritable figure.) However, this instrumental baton will not serve as a simple transportation aid. It serves a much more significant purpose when connected with the game’s shifting plot. Basically, you’ll have to figure it out yourself this time around. Overall, there really isn’t much to say in regards to the unique aspects of game play, as they are few and far between. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker contains many mechanics that stick to the successful Zelda formula, while providing a few impressive differences along the way to distinguish this title as a worthy collection.

Change in the video game world is something looked down upon, especially when dealing with such an iconic series as The Legend Of Zelda. To most, Spaceworld 2001 (the conference which offered gamers a first glimpse of the Cel-shaded version of Link) was a death sentence, the finishing blow to a series that may be going in the wrong direction. An open minded attitude was a rarity, and fans began to distort the words of Shigeru Miyamoto in order to appeal to their worst horrors. The words “more appealing to all ages” only confirmed their fears, leading some to believe that the game would be composed of very kid friendly themes and personalities. For the next year, gamers couldn’t care venture into any Nintendo forum without hearing a plethora of negativity and ridiculous theory that would make even the most pessimistic of philosophers shudder in disbelief. Not at all surprised of the backlash they were facing, Nintendo urged fans to be patient and wait until they play the game before making any judgments based solely on graphics. Eventually, gamers everywhere will be able to see exactly why they went in such a twisted direction for the GameCube’s first Zelda title.

What fans received was just that, instantly producing an aura of silence once the game released. The graphics are stunning, and work perfectly with the plot, theme, and mood of the game. The Great Sea and its vibrant islands are nothing short of colorful, showing that even times of peril can still look welcoming. Enemies are imposing and portrayed with exceptional amounts of detail, allowing for suspenseful boss fights and a newfound appreciation the cel-shading style. Even Link shows a bit of personality throughout the game. His usually stoic face is capable of showing happiness, disgust, and of course, the straight faced look of determination. The most positive aspect of the visuals is how they affect the vast environment. Detail is a crucial aspect of the game, but not to the point of where it feels forced. Seagulls, treasure hunters, and gods can be seen traveling through the vast Great Sea. At any moment, storms can appear and throw Link of course in an instant, but even the most suspenseful of times never really looked so good. What were once filler areas (let’s face it, those citizens in the Castle Town weren’t really that captivating) are now detailed islands that always have something to hide and someone to interact with. Even throughout the first few minutes of game play, it’s obvious to see that this graphical style was crucial for the Wind Waker. The abundance of detail and color managed to flip many misconceptions and turn them into high amounts of praise. Graphics don’t “make” the game, and the same applies to the Wind Waker. However, it’s brilliant use of cel-shading appeals to fans of any age, just as Miyamoto wanted it to be.

The Great Sea is vast and colorful, thanks to the excellent cel-shading visuals

High quality in music is crucial in The Legend of Zelda games, and The Wind Waker contains some of the best pieces throughout the entire series. Before you even start a file, the music of the opening theme brings out a colorful array of strings and flutes that appeal to Celtic folksongs. As with any good Zelda score, the music sets the tone. From the opening second on, anyone can see that this is no ordinary Zelda game. The ominous instruments and chants are nonexistent in this game in exchange for more relaxing songs that can shift anyone into a good mood. The music of Windfall Island perfectly portrays the busy, yet elegant nature of the town and its landscape. The score for the Forsaken Fortress is about as eerie as it’s going to get, and even that is more focused on suspense rather than fear. Koji Kondo once again proves to us why he’s one of the most successful producers of music in videogames. His ability to relate music with in game themes is unbeatable, and is another aspect of why this game is so distinct when compared to other games. The tranquil instrumentals portray a theme of tranquility and suspense when necessary, words that relate perfectly to the game’s themes.
The Opening Theme is just one of the many brilliant pieces in Wind Waker

While there are plenty of positives to say about The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker contains several flaws that somewhat diminish the quality of the game. For one, this game is awfully easy. While bosses certainly look impressive, they have obvious weak points and can be defeated without much stress. Temples are puzzle orientated, but lack the same magic and interest level as the game’s ancestors. At times, side quests are more difficult than the main plot itself, which takes a lot away from the overall story line. By appealing to all ages, the game became somewhat simplified when it comes to monster fights. The new “parry attack” demolishes every enemy with the press of a button, which anyone can master with ease. Hacking away at enemies is a sure sign of victory, and that sometimes takes away from the experience of the game.
No one can argue that the Great Sea is fun to explore, but when does it become too vast and more of a hindrance? Wind is a constant factor in the game, which forces Link to have to change the direction of the wind a lot, perhaps even too much. If you want to alter direction even by the slightest degree, a song must be played to avoid sailing against the wind. (this literally makes you stop in the middle of the ocean) There are plenty of islands to visit, but some blocks of sea are comprised of water and seagulls, nothing more. In the beginning stages of the game, sailing is refreshing, fun, and exciting. By the halfway mark, you’ll be more frustrated with changing the wind direction than any boss or temple can accumulate. This flaw is at times unavoidable, and significantly hurts the quality of the game. An incredible amount of praise can be attributed to the game’s visuals, but that does not mean it’s for every fan out there. Some see Zelda as only fitting for realistic visuals, and refuse to accept the cartoon like look of the Wind Waker with an open mind. One must play the game and see for themselves whether the graphical style fits their perception of a “great” Zelda title.

In conclusion... Okay, sure, maybe The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker cannot be labeled as a classic when compared to previous Zelda titles, but it’s still an exceptional game worthy of praise throughout the years. It contains flaws that are more so diminishing to the quality rather than a mere annoyance that one can overlook. Controversy will always be common when discussing the game, and rightfully so. Nintendo has shown as through Wind Waker that they are not afraid of exploring new boundaries and pushing the envelope. The plot is top notch, the visuals and music correlate perfectly with the game’s themes. Despite its flaws, this is still a must have for anyone who owns a Nintendo GameCube. Whether it goes down in praise or infamy is up to you.

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