I’m a self-confessed Zelda fanboy, and I’ve never hidden it. Much to the amusement and piss-taking of my mates, I’ve argued for years that not only is ‘The Legend of Zelda’ the best game series of all time, but that The Wind Waker is the best of the bunch.
Nintendo went in an unexpected direction with Wind Waker, especially after a 2000 expo tech demo showing a realistic-looking link duelling in a shadowy backdrop gave fans the expectation of an evolution of the N64 titles. With this optimism spreading through the community, once the final game was demoed with its massive right turn in presentation, the backlash was immediate. Just from first looks and without having played the game, die-hard fans felt put out that the next chapter of their much-loved series was steered towards a younger audience – little did they know there was no such chance! Wind Waker contains the most ridiculous ending fight of any game in the series, cumulating with the Master Sword buried right between Ganondorf’s eyes! If you haven’t seen it, YouTube it, you’ll be amazed that this was the ending to a PEGI 7+ game.
The graphics were commonly slated for being too cartoony and childish, but I found this new art direction radiated the most emotion and charm of any game in the series, either before or to follow. While the GameCube had relatively powerful performance for its time, it did not try to go beyond its limits. Nintendo showed the pinnacle of cell shading, and the 2D sprites on the crisp 3D environments kept Wind Waker uncontaminated from the jagged textures and pointed faces that plagued other high profile games of the same era. The fluid transitions between cutscenes, conversations and gameplay gave the feeling of a playing a live action cartoon.
One of the other derided game elements was the endless sailing from island to island (until you found how to quick travel). Was I the only one who found the sailing entertaining?! Not only was it fun dicking around in a giant open ocean, littered with a mixture of unique islands – it also served a purpose by removing loading screens when moving between said islands and thus keeping the player immersed. You also got to fire a big ol’ canon at pirates, explore ghost ships, shoot a man-fish with a bow and search for buried treasure- what’s not to like?!
The Wind Waker defines the complete game; the controls are intuitive, the story enchanting, the characters memorable; the combat is solid, the game world immersive… I cannot find a single flaw in the whole adventure. I was happy from start to finish and continually wowed by the story development and expanding inventory. The game had everything- Fighting, stealth, magic, humour and PIRATES! Although a repeat play through was for die hard fans only, the sheer size and amount of content blows all the others out of the water.