The Wind Waker started life as a realistic-looking sequel to Majora’s Mask, but the Zelda team weren’t happy with retreading old ground. They wanted a fresh look for a Zelda that anyone could finish, and the result was the highly controversial cel-shaded style.
Over time, people began to accept, even love, the new graphics, and by the time it was released the hate campaign had died down. The game went on to sell around 4.5 million copies worldwide, which is roughly equal to the sales of A Link to the Past. TWW received a 9 from EDGE, and a generous perfect 40 from Famitsu.
The game marks a departure from past Zelda games as it clearly positions itself within the series. The legend of the Hero of Time has been passed down generations, and we learn that in the time past between TWW and OoT, Ganon has returned and the Gods were forced to flood Hyrule. The new Link is also unique in that we learn more about his family than any Link in the past.
This Wind Waker contentiously trades in a real land overworld for a wide ocean, and conducive to this is the Wind Waker baton itself. These two elements work together to effectively cripple the overall game; the sea itself is a flat, undecorative, sparse location that’s tedious to traverse.
It’s possible, before getting the Ballad of Gales (a song that let’s you warp to a few selected areas on the map), to set your wind direction, unfold your sail, and leave your controller for five minutes in order to get to your destination. The second annoyance is changing the wind - you have to do it so often in the game, that playing the song each time is mind-numbing.
The story is wonderfully crafted, and ruined only because of development time constraints: notably the loss of three dungeons, which wouldn’t be so bad if the game wasn’t crying desperately for more content, and if it wasn’t so obvious where content had been cut. The game’s glaring problems are made up for by the wonderful characterisation; everyone you meet as some kind of backstory or personality quirk, and its worth seeking out every character to get the most out of the world.