Review

Plot

The Wind Waker is the true sequel to Ocarina of Time, telling the story of Hyrule’s fate centuries later. The game starts on Outset Island, a small and isolated island in the south of the Great Sea. On the same day as Link’s coming of age ceremony, a pirate named Tetra is kidnapped by a mysterious bird. Following her older brother on a rescue mission, Aryll, the bird’s true target, is snatched and taken far away. This sets off a chain of events which will reveal the true destinies of Link and Tetra. 8

Gameplay

While The Wind Waker adds a lot to the basic game design of Ocarina of Time, it screws up in big ways, and in some places, regresses on advances made with Majora’s Mask. I’m going to split the two diametric opinions on the game to highlight just why this game is so hard to like, yet so hard to hate.

The Good

  • The combat has been improved in this game. Swordplay is far faster, with a devastating and visually spectacular array of new parry moves. Each blow adds a sound to the battle music, bringing combat alive. L-Targeting has been improved in that switching between enemies is instantaneous, while it used to be slower paced.
  • Rolling is a valid way of moving faster, while it used to be a stuttering process.
  • The storyline has more charm and character than any other Zelda title. The population of the Great Sea is more alive and more individual than all Zelda games bar Majora’s Mask.
  • It’s the first Zelda that is even more enjoyable to play the second time around.

The Bad

  • L-Targeting has also been degraded. It’s less clear what exactly you’re targeting thanks to the lack of Navi, and the snap-off range is about the same as Ocarina of Time, regressing from the improvement made in Majora’s Mask. You have to be closer to acquire a target.
  • The Great Sea is massive. It wouldn’t be so bad if the game was based on land, but it ends up being a boring, lifeless mass which is tedious to traverse. To make matters worse, there is a point in the game where you are teasingly shown the beauty of a real overworld possible with the gorgeous Wind Waker graphics engine.
  • The titular Wind Waker is the worst Zelda instrument yet. You have to play a song every time you want to change the wind’s direction (something that you’ll be doing a lot), which would be annoying enough if we had an Ocarina. Now, though, you’re restricted as to how fast you can bang out a tune because you’re composing. A better solution would have been to have players hold down the Wind Waker button and flick the C-Stick in the direction they want to change the wind.
  • Giving items to someone is performed via the more ambiguous Ocarina of Time system, instead of the Majora’s Mask improvement.
  • No Navi or Tatl means that unless you have hooked up a GBA, you can’t find out the names or details of the enemies you encounter. Using the GBA Tingle Tuner is a big pain in the arse, constantly swapping between screens and controllers. Also, the loss of boss introductions reduces their level of intimidation.
  • Only five dungeons? It wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t so glaringly obvious where the other three would have been placed. For instance, at the start of the game you’ve got to find three Pearls. While the first two are associated with completing dungeons, the third is a case of speaking to a great fish named Jabun. The exchange goes something like this; “Oh, so you’re the descendant of the Hero of Time? Oh, you’re not? But you are the next Hero? Well, you’re wearing green clothes, so that’ll do for me. Here you go.”

At least Jabun hands the Pearl over to you - the final mission would have been a dungeon for the Triforce, but that was replaced by a horrific fetch-quest that involved finding Triforce Maps, rupees to decipher the Maps, and then finding the Triforce pieces themselves. Terrible game design. 6

Graphics

After Nintendo showed a GameCube tech demo of Link and Ganondorf fighting, fans were hyped for a more realistic-looking Zelda. At E3 2001, Nintendo showed off a drastically different style, the cel-shaded look that caused so much “Celda” controversy. It was unthinkable that they would make a Mario game look more realistic, while making a Zelda game more cartoony.

Gradually, people began to accept, and even like, the new style, and while it lends a certain feel to the game, it does strip it of some of its atmosphere. Certain things can be created in this style that would look out of place with more realistic graphics, and fights would need to be less animated. My main complaint is that this gorgeous new engine is wasted on a bland sea and sparse islands rather than a rich, rolling landscape. 9

Sounds

The sound was the one aspect of the game I was most looking forward to. If anyone has heard Ocarina of Time’s Windmill, Lon Lon Ranch, or Gerudo Valley themes, then they’ll know the ludicrously high standards of the Zelda series. The Wind Waker is no Ocarina of Time. You can describe the game as “pretty good”. Unfortunately, this is how you can describe the soundtrack, too. Pretty good. Just okay, sometimes. Remixes and classics aside, the new tracks aren’t catchy. They’re nice, but you won’t fall in love.

Sound is used most effectively during battles. As I’ve mentioned, instrument effects are used to highlight attacks and combos. After fighting in The Wind Waker, battles seem a little flatter in other Zelda games. The developers use a clever trick late in the game where you fight one battle, and all is silent. You just hear the little thuds of your sword, and it emphasises the relative powerlessness of young Link. 9

Atmosphere

This is one big area where the game falls down. While some dungeons are technically good, and the scale of the game is pretty epic, the game loses a lot of atmosphere evident in past Zelda games because of the cheer of the graphics, but also because of the misuse of them.

The engine’s strength is colour, and yet it is set largely on a uniform, blue sea. Midway in the game, you see something from past Zelda games (though you’re not allowed to go to it) that shows how vibrant a game set on land could be with this style. It could have been a game of majesty, but instead, it loses a lot of that grand atmosphere. 7

Contribution

The Wind Waker’s main contribution to the Zelda series is a fantastic part of Hyrulian lore, thanks to a story realised like no Zelda before it. There’s also the sun-drenched graphic style used in the game’s sequel, Phantom Hourglass, but aside from these advancements, TWW brings with it a lot of regressions, repetitions, and missed opportunities. 7

Overall

While undoubtedly a good game, The Wind Waker fails to capture what makes a Zelda game great. To give it a 9 would be to put it on the same level as Majora’s Mask, and that is slightly insulting to that masterpiece, so I feel the game deserves a solid 8.

8

 

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