Retro Review: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GC)

Wind Waker Cover ArtDeveloper: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform(s): Gamecube and Wii U (remaster)
Price: $100 (new), $30 (used); Wii U version prices differ
Release date: March 24, 2003 (Gamecube release date)

Since the release of Majora’s Mask, Zelda had not seen a platform game. Thus, when Wind Waker was announced, fans world-wide rejoiced that their beloved series would be adding yet another console title to its legendary name. The style of this new game, however, nearly tore the fan community in two. Previous games all had a mature, realistic look to them, while Wind Waker was destined to take on a kid-oriented, cell-shaded style. In fact, the game seemed like nothing more than a leap of faith into the dark on the part of Nintendo.

In the face of all of its controversy, does Wind Waker still manage to provide fans with the franchise’s famed epicness, or is it forever destined as an unforgettable failure? Read on as we take a look at the content, gameplay, and presentation of this unique, daring title.

Storyline

Many years have passed since the great Hero of Time rescued Hyrule from the iron grip of Ganondorf. Though that ancient kingdom has long since crumbled and that hero died, their memories still survive on the wind’s breath.

On Outset Island, it has become customary to garb all boys in the Hero of Time’s clothing on their thirteenth birthday—both to celebrate their heritage and to show them what they should each aspire to be. When the story opens, a young boy named Link is making preparations to celebrate his thirteenth birthday when the unexpected happens. From out of nowhere, an enormous hawk snatches his sister, carrying her off prisoner to a place known as the Forsaken Fortress. As if things aren’t bad enough, Link’s only hope of rescuing his sister lies with a band of rag-tag pirates whose leader doesn’t seem too impressed with her newest “crew member.”

Leaving all that he knows behind, Link begins his quest to rescue his sister… and soon discovers that she is not the only one that has been kidnapped. Strange occurrences come to light as the plot unfolds, and Link ultimately discovers that the evil that was defeated long ago has again risen to take its revenge.

Content Guide

Positive Elements
Link is a positive element in and of himself. He’s no different than the average boy. He has friends, he’s reckless, and he has his bad days. Yet, in spite of all this, he emerges a true hero by the end of the game. Throughout his adventure, Link shows extreme love toward his grandma and sister. He doggedly pursues his sister’s captors and always throws his life on the line for her and others. Link’s concern for his lonely grandma is clearly shown in his leaving Outset Island; he stands, waving, sad-faced, looking back at the forlorn little figure on the doorstep.

Link’s actions ultimately help a stuck-up, cowardly character become bold and caring. In a side-quest, Link teaches a rich girl (now thrown into poverty) that, even though she’s poor, she has no excuse to steal. This character shows a complete change of heart and thanks Link for the lesson.

Wind_Waker_Link_waves_goodbye[1]Throughout the game are several side-quests in which Link is encouraged to help others in need. If these tasks are accomplished, he is rewarded and the characters he helped are bettered for it.

Several characters that aid Link in his quest are selfless, brave, loyal, and kind-hearted.

One character, who is quite cold towards Link throughout the game, finally gives him a heart-felt apology, “… I’m so sorry.” Link forgives and forgets with a light-hearted smile.

Probably the biggest lesson in Wind Waker, however, has to do with letting go of the past and moving on. Because this has a lot to do with the ending of the game, I won’t go into detail, but the lesson is clearly presented in a very unique and touching way.

Spiritual Content
As is typical to Zelda, the gods are given many references. Link meets two of these gods on his quest (the twin wind gods who look like giant frogs floating on clouds) as well as the “sky spirit” of Dragon Roost Island named Valoo (a dragon) and the water spirit named Jabun (a whale). Other gods, such as the ones responsible for the creation of Hyrule, are given the odd reference and choose Link as their hero at the end of the game. However, I wouldn’t take any of these “deities” seriously. At best, they are painfully similar to the Greek gods of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. They have human natures, little power over the affairs of the world (Link always has to go and save them or do tasks for them), and are certainly not omnipotent (Link actually defeats one of the gods in the game and changes his heart from bad to good).

The_Wind_Waker_CharactersSome of the baddies in the game are a bit cryptic. One is a floating skeleton head, another a walking corpse-like zombie called a Redead, yet another a walking skeleton. The only enemy I had some issues with was the ever-present Poe (ghosts in the Zelda world). Though they have never looked as cartoony as they do in Wind Waker, these new Poes can attack by diving into Link and causing the player to lose control of him for a period of time. It appears to be border-line possession.

Though Link does not cast spells or explicitly use magic, magic is scattered throughout the game. Link wields the Wind Waker, a magical conductor’s baton that allows him to use “the power of the gods” to his advantage (changing day to night, changing the wind’s direction, opening portals, etc.) One song allows Link to control other characters and statues in the game. It is clearly portrayed as mind-control since the player can see Link standing, eyes closed, moving his arms in a trancelike state, as the player maneuvers the object or character to the desired location.

One section of the game involves Link’s quest to find new sages for two of the old ones whose souls were stolen by Ganondorf. Two separate scenes show these sages playing instruments to restore the power of the Master Sword. Strangely enough, these tunes are referred to as “prayers,” and the sages tell Link that they will continue to “pray” after he leaves. I’m not sure how playing a tune could be considered a prayer but… Whatever.

A few of the dungeons that Link enters are called “temples.” However, they are merely places that Link must travel through to get an item or power up the Master Sword. The only spiritual tie worth nothing with these temples is the fact that the sages play a tune (referred to as a “prayer”) at the end of two of these temples. See the above paragraph for more details.

It would be very difficult to name every single ounce of “spiritual content” in Wind Waker due to the fact that it is a fantasy and revolves entirely around fantasy. Some other references include Ganondorf casting a spell over the land and causing it to remain in darkness for a time, various potions that heal Link, Great Fairies who bestow Link with gifts, a ghost ship full of ghoulish baddies (mentioned in an above paragraph), an enemy that looks like a bird and uses magic to attack Link (etc.). Hopefully, you’ve gotten the general idea.

Violence
Cutscene Violence. A game so centered around swordplay is bound to have a few violent cutscenes, right? Well, yes, but I would hardly call the majority of them “violent.” On two separate occasions, Link is shot through the air and smashed flat up against a stone wall (much to the amusement of the player). In one scene, a large bird, tosses Link towards the sea and his inevitable doom. Tetra is grabbed around the neck by Ganondorf and left dangling for a few precarious moments. Link is struck hard by Ganondorf’s punches three times, which nearly knocks him senseless as he crumples to the ground.

*SPOILER WARNING* At the end of the game, Link kills Ganondorf by driving the Master Sword through his head. Now, don’t take me wrong–it’s not at all graphic and no blood is shown. Ganondorf turns to stone seconds after saying a few last words. *END OF SPOILERS*

Wind Waker ViolenceGameplay Violence. Despite the fact that Link has an arsenal of weapons at his disposal (and can use nearly all of them on all enemies), the violence is very tame. Defeated enemies vanish is a brilliant display of purple smoke. Some enemies groan or screech as you hit them. The Redead (the walking corpses I mentioned earlier) remains dead (aren’t they already?) on the ground for some time after you kill it, but eventually vanishes. One walking skeleton enemy—the Stalfos—can only be defeated by destroying its skull. Basically, you keep hacking at a Stalfos until it shatters in a million pieces of bone, leaving its skull to hop around until you’re able to destroy it. Some strange, mechanical-arm-looking enemies spew green slime when slashed, but they are few and far between (and you can’t actually kill them in the first place so you might as well avoid them). Bosses have more elaborate deaths then common enemies, but there are still nothing to be overly-concerned about. One explodes in a burst of feathers, another slowly disintegrates (etc.). With the exception of the final boss, no enemy you fight is human.

Language/Crude Humor
There are no cuss words in Wind Waker. One love-struck, embarrassed pirate calls his mate an “idiot” and tells him to “shut up” for giving away his true feelings. Aside from that, you probably won’t encounter anything.

One boy on Outset Island has a continuous runny nose… and it’s very obvious… and gross.

Sexual Content
Fortunately, Wind Waker is perfectly clean in this category. Any love references are cartoony and meant solely for humor or simple innocence. One girl is deathly in love with a Moblin named Moe who kept her prisoner for several days. A side-quest involves delivering her love letter to him. It is suggested that one of Tetra’s crew members has a crush on her, and that Tetra herself may have a crush on Link. The prince of Dragon Roost Island appears to have a crush on Medli.

Drug/Alcohol Reference
I didn’t find any of this in Wind Waker.

Other Negative Content
Link travels with a band of pirates for a portion of the game, but unlike common sea bandits, these pirates are quite friendly. One part in the game involves them raiding a bomb shop (run by a stuck-up owner who charges outrageous prices), tying up the owner, and helping themselves to the bomb supply. This is really as bad as they get though. The good news is that the shop owner learns his lesson, becomes courteous, and lowers his prices afterward.

Presentation

Nintendo has done an awesome job with the graphics in Wind Waker. The new, cell-shaded look is dazzling, refreshing, and totally unique. Wind Waker nearly split the fan community with its graphic-style, but it would be downright wrong for even the most prejudiced fan to refuse this game over that issue. Sailing on the sea is especially neat. The water is a perfect blue, and the waves refreshingly white, as twirling lines (representing the wind) whisk by overhead.

I have to confess that the new graphic style adds a whole new look to the three main characters of the series. Link looks much younger (and has much smaller feet) and Ganondorf takes on a heftier, more refined look. It’s certainly not a bad portrayal, but it’s definitely a big leap from his appearance in Ocarina of Time.

Wind Waker Link In TroubleZelda possesses some of my favorite video game music. A few of the timeless tunes from Ocarina of Time have been carried over to Wind Waker (“Kakariko Village theme,” “Kokiri Forest theme,” part of the “Minuet of the Forest,” etc.) Of course, the majority of the music is brand new, and it’s quite good. The theme for traveling over the sea is adventurous and uplifting. You can practically feel the ocean breeze whipping through your hair as you listen. Another great track is “Dragon Roost Island”—a theme that has become a favorite among fans.

Sounds typical of the Zelda franchise are here as well. From the famous “Da, da, da, daaaaa!” of getting a new item, to the “bling, bling” of Rupees, to the “you got a heart piece” fanfare, it’s all there.

This is also the first console title (the CDI never existed, you hear me!?) in which Link says something in audible English: “Come on!” All of the dialogue, with this one exception (and a shop keeper who says a few things), is merely text without voice work, however.

Gameplay

As with the majority of their well-known franchises, Nintendo has again succeeded in a nigh-flawless control system. Players can enter the world of Wind Waker with ease (without worries of hurling the controller through the TV because the gameplay is faulty).

Swordplay is excellent. The classic hack, slash, thrust, and spin-attack are all present, as well as a new attack which allows the player to strike the vital locations of a well-armed enemy at just the right time. Along the same note, archery has also been made much easier due to the fact that the tip of Link’s arrow shows exactly where the shaft will strike (unlike Ocarina of Time where the shaft flew slightly above the notched arrow’s tip). Combat is made extra simple due to the handy-dandy lock-on device. Breathe a sigh of relief: you don’t even need Navi anymore.

Wind Waker Link with Leaf.jpgBrand new items such as the grapple-hook and Deku leaf make their appearance, as well as some old favorites like the hookshot, iron boots, and mirror shield. Each item comes in handy multiple times throughout the adventure, along with just as many unique ways to use them.

A unique addition to Wind Waker is the fact that two of the dungeons depend solely on teamwork. Using the “Command Medley,” the player can control the other character that he entered the dungeon with. Both Link and this character are vital to surviving the trials of the dungeon, and it makes for an interesting over-all experience.

Traditional, of course, to all Zelda games are the mind-boggling puzzles and dungeons. I didn’t find the dungeons in Wind Waker to be as hard as those in Ocarina of Time, but there were still a few moments when I had to stop, scratch my head, and think about the situation. Wind Waker is also the very first Zelda game that I got hopelessly frustrated with, especially when one of the quests involved searching for the eight Triforce shards (which were scoured all across the sea). I ended up looking in a strategy guide, and I was rather surprised by how many seemingly unimportant side-quests I was forced to go through in order to find all of the pieces.

Wind_Waker_using_Wind_Waker[1]There were only two things I found aggravating about Wind Waker’s gameplay. One was that if I stood up against a wall or other object, I was unable to use my hookshot/grapple-hook properly (my motion was slightly restricted). The other (the major one) had to do with sailing. Though controlling the wind is neat, not to mention vital to your sailing adventures, it often becomes bothersome. If you’re trying to circle an island for an entrance, or simply backtrack because you passed something, you almost always have to change the wind direction multiple times. Either that, or you can sail along at a snail’s pace (that’s a bad idea, trust me). At any rate, playing the song over and over again to change the wind direction can become frustrating. Aside from those two things though, I found no problem with Wind Waker’s gameplay.

I didn’t notice any glitches in Wind Waker. The gameplay is very stable.

Final Word

normal_link-wind-wakerAs my review is thickly positive, it’s easy to tell my opinion of this game. Once again, Nintendo has left fans thoroughly immersed in the fantastical world of Zelda. To those of you who lost your love for Zelda due to this new graphic style, I beg you to reconsider. Wind Waker may not be anything like Ocarina of Time in terms of appearance, but it is an awesome little game full of hidden treasures and many tie-ins to its predecessor. Did I mention that you actually go to the Temple of Time and see a statue of the Hero of Time? Yeah, it’s that epic.

Some of you may be wondering if this is Christian-friendly to play, what with all those gods and spiritual things interwoven within the plot. I ask you to rest easy in the fact that these fictional gods cannot ever compare to our one, true, omnipotent God, and that the magic presented in the game is not black or demonic in any way. Aside from that, Wind Waker has some awesome little morals packed into its three-inch disk. It’s the story of a young boy who rises up when the land is in a dire condition. He faces his fears, sacrifices of himself, and shows others the greater good in life. Because of that, I believe that The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker is a game that no Gamecube (or Wii) collection can be complete without.

The Bottom Line

 

Wind Waker is the story of a young boy who rises up when the land is in a dire condition. He faces his fears, sacrifices of himself, and shows others the greater good in life. Because of that, I believe that The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker is a game that no Gamecube (or Wii) collection can be complete without.

 

8.8

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Casey Covel

Casey Lynn Covel (known online as “Cutsceneaddict”) is an award-winning, published writer, avid reader, and aspiring author. She runs a nerdy writing blog called Meek-Geek and founded PROJECT: Magic Kingdom Hearts in 2012. When she’s not writing for Geeks Under Grace, Florida Geek Scene, Beneath the Tangles, or FROM JAPAN, she enjoys cosplaying, and has won several awards for her work. Follow her on Instagram for her latest cosplay endeavors. #meekischic

6 Comments

  1. Victoria Grace Howell on August 29, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    Love this game. It was the first video game I ever played. ^ ^

    • Casey Covel on August 31, 2014 at 7:25 pm

      Seriously? That’s so cool ^_^ You certainly picked a good one to start off with.

  2. Cooper D Barham on August 24, 2014 at 1:32 am

    Jeez. You write in such fantastic length and detail. Definitely something to aspire towards. Great review, Casey. 🙂

    • Casey Covel on August 25, 2014 at 2:02 pm

      Thank you. 🙂 I take notes as I play through the games. That’s how I manage to be so thorough. I basically take notes on everything I view/read/play because there’s the off chance I might want to review it sometime down the road. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t, but it’s always best to be prepared.

      I’m glad I’m an inspiration. It’s my own unique approach, and I encourage everyone to find what works best for them. Cheers!

  3. Josh Mors on August 23, 2014 at 8:07 pm

    This was my first Legend of Zelda game I’ve ever played, but I never managed to beat it since I was at a friend’s house.

    • Casey Covel on August 25, 2014 at 2:00 pm

      I’ve had many a story end like that 🙂 But there’s no better time than the present, and the HD release certainly makes it tempting to return to the seas of Hyrule.

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