Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker GameCube Review

So we were all glued to our computers for news on what was going on over at E3. Everybody was dying to get in on what games Nintendo had to show off this time, but we all knew that what people really wanted was the latest scoop of Zelda. Then, the videogaming world is stunned when they see footage of the new “realistic” Zelda! Time goes by, fans are both happy and anxious, but then, Nintendo releases screenshots of what the Zelda on GameCube will actually look like; we gaze our eyes upon cel-shaded Link for the first time! Countless of fans were turned off by the so-called “kiddy” look, but others were drawn in by all the commotion and controversy.

To me, it’s almost impossible to imagine how hard it must be for Nintendo to come up with a new game for The Legend of Zelda series. Just think how hard it must be to create a sequel to what is believed to be the best video game of all time, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Somehow, Shigeru Miyamoto always manages to create a game that’s completely new and can shock even the most hardcore of Zelda fans, but at the same time, is similar enough to its predecessor to be considered a sequel.

Graphics

The huge shift of graphic style that Nintendo executed (which, by the way, I believe was carried out flawlessly) was, without a doubt, the topic of our conversations and arguments for months. This change pissed off some people so much that veteran Zelda fans swore the game would suck blah blah blah, but how wrong they were :).

In contrast to popular belief, the cartoony effects of this game do nothing but help it reach its goal of creating an environment where characters’ expressions are stunningly realistic, objects are detailed and well textured, and almost everything has precise self-shadowing. If you pay attention to the art in this game you will be left stunned, because every last aspect of this game is extremely detailed. The world in which you play is so large with so many islands and dungeons, puzzles, tests, and mini games that virtually no other game can compare. You can look miles over the horizon and even more with your telescope. As I said, all of this is detailed and well-textured running at a steady 30 frames per second. All of these jaw-dropping graphics push the GameCube to its power limit.

Now for the environment you play in. Everything is beautiful, those that say stuff about cel-shading looking bad or “kiddy” I would bet money that they have never even played the game. How can you give an opinion on something if you have nothing to base it on? Ok, now I’ve drifted away from the topic. You got your preferred real-time graphics. When something explodes the vision is blurred or shimmered because of the heat. When there is an explosion, the particles all blow into different directions like a real explosion would. Link instinctively covers himself and the boom blows his hair back. The camera shakes a little and the explosion affects the surroundings. The ocean is exceptionally realistic. Not in graphical terms, but in how it counts, how it goes up and down, and how the waves wash up onto the beaches and come back down into the ocean like it would in reality. On the beaches, palm tress sway lazily in calm weather or fiercely if there is a storm. When Link runs his hair jumps up and down and when he goes in water or its raining water drips off of him for a while until he dries off. The other characters walk around and play their own script. When they see you pass by they turn their heads towards you and maybe Link’s eyes turn toward them or his whole head faces their direction. Seagulls fly around and follow Link’s sailboat and fish jump out of the water. This game is very realistic in movement and in actions, which in my opinion is 10 times better than something looking realistic only in a visual way. Nintendo has not only done incredibly with the graphics, but it has excelled anybody’s expectations with how it has handled cel-shading.

Gameplay

It all starts off on Outset Island on Link’s birthday. His sister Aryll lets him borrow her favorite possession, her telescope, for the day. You will be walking around exploring Link’s home island and everyone you talk to will congratulate you on your 12th birthday and tell you that Grandma is waiting for you with a very special present. That special present is the traditional green garb that is given to every boy when he turns the age the legendary hero was. After you receive the Hero’s Clothes the story starts to unravel itself. A giant bird is taking a pirate gang’s leader, Tetra, away. She gets away from its clutches but then the bird mistakes Tetra for Link’s sister and takes Aryll away! Tetra agrees to have him on her pirate ship and help him get Aryll back. This is how Link’s adventure starts and his path to he himself being a legend starts. Alas! A new adventure begins!

For anyone who’s played Ocarina of Time, the controls of this game will seem familiar. They are, indeed, almost exactly like the controls of Ocarina of Time. You swing your sword with the B button. There are many different types of swings of different strengths, but I won’t bore you by including them, or myself by having to remember and write them. You equip items on the X button, the Y button, and the Z button. Most of the items from the older Zelda games are available in Wind Waker. Some of the new items are the Aryll’s telescope, the pictograph, fire and ice arrows, the grappling hook (although it is pretty much the same as the hookshot), new potions, and of course, the Wind Waker. The A button is a multi-functional button. It can be used to roll on the ground, perform special sword attacks, jump up to climb something, jump down from climbing something, sidle across a wall, initiate conversations with other characters, go on to the next phrase of a conversation, pick up and throw things, pick up somebody who can fly and jump off of something so that they will carry you in midair for a short distance, open doors, and so much more. The L button is used to L-target, just like in the Zelda games on Nintendo 64, and to go back into automatic camera mode after changing it to manual mode with the C-Stick. Pressing the R button will make Link raise his shield, grab a block to push it away from you or pull it towards you, or crawl on the ground. The C-Stick is used as an analog control of the camera although it will rarely need correction; the you-control-it type camera available in this game is among my favorites of any game I’ve ever played. Simply put, the controls of this game are easy to learn, simple, and very effective.

This game is also one of the most interactive I have played. If you see a fish, throw in some bait and you can talk to it and it will give you information of its island and mark it on your sea chart. If there’s a seagull, use a pear and you can control it to get to a switch up too high for Link to get to or just fly around and enjoy the view. If you see an odd-looking stone, use the Command Melody with your Wind Waker to control it. If it plays into the story, you can control certain characters and actually be them, and if they can fly, so can you. When you control somebody who can fly you simply press the A button to elevate. A meter will appear at the top of the screen, and it will decrease as you fly until it runs out and you drop. Some other things you can do with the Wind Waker is use it to control the direction the wind blows, change it from night to day, and warp to particular locations of the sea. What I found weird at first was that Link can’t dive underwater, but then I realized that would be hard to do with cel-shading and would probably look weird. When Link swims an odd meter comes up at the lower-right corner. The longer Link swims around the lower the meter gets until it runs out and Link drowns. When he drowns he just appears at the nearest shore, nothing serious. Almost every area of this game has been used and polished to its limits. Everything is used wisely and in a way that makes it all fit into the story perfectly. There are places that you must get to in order to acquire a necessary upgrade, but to get that upgrade, first you must find a different upgrade. It may seem like annoying fetch quests, but this all helps the adventure flow along, just like any other Zelda.

The world where you play is literally HUGE. There are dozens of islands, each playing some sort of role in your adventure, and thousands of miles of sea. For all you who thought the world in Ocarina of Time was large, prepare to be taken back with awe. Instead of traveling with horse, now you travel by sailboat. There is so much sea that you must sail for minutes in order to get from one end of the “world” to the other. It does sound like you must sail too much to get somewhere, but with the Ballad of Gales tune you can warp to different locations of the sea and save a lot of time. To sail the direction you want to go, you need to change which way the wind blows with the Wind Waker. It gets tiresome and boring having to play the Wind Waker so many times and going through the animation sequence of Link playing the Wind Waker, which you can’t skip. But hey, if we were able to wait soooo long for this game, what’s a couple more seconds every time you play a tune on the Wind Waker?

It seems that Nintendo focused more on puzzles and other things than the fighting. Fighting enemies is easy and the only hard part about battling bosses is finding out their weaknesses and using that against them. Fighting a boss is easy; the hard part is getting there. When Link is hit very little damage is caused to him and it usually takes away only about ½ or ¼ of a heart container. Some of the stronger enemies take away a couple of hearts, but soon enough you will have collected rows of heart containers, which make it very difficult for Link to die. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t affect the game in any negative way, it’s just that there’s a sense of not enough difficulty when battling. All the great puzzles and other things to do make up for it with the great feeling of triumph they provide after you have gotten past it. The fact that you don’t perish easily is actually good because Wind Waker isn’t a survival game or a fighting game where dying affects your score or whatever you’re trying to achieve.

Notice how much I have had to write to cover only the basic and general gameplay of Wind Waker? That only shows how much of it this game has. It would be an almost impossible task for me to fully explain the gameplay aspect of the game and the only true way to understand it all would be by playing the game for a couple of hours, which trust me, will seem like only a couple of minutes because of how damn fun The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is.

Sound

As if the great songs and sound effects weren’t enough, this game also supports Dolby Pro Logic ll. The songs are greatly composed, clear, crisp, and fit the game excellently. I have heard people talk about how much they love some of the songs brought back from A Link to the Past, and I can’t help but agree with them.

The sound effects are incredible. The screams coming out of Link when he is attacked or when he jumps off of something high up will send chills down your spine. Link will grunt when he is making a lot of force, yell when he swings his sword, shriek when he goes under a waterfall, and yelp when he is burned or frozen. When Link has been swimming a little too long, you can hear him sort of drowning and gargling water. You hear the seagulls flying around and Link’s sail flapping in the wind. When something, including Link, is walking you can hear their footsteps and you can actually find out by the sound whether they are running or walking without looking to find out. The sound effects in this game are so real that it makes you feel like your there. The sound of the wind in this game is unlike any other, because in this one it sounds like it would if you were to go outside on a windy day. If you can see something, you can probably get to it and smash into it, lift it, or smash your sword into it and make beautiful sound. The possibilities are endless, and all will have the outcome of incredible sound effects.

Characters mumble something that goes along with what they are saying. Although they don’t actually speak, for I think that would ruin the experience, their gestures and sounds compliment to what they are saying. Sometimes the sounds they make are odd, other times they are hilarious.

The songs played in the game perfectly blend in with where they are played and at what time. The tunes played on the Wind Waker are genius; they will stay stuck in your head for hours, maybe even days (like me). There are songs made from older songs, older songs that are modified ever so slightly to fit the atmosphere of the game better, and also completely new never before heard songs. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker will draw you in even more with its kick-ass/arse tunes and songs.

Lifespan

This game of the legendary series will satisfy even the most hardcore of gamers. After beating the main game, you will feel like playing it again, and again, and again, and you won’t get bored. The replay Wind Waker has to offer will keep your thumbs in action for weeks, if not months. You get 20+ hours of Zelda beating the main game, and probably double of that to beat and accomplish everything the game has to offer. There are even some things you can’t finish until you play the game again after having already beaten it and saved on your memory card, like getting all the figurines for the Nintendo Gallery. It may seem like tedious and boring stuff but you will be kept entertained and anxious until the very end. Some gamers may be disappointed that Wind Waker doesn’t have as many dungeons as Ocarina of Time, but there is plenty to make up for that and exceed the expectations.

Overall

After only about 10 minutes of playing The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker for the first time, I just sat there gazing at my TV thinking, “Wow.” The control over Link is right and precise. The graphics aren’t what we are used to, but believe me, you don’t even notice the cel-shading, and when you stop playing to think about it, you will appreciate it. If you’re one of those people who talk about Nintendo’s decision on the graphics, just rent it and play it for yourself long enough to judge ya’ stubborn fool, then you may say whatever you want. The world where Link dwells is absolutely gorgeous and incredibly large, and everything is located wisely and blends in with the story line in perfect harmony. The tunes to played on the Wind Waker are catchy and well composed. The songs are brilliant and you will find yourself humming or whistling them for days. Instead of this review I could have just summed up the whole game in one word, ineffable. So amazing and mind-boggling that it’s impossible to put into reasonable words.

Summary:

Graphics
Amazing, beautiful, and revolutionary. Shigeru has achieved what most thought was not possible. He has taken cel-shading to its max and made Wind Waker ten times better than any other “realistic” looking game.

Gameplay
Superb. Everything is so flawless you will dream about it at night. Controls respond to your fingers’ slightest whim, and everything is just so interactive.

Sound
Catchy tunes, great songs. Sound effects are extraordinary and offers Dolby Pro Logic ll. What else is there to say?

Lifespan
This will satisfy even the greedy needs of the most hardcore of gamers. 20+ hours of fun, and twice the time if you actually finish everything. Even after you’ve completely done everything there is to do, you will keep coming back for the replay value.

Overall
There are, without a doubt, hundreds of reviews for this game and all of them are positive and suggest buying it. This game is one of the few and rare that received perfect 10’s from the very picky Famitsu. We waited for years; we were shocked with the first news of cel-shading. Even more shocked with all the good praise it received in Japan. This game is by far the best on the GameCube yet. Just one more reason to buy a GameCube.

10 out of 10
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