Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker GameCube Review

The Legend of Zelda has a lengthy history of adventures in the series that involve both Hyrule and many other locales. Each new title is a testament to Nintendo’s ability to utilise such an old I.P. even in the modern world of gaming. However, never has a title created so much controversy and blood shed in recent years. When it was announced by Nintendo that the all new adventure would utilise a radical and unique graphical engine, scepticism reached critical levels. People belittled and degraded Nintendo for their decision to produce a Zelda title with such childish and cartoon styled visuals. So, were these pessimists right to complain? Where their reasons founded

Graphics

This is where the title shines. A new and unique element called cell shading is incorporated to give gamers the sense that they are controlling a character in a cartoon. Everything in the game is visually stunning and completely cell shaded from the trees to the rocks and even the ocean. But the beauty doesn’t end there, with dazzling particle effects such as smoke, dust, crackling fire or explosion techniques that make the animations jump out of the screen. Further enhancing the experience are the animations of characters. People move fluidly, with faces full of humanly expressions, while beasts and animals have creepy, cunning expressions on their faces. All the character models are well shaped, with very few jagged edges of polygons ever showing.

Unfortunately, textures are not used extensively, which is understandable for a cartoon. Sure trees have bark rings and people have rosy cheeks, but textures could have been used more widely to represent surface irregularities, such as roughness or smoothness. Nevertheless, it doesn’t detract from the experience, as this game isn’t supposed to be bogged down with tiny detail. It was meant to be telling the story of a child, and a child is well represented by cartoons. Aside from this, lighting effects are exceptional, with a point of light that is blocked by people and objects. As a result, characters and objects have realistic shadows cast in the opposite direction. Gone are the basic rounded shadows directly under characters’ bodies.

Sound

The musical score is a treat to the ears, with whimsical, good feeling beats carried on the wind in the overworld. Dungeons are a different theme all together, with deep tunes of might that eat at the back of your nerves. The music in the title helps to set the mood and is an invaluable asset to the game because of this. Sound effects are also a major component, with bomb blasts, water splashes, animal noises, wind rustling and wave breaking. There really isn’t a moment in the quest where you won’t here the noise of an object of some kind in the background. Each noise is a realistic depiction and builds on the musical score well. You will begin to notice after around ten hours that some tunes are repetitive, with short looping, such as in the woods and some caverns. But generally, only a fraction of the time is spent there, and isn’t too bad.

If you happen to have yourself a Dolby decoder and surround sound system, the game is presented in Dolby Pro Logic II for your listening pleasure. Excellent effects such as doors closing behind, enemies approaching or a cry from the left or right are just as distinguishable as if in the real world. It’s not 6.1, but it is the best the GameCube offers, and The Wind Waker utilises the feature well. Turn the volume up, turn out the lights and you’ve got yourself an adventure that sounds like you are a part of it.

Gameplay

Mechanically speaking, the controller setup is a brilliant utilisation of the much criticised button setup of the GCN controller. Pushing B results in the wielding of Link’s sword, while A is an ‘action button’, as it was in Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. The X, Y and Z buttons are used for equipping items, much like the C buttons were for in the days of the Nintendo 64. And obviously, the control stick is for moving Link. He is very responsive to the controls and each action tends to flow to the next. Movement is fluid and aiming is as accurate as a pin prick. For example, when aiming with the bow, the further you tilt the control stick, the faster it slides across the screen.

The new world that Link must trek is a watery Hyrule, with islands scattered across the ocean. The only initial way to transport Link across and about is by means of a small sail boat. Eventually, new items, music and passages will enable Link to get to places in more ways than one. The whole need of a new adventure? A dark force is gathering at a place called the Forsaken Fortress. Link’s sister is kidnapped, along with many other young mistresses, all of whom are taken to the menacing castle. Link, with the aid of a band of pathetic pirates, embarks on mission to free his beloved sister. And so, the adventure begins.

In game, the enjoyment to be had is tremendous. There are many elements of exploration, collecting, delivering, trading and upgrading. Many items people will be familiar with, and even the new ones fit the series well. Link has, as always, a sword and shield, bow, bombs and hookshot. New items include the grapple hook and the Wind Waker. The Wind Waker is perhaps the key of all items, the ‘Ocarina’ of the title. The Wind Waker is a baton for composing the winds, directing them, and setting off other events that open up new opportunities in the quest. Along the way, Link will learn new beats, varying from 4/4 time to 3/4 and 6/4. Using the baton brings up a metronome, where Link must position the Wind Waker before the metronome returns to its central position. It’s different, but it is extremely effective in its use.

The puzzles and quests are on par with past titles, but nothing is overly difficult. That said they are enjoyable to undertake. Curiosity builds as you venture deeper and deeper into dungeons or caverns. The satisfaction of obtaining a new item is a driving force that leads you to the next event. Sometimes you will find things that you can’t quite figure out what they’re there for. Eventually you’ll find out later in the game and think ‘oh, that was simple’. But it is brain teasing, and can at times become quite aggravating. Nevertheless, there are people and clues along the adventure to help you out and tools like maps and compasses continue to be at your disposal.

A neat little addition is the use of your GBA as a type of radar. Using the Tingle Tuner, (yes, it’s a ‘what the?’ type of thing) you can call up tingle on your GBA to help with puzzles in dungeons, as well as seeing on the GBA screen where treasure happens to be laying in the ocean. Furthermore, there are some strange rewards for using Tingle’s bombs for unlocking items in dungeons, items that are only unlockable by using Tingle’s bombs. The use of the Tingle Tuner can be quite rewarding and is very useful when you are trying to locate something and need a more accurate reading off a map than what’s available on your map screen.

It can begin to grow repetitive when travelling the Great Ocean. Sailing can take upwards of five minutes to travel from one side to the other. Luckily, you eventually learn a melody that allows you to be teleported to a particular place on the ocean, cutting the travelling time dramatically. This is very useful when you have to be somewhere on the other side of the world very fast, and a time limit restricts. However, sailing can have its advantages, and is sometimes quite enjoyable. Along the way, encounters with beasts, Bokoblins, sharks and Giant Pea Hats will reap rewards with their successful defeat. Also, you may find a sunken treasure chests, containing anywhere from 20 Rupees to a heart container quarter. Anytime you need rupees, and fast, go sailing, find a few chests and you will nearly have enough to buy a shop out, especially if they are only in the area for a certain time…

All through the quest, the gameplay remains solid and enjoyable. There is never a dull moment, with more than enough events to participate in if you don’t quite feel up to saving the world for the day. You will find yourself come back to play many of the mini games out of enjoyment rather than necessity, although in the early stages of the game, the latter seems to be more important. Or you may even find yourself sailing just for the tranquillity of it, (I find sailing enjoyable just to listen to the overworld theme). Due to its creativity, you will find yourself scratching your head and other times, instantly recognising the weakness of enemies or the lock to a puzzle. But this is a constant through the duration of the voyage, and doesn’t detract from the gameplay, but rather, adds a unique element of its own.

Lifespan

The overall length of the game is relatively short in comparison to past adventures. There are only five main dungeons, (Ocarina of Time had eight) but some of them are significantly larger to extend the time taken to complete each one. Traversing the ocean, again because it is so large, adds to the time, not because it is taking time to slay enemies, but because you have to travel it to get from one place to another. Other factors that extend the length include the collection of all treasure, heart container quarters and the fragments of the Triforce of Wisdom. There are many side quests and challenges to take on and complete to perfection, some requiring many, many attempts. You will find yourself pacing back and forth in search of all treasure charts in order to complete the title. It is an engaging quest that lacks any gimmickyness whatsoever although there is sometimes the case of repetitiveness.

Overall

All elements described above come together to give a rich and immensely enjoyable experience. Link is alive, as are the inhabitants of the tiny islands scattered across the great ocean. There are many surprises, pleasing and unfortunate, resulting in a quest of skill and prowess. The few niggles that hinder the gamer damage the overall experience minimally. As a result, The Wind Waker brings to light a vastly different Zelda experience. There is no other game like it, including anything already in the series. But there was no reason for concern. The title provides an engaging adventure, filled with mini quests, puzzles, treasures and battles. Nintendo had dared to go where other developers would not, developing a title in a series that is radically different from its predecessors. However, the end product is a masterpiece. A solid addition to the series.

9.3 out of 10

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