History of Zelda: Part 10 – The Wind Waker

History of Zelda – Part 10

The Legend of Zelda. Indeed, this name is as recognisable in Video Game fame as Mario, and even Final Fantasy. Close to thirty years ago, Nintendo hired a man who would, of all things, design concepts for toys. Little did anybody know that this man would write history, influence hundreds of games, oversee the development of even more and define an entirely new genre. Shigeru Miyamoto devised the first iteration of The Legend of Zelda in the mid 1980s, and since then, The Legend of Zelda has become one of Nintendo’s very best properties.

This series of articles will look at each Zelda title in chronological order of release, describe the ground breaking achievements and show the essence of the Action Adventure RPG.

Chapter X – The Wind Waker (GCN)

The wind is generally uncontrollable in its actions. That is, if you don’t have a baton called the Wind Waker. Once again, the hero of Hyrule returns with a new objective, a new adventure and some undoubtedly bizarre and unique abilities, not to mention an entirely new and unparalleled look. Nintendo always seem to know how to stir up controversy, especially when involving the most revered of their properties. The Legend of Zelda is no different. With a radical new look, new concept and new story, Nintendo had created what many had believed would never come to fruition, what many hoped would not come to fruition; a new chapter in The Legend of Zelda, presented in marvellous cell shading.

The old world of Hyrule was forgotten. It lay deep beneath the sea know as the Great Ocean. Across the top were tiny, wind swept islands. The descendants of Old Hyrule inhabited these hilltops turned islands, people who worshipped the Wind Gods in exchange for protection and new hopes. However, dark forces began to accumulate, mysterious kidnappings took place and the wind was becoming cold and hard. Legend told of the Hero of Time returning to defend the people of the land. But he had never returned. So who is to rise to the challenge? Luckily, an island in the south had become accustomed to dressing boys who came of age in the sacred green cloths resembling those worn by the Hero of Time. It just so happened that this was the generation for a new hero, a young boy named Link, who was content on the rescue of his kidnapped sister, not realising the magnitude of the quest that lay ahead. As the winds of new beginnings swept from the horizon, so too was an adventure caught on such winds. And so begins a new journey, the quest to master The Wind Waker.

Link once again awakened to his new adventure, although at the top of a lookout named after his sister, Aryll, rather than from a nightmare in bed. It was his birthday, and the first item to posses is a gift from Link’s sister, her prized telescope. But when Link viewed the surroundings for the first time, it was clear that The Wind Waker had taken quite a different direction in the series in terms of graphical presentation. The absolute beauty of this adventure is the very technique of cell shading. The Wind Waker magnifies the statement of each and every title in the series that each is unique in all aspects, and graphically speaking, nothing compares with the rich, detailed and colourful cartoon styled worlds of a watery Hyrule. They are an immense achievement in artistic excellence, and really can only be admired in person. To dismiss this title because of its initial perception as a child’s game is to judge a book by its cover. Anyone who does so is doing themselves a great misfortune.

The title built on the efforts of Ocarina of Time to introduce a deep and meaningful storyline to the quest at hand. Plots were not always the best strength of The Legend of Zelda, but The Wind Waker made vast improvements, with a deep, informative story book like introduction that tells of the legend of the Hero of Time, his failure to return and the coming of darkness to the world of Hyrule. All through the adventure the gamer would find themselves being filled in on bits and pieces from the legend, filling up the gaps, eventually pointing Link in the direction he had to go. The effort is well received, as a creative, historical storyline fits the realm of The Legend of Zelda effectively.

The Wind Waker brought with it a new emphasis on travel, by means of a boat on an ocean. In order for successive travel, one must learn to command the waves. This was achieved with the new item called the Wind Waker, which accompanied many of Link’s traditional items, sword and shield, bow, arrows, bombs, boomerang and hookshot. But, as always, new items were a necessity for the long challenge ahead. Things like the Tingle Tuner, Deluxe Picto-Box, sail and grapple hook. Each item had a fair share of new and interestingly useful purposes, so Link was well equipped for the arduous battles ahead. To complement Link and his items along the way are the continual upgrades, swords, shields, power bracelets, quivers, bomb bags and boots. The Wind Waker continues the long-standing tradition of the series by awarding the gamer with useful items and weaponry for their hard and valiant efforts in achieving a goal. Providing new ways, new challenges and new goals keeps the series alive, entertaining and inspirational.

But a world flooded is an entirely new place, and so a new cast of original characters was to be created that adapted to the new environments. There was the return of Hylians and Gorons, along with new races, the Rito, a half man, half bird being and the Koroks, little creatures that inhabited the woods, similar to Deku Scrubs. Both are friendly races, the Rito operate the mail service around Hyrule, while the Koroks are a shy, timid race, planting seeds on the islands across the world in the hope of growing new forests. Building on the element of solving other people’s problems and inconveniences, Link had to help each the Rito and Koroks with their individual dilemmas in order to gain access of the tools needed to advance. In many cases there was more than just one single problem, usually many small predicaments that intertwined with each other to create complications and challenges for the adventurer. Combining such intricacies adds depth and scope, building on the elements of strategy solving introduce in previous titles, providing exhilaration when your goal had been achieved.

Sound wise, The Wind Waker brings new and original elements to the already top notch Zelda experience. The overworld theme had had a facelift, with a very oceanic orientated score, while maintaining the traditional, basic style. All sound effects were utilised to full potential, with the sound of breezes, smouldering fires, breaking waves and thunderous storms. Dungeons never strayed from the tradition, with eerie melodies, nerve racking, creepily quiet tunes while the towns were filled with the cheery inspired beats. But then there were also the sounds belonging to living creatures. Enemies would have stunned and complacent grunts, gulls possessed their bird calls, animals their cries. These sound effects and musical compositions came together to portray a new and unique Zelda world, all the while maintaining the existing charm of little elements such as a clash between sword and stone, the taught sound of a bow string, the fizzing of a fuse, the clink of a switch, the famous Zelda tune of unlocking a puzzle and Link’s cries. These little refining touches complement the overall sound experience, as if the world is alive.

Gameplay wise, the setup felt right, with a slew of new enemies and bosses to fight and test your skill against. The button setup was similar to Ocarina of Time‘s, and fitted well with the overall design. Link’s moves flowed on from his actions, with very responsive movement. The cast of enemies ranged from Moblins, Octoroks and Keese. Newcomers introduced to fight alongside their fellow foes featured Bokoblins, sharks, rats and Big Octo’s. The action is never dull, and the new design of the game had Link’s eyes move in a ‘dynamic’ system and would lock onto key background items and enemies. Just walking past a key item or object would have Link looking at it in the most intriguing way, kind of a replacement to Navi or Tatl flying over to an object that could be locked onto. Like a child, Link never missed a beat.

The Wind Waker was an exceptional and bold shift in the direction of The Legend of Zelda. The cell shaded cartoon environments were a refreshing and inspirational new experience. Never has Link’s adventure ever been so colourful and bright. The adventure across the vast ocean had to be one of the most unique challenges of any game. The Wind Waker demonstrates the ability of the series to maintain the charm and experience while at the same time being entirely different, a change in the wind.