Stepping out of Grandma’s house, you gaze out towards the vast ocean that separates you and the beginning of adventure. Stunningly vivid colours that wash into the distant lands, seagulls perched atop lookout posts and grass patches just waiting to be sliced. This is Outset Island, the retirement home of the Legend of Zelda series. It’s so lovely it almost makes the promise of another puzzle-solving marathon seem unappealing. You want to stay with your Grandma, laugh at that kid with the ridiculous runny nose and cause reckless torment to the pigs wandering by the sea.
Thankfully the adventure that lies ahead is The Legend of Zelda:The Wind Waker. A bold, beautiful and incredible journey that deserves many gamers re-evaluation. Overlooked by many at the time of its release, it stands as perhaps the best 3D Zelda title of the past decade. Now as a HD remake is about to hit Nintendo’s Wii U console, it seems like a perfect opportunity to rediscover the magic behind one of my favourite games of all time.
Released originally back in 2003 on the Nintendo Gamecube, the Wind Waker arrived when Nintendo was experimenting with some of its key icons. Luigi was wielding vacuums, Mario was handling water packs, Donkey Kong needed bongo peripherals and Metroid acquired an extra dimension. However, it was the unveiling of cel-shaded Toon Link at Space World in 2001 that ignited worldwide outrage. Forums exploded and expectations of a natural successor to the Nintendo 64 classics were smashed, leading many gamers to abandon ship to caress their beloved Playstation 2.
As the years passed and comment sections grew weary, the game finally released to critical acclaim and a general feeling that the outrage had been silenced. It took the classic Zelda level design, threw in a few surprises and applied a timeless graphical coating. The charming aesthetic invited Disney comparisons and the creature designs are still some of the best ever committed to the series. From the mighty presence of Valoo to the adorable Makar, every character had a personality that seemed lightyears beyond what we’d seen before in a Zelda title.
This personality shines through in the Wind Waker’s more wackier moments. The bizarre Elvis lookalike on Windfall Island, wind deities that resemble frogs and the ravenous birds that sound sexually frustrated whenever you’re in their vicinity. It’s a bittersweet death when you have to fire an arrow at a horny bird, especially when it probably had to deal with this terrifying buzzard for a mother.
I’ve appreciated the Wind Waker more as the years have trickled on by. From the surprising stealth segment in the Forsaken Fortress to the offbeat humour that litters the cut-scenes. Each dungeon feels just as memorable as the last, and it’s arguably the last Zelda game that has managed to capture a sense of wonder as you step out into its world for the very first time. Something I felt was missing in Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword.
Combat wise it is perhaps the finest of the series. Skyward Sword may take the innovation crown by successfully executing 1:1 sword motion controls, but its battles felt a little too calculated and rigid. The Wind Waker in comparison improved the lock-on system in Ocarina of Time in every single way. Managing to be smoother, faster and more satisfying thanks to some simple audio cues that made basic attacks sound like a painful backhand to the buttocks.
Sadly, not everything was perfect. The Tingle fetch-quest before the final stretch of the game was the glaring mistake in an otherwise fantastic package. It was tedious, unnecessary and dragged the pace considerably. But this issue has been addressed for the Wii U remake, meaning the cumbersome chart process is only required for three items rather than eight. If don’t have a clue what I’m talking about, this is basically a very good thing.
So if you haven’t tried The Legend of Zelda:The Wind Waker, I urge you to dedicate some precious time to its existence. It provides a stunning introduction to an alternative Zelda universe that still holds up brilliantly against titles released today. Maybe now the internet has matured and is more accepting of creative experimentation, it will finally receive the recognition from gamers it deserves.
Alright that’s bollocks, but it was a nice thought for a moment wasn’t it? Here’s a nice trailer as a reward for that positive thinking.
OH JUST TAKE IT.