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Veteran Member - Level 14
Instead of reviewing a recent product for BlackHeartedWolf's latest Writer's
Guild Weekly Challenge,
I chose to follow the spirit of October's main feature and take a look back at
what I consider to be my favorite entry into the Zelda franchise. Spoilers are
possible, so beware!!!
first playing Wind Waker, and imagining that I was trapped
inside a living painting. Of course, when I was a child and I observed various
pictures by themselves, I could imagine various things happening within the
work itself, but I could never quite develop the sense I myself was an active
participant. With video games, that changed, not only because of how
entertaining they were - an aspect often used by reductionists to demonstrate
their superficiality- but also because of their power as a storytelling medium.
reading a story and imagining a scene between the protagonist and a certain
character, you could hear and see this event occurring as you actively
experienced it. With respect to the Zelda series, I considered my favorite to
be Ocarina of Time, an
epic game that allowed players to travel the world with Epona. That of
course changed after I played Wind
Waker, which I view as Ocarina
of Time's spiritual
successor, due to how similar - and yet, different- the games felt. Looking
back on this title, I must say that it not only epitomized what the Gamecube
could offer players, it stands out, in my opinion, as one of the boldest
iterations of the series.
general story is set about a hundred or so years after Ocarina of Time, in a world of
islands in a vast ocean where legends are all that remain of the Hero of Time's
grandiose defeat of Ganondorf, hellbent on ruling the world via the powers of
the Triforce. Link is a young boy living on Outset Island at the ripe age of
adolescence, when he's given a green robe similar to that worn by the hero of
their legend. This event sets the stage for the rest of the story, which
evolves from a rescue mission to an entertaining odyssey involving a lively
cast of new and familiar characters, dungeons, and twists. One can't forget the
Wind Waker itself, the titular magical item given to him by the King of the Red
Lions, an animate boat aiding Link in his adventures.
As a mostly
linear affair, Wind
Waker's level of detail spruced up and expanded the world created,
with numerous side quests and puzzles to be completed, an obvious nod to the
influence of Ocarina of Time's formula. Even key aspects of game play
controls, etc., evoked memories of the N64 classic. With everything from empty
jars and heart pieces to collect in addition to the quest-related items,
players found themselves devoting dozens of hours to the game's stellar
execution and level design.
easier Zelda title than usual, Wind
Waker still rose leagues
above any competition, with wonderful quirks that improved exploration and
combat. Including a countering feature allowed players to do everything from
brutally finish their enemies to disarm them and even remove armor off of
otherwise unstoppable brutes. Weapons Link disarmed could then be used by Link
in addition to his already healthy arsenal of tools. He may be a kid, but by
the time you reached the final dungeon, Link was a one man army.
Perhaps one of the especially gratifying implementations came from the game's excellent incorporation of Link's items. Players could use a boomerang to target multiple enemies; the hookshot allowed Link to reach tricky platforms and even reined in neighboring enemies. The hammer not only decimated tough enemies, but also unlocked hidden areas. Hang-gliding with the deku leaf high above the water was just another highlight of a game that made exploration feel every bit as exhilarating as the impressively rendered world.
is a well-oiled machine, with a visual style underscored by its
impeccable design and expressive art direction. Bombs explode into stylized
plumes of smoke. Enemies creep around at night as wind brushes the grass. Faeries glimmer as they flit in front of you, and vivid lights stab through the
moonlit sky in contrast.
Enemies and other NPC's flow with sometimes hilarious
animations as you travel throughout the expansive world. Themed dungeons and
bosses overwhelm you in scale and beauty, and never become a bore - in spite of
the relative simplicity of most boss battles. Yet there are plenty of clever
challenges and secrets for you to unlock and master, from treasure chests
revealed by certain maps you can find, to grandiose battles with giant squids
in whirlpools and stormy weather.
Complimenting Wind Waker's
superb style and gameplay is its score, a nostalgic blend of classic tunes, a
few new themes, and vivid sound effects - there are no voice recordings for the
characters, although I prefer it that way, given the minimalist undertones. Bubbly
music is heard as you sail throughout the day, with a slightly mischievous
score accompanying your nighttime exploits, evoking the overall emotion of each
place you'll travel. Perhaps my favorite examples came from the tense and moody
music that injected a burst of urgent chords each time you and Phantom Ganon
exchanged turns batting balls of energy toward each other. When taken into
account with its other features, the player can't shake the sense that they're
participating in an arthouse experience that demands your appreciation and
There were some flaws to this otherwise perfect game, from a
mandatory fetch quest later on that felt transparently contrived, to issues
with lack of difficulty, and, depending on your tastes, the frequent use of the
Wind Waker baton. Material in the Japanese version of Wind Waker was thankfully scrapped from the American iteration that
would have undoubtedly exacerbated this. However, just as the main story seemed
to be spreading itself thin, the game returned to form with an impressive final
dungeon and Ico-esque showdown with Ganon, serving as the capstone to an
exceptional narrative. This doesn't include the hours of additional material
available to players, including replay, although players still craved more
dungeons to explore; a testament to the title's success.
Concluding, Wind Waker honored
its classic predecessor while reimagining the series' beloved hero. As a
result, Wind Waker is a tour de force
that will remain one of the most distinctive games created, even in a rapidly
dawning age centered around hyper realism and consumerism. Wind Waker is art not because it played it safe, but because it
challenged players to reconsider the prevailing aesthetic while rewarding us
with an intricate and nuanced interpretation of a classic story we love. Wind Waker isn't simply a game to be played,
but one to be experienced.
What are your thoughts?