The Legend of Zelda – what an amazing series! The first one I ever played was the original on the NES, the reason why I bought the Super Nintendo was for A Link to the Past, but the Gamecube (and now Wii U version) Wind Waker captures a game in the series that stands out as being unique with its open oceans and timeless art design.
In terms of story, it takes place hundreds of years after Zelda 64. The world is covered in water, and Link is living on a little Island with his grandma and sister. Soon his sister is captured by Ganondorf and Link must go on an adventure to find her! I found this story extremely charming and more cinematic than most others in the series. It is really nice to see some of Link’s family for once. As the game progresses, many other series characters make an appearance, ending in an epic finally!
Overall game design is split up into three different aspects ( game progression, combat, and exploration). Firstly, this is a Zelda gam – it takes on the progression really set out in the A Link to the Past – travel around the world, find a dungeon, get a new weapon, defeat the boss, rinse and repeat until you get the master sword, and then rinse and repeat until you get to the final boss.
What makes this a bit different is that the narrative is nicely built into the progression of the game. For instance, you don’t just go to the forest dungeon to get an item – you need to go to the forest dungeon because someone is lost in there and you need to help save them. The story is really woven into the game which I really appreciated.
In terms of the combat mechanics, this game feels like a refined Zelda 64 – you have a target button that allows you to lock-on an enemy, and then you hit various buttons to launch sword attacks (jump attack, spin attack, regular attack). There is also cool dodging mechanic that allows you to hit a button at just the right time to make a counter attack. This is implemented especially well against challenging foes that allow you to disarm them or remove their armour, and really makes combat engaging as you need to pay attention!
Apart from the sword, Link has a whole slew of items that he can use in combat like the boomerang, bombs, bow and arrow, hammer, along with a few new additions like the magic leaf! These items can be mapped to various controller buttons for easy access. These items feel unique and have important functions that work especially well against certain enemies, again, making the combat very engaging and fun to play.
These items also play an important role in exploration! In fact, in spicing up the regular progression of the game, many items are found between dungeons and the items are actually used to get into or locate the new dungeons. For instance, the heavy boots are needed to get into the wind temple later in the game, which are found on their own little island.
Any now we come to the main unique feature of the Wind Waker! Sailing! Instead of having a regular world where you ride Epona through the fields, a sprawling ocean covers the land, and islands are sprinkled throughout for exploration! With the help of the actual Wind Waker (and item used to direct the winds, among other things), you can direct Link and his talking vessel King of the Red Lions across the oceans. What makes this mode especially cool is that many items found in Links inventory have a ship function as well. For instance, Link can use bombs like cannon balls, and use the swinging rope to discover hidden treasure under the water!
The islands themselves are really cool to explore, There are a few larger islands like Link’s home island and the main town Windfall island (this game’s Kakariko village). Many of the islands are dungeons as well – one of the early ones being a forest island with a familiar face! Among the ocean, tons of secrets can be found too! It has been a long while in a Zelda game where exploring reality felt like exploring. I remember one afternoon I found couple fairy hideouts, an island covered in ice, and Tingles tower!
Two thing I didn’t really like about sailing is that early on the game artificially prevents you from exploring the ocean by saying (you can’t go there yet – go do this dungeon first!) but this issues clears up pretty early to let you explore the oceans as your leisure. Lastly, I didn’t really like having to call the wind regularly to send me in the correct direction, but later on in the game you get a super fast sail that moves the wind in whatever direction you are moving in, so this issues disappears completely! The original Gamecube version also had quite a few fetch quests in the later part of the game focused on sailing, but this was streamlined in the Wii U version of the game.
In terms of graphics, this game is absolutely stunning and has held up extremely well, especially with the HD revision on the Wii U. Link is amazingly animated with tons of facial expressions. The enemies are also extremely well designed and hilarious to see run around! The water and waves looks how you would out of a studio Ghibli movie. This style is one of my favourite looks for Zelda games, and makes me particularly excited for Into the Wild early next year as its seems to be a mix of this style and realistic Zelda games!
The music is also just as memorable with many of the old classic tunes with cool remixes that make them unique to this game. The sound effects are fantastic and really add to the enjoyment of the game – for instance, when filling the magic meter, the sound that chimes when magic is found corresponds to how much magic there is left to fill in the bar, making a higher pitch as the meter is more full. I found that particularly satisfying for whatever reason, and made more want to run around and find more magic!
Overall, this is my 2nd favourite Zelda game next to a Link to the Past. While it might be a slight be shorter than most Zelda games, its fun all the way through, feels extremely fresh, and looks and plays like an absolute charm. Few games are a fun to play as this one. I give this game a final score of 9/10.
FINAL SCORE: 9/10