Could Wind Waker be an allegory for the entire Zelda series?
When I first saw The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker in that fateful Space World 2001 video, I hated it. In my defense, I was young and stupid, but, in all of my tween glory, I wanted that realistic Zelda experience teased the year before. Wind Waker, at the time, seemed like a step backwards. It wasn't until I replayed it last year that Wind Waker endeared itself to me more than ever, and also seemed like a larger step forward for the series than I previously thought. (Editor's Warning: Wind Waker spoilers below)
Wind Waker is one of the few games where the Zelda structure is changed significantly. While the main parts are there (dungeons, bosses, puzzles, etc.), the game is a lot more open and free. Especially in the second half when you're searching for Triforce pieces, the game hearkens back more to the whimsical and deliberate exploration of the series' early entries. Comparing Wind Waker to Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, or Skyward Sword highlights the differences between the games, as to varying degrees, those three entries are very much focused on getting to the next dungeon. Wind Waker takes its time, forcing you to smell the roses.
The story of Wind Waker, mostly the ending, seems to be allegorical for the entire Zelda series. The King of Hyrule talks about how he and Ganondorf were focusing too much on the past, and then urges Link and Zelda to go find something that isn't Hyrule. The former King of Red Lions wants our heroic pair to find something that is their world.
"If only I could do things over again... Not a day of my life has gone by without my thoughts turning to my kingdom of old. I have lived bound to Hyrule. In that sense, I was the same as Ganondorf. But you... I want you to live for the future. There may be nothing left for you... But despite that, you must look forward and walk a path of hope, trusting that it will sustain you when darkness comes." - King Hyrule
It's almost like some rogue developer wanted to issue a call to arms to Zelda fans everywhere, demanding that the series evolve after Wind Waker. The game's finale and themes almost declare that Zelda games shouldn't be stuck in the past, paying homage to 20-year-old games. They should instead move forward and become their own new thing. Ironically, the game before Wind Waker, Majora's Mask, did just that.
The more likely scenario out of my observation is that it is nothing but a coincidence that I'm reading too much into (Odds of this allegory nonsense being correct? Probably a million to one). And, as we found out in Phantom Hourglass, this new world that the King of Hyrule wanted Link and Zelda to go to is apparently nothing more than the same old crap with new DS touch screen controls. Go figure.
Skyward Sword seemed like it had the potential to change up the formula, and while it made some strides, the latest Zelda game, while still excellent, was just the same formula with some tweaks. I'd say here's to hoping the next Zelda game shakes things up, but let's get real: it won't. Whether that's a bad thing or not, I don't even really know. I suppose time will tell, but as long as these games remain similar, I doubt any game will top my love and affection Wind Waker. The risks Nintendo took in the game's development don't happen often, but when they do, great things can happen.