Japanese version finished? Check. English version completed? Check! After more than 70 hours of playtime Billy delivers his final verdict on Link's latest journey.
Like the Mario series, the Zelda titles are always put up to much more criticism and scrutiny than any other games. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is no exception. The Wind Waker is the true sequel to Ocarina of Time, which was basically one of the greatest and biggest-selling games of all time, so it’s without saying that there’s a lot weighing on this game. After playing through both the Japanese and US versions of The Wind Waker, I'm convinced that this is one of the finest Zelda games to date, even challenging Ocarina of Time for the best of the series.
Since I missed a lot of the story by playing through the Japanese version, I was elated to read and understand everything in English my second time through. Without ruining any of the story elements, the game answers all questions that Zelda fanatics have been pondering for months. How can this be a different Link? What happened to Hyrule? How does this new world enter into the whole Zelda universe? It all comes together beautifully through conversations with the characters and usual in-game cut-scenes. Everything unravels so eloquently, Zelda fanatics will be in awe with how well everything gels with the past.
From its true unveiling at Spaceworld 2001, the world basically screamed in agony when they saw the new big eyed link: cel-shaded, toon-shaded…whatever. The Wind Waker is drop dead gorgeous, and I think doubters will be turned within moments of gameplay. Even though it’s cartoony, this definitely pushes the power of the GameCube. The attention to detail with the characters, enemies and environments is commendable. With everything that Link does in this chapter of the adventure, I don’t think The Wind Waker could have been done any other way. The characters are brought to life and drip emotion from their facial expressions and body language. Just watching how Link scopes out an environment and gives you visual clues to puzzles by what he sees is not only brilliant, but much needed to progress.
If you played through Ocarina of Time, or more recently The Master Quest, you’ll be very accustomed to how the gameplay is going to be laid out. It feels and plays just like Ocarina of Time does. If possible, newbies would be wise to get the bonus disc if they purchase the Wind Waker, to get a little warm-up, and to fill in the back story the correct way. Not that it’s needed, but hey, it’s free, and is still a great game.
The world you are basically dumped into is comprised of islands: many, many islands. As Link you travel from island to island much like traveling throughout Hyrule on Epona, yet this world seems much more expansive. Once you get the ability to warp, things move much quicker, but you will be sailing around for a good bit of time. Fortunately there are plenty of things going on all around, and the sea is littered with watchtowers, mini-games, mini dungeons, bosses, and other things to break up the monotony of traveling the sea. The world of the The Wind Waker is utterly huge.
The dungeons are some of the best I’ve ever encountered in any Zelda game. The typical Zelda-ish elements are there: switch finding, key finding, and usual enemy and boss battles. You’ll even find similar puzzle elements borrowed from Ocarina of Time, but they’ve been expanded and bettered. For all those who quit playing Ocarina of Time (sorry, but I still think you’re all a bunch of wussies) because of the Water Temple, you won’t find anything that difficult in The Wind Waker. That said, the dungeons are still massive and a wonder to explore. Unfortunately, I’d have to say that even though the Wind Waker’s overworld is bigger and has more beef to it, it seems the Wind Waker is missing a dungeon or two. Nintendo has admitted during a recent roundtable interview in Europe that they cut two dungeons from the game to get it out on time. Not to say there’s not enough gameplay here, but I’m not sure everyone will think the trade-off was worth it.
The combat in The Wind Waker is much like its predecessor, but with improvements. Sword fighting is even more intense and fun with quick and easy combo moves, and the all-new parry attack. Combat is as intense as ever, but since everything looks so cinematic, it’s all the more gratifying pulling off slick moves and taking out the opposition with style. The controls are modified Ocarina of Time controls so everything feels right, if not better.
All of the usual weapons make their return, and some new ones join the bunch. In The Wind Waker, some weapons can be used to disarm enemies or even steal needed items, hearts, and rupees. Swooping in on unsuspecting foes with the Deku Leaf, disarming and stealing their items (which can be traded for upgrades and other things), and then knocking them out with a brutal combo never gets old.
The Wind Waker utilizes the Game Boy Advance connectivity to allow pseudo-cooperative play. Once you free Tingle, you get the Tingle Tuner which allows Tingle to be used in certain situations to assist you on your quest. You can use Tingle to bomb areas (or you), uncover secrets, and even give you life and magic potions at the cost of a few rupees. Tingle also gives you progress updates, map status, and item location help. It’s a cool addition, especially for people who have family or friends that want to play along. I played through using my GBA SP, and mainly used it for maps and additional story elements. I enjoyed lying back on the couch and peering up every once in a while and seeing what Tingle would say or do. It’s not needed of course, but if you’ve got a GBA, it’s another unique addition to the game, and a great use of GBA connectivity.
Audiophiles, be prepared for one of the best video game soundtracks yet. The Wind Waker’s soundtrack is so good that I imported it on the day of release (which is why we’ve been playing the soundtrack on PGC for 5 days). The new tunes have already become favorites, and the remixed classics are impeccable. As with Ocarina of Time, music plays an integral part in the game, and this time around you use the Baton of Wind to conduct songs that execute wind commands and more. Some of these elements are similar to Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, but with their own Wind Waker spin.
The Wind Waker also utilizes Dolby Pro Logic II, but even in basic surround setups or 2-channel stereo, the game sounds fantastic. You’ll be able to use basic stereo separation to help locate enemies and treasure. Just moving the camera stick to the left or right a bit can help you pinpoint where items are. The only thing lacking for some is real voice acting. Characters have familiar Zelda non-voice communication consisting of hellos, grunts, sighs, whines, yips, screams and the like. There’s still no full speech, but personally, I’m fine with it because the classic style still suits the style of this game. However, if Nintendo were to go with a version more like the Spaceworld 2000 “Adult Link,” real speech would become necessary.
Some people may blow through The Wind Waker in 20-30 hours, but that’s without going through the optional side quests and getting all the main items, quest items, heart pieces and treasure. When I played through the Japanese version, we had to ignore the story elements and plow through to get to the action sequences. That alone took me around 25-30 hours, give or take 5 hours for my non-Japanese skills. I pretty much completed the English version of the Wind Waker minus completing one sub-quest, and I think I still clocked in around 40-50 hours. It’s nice for people that don’t want to take the time if they don’t want to, but for people wanting more out of the game, it’s about the effort you put forth. There’s more than enough meat in this game to satisfy everyone.
Nintendo also makes some attempts at replayabilty by adding a second quest (ala Ocarina of Time), and the Nintendo Gallery. I’m not exactly sure how different this second quest is, or if it’s as extensive as The Ocarina of Time Master Quest, but I’ll update if there are any dramatic differences. When you acquire the color “deluxe” camera in your first quest you can take pictures of people and enemies, and then make statues out of them, which appear in this area called The Nintendo Gallery. This is much reminiscent of the gallery in Super Smash Brothers Melee, and there are virtually hundreds of statues you can make. Sadly, you can only hold 3 pictures in your camera at once, and only make one statue per day, so creating a superior gallery will take time. When you start the second quest you begin with the camera and your gallery (and pictures if you still have some saved) from your first quest will still be intact. If you’re hardcore about completing the game, you’ll be busy for months with this.
The Wind Waker is probably one of my favorites of the series, if not the favorite. It is the essence of why people love to play Nintendo games. It makes you cheer, laugh, and feel like you’re actually involved in the adventure. Tell your boss you’re sick. Take a vacation. Throw up in class. Once you get your hands on Link’s latest adventure, you’ll understand why this is getting my first ever perfect score. The Wind Waker is a phenomenal sequel, and truly keeps the legend alive.