The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker - GameCube Review
May 14, 2003
Iíve come to a realization about myself: I focus on the negative. Especially when I review games. I donít mean to, but thatís just the way it works. Iíve tried to change my ways, but its just the way Iím wired. That being said, let me review the latest Zelda game.
And let me start this review with this statement: this is not the greatest Zelda game ever made. It might not even be in the top three. But let me follow that up with these statements: This game is superb, engrossing, astounding, phenomenal, flabbergasting, gob-smackingly beautiful, wonderful, wondrous, stunning, striking, phenomenal, extraordinary, amazing, delightful, awesome, sensational, dazzling, marvelous, remarkable, incredible, and other words that havenít been invented yet but are that much closer to being created because of this game. This gameís majesty is almost overwhelming at times. When I say that this is not the best Zelda game, its like saying Estella Warren is not the hottest woman in the world. Sheís still incredibly fucking hot.
Itsís just that this game isnít as polished as it could be. There is nothing major wrong with this game. The problems are almost too small to be called minor. But there are a few of them and they add up. For a game that takes place on the sea, the water based combat could be better. Specifically, Link should be able to steer his boat whilst fighting. As it is he slows to a complete stop as soon as any weapon is deployed. I donít know how easy it would be to control, but I have faith that with a little extra time, Miyamoto would have figured something out. And when Link gets knocked out of the boat, he is momentarily invincible, but it wears out before he gets a chance to get back in the boat. More often than not, as soon as Link gets into the boat, he gets knocked out again. Either extend the amount of time Link stays invincible or give a few seconds of grace time whenever he gets into the boat. Also, the gameís pacing is a bit off. It drags a bit near the end, as Link searches for map pieces. I know the designers were probably just trying to convey how big and vast the world is, but we already knew that. This treasure hunt happens near the end of the game, things shouldnít be slowing down, they should be speeding up. On a somewhat related note, some of the side quests are artificially lengthened by putting ridiculous limits on you. You can take pictures of every character in the game, and get statues made of them. Every character. But you can only ďcarryĒ three pictures at one time. And the pictures have to be good. Similarly, you can pretty up some of the islands by planting flowers in certain spots. But you can only carry three flowers at a time. And each flower costs money. And one or two more dungeons would be nice. See? Like I said, small stuff. Smaller than small. Minute. But it still bears mentioning.
Now that Iíve sated the negative bitch side of me, I can get on to the good stuff. Namely everything else. Good Fucking God is this a great game. This is the kind of game where you shake your head at people who donít understand why we play videogames. This game is an interactive work of fucking art. Kelly said it best when he said that youíll be able to play this game in twenty years and itíll still look great. The big N didnít just make a game here, they made a world. Everything fits together perfectly. Once you play this game youíll see why it looks the way it does. Compare this world to the Ďrealí one presented in Shenmue. Zeldaís oceanic land kicks the Ďrealí Hong Kongís ass. By freeing themselves of Ďrealisticí expectations, they were better able to mold everything to serve their purpose. The kid with the big booger couldnít exist any where else, and that would be a shame. A love hearing the boinging of his approach. Ditto the Battleship shop owner. ďSPLOOOOOOOOSH!Ē Heís just too absurd for any other game. These characters wouldnít even fit in past Zelda games. But they fit here. And see how I mentioned the characters, and the sounds they make? It all works together. The Ďcartooní visuals give this game a light-hearted, whimsical, fairy tale feeling that most games (hell, most animated movies) fail to achieve. Without, Linkís big expressive eyes, the gamer wouldnít notice all the hints and clues in the game. Plus his stealth face is just cool.
What the hell, letís just start a new paragraph about the graphics. Amazing. Tonnes of nice little touches. Like how Link drips when heís wet, how the drips actually hit the ground. How the wind plays with his hair and hat. The heat distortion from flames. The sparks thrown off during combat. The depth of field blur. These all add to the ďrealismĒ of this cartoon world. Every character is instantly recognizable. The cartoon aesthetic really let the artists cut loose when it came to designing the people who populate this land. But again, they all fit. And the land they inhabit... Since the leap to the third dimension, Miyamoto and Co. have crafted worlds that the player loves to explore. Screw advancing the story, sometimes a guy just wants to sail the open seas. Or watch the sun rise and set over his sleepy little village. Or following the seagulls to wherever they may lead. Or just enjoy the peace and quiet of floating in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. I love the water in this game. The way the sea rolls beneath the boat. The undulating texture that plays across its surface. Damn. This game makes a beggar of words. The camera is great again, with the added benefit of letting the player have some control over it. Not that I ever needed to mess with it too much. I want to say more about how great this game looks, but what else can be said. The bosses are great to look at. And their deaths are always impressive looking. Normal enemies die good too. I love the little poof of smoke. And the orbs that they leave behind that throw off light. And the noise the orbs make when they change colour, how that noise grows louder as you zoom the camera in.
See how I segued into sound there? How I liked it with a visual? Notice how that ties in with my harping on how everything works together? How making my review mesh and flow makes it mesh and flow with the game? This ainít easy folks. This is why I get paid the big bucks. Where was I? Right. Sound. A lot of people think that all games should be fully voiced. We have the technology, so we need to use it. Bullshit. People still make black and white films. Hell, people still make silent films. You neednít play the ace when a deuceíll do. This is a fairy tale. Reading and fairy tales go hand in hand. Plus having wall to wall speech could take away some of the charm of the voices that are in the game. Like the aforementioned SPLOOOOOOSH, or Tetraís laugh or Linkís battle cries. Or the meow. Whatís there is perfect, and why improve on perfection? Iím sure that they could do a fully voiced Zelda game and nail it, Iím just saying they donít HAVE to. Maybe Iím a bit biased. One of the reasons my little brother learned to read so quick was so that he could understand what was going on in the games he played. The music in this game, as in all Zelda games is fantastic. Ever since Link Awakening on the Game Boy, Music and Musical instruments have played fairly major roles in Zelda games. So good music is basically a must. This game contains classic music from past Zelda games, spruces them up to suit this game and introduces a host more. I love the fiddle/violin in the opening movie. And having so many musical nods to Ocarina of Time ties in perfectly with the story. Plus the game isnít wall to wall music, itís silent when it needs to be which a lot of other games could learn from. Once again, just because you can doesnít mean you have to. Another great addition is the use of musical chimes during combat, it adds to the drama ands lets you know how well youíre faring. Ditto the music that guides you to treasures. I really need a C.D. soundtrack from this game.
Do I even need to mention how this game controls? Wind Waker takes the perfect controls from Ocarina/Majoraís Mask and manages to improve upon it. Especially in combat. Fighting is much more fluid and fun. The aforementioned musical chimes during combat help, as do the various combos that Link is capable of. Plus the counter attack. Love the counter attack. Just before an enemy attacks, the A button flashes. If you hit A in time Link dodges the blow and dishes out one of his own. Itís not a guaranteed hit though. You still need to be aware of the surroundings. If thereís nowhere to dodge to, Link canít dodge. Simple eh? The combat is so improved that there is an area in the game devoted solely to fighting, and I spend a fair amount of time there. Sailing around is easy as pie. The one sneaking part of the game makes you wish there was more. The dungeons are what make or break the Zelda games. Wait... theyíve never really broken a Zelda game... Dungeons are what make the Zelda games. The ones in Waker donít disappoint (except for the lack of more of them). None are as devious as the Water Temple from TOOT, but they all have bits to work the brains or the reflexes. Plus you have to tackle a few of the dungeons with a buddy, ICO style. And the two different dungeon helpers help Link out in different ways, which really helps in keeping the dungeon going experience fresh. On top of that, your real life friends can help you out via the Tingle Tuner. They can get hints, help you across gaps, find hidden things or drop bombs on you, costing you money. Thatís always a laugh. The Tingle Tuner is a nice touch, it gives you info about your enemies and/or your surroundings. Plus, like I mentioned, there are certain treasures you can only find with Tingles help. They arenít necessary to beat the game, so you donít need a GBA plus a link cable to beat the game, itís just a nice bonus.
Another bonus is the fact that this game has the best story of any Zelda game. I admit, that ainít that tough a task. But still, yay story. Itís not epic, itís not Lord of the Rings, but itís good. Especially if youíve played TOOT. Thatís all Iíll say about that. And the story is helped ably by the translation/script. Weíve all played games that have been marred by awkward speech. This isnít one of those games. In fact this game made me smile more times than I can count and laugh more than once. Let me once again reference the SPLOOOOOOSH! Ow many games have made you smile or laugh lately. Thatís a rare thing. Thatís something to be treasured.
This is a game to be treasured. I know Iíll be playing it multiple, multiple times. Smiling and laughing all the while. Nintendo is magic. And somehow theyíve managed to take some of that magic, press it into a little disk and share it with the world.