The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (Gamecube)

When you hear the phrase “Legend of Zelda”, it invokes one of two responses from you: either you don’t care for it or it’s the greatest game franchise of all time.  If you’re familiar with the Legend of Zelda games, you know almost all of them follow a pattern, have the same items, have dungeons to explore and other similar game elements; it’s the hallmark of the franchise.  But, with each new chapter, a new avenue must be taken, something must be altered but where it only enhances the lasting essence of Zelda to be truly successful.  The Wind Waker was the Gamecube’s only true Zelda game (Twilight Princess did a get a release on Gamecube, but was modeled for Wii).  Let’s examine it closer and see how it stacked up.

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Playability/Controls- 7.5

Once a game “camera” became a necessity, a whole new complexity arrived in games but with it came a new world of creativity and that kind of creativity lends itself perfectly to an open exploration game like Legend of Zelda.  Figuring out how to maneuver said camera is one of the hardest tasks in Wind Waker as it’s broad worlds and sometimes enclosed spaces cause chaos to a gamer trying to accomplish a certain task.  Using the Wind Waker itself is also tricky as some songs require long sequences of button combinations that are pretty difficult to remember off hand which complicates things.  There is also the task of assigning items to your button inventory for ready use, which also takes time to get used to.

This all being said, these are minor quibbles to an overall fun and detailed play experience. Legend of Zelda has always been immersive and it blends combat into platforming elements as the holy grail of gameplay; it’s known for high standards. The camera is an issue that keeps this score from going any higher, but with the battles, stealth missions, and the sailing of your boat on the open sea, there is plenty that makes the game easily playable and completely enjoyable.

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Graphics- 7.5

Cel-Shading.  It became a dirty word to all Zelda fans when rumors of the new direction for Wind Waker were released.  It looked like a cartoon.  And Link was a tiny boy?  People felt the game was going in the wrong direction.

I think now after some 10 years later, this game still looks quite amazing.  It’s a preferential style; the game seems painted, as if you’re playing in a live watercolor.  Sometimes it can be disarming; almost like you’re controlling a cartoon character through a world that feels too young for you.  Other times, it’s gorgeous and words can’t describe the view.  It’s a mixed bag but I can tell you , replaying this game now, it certainly holds up as unique and one of a kind and I think that’s a great thing for the bredth of this series.

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Music/Sound- 7

As I’ve gotten older, I realize how important sound and music are to a game.  They set the tone, they introduce new worlds, they signify important moments that are happening; they become the soundtrack to which you enter this world and stay for long periods of time.  Besides the inherent ability to use the Wind Waker, and produce music, Legend of Zelda has always prided itself on sweeping scores full of strings and Wind Waker doesn’t disappoint.  Again, the tone of some of the music feels cartoony- and young- but other times, such as when you’re at sea, it can provide clues as to what you may come across and if things are about to be good or very bad.

I wouldn’t rank it amongst the best Zelda soundtracks, as I seemed to come across many dungeons that felt silent and empty without the music.  But, for the most part, this game delivers in spades on that front as well, especially while at sea.  When you travel to the castle in the past, the ringing notes of past Zelda games really sings and takes you back to your childhood in a nice bit of nostalgia.

 

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Replay Value- 7

Replay Value, as a category, is all about does this game make me want to go on?  Would I ever revisit this game, and how far into it would I play before I got tired of it?  This game ranks fairly high as I played through and beat it over some 10 years ago.  At that time, I scoured maps and charts and tried to complete every section of this game.  Now, as I play through with my daughter, we are playing more of a broad strokes approach while trying to complete from memory.

The sea exploration feels like the most choreful of all the elements of Wind Waker;  it’s tedious and after completing 75% of the main storyline, it doesn’t feel particularly rewarding either.  But, Zelda’s game play in essence almost feels timeless, so whether it’s Wind Waker, or Link to the Past, or Skywyard Sword, replay value, for me, is always fairly high for a Zelda title, because of it’s familiarity.

 

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Originality- 8.5

It’s both easy and hard to steer too far from the very successful course of Zelda’s main features, so this could be a tough category to rate.  Zelda gets high marks just for it’s sheer litany of games, and for keeping them not just playable, but highly engaging and entertaining.

For being the cel-shaded Zelda, and incorporating the Wind Waker mechanic, the boat mechanic and for turning some popular elements of The actual Legend of Zelda on it’s ear, this game is, for me, fairly memorable.  It’s hooks and unique qualities stand out and the game itself is still very fun and engaging, with plenty of hours of material and dungeons to keep even the most ardent gaming fan happy.

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Final: 75%

Overall, this is a tremendous game for the Game Cube library ad has both the unenviable and fortunate task to be a Zelda game, as it holds high marks for gameplay, story and action and would rank fairly high over most Gamecube titles while also being compared to the other Zelda games and feeling fairly pedestrian in that realm.  But, overall, this is a very fun and kid-friendly game that is sure to delight and entertain any that jump in and discover it.

 

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