The Legend of Zelda The Wind Waker
Oh, But Back to That New Look...
It really is impossible to play the new Zelda without first letting its new toon-shaded visual style wallop you over the head. Link, all of his enemies and his entire world have all been created using simple, expressive shapes and bright colors, but everything moves with absurdly smooth animation. The final result is a game that looks like a 3D cartoon. "We intentionally tried to turn it into a cartoon," Miyamoto says, "so that maybe if a kid was playing the game at home and his parents were watching him they might think, 'Oh, he's watching cartoons.' But then they might look again, do a double take and realize, no he's controlling a cartoon."
Linked to the Past
But while Miyamoto is throwing Zelda fans a graphical curveball, he has wisely left the classic gameplay intact, choosing only to add compelling new aspects to the established system. If you've played Ocarina of Time or Majora's Mask on the Nintendo 64, you'll know exactly what to do here. This pint-sized Link runs, auto-jumps, climbs and fights just like his N64 forerunner. You still lock-on to enemies and assign subweapons and items such as the hookshot or boomerang to various buttons (see the big screen to the right for a closer look). Link does have some nifty new moves as well, including a Solid Snake-style wall shimmy, rope-swinging skills and the ability to pick up enemies' weapons.
Link's new stealth moves came into play in one of the demo's levels, in which he explores the "Island of the Mystical Beast," a heavily guarded fortress. Hiding in the shadows, edging along walls and crawling through ducts help avoid capture here. Giant searchlights sweep through the area, and Link can even hide inside a barrel to elude the nasty patrolling Moblins. It's this kind of intense gameplay that eliminated any concern over Zelda's challenge being scaled back to match the new kiddie look. "Even with the cel-shading," Miyamoto tells us, "the world is so immersive that people are going to be able to experience it a lot more fully than they did in past Zeldas."
Another playable area featured a colossal centipede living in a pool of molten lava. While it was tempting to just stand and stare in slack-jawed amazement at this beast and its writhing animations, we found that fighting the monstrosity was actually the highlight of Zelda demo.
Link's meager sword was no match for the critter's armored skin; we needed a little ingenuity to prevail. With Link's hookshot and a careful aim, we swung over the fiery pit and loosened a large boulder looming overhead. Three of these swings brought the rocks tumbling down onto the monster, weakening it enough for our sword to hurt it. And there ya go: a perfect Zelda boss battle--challenging, innovative and breathtaking.
The Greatest Story Never Told
So, now that you've seen the amazing new graphics and experienced the solid game-play, what else about Zelda could surprise you? The plot. The game's official tagline, "The Legend is Reborn," is right on. As the game opens, Link celebrates his 12th birthday with his grandmother and sister in their quaint fishing town. Grandma gives him his trademark green duds, while Arril, his sis, presents him with a nifty telescope. He looks skyward and spies a huge, evillooking bird being attacked by a nearby pirate ship. The frazzled bird drops a mysterious girl into the forest and Link investigates. Just as he reaches her, however, the bird swoops down and snatches Arril with its talons. With a sword in hand and a damsel in distress, Link's adventure has begun. We like the intro and new characters, but questions fill our heads. Where is Princess Zelda? What about series boss Ganon? Is this world even Hyrule? Sadly, Miyamoto isn't talking about the storyline. All we got out of him was a sly, elfin smile.
Download The Legend of Zelda The Wind Waker
There are two kinds of people in this world--those who think Zelda's radical, new toon-shaded style is a brilliant move, and those who think its bug-eyed characters belong in cheesy 'zos-era cartoons, not in a videogame for adults. But we have news for any of you who place yourself firmly in that second camp: Experience this game firsthand and you just might change your mind. Once you see how enemy faces lock into a grimace as they take a hit, how fire dances on a torch, how defeated enemies explode into a whirling vortex of clouds and streaking smoke, it's a lot easier to understand why Nintendo made the choice they did. The animation in this game is without equal; as a result, all three of our reviewers (one of whom was previously on the fence regarding the graphics and another who was sure the change was a mistake) now agree that The Wind Waker's new look is as effective as it is unique. In fact, the more realistic, adult Link featured in Soul Caliburll (see the, uh, form-fitting pic top right) now looks pretty ridiculous to most of us.
Less discussed but ultimately more important is, of course, the gameplay. Although the controls and basic setup follow the expected Zelda mold (puzzle-packed dungeons, giant bosses, music-based magic, etc.), The Wind Waker adds a good amount of new material. Link will find several items with multiple ingenious uses--for example, a giant leaf that can work as a big fan or as a parachute, and a grappling hook that can pull Link up or steal items from enemies.
Combat has also been tweaked, with the ability to use enemy weapons (which also factors into some dungeon puzzles) and new special attacks. As you can probably tell from the giant chart on the last page, fighting has never been as deep, or as much fun, in any Zelda game.
Of course, the most obvious change to Zelda's world is that it's now one big ocean. Instead of walking from place to place on a giant overworld as in every previous Zelda game, everything in The Wind Waker is connected by water. You therefore spend much of the game sailing between islands, charting the seas, and fighting sharks and pirates on Link's new boat. Our reviewers were split on how well they felt this idea worked--although everyone agreed it was a novel idea. Shane and Greg appreciated the new approach, while some aspects of sea travel left Mark longing to have his feet back on terra firma.
Another Big New Idea for this Zelda is that you sometimes have access to a second playable character--a statue, a flying bird-girl, a wee forest spirit, or even a seagull. This opens up the possibilities for cool secrets and dungeon puzzles that can be solved only by having your two onscreen personae help each other (check out the big sidebar above). It's a bit like Ico for PS2, except in Zelda, your partner is worth a damn.
The Wind Waker also introduces another kind of second-player possibility--you can link-up a Game Boy Advance and have a friend play along (see below). This feature was originally incorporated for those new to the series or video-games, or for situations where one player has (continued from page 125) more experience than the other (older brother/younger brother or father/son situations, for example). It's a great idea and lots of fun for both players, just as long as player two doesn't mind sometimes not having much to do, and player one doesn't mind the game being much easier. Sure, hardcore types may considering it cheating to get tips on how to beat enemies and solve puzzles, or get your health instantly replenished, but Tingle's hilari ous dialogue and the hidden extras you can only find using this feature ensure even those playing alone will want to check it out. There's plenty more to talk about in Zelda-- minigames, side quests, secrets--that we'll leave to the sidebars and individual reviewers. But, honestly, you really need to hear only five words about The Wind Waker: You must play this game.
Snapshots and Media
All Zelda Games
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
- The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages
- The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
- Zelda: Wind Waker
- Legend of Zelda, The - A Link To The Past with Four Swords
- The Legend Of Zelda Gaiden/Majora’s Mask