Second Look: ?So you're the new Wind Waker??
The Legend of Zelda series ? where does one even begin to describe all of the incredible techniques, emotional climaxes, compelling stories, stunning tools and amazing gameplay features the series has been through? Not only that, but how does one measure the immediate effect the series has had on other games within the genre? To put it simply, it cannot be done. Take these facts and then try to imagine a game that would have to not only live up to these figures, but also try to expand on them. Enter The Wind Waker, the next installment on one of the greatest gaming series of all time.
It's been 3 years since fans have had a new Zelda console game, and 5 years since the nearly perfect Ocarina of Time. Needless to say, when The Wind Waker (TWW) was announced, Zelda fans rejoiced, but they also had a lot of expectations for the newcomer to the series. As TWW was first shown off at SpaceWorld 2001, everyone saw the fully 3D Link that had been expected. However, since this showing, the game has gone through quite a few large enhancements to say the least, with the biggest change being the leap to the infamous cel-shaded graphics. This drastic change was unsettling to some, yet welcome to others. Getting closer to its release, fans also learned some of the storyline, which involved Link saving not Zelda, but his sister. Again, this was another factor that had some people wondering just in what direction was this game heading. Now at long last, the final version of the game has been released. No more wondering if the graphics are going to be good. No more thoughts on whether or not this game actually involves Zelda and Hyrule. No more contemplating about if this game is truly Zelda, because as you will soon find out, this game is more Zelda than you can possibly imagine.
The Wind Waker takes place hundreds of years after the events in Ocarina of Time (OoT), which begs the question, is this new hero the same Link as the Hero of Time? The answer is no. At the beginning of TWW, you'll learn the legend of The Hero of Time, and how he banished the evil Ganondorf to the dark world long ago. Now the world and the people who reside upon it are in a time of relative peace. Among these people are the inhabitants of a quiet and isolated island, appropriately titled Outset Island. As the game begins, it's made aware that it's one of the islanders 12th birthday, a special day among the people of Outset. It is on this day that the boy is said to become a man, and pays respect to the Hero of Time by donning the green clothing the legendary hero once wore. ?Can Hyrule's destiny really depend on such a lazy boy??
The opening cinematic of TWW features a young girl frantically searching for her big brother. As we soon find out, this young girl is Aryll, the sister to none-other than our new hero. She finds her big brother, Link (the game permits you to name your character however you want, but as for this review we'll call him Link) sleeping high above on the lookout tower taking a nap, completely oblivious that it's his birthday. Upon finding him and waking him up, Aryll sends him to his Grandmother's house, where Link receives his ceremonial garb, setting him up for the rest of his unsuspected adventure.
As Link returns outside, he and his sister spot a pirate ship firing cannonballs at a large, flying bird, which seems to be carrying someone in its claws. Upon striking the bird with one of the shots, it drops the person into a nearby forest. Naturally, it's up to young Link to investigate. The rest of the events that take place early on Outset Island closely resembles what Link had to go through in Kokiri Village in OoT. Being a young boy, it's expected that Link is unarmed, so in order to further his progress, he must equip himself with a sword and shield. Like Kokiri Village, Outset Island serves as a sort of training mission, which helps you get accustomed to the schematics of the gameplay, as well as the controller layout.
If you've had a chance to play either OoT or Master Quest on the pre-order bonus disc, then you should feel right at home with the control scheme of TWW. Items can be assigned to the X, Y, and Z buttons, your sword is designated to the B button, and the A button is used for actions (talking, opening doors, lifting items, etc.). Lock on battling also plays a major role in TWW, except locking on is no longer assigned to the Z-Trigger; rather it's now L-Targeting. Thankfully, the system is just as effective as it was in Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask. Movement of Link is done with the left analog stick, and the D-Pad is used to bring up maps and compasses. You can also rotate the camera with the C-Stick, and bring it back behind Link by tapping the L button. "Oh, so?...You mean to say you would like to be totally destroyed?"
If the Zelda series is renowned for anything, it would be for its amazing gameplay system. This of course entails a number of different elements, including its battle system. The Wind Waker takes the lock-on system we're used to, and expands on it to great new levels. When locked on to an enemy, Link can unleash a number of different combo attacks with his sword, each having a different animation and effect on the enemy. Rolling, flipping, and jumping from side to side can also be used to avoid enemy attacks using the A button and the control stick while locked-on.
One of the newer features to the combat system is the ability to counter-attack. If you're locked-on to an enemy, Link can sense his movements, and when the enemy is about to strike, the controller will vibrate and a sound will be played. When this happens, the player can tap the A button quickly, which will launch Link into 1 of 4 counter-attack methods, which not only makes Link avoid the enemy attack, but also deals a good amount of damage to the enemy. Some enemies throughout the game actually require you to use this method for different reasons. It's a small addition to the overall gameplay, but it takes an already exciting battle system and makes it even more fun to use. "You've met with a terrible fate, haven't you?"
Although The Wind Waker stays very true to the N64 Zelda games in terms of gameplay, it also strays away from the norm in some areas. In OoT especially, dungeons and temples were where most of your time was spent throughout the game. Even though there are 6 official temples in TWW, most of your time is spent on the surface of the great sea. The map that Link travels on is made up of 49 sectors, each around the size of Hyrule Field in OoT. Each sector contains some sort of island that can be explored, most of them having a secret or two to them. It takes an extremely long time to explore and uncover each sector, but the good thing is you don't have to. Some sections don't contain anything mandatory to gain, but instead may hide a piece of heart, or another useful item. Those who desire to uncover the entire overworld map are in for a very long adventure, but a very rewarding one as well.
As was mentioned above, TWW features 6 official temples/dungeons in the entire game. Each one encompasses the usual map, compass, big key, and dungeon treasure. Although TWW doesn't have the number of temples that OoT did, it does have some of the most entertaining dungeons in any Zelda game to date. Some of the puzzles featured, while not being entirely difficult, are a blast to figure out, and when finally conquered, leave you with a feeling of great satisfaction. Those who view dungeon exploration as a tedious mission that must be completed only to progress may now have a different opinion about them. "This is the melody that will draw you into the infinite darkness that absorbs even time..."
We've seen Link as a musician with his Ocarina, but how about as a composer? Using the baton, Link's new main item, Link can compose various pieces, each having a different effect. Similar to the songs Link could learn for the Ocarina in OoT, TWW features numerous musical pieces that can be learned, and then conducted by Link. Each song represents a different action, whether it be changing the wind's direction, or changing the setting from night to day.
Using the baton is done with the C-Stick. Each direction pressed represents a different note played. The normal mode for conducting is ?, which plays 3 notes. Link can also conduct in 4/4 mode (4 notes), and 6/4 mode (6 notes) by holding left and right on the control stick respectively. "Link...Sounds somehow, familiar."
Upon completion of the game, players may find a little added bonus that Nintendo has graciously added. A second quest has been thrown on for good measure. Although the storyline and gameplay go untouched, there are a few things that differentiate the second quest from the original. Link receives an alternate uniform for the second adventure, and also has the ability to understand Hylian (there are a few creatures that speak the ancient language of Hyrule, and during your first time through, will only appear in Hylian letters).
Those who desire to reach the 100% completion level in TWW will have to make use of this second quest file. During the second time through, Link receives an item right from the start that he would otherwise not obtain until later in the game. This item is used to complete a side-quest which cannot be completed in your first time through. Besides this one side-quest, those who wish to fully conquer the game will also have to run through LOTS of other mini-games, quests, dungeons, and side islands. ?Tingle, Tingle...Koolah Limpah! These are the magic words Tingle created himself. Don't steal them!"
The last notable feature on the gameplay side is the use of the GameBoy Advance to GameCube link. Using a special item that can be obtained in TWW called the Tingle Tuner; Link can call Tingle, the delinquent fairy from Majora's Mask. Tingle appears on your GBA screen, which was designed so that another player could control him and converse with the player controlling Link, making TWW a 2 player game of sorts. Tingle can be called upon only in areas that have a map, which excludes some side-areas and houses.
Tingle has 3 main uses throughout the game, hints, treasures and the Tingle bomb. Using the Tingle Tuner inside of dungeons grants players extra hints on where to go, and what items can be used. Although TWW is relatively easy in difficulty, there are a few areas where Tingle can come in handy. Tingle can also point out where secret treasures are; places where treasure can only be obtained by using the Tingle Tuner. It's never anything that will alter the gameplay experience however, so if you don't have a GBA, don't worry about it. Using the Tingle Tuner also grants player's access to the Tingle Bomb. The Tingle Bomb is basically just a normal bomb that Link must pay 10 rupees to use. However, the Tingle Bomb can be used before Link can acquire the normal bomb, granting Link access to a few side-areas that would normally be off limits early on. ?You looked cool...cooler than I thought you would anyway...?
Whatever you've done prior to the release of the game cannot prepare you for how amazing the graphics are in TWW. It doesn't matter how many screens you've seen, how many times you've watched the videos, or how long you've played the demo. There are just so many astounding techniques that are used in the graphical interface that nothing can compare to the finished product. Yes, the game is done in cel-shaded graphics, but no matter how much you think cel-shading sucks, or how bad you want Link to be ?mature?, you can't deny that the graphics are nothing short of beautiful.
The use of vibrant colors and smooth animations are what separates TWW from any other game in existence today. Although the game only runs in 30 frames per second, the motion usually never slows down, unless there are a multitude of enemies on screen or numerous explosions at once. If you want proof of what a great palate of colors can do for a game, wait until you get to a certain volcanic island. When you arrive there, you can witness hot, red ash spew from the top of the mountain, only to calmly turn orange when it hits the air, slowly changing brown as it hits the water, with a small puff of steam rising up when it disintegrates. This is but a small instance of what TWW's graphics are capable of doing.
Sailing the ocean blue will also make players aware of the day and night cycle, a feature which returns from OoT and MM. There are some things which will only appear at either night or day, which is nothing new for those who have played OoT or MM. What is new however is the cycle of the moon. Each night brings about a new moon, cycling from the full moon, to the half moon, all the way to the crescent moon. This too brings about random events that only take place on a certain moon setting. ?In the dream, dark storm clouds were billowing over the land of Hyrule...?
In addition to the night/day cycle, a random weather generator has also been implemented. Unlike OoT's weather system, The Wind Waker allows storms to form at any given time. Even as this may be, there are a few instances where the weather will change to compliment the storyline.
What's even more amazing about these random weather effects is the way they are generated. What seems to be a clear day can all of a sudden turn into a torrential downpour within minutes. Clouds form from nothingness as the sky begins to turn gray. Lighting shatters the coastline far away, and claps of thunder can be heard from miles away. It's amazing what the cel-shading can do for a game, and if there's one game that has mastered the cel-shaded system, it's The Wind Waker for sure. ?Oh, I see... Well, I can tell what you want to say by the look in your eyes...?
Another amazing feature that the cel-shaded graphics allow is the hint system hidden in Link's eyes. You may have noticed what large eyes Link has. His large pupils do serve a purpose, as they spot out important items, secrets, and locations. If you're ever stuck in an area, use the C-Stick to rotate the camera to Link's face. If you see his eyes looking in a different direction other than straight forward, chances are there's some sort of item you can use in that direction.
The cel-shaded graphics also make for one of the most humorous Zelda games ever. Not only does Link sport some hilarious faces at time, but enemies do as well. If you can manage to make a Pokoblin drop his weapon, watch his animations as he frantically runs to find it and pick it back up. Also, pay attention to some of Link's facial animations during some of the cut-scenes, it's enough to make anyone fall off their chair in laughter. ?Back then, people called us great composers because of the many musical masterpieces we wrote.?
Every Zelda game to date has had a great lineup of musical pieces, especially those in Out. The Wind Waker is no exception to this, in fact, it brings back many of the familiar songs of previous Zelda games, remixed creating new reincarnations of favorite songs of old. Some of the songs recreated even go back to the original songs from the NES! You may not even realize that it's a recreated NES song until a few familiar notes are played within the orchestral piece. It's amazing what Nintendo has done in bringing some 8-bit sounds to fully orchestral creations.
You can thank Nintendo composer Koji Kondo for everything Zelda brings to the table musically. It's because of him that TWW has such a compelling soundtrack. Through the use of music, the story (which is amazingly good to begin with) takes new turns, and at times pulls at your emotions. During climactic cut-scenes, the background music turns to classic melodies, which makes the entire game feel very much like Zelda.
The most innovative feature that TWW entails musically is mixed into the game's combat. When Link strikes an enemy with his sword, a musical note is played. If Link strikes an enemy successively, the notes become higher and more climactic, almost playing a mini-melody. The harder the blow, the louder the note is played. This is a very subtle addition that may go overlooked by some, but for the biggest of Zelda fans, nothing goes unappreciated. ?When thou art ready, return here and speak with me...?
Although the game's conversations are all done via text, TWW has a sound effect for almost every possible situation. All of Link's cries, yelps, and moans are redone to sound better than ever. Even enemies and other characters have various grunts, which are usually really funny. Who knew that a simple cry of ?Hoy!? could mean ?BIG BROTHER!!!?