This week marked the 10th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker’s European release, a title that’s equally one of the most beloved and controversial titles in the entire Zelda franchise. Launched on the GameCube between 2002 and 2003 worldwide, The Wind Waker had a troubled launch, due largely to a backlash from some fans regarding the change from realistic Link to cel-shaded Link. Yet for some it’s like a fine wine, and The Wind Waker has matured with age – some opinion now is that the cartoonish, cel-shaded styling of the Great Sea is one of the most ambitious and successful graphical palettes ever committed to disk. With its charming cast of characters, storyline and excellent gameplay, it’s now highly regarded by a fair number of Zelda fans.
But 2013 isn’t just the year Link, Tetra and the King of Red Lions celebrate reaching their first decade. Announced earlier this year, Nintendo is hard at work putting together a HD remake of this timeless title, bringing the vibrant and beautiful lands of Outset and Windfall Island into the Wii U generation. It’s an exciting time to be a fan of not only The Wind Waker, but The Legend of Zelda in general; with the HD remake imminent, and a big milestone now upon us, some of the Nintendo Life team have decided to look back on their time with this adventure and share their favourite moments.
Some key sequences of the games are referenced but are deemed minor enough, in terms of spoilers, to be included — read on at your own risk.
The Wind Waker is a game of famous firsts for me; it was the first Zelda game I ever played, the first game I pre-ordered, the first game I became utterly obsessed with and perhaps most importantly of all, the first game I wrote a review of, a review that would ultimately spawn my first blog and eventually lead to me writing this. It is a game that stands untouched at the top of my Zelda games list and a game that I can remember playing vividly; but that’s not what makes it so special to me.
Instead, my lasting memory of The Wind Waker isn’t the epic exploration or being called ‘small fry’ by the Map Fish for the first time, but the wait for the game. I remember buying a copy of CVG magazine back in 2002 (a copy I still own) and reading about two GameCube games – Super Mario Sunshine and a title called The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Mario Sunshine would be the game that convinced me to buy a GameCube, Wind Waker would be the game that made me fall in love with it. To this day I don’t know why I became so enthralled by it, but in the months leading up to release I read every preview I could find and absorbed every bit of information out there. Despite knowing nothing about the Zelda franchise, I became a huge fan thanks to hours poring over previews and features in magazines. Then it arrived. And it was more magical than I ever could have imagined.
To this day The Wind Waker is one of the most beautiful games created; I absolutely adore its setting and completely different, sea-based approach, a world away from the stretches of Hyrule Field. I'm actually at that sweet spot where I have forgotten several of the game's finer details — which suits me just fine, since the HD remake is on the horizon — but I recall the key moments and the feeling of utter joy while playing. And despite its art style it also features one of the most shocking, brilliant sequences in the whole series — the end of the final boss battle, of course.
I do remember people always muttering on about the infamous Triforce Hunt, and how it slowed down and stretched out the end of the game. But for me, it was never like that at all — blissfully unaware, I gathered the pieces as I went along and didn't have to collect everything at once. I never felt that The Wind Waker dragged, and it's probably my favourite Zelda game — no Zelda game since has come close for me.
I think the thing I enjoy the most about The Wind Waker is the art style; though I'm probably more a fan of the realistic aesthetics of other games in the series, The Wind Waker has its own special charm that I really can't get enough of. I think the general surprise of my love for it will be a lasting memory for me! I also simply enjoy sailing around in the tranquil Great Sea, the first time you get in your trusty boat is such good fun and although a lot of people find the sailing elements tedious I actually think they add to the game's magic.
But my ultimate favourite thing about Wind Waker is the soundtrack. I mean seriously, it's one of my favourite Zelda scores, right up there with Skyward Sword. No matter where you are in the game or what you're doing the music is simply perfect and suits every situation perfectly.
Also those leaf folk are the coolest. I think of The Wind Waker - I think of the leaf dudes.
Philip J Reed
In the run-up to The Wind Waker's release I was working at Sam Goody. I'm pretty sure the chain is gone now, but at the time it was a great place to pick up overpriced copies of only the most popular media from a very small selection while being served by a totally unknowledgeable sales crew. Great place!
Anyway, we had one of those demo kiosks for the GameCube, and another one for Xbox. I never went near the Xbox ones because the only demo discs we ever got were racing and fighting games, which didn't really interest me. The GameCube kiosk, however, had a demo disc that allowed people to play some quick scenarios from the upcoming The Wind Waker (it also had Metroid Prime, and, if I remember correctly, a trailer or something for Super Mario Sunshine). I didn't get to play the game during work hours, but every time I looked over and saw somebody playing it, I had only one response: this is the single best looking game I've ever seen.
I fell in love with that art style. I had a GameCube at home, but didn't play it much. It was a low ebb in gaming for me, so I wasn't paying attention to what was out, or what was coming out, but seeing The Wind Waker there, for the first time, I absolutely couldn't wait to play it.
We cycled that demo disc out when a new one came in, and my manager told me I could have it. I went home and played those same few scenarios over and over again (one was a few rooms of a dungeon, one was the boss you defeat by using the grappling hook to latch onto the dragon's tail), and though the demo was timed and you couldn't explore very much before the game reset, I spent hours poring over just how gorgeous the game was. The animations were fluid, every item and enemy popped, Link's eyes moved brilliantly toward objects you should investigate. Oh, and it played great too.
When it came out I bought it immediately, and I loved it. To this day it's still among my very favourite games in the series, behind only Majora's Mask and A Link to the Past. But I'll always remember falling in love with that demo, which is something that hasn't happened to me before or since.
Like most new things in my life, the graphical style of The Wind Waker was met with immediate disdain. After my contempt for the unreleased game eventually subsided, I picked up a copy and I absolutely loved it. The presentation was different, and it wasn't at all what I was looking for from an — at that time — next gen Zelda game, but it worked nonetheless. I haven't actually played The Wind Waker since I finished the game nearly 10 years ago but, when all was said and done, I remember having an appreciation for it. I'm really looking forward to giving the HD re-release a go.
The Wind Waker will always have a special place in my heart, not only because it was the first Zelda title I actually managed to beat, but because it was the first time I remember playing a video game feeling like a true adventure. I played through Link's high seas epic over a long summer at my grandparents' house, sometimes with a friend, taking turns on the Tingle Tuner, and sometimes sailing solo long into the night. The feeling of freedom from crossing the cel-shaded oceans is what's really stuck with me — in fact, even though I count it as one of my favourite games of all time, ten years later I can't remember a thing about the actual story! That's just making me even more excited to experience it again on the Wii U this year though, and I can't wait to jump back into the Great Sea and relive the adventure!
It's horribly clichéd but my favourite memory from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker will always be the part where you travel underwater to the Temple of Time. Seeing that part for the first time gave me goosebumps. Everything about it was perfect, especially the setting (with the stained glass windows of the Ocarina of Time sages). It was also at this point in the game that I really managed to get into the story. Cracking stuff all round!
My most significant memory of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker doesn't actually come from the game itself! Back in the "old days" of the early 2000s, information wasn't as immediately available as it is now. When word got out at school that Nintendo announced a new Zelda at E3, I bolted home and went online to discover what everyone was referring to as "Celda" — a cel-shaded, whimsical new Zelda game trailer. It was a far cry from what I'd been expecting for the GameCube Zelda, but I really liked the art style! The trailer showed Link mischievously causing havoc in a dungeon, fighting classic enemies, with the legendary music playing in the background. The trailer proved to be polarizing for fans, but I loved that Nintendo was able to put a new spin on a character and series that everyone thought they knew.
It was a Saturday night in college, and while my roommate had decided to go out and party I felt way too close to the ending of The Wind Waker to let it go. It was a longer trek through the final tower than I expected, but I finally made it to Ganondorf around 2 a.m. What a fight! No magic, no monstrous transformations — just a dual-wielding master taking you on in reflexive physical combat.
Near the end of the battle, I could hear a key turning in the lock. My roommate stumbled in from his revelry just as I delivered the surprisingly vicious coup de grace to win the game. He stared at the screen, jaw dropped, eyes widened.
"...Holy [expletive]!" he slurred.
I had to concur.
Now that I think about it, I never got around to completing The Wind Waker in its entirety. I borrowed it from a friend and spent a weekend so completely absorbed in the experience that I don’t recall ever leaving the house. What I remember most was sneaking around the Forsaken Fortress and being totally horrendous at it. It didn’t upset me though because I was just in awe of my surroundings and the phenomenal graphics. Beyond that, I don’t have any other specific memories. Looks like I’ll have to create some new ones when The Wind Waker HD releases for Wii U later this year.
The Wind Waker is one of those titles that plenty of gamers have something to say about, and with 2013 marking not only the game’s first decade, but its HD re-release, you can be sure there is plenty more to be said about this adventure.
What were your favourite memories from the game? Did the graphics matter to you, and do they matter now? And are you excited for the re-release later this year? We’d love to read your memories and opinions in the comments below.