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Eiji Aonuma Explains Why He Thinks Fans Came To Love Wind Waker's "Toon Link"

Posted by Damien McFerran

How the haters became fans

When The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was revealed over a decade ago, the reaction from fans was negative to say the least. Online forums were ablaze with angry posts stating that Nintendo had dumbed down the esteemed series for a kiddie audience.

Fast forward to the present day, and Wind Waker is lauded as a classic — not just for its captivating gameplay, but in terms of visuals, too.

Series head Eiji Aonuma has been speaking to Shacknews about the reasons for this change in opinion:

I think one big thing would be that we continued to use that art style in DS titles. They got to a kind of expanded userbase--a lot of people that didn't play Zelda games before. I think after seeing that, when you see Wind Waker's art style again, it becomes easier to approach because you're more used to it.

I think also at the time time, that kind of toon art style was something you were starting to see in a lot of CG. But, it was used a little a bit but after that, it wasn't used that much. Now, looking back at it, it seems like a very special thing.

While Nintendo stuck with the cel-shaded look for DS sequels Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks, it would revert back to the "realistic" vibe for Twilight Princess. Aonuma admits that the initial fan reaction to Wind Waker had something to do with that change:

We had that negative reaction to that art style and then we did a 180, thinking 'maybe this is what the fans want'. It wasn't just that in terms of the direction of the art style for Twilight Princess, but I think that was a big influence.

Interestingly, Aonuma also reveals that Nintendo tested a HD version of Twilight Princess, but wasn't enamoured with the results:

We did a test of Twilight Princess in HD. But it didn't turn into a new thing. It looked better, it looked cleaner, and it looked like a master version of the game. But with Wind Waker, it really changed into something different — it changed into that really-looking-like-a-cartoon style we were aiming for, but we couldn't because of the Gamecube's power. I think now, the reason why people are enjoying it so much, that's a part of it.


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User Comments (55)



odd69 said:

I've always felt this game was beautiful! I never complained about the art style.I admit the art style at that point was new and odd for alot of Zelda fans. I finally found a copy at best buy, & finally get to re-experience this Friday!!!. Still cant believe the 8 game stops around my area still doesn't have a copy.



SpookyMeths said:

The art style turned me off at first too, but it was really only Link's design that I didn't care for. All the monster designs looked great, landscapes looked great, NPCs looked great for the most part. But then there was that gameplay, which was just too darn fun to be put off by art.

But the whole thing turned out to just be an acquired taste. Now, I think Link's design looks fine. Better than child Link in OoT/MM.



LunaticPandora said:

Personally I've always thought WW Link just looks kinda goofy and is by far my least favorite Link. I came to love WW eventually, but I never warmed up to that Link.



GamerZack87 said:

"'Hoy, Small Fry! My back's really been creaking with agony lately, so could you hit me with a small object launched by a projectile device? If you do I'll use my magic inkbrush to mark your sea chart despite not having hands!"



Goginho said:

And that's why I say that Majora's Mask is in need of a 3DS remake like Ocarina of Time. Twilght Princess doesn't actually need a remake, as it simply cannot get the same treatment Wind Waker, as well as Ocarina of Time, have gotten. That being said, the only remake left to be done is Majora's Mask into updated 3D. Twilight Princess should simply just get an HD port on the Wii U sometime in the future. Perhaps even Skyward Sword, but I feel that it isn't all that necessary, seeing as how the impressionistic art style, and general, blurry, watery, and dreamy visuals fit in well with a bit of the jagginess that is present, to not even make it too noticeable as in TP.



Mahe said:

Uh, what? Fans? "Love"? This is the game that sold only 30,000 copies on its opening week in Japan, resulting in the Zelda series' historically lowest debut there, and failing to move any systems. Sure, there are some fans for "Toon Link", but they're a miniscule group.



Bliquid said:

Fans where uproaring primarily because when they showed GameCube for the first time at E3 they did it with a tech demo of a Zelda game that looked dark, cool and realistic, evolving from the style of OoT and MM.
So everyone thought THAT would be the next Zelda game.
When they announced WW, ppl where expecting a dark mature Link, so i can get the disappointment.
I, for one, have always loved cell shading style, and appreciated WW's style from the first time i put my eyes on it.



Goginho said:

@Bliquid Hmm..your point made me think that maybe fans might uproar when Zelda U comes out and doesn't end up looking like the HD tech demo we saw early on for the Wii U, as I have a feeling it probably won't look much like it. Nintendo have even mentioned, they are creating something aesthetically different than what they showed off in that tech demo.



mookysam said:

I've always loved Wind Waker's art style and never really understood the initial outrage. Link himself was very expressive and fit in well with the tone of the game, because everything was filtered through the eyes of a child. It wouldn't have been the same playing as an adult Link.



WiiLovePeace said:

How I came to love Toon Link style was simply that I grew up. As in, when I first heard of & played the game I absolutely hated it. I had loved Ocarina of Time when I played it & expected Wind Waker to be as awesome as OoT was graphically & epically. I automatically hated it because the art style was not a graphical upgrade of OoT's style & hence did not buy a Gamecube & went with a PS2 instead as to avoid all the kiddie games. Many years later I became mature enough to not auto-judge the game based on the art style & actually play through the game until the end... Now it's my tied favourite Zelda game alongside Ocarina of Time Good times, good times.



PerezBro99 said:

That number is great if you look at it. Zelda fans are located mainly in the west, japan doesn't like it that much. Also, remember that there's a small install base of Wii Us, so it actually did well in japan.



Einherjar said:

Its a mixed bag for me. I love the more simplistic design and im a huge fan of well done cell shading graphics but the art style still irks me a bit. When WW looks good, it looks outstandingly good but when it looks goofy it does so with a passion. What bothered me the firt time around was the pacing of the overworld sections. Every Zelda game up to that point offered you ways to traverse the overworld a little faster: Epona, the rabbid ears, pegasus boots etc but WW just had the boat that never got any faster. I was simply too unpatient. Nowadays, i can appriciate a slower game much more but back in the day, it turned me off very quickly.



NintendoFan_495 said:

Playing the Game Cube version and still loving it! Getting the Wind Waker Hd version for Christmas hopefully.



Nintenjoe64 said:

@goginho The first 3 games need fully 3D, HD remakes. Link to the Past with graphics like the WiiU tech demo and controls like Skyward Sword would be amazing.



ikki5 said:


and then sold 237k physical copies in it's first week globally, about 6% of Wii U owners. We don't even know the download numbers yet which also could be large as it was released 2 weeks before the physical so it could easily be upwards around 10% if not more. But Japan never really took off for Zelda. Twilight Princess release for Japan was only about 35k as was Phantom Hourglass.



ajcismo said:

It was long ago, but I remember surprise and disappointment on seeing the original GC footage... Toon Link? Looks like a crappy kids cartoon! Then I bought a used GC and rented WW from a local video store just because I felt I owed it to myself to stop complaining and actually try the game. Returned the game the next day and promptly bought myself a new copy hours later. It is now my favorite Zelda and gets a play-thru on an annual basis (along with OoT).



RantingThespian said:

Still not a huge fan of the art style. However, looks don't make or break a game, it's the gameplay that is important.



Goginho said:

@Nintenjoe64 Wow, that would be a feat
That likely won't ever happen, as it would be creating a whole new gaming experience from ground up from an existing game/plot. I don't think they should focus on turning the 2D Zeldas into 3D, since that would probably take waay too much time, as well as cut into the time of creating actual, new titles and new plots and storylines ..unless they expand into more teams, but then again, it could agitate some fans, seeing as how the originals should remain "pure", you know. The change would be too great to accept for many I can imagine.
Imo they should let the portable Zeldas be, and just make MM:3D and TP:HD, possibly SS:HD, that way we'd have all the 3D classics and 3D titles of the past turn into a modern, more definitve version, appealing to everyone, from young, newcomer, to old and nostalgia-stricken. The 2D (top-down) titles should just be put up on the VC.
As for ALTTP 3D remake..hmmm, if they can pull that off, then sure. But personally, unecessary I find



Jellitoe said:

I hated it at first site, till I play the game. The moment I had the game in front of me and the controller in my hand I was like baby, for Christmas I want a game cube with Zelda.



TheAdrock said:

"We did a test of Twilight Princess in HD. But it didn't turn into a new thing. It looked better, it looked cleaner, and it looked like a master version of the game. "
Yes, so release it please. It doesn't need to become "a new thing". Just upgrade the visuals and I'll buy it all over again.



DarkNinja9 said:

to me it wasnt rly the art style it has more to do with links expressions and how well it fit with those moments in the game since other zelda games at that time didnt have those



Mahe said:

@PerezBro99 Except that all the other Zelda games did better there, many of them having sold 500,000 copies or more. This includes launch and near-launch games like Twilight Princess.

Wind Waker HD just doesn't have any excuse except that people just didn't want to buy it.

@X-Factor @ikki5 Unreliable numbers from VGChartz, I assume. That site is not a trustworthy source.



ikki5 said:

@Mahe then give me a source that is. Yeah some of their data can be weird but for the most part, they are within the ballpark. For games that sold like heaps, Ocarina of Time, Majoras Mask and skyward sword are the only ones that come to mind that sold massively in their release week in Japan, possibly Spirit Tracks as well.



Nintenjoe64 said:

@Goginho - LttP wouldn't be so hard for them to design as the game is kind of 3D from a top-down perspective but they'd either have to make 1 and 2 very flat or re-imagine their environments a bit. Quite a few hobbyists have recreated 3D maps from the early Zeldas so I think it's well within Nintendo's means. I don't think there'd be any need to update the stories or add anything new except maybe voice acting. I'd like to know what 'Error' sounds like.

I think it would be the perfect tester for what graphical style to do the new game in but I don't want to have to wait forever to play a new Zelda so for now they can work on the new one .



Darknyht said:

It was never the graphical style that bothered me. The inconsistency in the handling of canon such as the size of the Master Sword (compared to other LoZ: OoT and LoZ: TP), the fact that it is implied that WW Link is 10-12 years old (along with the subtle creepy innuendos directed at him), the monotonous over-world landscape, and poor number of dungeons in the game all make this my least favorite Zelda.



Kirk said:

No, I think most gamers actually like the "toon" style. It is after all something we all grew up with and loved, from stunning Disney animated films like The Lion King to awesome cartoon TV shows like Batman: The Animated Series, but just not the specific super deformed Chibi look of Link etc in Wind Waker quite as much.

Not that Link or the other characters in Wind Waker look terrible or anything but it's just a very specific look that takes some getting used to and maybe not the preferred look that most people would want if they actually had a choice.

If you keep the characters looking roughly like they do in Skyward Sword, toon-ish but not too kiddie, and make the whole thing a really high quality next-gen HD feature film toon style (up there with the likes of The Lion King, Akira, Ninja Scroll, Princess Mononoke etc), from the visual style to the quality of the character animations etc, I think most people would be blown away with that.

I mean this for both the home console games and the portable games too.



Turbo857 said:

I think the graphics in Wind Waker HD are beautiful but I've never been a fan of the Wind Waker/Toon Link art style. It looks too super deformed imo. I think gamers warmed up to the WW style once they realized this Toon Link wasn't replacing the superior and more popular adult/normal Link.

As long as Nintendo keeps new console Zeldas starring Adult Link, they won't mind them coexisting.



Mainer82 said:

I too did not like that art style until I played the game on GC. Once I saw it in motion I really enjoyed it and am enjoying it all over again in HD... it's such a great game.



sr388survivor said:

@Turbo857 Link only started being an "adult" in Twilight Princess. (Ocarina had adult Link but he was still a kid really, since he just slept for 7 years and didn't really grow up). Personally, I've been wanting them to go back to child Link. I actually think it makes it much darker when you have a little 10 year old going around battling evil.



Mahe said:

@ikki5 They are "within the ballpark" for older titles because they change their figures when actual numbers from reputable sources like NPD, Nintendo PR, Media Create, Famitsu and others come in. When it's a new release like Wind Waker HD, their numbers have no basis on reality, they're just guesses.

For Japanese historical data (like for Zelda games before Wind Waker HD), you can consult a source like Garaph which has collected Famitsu data up to this year:

This shows, among other things, that Twilight Princess and Ocarina of Time 3D, released at launch or near launch for their platforms, were very successful. Install base is not a problem if it's a game that people want, like New Super Mario Bros. U, which by February this year had sold half a million in Japan with a much smaller install base than what Wind Waker HD had at its release:

In conclusion, Zelda games have been very popular in Japan, and Wii U has the install base to sell more games (just look at New SMB U or Pikmin 3), but Wind Waker HD flopped there, so obviously people didn't want to buy Wind Waker HD in particular. NPD may tell us what the situation has been in the US.



Goginho said:

@Nintenjoe64 Now that you mention voice acting, I would love to see Nintendo implement voice acting into LoZ sometime down the road, however, only if we get a purely fictional language(s) i.e. spoken Hylian, since that would be best suited for a grand, franchise such as this. Even the contemplated old british English would ruin the overall feel and authenticism of LoZ imo.
This would mean that Nintendo would have to spend time and money on creating a fully believable, and well thought-out way of executing that. Make an actual language to a sufficient extent without any contradictions, and get some professional, reoccuring voice actors, similar to how Charles Martinet has been doing the voice of Mario and co. for many years now.

..or come to think of it, it doesn't need to be the same voice actors for every Zelda game, since they wouldn't be the same characters anyway, such as Link being a reincarnation of a past Link and so on. So I guess that would be less of a problem then. Just get a similar voice to do the Links, the Zeldas...etc.

Oh man, now you got me excited over the possibilites of voice acting in LoZ
I really do hope Nintendo consider doing that in the future, when fresh, new and unexpecting ideas start to run out.



Nintenjoe64 said:

@Goginho I want a cockney Link and a scouse Tingle.

Joking aside, when I've played the last few Zelda games and play Lego City, I can't help but think TT games would do an excellent job of an English voice track for a game like Zelda. Link should be silent except for the odd grunt.



Freelance said:

i've always enjoyed animation while growing up, and I watched a lot of cartoons and movies, so when WW was announced on GCN, I definitely wasn't 'disappointed' or 'raging.' I thought the art style was very cool. People who refuse to buy games because it 'looks kiddy' should be shot.



Zach777 said:

I hope they finish that Twilight Princess HD version for Wii U and put Majora's Mask on the 3DS. Do it!!! Nintendo, do it!!!



Ryno said:

I'm not a a big fan of Toon Link. I enjoy lots about Wind Waker HD but they way the characters (not including enemies) look just isn't my favorite. I hope Zelda U has a more Twilight Princess atmosphere.



Turbo857 said:


I don't believe Link's age has anything to do with making a potentially darker themed Zelda. That all depends on the story the developers want to tell. But personally, I'm inclined to believe a more mature themed story would feasibly fit better with an adult Link.

Debating on whether or not Link started as an adult (teenager) in the series is up to interpretation. Zelda 1: With that art style, it's tough to say what his age was. But the last page of the book for Zelda tips and tactics doesn't show a childish depiction, imo. Zelda 2: The instruction booklet claims he's 16 (not a child). A Link to the Past: Judging by the art in the instruction manual, I think that's an adult (teenager) Link.

Link from Captain N the Gamemaster and Super Mario Bros. Super show shows an adult Link. When Link shows up in a non-Legend of Zelda type game (Soul Caliber, Smash Bros), it's adult Link.

All Zeldas are great games (minus CD-I Zeldas), but my least favorites are Wind Waker and Majora's Mask which star a child Link. So, as long as Child Link stays on handhelds from now on, I'm good.



unrandomsam said:

Nobody liked Wind Waker up until this HD Remaster happened. (Compared to most of the other great ones anyway). It was never loved like A Link to the Past or Ocarina of Time.



AJWolfTill said:

@Goginho @Nintenjoe64
Regarding voice acting I think they should implement the short hand voice system they had in Fire Emblem Awakening. The characters have been vocalising for years anyway so why not give them some actual words as well as laughs groans shrieks! I don't think Link needs a voice but I'm open to the suprise.
Also guys stop requesting remakes, they will only slow down the progress of new games.



wombatkidd said:

@Darknyht Opinions are opinions, but I should point out that the size (and even specific design) of the master sword has NEVER been consistent between games. Aside from a few basic similarities, it looks completely different from one game to the next. Sure, the Wind Waker sword looks a lot smaller, but considering the strange proportions some people and monsters have in the game I think it's fair to just call that part of the art style and move on.

Also, OOT Link was also 10-12 and had sexual innuendos thrown at him in both the games he appeared in.



Goginho said:

@AJWolfTill Okay, seems interesting.
Yea, I propose for remakes to be handled simultaneously by mutliple teams, like how GREZZO did the 3D remake of Ocarina, they could do a 3D remake of MM, while the main team does new titles, so the progress won't be affected.



Squashy said:

@Nintenjoe64 "Cor blimey that Ganon fella rubs me up the wrong way I'm gonna sort 'im out! Oi Zelda you alright love? I'm 'ere to save ya!"

Meanwhile Tingle goes around stealing stuff and making a quick getaway with his baloon.



micronean said:

I remember the criticism of the art style. As WW was one of the last "Marquee" titles of the GameCube, its competing systems had already made the dark, realistic looking games, the norm (the Halos, the GTAs). Nintendo basically freaked everyone out by doing the cartoon art style, and so the gaming community became overly critical about the GameCube's ability to compete with the new era of "dark" games, never mind the stigma of being a "kiddie" system.

However, as WW was one of the best games of its generation, people kind of relaxed about the graphical style. Imagine what it would have been like if WW had only been a so-so game...



Goginho said:

@micronean ..we'd be in a post-apocalyptic world, fighting off zombies, trying to survive.
Thanks Wind Waker for saving humanity and giving us gamers hope that not all needs to be dark and deadly heheh
But yea, I never really looked at it that way. Wind Waker did stand out during its time pretty much, as all the others used the graphcial/technological progression to try and simulate and present realism as heavy as possibly.



tanookisuit said:

I never once ripped on it for how it looked when Wind Waker was first revealed, but I did rip on all the entitled crybabies cracking on Nintendo over the design. It didn't take much brain power to understand the vision that went into the look of the game back on the Cube and why they did it to work really well with the systems strengths. In a way the design to me was like a jump in 3D world quality over what anyone had been doing at that time. It was like a living breathing cartoon you could control, much like the wonderment people got from Dragon's Lair in the early 80s given what arcade games at the time looked like — mind blowing. Wind Waker brought not only Link so much more to life with the fluid movements, soft edges, and details to his face and personality, but the whole world exhibited it too in a very magic way. Wind Waker since it arrived has been my by far favorite 3D Zelda game, and outside of a once over on Ocarina of Time, the only one I've been able to stand to finish.



JimLad said:

Yeah I remember being angry about seeing Wind Waker for the first time. After seeing the Space World 2000 demo and waiting 5 years for another 'adult' Link it was such a blow. But I still bought it, and the style grew on me pretty fast. I still feel like the game was a bit too easy, but it was still very enjoyable.
It must be hard for them to decide on a style. On one hand they want to please the long time fans who take this series very seriously. On the other they need to make it more accessible for new audiences (young children) to bring in the next generation of Zelda fans.
This is why Nintendo need to start making new IPs, so they can try new ideas without fear of a backlash.

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