The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker review

  • Like playing a (good) Zelda cartoon
  • Unparalleled sense of adventure
  • Inventive boss fights that look cool too
  • Some will choke on the sugary graphics
  • Fetch-quests and sailing get old
  • Doesn't stray from established roots

At this point it's hard to remember all the hoopla Wind Waker caused when it launched in 2003. Nintendo ditched the serious tone of 1998's Ocarina of Time and replaced it with a childish, Saturday morning version of always-hero Link and the kingdom of Hyrule. Many were incensed. But you know what? It's still one of the best puzzle-solving, labyrinth-crawling adventures you'll ever play.

Graphics don't make everything, but here they certainly carry a bright, cheery mood through the whole game. Even though Link's sister is missing and Gannondorf is scheming yet another wild plot, it's hard to feel a sense of danger when everything looks like it's made out of candy. Forgiving the lack of mortal peril, the perfect animation and wispy art style really do feel like playing a cartoon and can't maim the tried-and-true gameplay we've been digging for almost 20 years.

The premise is unchanged from the first Zelda: run through an immense, secret-filled overworld peppered with murky dungeons, obvious (but quietly devious) puzzles, and untold secrets to stop Ganon from usurping the all-powerful Triforce. The sense of adventure and exploration is as powerful here as it's ever been, with every area offering some type of mystery to reel you in. The main quest is engrossing, sure, but blindly heading off to the horizon is what keeps you coming back. The level and creature designs are some of the most creative images ever put on a TV screen, from a lava-soaked centipede monster down to the avian townspeople of a tropical island.

Other than the cel-shaded graphics, the biggest departure here is Waker's immense ocean that covers all of Hyrule. The overworld is almost nonexistent and most of your time will be spent sailing from place to place on a talking boat. It's cool for the first five hours or so, but even when you can use the element-harnessing Wind Waker baton to teleport anywhere on the map you spend too much time manning the sails. Blech.

Further adding to this sense of "filler" gameplay are the relative lack of major dungeons and astonishingly long fetch quest near the end of the game. Rather than unload a new, creative labyrinth to trek through you have to sail the globe (…again) searching for broken Triforce shards. Um … how about some Zelda sprinkled in with the deep-sea diving game? Cutting through the waves, sea-spray in your hair is nice and all, but we want more swordy, puzzly memories.

Wind Waker may copy the previous games a lot, but it's emulating some of the best ever made. As such, singing its praises is like preaching to the choir. We could nitpick this game to death and it'd still be sailing away with high honors. It's a little derivative and probably won't convert non-fans to the GameCube but to say it's not spectacular is a flat-out lie.

Nintendo's created yet another magical world to play in. Dive on in.

More Info

Release date: Mar 23 2003 - GameCube (US)
Available Platforms: GameCube
Genre: Adventure
Published by: Nintendo
Developed by: Nintendo
ESRB Rating:
Everyone: Violence


  • EricGirasole123 - September 12, 2010 5:44 p.m.

    Wind Waker is a legend and the sailing was exciting when you could raid other people boats and attack Rat looking thing's on boats.
  • brickman409 - March 18, 2010 3:59 a.m.

    this is the only zelda game i liked
  • Monkeylink - November 30, 2008 10:16 p.m.

    Don't care what people say about the graphics it's awesome in it's own right and more variety in the whole thing rather than twilight princess
  • gamegirlcolor - August 30, 2008 11:55 p.m.

    I agree with this. I love this game although it may turn some off people. I do love it as I love many Legend of Zelda games.
  • Hobbs - July 23, 2009 2:57 p.m.

    Wind waker is the best Zelda game I think. There's more to do in it than Twilight Princess, and the graphics actually make it look good. Sure it's not highly detailed graphics, but it feels very friendly. I've played this game over like 3 times, and completed all the side-quests, and pretty much beat the game 100%
  • Wizrai - May 26, 2009 11:29 p.m.

    I absolutely love this game, and I really like the style of the graphics too.
  • Conman93 - March 28, 2009 12:44 a.m.

    Molgera is de best boss ever
  • gamefreakl1996 - December 21, 2008 12:08 a.m.

    I've had this game before I could read, I couldnt even save it, I just kept playing the beginning over and over and over, but i can read now and i still love this game!
  • Sprinkles4365 - June 30, 2009 12:16 a.m.

    i love this game I an sitting here trying to beat it again because it is so great(and I have no life lol)

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