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Looking back: The Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker | GC (2003)

This candy-coated trip through a waterlogged Hyrule pissed off a lot of gamers when it first appeared. Then they shut the hell up and experienced what may be the most unique Zelda game of all.

The legend: A newly of-age Link dons his ceremonial green garb just in time to witness a giant bird steal his sister. After a failed rescue attempt, Link is blasted out to sea. He's rescued by a sentient boat who asks Link to collect three sacred pearls from three distant islands. Many hours of wind-sailing later, Link unites the pearls and discovers that his soggy world is actually a flooded Hyrule, which happens to contain the Master Sword - a weapon needed to stop a recently released Ganon. Link then sets out to collect shards of the broken Triforce so he can finally face Ganon in his underwater lair. A fierce three-way battle between Link, Zelda and Ganon ensues, ending with the Master Sword plunged deep into the latter's skull.

Master swords: The cel-shaded graphics seemed, at first, like the biggest misstep the series could have taken. After Ocarina's ominously bleak look at the future and glimpse at an adult Link, a Saturday morning version of Hyrule was the last thing gamers expected (or wanted) to see. The pissing and moaning continued well into the game's release, but when the dust settled, it was the graphics that helped make Wind Waker a truly ageless adventure.

Ocarina already looked horribly dated by 2003. Twilight Princess, while striking today, will also age poorly. Wind Waker, on the other hand, with its emotive character designs, vibrant colors and silky smooth horizons, will always retain its signature style. Enemies die in a swirl of gorgeous purple smoke, wind currents wisp through the air like strokes of a paintbrush, waves crash over your boat with a colorful spray... this is a world that will carry on. And then there's Link himself, cute as a button and armed with a much more versatile combat system than Ocarina offered. The general weapons and items list is the same, but seeing all the new equipment brought to animated life made many of them seem totally new. A brilliant detachable camera aided in battle too, as you could easily scope out your surroundings without hitting the damn lock-on button repeatedly.

Then there's the vast, vast ocean. On one hand it made the world seem wide open and inviting yet isolated and cut off at the same time. It was a refreshing experience... at first.

Best Moment: After hours of sailing, you realize the ocean is magically floating above ancient Hyrule, possibly a re-imagined Ocarina-era Hyrule.

I AM ERROR: After hours and hours of sailing, you just wanted it to be over. A special song from the weather-shifting Wind Waker could teleport Link from place to place, sure, but by that point we were already longing for a traditional overworld. Then, when the game seems nearly complete, you're sent on a rather long fetch-quest, scouring the ocean for bits of broken Triforce. What's the payoff? Black-and-white battles against the same bosses you've already beaten. Not quite the blockbuster ending we'd been hoping for. Good thing the Ganondorf scrap was cool as hell, otherwise we'd have left Wind Waker with a bit of sea sickness. Oh, and then there's the Tingle Tuner. We are so glad GBA connectivity is dead.

It's a secret to everybody: At its first unveiling, Wind Waker was met by countless dropped jaws and confused faces. People were expecting another "mature" take on the series as promised by a 2000 demo reel. Instead, they got a cutesy Link winking at the camera - Wind Waker was the first official Zelda title to not appear in cartridge format (what's a CD-I?). So, in lieu of a gold cart, it came on a gold disc - Wind Waker is often referred to as "Celda" - This is yet another Zelda game to receive a perfect score from revered Japanese magazine Famitsu - Despite all late-coming praise, Wind Waker's reported sales fall short of most other Zelda titles.

Hero of time? Five years later and still no true Ocarina successor. Instead we received a charming adventure that shook things up while keeping them familiar. Another fantastic achievement, but not the greatest of all time. 9/10

17 comments

  • thefreakysurgeon - August 27, 2010 12:13 a.m.

    Let's all hope that Skyward Sword will kick so much ass that it'll be titled "Best Zelda Ever".
  • Gorlack312 - July 23, 2010 9:28 a.m.

    Yo Gamesradar, Imma let you finish, but Ocarina is the best Zelda game of all time. Of all time!! Though i am a bit biased, since OoT was my video game (started at age 4) and i still have memories of watching my brother play Ping Pong with Ganondorf. Oh, and thanks for giving Majora's Mask a 9/10, not many people are hardcore enough to play through it.
  • radishboy - May 30, 2010 8:09 p.m.

    I have always loved Wind Waker. Probably my favorite Zelda game ever. actually, one of my favorite games in general! I instantly loved the style of the game, and the cell shading. I'm very glad that they didn't do that stupid anti-aliasing affect where they put the black outlines around everything, which I see on a lot of other cell shaded games. (think the Dragon Ball Z games, or that P.O.S. FPS for PS2 "XII" (Thirteen.) I don't mind the black outlines if done correctly but they rarely are. they usually look bad due to technical issues, it looks like the outlines are jumping around the character, shaking or squiggling sort of? like those "squiggle vision" cartoons, where the all the lines/outlines are drawn in squiggly lines on purpose, so they wiggle and and jiggle and what not. (think "Home Movies," "Dr Katz," "Ed, Edd, and Eddie", etc...) anyways, I think Wind Waker is going to be one of those few games that are not only great, but will stand the test of time, pretty much forever. Even now, going back to play a PS1 game like Tomb Raider" is almost impossible, it looks and feels just so awful. But Wind Waker's style is timeless, it will always look, feel, and play great.
  • jwolf182 - November 5, 2009 3:46 a.m.

    I my opinion, The best Zelda games were Ocarina of time and majora's mask. hand down. Twilight Princess was a great game, but it just felt weird, i mean no Ocarina, no musical instrument? That's like history for Zelda. Wind Waker was a great game, but the cartooniness got old after awhile along with sailing. Idk i just didn't like twilight princess' going from wolf to Link, i just found that process stupid, and ganon turning into this giant boar thing? C'mon that's just stupid...
  • Nitemarish - October 9, 2008 4:45 p.m.

    Water Temple.
  • VGFreak1225 - November 30, 2008 4:36 a.m.

    I don't know, I don't hate Tingle that much, and the Tingle Tuner, while could have been a little more refined, was a nice addition and never necessary to finish TWW. Also, I'm still going to put OoT as greatest game ever. While Twilight Princess was obviously an improvement over OoT, it didn't innovate and there were more flaws that shouldn't have been there after eight years of opportunity to refine it. While I'll welcome both, to me, innovation is more important than inevitable refinement.
  • Digidabee - November 15, 2008 8:55 p.m.

    I agree Twilight Princess was the first one of the Zelda games i played right to the end although I had others before.
  • Christrigg1 - October 15, 2008 3:22 a.m.

    they shouls make a game where vaati finds the majoras mask, puts it on zelda, and then the real link must face her, who has all 3 peices of triforce as the second to last boss. the thirs to last would be fighting and sealing vaati. the last boos would be zelda using her magic to make there two of each triforce, since gannondorf had controll of all 3 and couldnt get it away from him. she did that so link would then fight gannon 1 on 1 with an awesome swordfight, and magic fight and thw whole 9. ending with a light arrow to the chest, and the master sword lodged in the forehead
  • skyguy343 - October 12, 2008 11:38 p.m.

    agreed, tingle is innocent but did Nessrox (also agreed) just say the Water Temple was good?
  • Nessrox - October 11, 2008 12:16 a.m.

    Good times.
  • BHT128 - October 9, 2008 3:06 a.m.

    Why does everyone hate Tingle so much? You dont have to love him or even like him, but I dont understand what he did to earn the loathing of an entire continent.
  • Danomeon - April 10, 2009 8:44 p.m.

    I don't beleive it, you guys gave link to the past a 10 and ocarina of time a 9! Both were great games, but that may be the first person I have ever heard say anythign other than, "BEST GAME EVAR!"
  • shadowleon - April 2, 2009 11:26 p.m.

    on link's awakening did they steal the ball and chane from Mario or did Mario steal it from them
  • KatamariLovesSpock - May 17, 2009 5:18 p.m.

    I really like the artistic direction that Wind Waker took, considering cel-shading can't really go out of style or become obsolete considering it has been pretty much at It's peak since the GC and PS2. But I personally want a Zelda in which they use the cel-shaded art style but still make it a darker more adult Zelda. They could make it with an older link even... Just because it has a "cartoon" style doesn't mean it can't be more mature. Not only that but a more stylized Zelda (no offence to Twilight Princess, which was a great game but doesn't nearly have as much character.) may make it a more solid game in general. As Twilight Princess showed you don't have to have a blood-caked protagonist... So I think cel-shaded is a great direction to take but they need to make the creatures less disproportional and make an older Link. Maybe closer to the DBZ style of cel-shaded games, those look great and, although DBZ tone may be very "YAAAAAAAAAARGH IMMA CHARGIN' MAH LAZURZ, I SCREAM TO POWER UP!!!!111ONE11!ELEVEN!1!!!" It still shows how a more adult cel-shaded Zelda is possible.
  • BodyDamage - February 19, 2009 8:33 p.m.

    I just watched the video on page 7 when the moon falls and noticed it bears a very striking resemblance to when *spoiler* meteor falls on midgar at the end of FF7.
  • Mr.Epic64 - February 16, 2009 11:59 p.m.

    Whats with the skin coloured teeth in Awekening? WTF!?
  • wolyfox - January 17, 2009 5:13 a.m.

    i mostly like fire temple and twilight princess the spider boss

Showing 1-17 of 17 comments

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