Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (Game Cube) - Guest Post

Endless Wednesday posts are high in content and feature an extreme amount of words and images, to a degree that some readers might consider excessive. You have been warned.

In 2000, Nintendo showed off a tech demo at Spaceworld. The following year, they announced Wind Waker, and the fanboys started slinging shit because of the game's cel-shaded style. I was a bit disappointed at first, having seen the Spaceworld demo myself, but I quickly changed my mind after playing the demo included on the pre-order disc. So, in we go!

Standard Zelda fare, press start, you get a file selection screen. Choose a file, name your character, then begin your adventure. I'm not messing with a classic, so he's Link, as always.

Not pictured: naming screen, because it's a name entry screen and thus not terribly interesting.

The game starts, and we're treated to a neat scene in a sort of storybook style, giving us some back story consisting of the plot of Ocarina of Time, and some new info as to what happened after.

Rather than 15 shots of this bit, I'll summarize for you: Link defeated Ganon, peace returned for a time, Ganon returned, the people expected the hero to show up again to save them. He didn't (more on that in a second), and they prayed to the gods to save them. The gods responded by flooding the world, nobody knows what became of the kingdom of Hyrule, and the legend of the Hero of Time is passed through the ages.

Ok, I'm putting this shot up because that rock formation(?) (That's his arm! - Ray) looks suspicously phallic, and... yeah. Anyway, there's supposedly a timeline for the Zelda series. I could get into it, but I believe the standard train of thought is the series branches off at the end of Ocarina of Time. I assume most everyone either knows how OoT plays out, but without being too spoilerific, there exists a ruined future timeline, and then there's the "We saw this shit coming so we prevented it" timeline. Wind Waker takes place in that ruined future timeline, where Majora's Mask and Twilight Princess take place in the other one.

Enough of that though, the Zelda timeline is a mess, and no matter how many Nintendo execs try to convince me they have it all planned out, I'm reasonably certain they just set out to make a game, tack the story on as an afterthought, and then give it an arbitrary placement in the so-called "timeline".

Our first shot of the game proper! Sorta, it's a cutscene. The game looks fantastic, honestly. There's lots of attention to small detail, and the overall aesthetic is wonderful. Anyway, we start with a fly-in of the island, and then the game zooms in to a little girl we soon discover is Link's sister, Aryll. She's looking for Link.

She found him, taking a nap on the lookout tower. I think Link's had a one too many dates with Mary Jane today, if you catch my drift. Look at that outfit, he's totally a stoner.

Told you so.

Aryll informs us that Link's grandmother is looking for him, and we finally gain control! I jump off the tower, and Link spots something of interest! Honestly, nobody talks in the Zelda series, but in Windwaker, they express themselves very well with facial expressions and body language.

What's that Link, Timmy fell in the well? Oh wait, there's a rupee over there? Awesome.

Anyway, I collect the rupee, and I find something far more interesting, a pig!

BACON! I mean, a friend!

There's a man nearby who teaches you how to catch pigs, you can either use bait (which we don't have), or you can sneak up on them. Crawling was a new addition in Wind Waker, you can use it to get under things or sneak around in the grass. Anyway, I pick up the pig and take it to a woman who apparently wanted a pet pig (and who wouldn't!).

She rewards me with a red rupee, which is worth 20. She also mentions a desire for more pet pigs to keep the first one company, so I do her the courtesy of snatching up the only 3 pigs on the island. That is a rather large woman, and there are no readily apparent food sources aside from fish, seagulls, and some fruit... unless... NOOOOO NOT OUR PIGGY FRIENDS, WHAT HAVE I DONE?!

A bit further on, an old guy with one hell of a melon teaches me how to L-target (replacing Z-targeting in Ocarina of Time), then invites me in to gain some higher education. That is to say, a wall with instructions on how most of the functions work.

I love this shot, because if his head were constantly red like that, it would at least explain the size. He's a bit ticked because his brother downstairs is making a racket and causing his home to shake violently, resulting in his pottery collection being destroyed. People in Zelda games never learn, and have a seemingly endless supply of pots and vases, so Link doesn't sweat it too much.

We head downstairs, and I spot a small boat inviting me in to rob the owner blind by smashing all his good china.

Inside, Link is disappointed to find it's a shop, and he has to pay money instead of stealing it and breaking things. I pick up a bait bag (it lets me hold bait, which I can use to... well, you get the idea), some all purpose bait, and a Hyoi Pear, which lets me control seagulls, though I'm not sure why I'd bother.


Link enters his home, and his grandmother greets him, essentially saying "I can't believe you're this old already, here, have some silly looking clothes to wear!" Link looks understandably disappointed.

Link is now dressed for adventure! If someone handed me a tunic that barely covered my junk and a pair of tights, I'd probably have the same look on my face. Actually, as a kid, dressing up like Link would've been awesome, but that's only because I've grown up with the series.

Anyway, she explains the tradition of the outfit, similar to the tradition of putting the family shield on the wall. Then she tells me to go get Aryll so we can prepare for Link's birthday party, and after mucking about around the island a bit more, I climb back up the tower. Aryll gives Link her prized telescope, but only for a day. Link has a look around, and spots a very large bird delivering mail... then suddenly, an even larger bird appears carrying a person. Following the bird is a large ship, opening fire on it.

The giant bird carrying a not-so-giant person deftly avoids the canon fire... for about 10 seconds.

Anyway, they hit the bird, it drops the person, and the she dies from falling 300 feet to the ground, upside-down. Link, being a child, decides to go save her, and visits the brother of the old man with the giant head to get a sword after a brief tutorial on all the available actions with it. He then heads for the forest. Once there, he encounters his first enemy (unless you count the woman intending to eat our piggy friends, but there's nothing to be done about that):

Angry looking little fella, ain't he? I forget what they're called, but they're not difficult to kill.

Moving on a bit, Link spots the person in a tree, and is immediately attacked by two more of the little goblin dudes flown in via birds that make annoying sounds. It ends as one would expect:

I love the particle effects in Wind Waker, they look really nice even though the technology behind them is 2002 era. The decision to go with the cel-shading makes the visuals somewhat timeless, since they're going for a particular aesthetic rather than realism. For comparison purposes, Morrowind came out the same year, and just doesn't hold up as well. I like the aesthetic behind Morrowind, but the graphics tech behind it doesn't hold up with the style they were going for.

The person wakes up, falls out of the tree, and is revealed to be a female pirate captain(?) named Tetra. They take off, and Link follows. The giant bird returns, and Link totally knows what's about to happen. He looks VERY unhappy about it too:

This is a face that clearly says "Oh God dammit. I don't like where this is going."

The bird snatches up Aryll, Link almost falls off a cliff running after her, and looks genuinely concerned. I haven't mentioned it up to this point, but most of the music in Wind Waker is fantastic, as are the sounds. There's never a track that you wish would just stop, there's no track where you think "Wow this is out of place", no sounds that make you want to smash the source (HEY! HEY! LISTEN! LOOK! LISTEN! HEY! HEY!).

Tetra and crew are on the beach, apparently preparing to leave. Link asks to go with them to save his sister, and Tetra just starts shit-talking Link. The postman from earlier chastises her, since it's basically her fault that his sister was captured in the first place. Tetra agrees on the condition that Link finds a shield.

Hey, I know where there's a shield! Time to head back to Link's place... only to discover the shield is missing. Link's grandmother approaches him, understandably upset about her granddaughter going missing and her ~10 year old grandson being of mind to go after her to a location that is supposedly quite dangerous. She gives him the shield and sends him on his way, and we're off!

Everyone is there to see Link off! Everyone except his grandmother, that is. Goodbye Irish Snake, Linus, MILF, guy who cuts grass with a wooden knife, snot-faced kid. I hope you have a coronary, woman who is going to eat my pig buddies.

At the last second, Link spots his grandmother, alone, looking old, sad, and fragile.

Link's grandma looks old, sad, and fragile as Link waves at her from a distance at which she is very unlikely to be able to see him, given her advanced age, and the fact that her eyes look like nickel slots. Oh well.

Tetra talks some more shit to Link because he misses his friends and family, then tells him to get inside because he's a useless twat (not quite in those words). We meet Niko, the bottom of the barrel as pirates go, and he makes us do a silly mini-game (read: tutorial section) where Link has to get from one side of the room to the other by swinging on lanterns from platform to platform.

Niko teaches Link how to swing on lanterns suspended via ropes in a wooden ship. Nothing bad can come of this, nothing at all.

Not Pictured: The neat little heat wave effect the game has for flames.

Anyway, I succeed, Niko gives me a Spoils Bag, and then I get called to the deck. We've reached the fortress, there are spotlights everywhere, and docking is impossible.

Tetra has an idea though. One that amuses her greatly. This does not bode well for poor Link.

Told you. I will be posting several shots in a row here, because Link's reaction amuses me greatly.


This is a stupid idea. Seriously.

Seriously, screw you, you bi-


Link dies, game over. Actually he smacks into a wall and comes up reasonably unharmed, though his sword lands much higher than he does.

I told her that was a stupid idea.

That sequence right there makes me laugh every time. It leads me to believe that Nintendo won't add voices to the game because they'd never get an E rating with all the obscenities Link would be shouting at people when they told him to do stupid crap. Again, the visuals are very nice, Link is incredibly expressive, water drips off of him as he exits the water, his hair looks wet... There's a lot of little details that I can never get across in screenshots, like Link's hair moving with the wind, or the blades of grass that pop up as he rolls through it.

Right, so Tetra starts speaking to Link via a magic stone she slipped into his pocket, apologizing for his sword landing so far away, and then we're off again. With no sword, stealth is the only option, so we have to find a way to sneak by the searchlights to get anywhere.

Link has been playing some Metal Gear Solid 4, as you can see. When you move, Link lifts the barrel up and walks slowly, then drops it back to the ground when you stop. As long as you're not moving, the spotlights won't pick you up, and neither will the guards. The mice, however...

What happens when you get spotted? You go to jail.

Yeah, a mouse slammed into my barrel while I was attempting to sneak past some moblins. They immediately set the barrel on fire and locked poor Link up.

Luckily, there's a hole in the wall just large enough for Link to crawl through nearby, and he escapes to find the map. You're almost better off for getting caught because you will find the map almost immediately after exiting, and it puts you in a good place to start disabling the spotlights. The spotlights are guarded by the little goblin dudes from back in the forest, who are now armed with large sticks. Luckily for Link, there's always a pot full of large sticks for him to use as well.

Link walks softly and carries a large stick. Also, that orb right there? They pop out of enemies from time to time and give you a boatload of little trinkets ranging from rupees to hearts to stuff that goes in that brand new spoils bag.


Right, so I disabled the spotlights, now I've got to sneak past a moblin guard. As long as I don't move I'm fairly certain he can't detect me, even if he's right next to me.

I like the way the moblins look in this game, their snouts move as they sniff the air and they sorta remind me of a smaller Ganon.

Right, so I sneak past the moblin, and reach this point:

Link carefully makes his way across the ledge that he probably shouldn't be able to stand on. Had I not disabled the spotlights, I would have hit one right here and it'd be straight back to jail.

A bit further on, Link finds his sword and looks rather excited about it, and yet is somehow oblivious to the goblin guard standing 3 feet away. Either that, or he just doesn't care. I'm going with the latter, considering Link is a 10 year old with next to no sword training, and he can effortlessly take them out in small groups, never mind one on one.


Not Pictured: Spikes shoot up from the ground behind Link, thus locking him into a battle to the death with a goblin dude that is marginally more powerful than the others. He died so quickly I didn't have time to get shots, but I'm pretty sure he might've been red instead of blue.

Link enters the building to rescue his sister, only to discover a small group of young girls that have been captured! Someone should contact the authorities, there's a pedophile on the loose!

I forgot to mention that seagulls are kinda Aryll's thing, they tend to hang out near her, and that was the sole clue Link had as to which part of the fort she was being kept in.

Anyway, Link hears a noise, and makes an excellent "Wait a second..." face.

'Wait a second, that sounds kinda familiar... what was it again?'

Oh right, giant f'ing bird. Well that sort of craps on Link's poorly planned rescue. I guess this is the end, surely whoever is controlling the bird...

... is going to kill him... right? That's Ganondorf, by the way. He looks pretty damn sweet in Wind Waker. You'd think after the last time a 10 year old cosplaying as Peter Pan showed up and wrecked his shit, he would be a bit more cautious, but no, he simply instructs the bird to toss him out into the ocean. To be fair, I doubt anyone would expect a small child to survive a fall into the ocean from a few hundred feet up and manage to have enough energy and strength to make it to safety.

That tiny green and yellow dot? Yeah, that's Link. That bird really chucked the poor sucker.

Yeah, that about covers it.

Link awakens in a talking boat, revealed to be the King of Red Lions. He tells Link of Ganondorf, how the gods sealed him away, and how his return will surely mark the end of the world. Then he tells Link to find the blade that destroys evil, go on a huge adventure well outside of the scope of his original task of saving Aryll, and generally become a 10 year old badass.

This seems like as good a stopping point as any. I could take you through the entire game, but the point would be the same: Wind Waker is extremely well done, it's very fun, and the way it handles the subject matter is more "mature" than the other Zelda games, so go play it!

Link has a family, you meet them, you get the impression that they care for one another. His motivation, initially, at least, isn't destiny or fate, but simply a frightened little boy wanting to rescue his sister. There was no fairytale ending for Hyrule, the gods flooded the world. The kingdom is gone, and only small outcroppings of land exist in the vast oceans. Ganondorf has a motivation other than just being an evil dick, the character of Zelda plays a much larger role, and Link himself is expressed well via his facial and body language. This is why the game is more "mature" than the others in spite of the chosen visual style.

So, what are the downsides? Well, difficulty, if you want to count it. Wind Waker is by no means a challenging game, and there aren't really any places where you'll be stumped by a puzzle. There's also the length, the game is only about 4 or 5 dungeons long, including the last one. In some cases, this wouldn't be a bad thing, but with Wind Waker, you definitely want more because what's there is so well executed. That's a sign of a good game though, it leaves you wanting more, and really, it's not a huge downside.

That leaves the sailing, much maligned and the butt of many jokes on the internet. It's not that bad, yeah, it can take 10 minutes to sail from one end of the map to the other, and if you travel in a straight line, it's entirely possible to see a whole bunch of nothing. The idea is to encourage exploration, look around, whip out the telescope. See that small island out there? I bet there's something cool there, maybe a piece of heart, or a minigame where you play a battleship type game while a guy voices the sound effects. Around halfway through the game (possibly a bit earlier), you can get a song that teleports you to within 2-3 squares of most of the map, often less if you're hitting the major islands. It can get a bit old, but only if you're aiming from point A to point B and never stop at C, F or X along the way.

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Semi-Random Game Box