The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker
The long awaited Zelda prequel is finally here. We take an in-depth look at the latest gold in NCL's cave, in our full domestic review.
Since the Nintendo 64 days my requirements and expectations of a Nintendo game have slowly risen. When I buy a new Nintendo game I expect to be surprised and amazed as I have been so many times before. I have begun to take for granted exactly how exceptional Nintendo's first party titles have been in the past.
Mario 64 wasn't a fluke, Ocarina of Time wasn't a one off. Nintendo make amazing games like this with ease. They've done it before and they'll do it again. They've got an unlimited amount of ideas to add new magic to the most tired and abused of genres. Or have they?
Is there a sell-by date on every gamer which when reached boredom is bestowed when any remotely familiar game is played? Because just like Pikmin and Mario Sunshine, this latest Zelda game doesn't amaze me. You see, you know you're taking Nintendo games for granted when you consider that you've gone insane when a lesser one is released.
First you need to know that I wasn't very excited by the new visual style, however neither was I very upset. For me Ocarina of Time's story was very moving and interesting. The way you'd meet and become involved with all these characters whilst learning about the all the legends of Hyrule, then to wake up 7 years in the future and find the worlds you'd explored completely destroyed. I've already deleted several lines of text going into detail why I love the story so much. I thought it was brilliant. However my main concern with the new style was that it'd take away alot of the emotion and credibility from the story, and I'm sad to say that it does. But I'll talk more about the story later.
The game starts out brilliantly, your sister is kidnapped by a giant bird and you're off to rescue her with the help of some pirates. The combat system is explained in a small spar with an old man in your home village, you collect a few items and you're off on your quest.
The opening dungeon is superb. It's the fire themed dungeon that was shown at E3 and I found playing through it alot of fun. The puzzles are clever and I never found myself tediously backtracking looking where to go next. Sadly after the first few dungeons it all goes way down hill. The level design becomes punishing, boring and frustrating. Where as the first few dungeons I had finished in a single session due to the non-maze like design and fun, varied puzzles. The later dungeons rely on computer controlled characters which you have to take through every room with you, and you need to conduct a song with your wand every single time you want to use their abilities, which gets very tiresome. It's just sloppy, simple puzzles have been made unnecessarily hard leading the player to believe the item they're using is not the one needed, when infact it is.
The bosses look amazing as they tower above Link. As usual you cannot harm boss enemies by simply attacking them, you need to figure out where and how to stun them before hurting them with your sword. It is far too easy to defeat the bosses, I didn't find them challenging in the slightest. Most of them are fun to fight but I don't understand at all why the development team have decided that they should die after 4 hits. One more thing of mention: remember how after defeating Ocarina of Time's bosses they would fall to the ground and their corpses would melt, burn and genuinely disintegrate, making Link look powerful standing tall above the mighty beast's dead remains? How could you ruin the emotion here? That's right, make Link smile and do a happy dance inducing the opposite effect: hoping that the boss will get back up and crush him.
Wind Waker's intro explains that after the events of Majora's Mask, Ganon escaped from the Sacred Realm and flooded Hyrule, this means that the game takes place on a series of islands and the game's new overworld is the sea. Early on in the game Link gets a boat which after acquiring a sail he can use to travel around Hyrule. You have little choice in where you can go until you get the 'wand of the wind' and gain the ability to control the wind. The wand can be used to conduct songs just like the Ocarina in the N64 games. This item shouldn't of been included as all it does is gives the development team the opportunity to rehash tons of puzzles from Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask. It soon becomes very frustrating and boring having to conduct the same songs over and over again, in some parts you need to conduct the same song every few minutes. Some sort of magic compass would of been much more appropriate, allowing you to control the wind direction much quicker.
Anyway: Sailing. The overworld is huge, it can take 10 to 15 minutes to sail from one side of the map to the other. At first this will seem very appealing and I must admit it was very cool when I sailed out to sea for the first time and a few seagulls joined me from the sky, but it gets boring. Very boring. You can literally put the controller down and go and make a drink or something. The overworld is way too big and could easily be half the size. However It does create a very good impression that you're sailing on a vast ocean and It probably would have been better to make the boat faster or something. It's not all bad though as later on in the game you learn a song that lets you teleport around the overworld so sailing becomes a little less punishing.
The combat is improved ten-fold over Ocarina of Time. In Ocarina of Time I'd try and avoid engaging combat with enemies but in Wind Waker combat is genuinely fun. At points the A button icon will flash and if you press A fast enough you'll perform a special attack that'll cut off an enemy's armour or deal alot of damage. You can also pick up an enemy's weapon and use it for combat or to solve a puzzle. Some of the weapons you can use are ridiculously huge, but don't expect to run around with them as a replacement for your default sword. Oh, and it looks like the part Mr. Miyamoto got stuck on at the E3 demonstration was removed! :)
No complaints in the music department. However Wind Waker seems to be suffering from the same syndrome as Mario Sunshine; the musician seems to be a bit too keen on adding remixes of past songs. I guarantee that in years to come no-one will remember any music from Wind Waker because hardly any of it is new. Hell, even the menu sounds are remixes of Ocarina's. Some new music would have been welcome.
The sound effects are very well done and in combination with the fantastic character animation they add alot to the game. One minor complaint though: Link actually speaks a few words. This bothers me. He shouts "come on!" to computer controlled allies when he wants them to follow him.
And finally: The graphics. Wind Waker looks fantastic. It's not as much the fact that it actually looks like an interactive cartoon but the brilliant animation put into the characters. Link actually looks and acts different in every situation, and characters will interact with each other like never before. However the field of view is quite atrocious, there's a wall of blur everywhere past a 5 metre radius of Link, and this ruins what Nintendo was going for in a interactive cartoon quite alot. If you look through the telescope the field of view is removed and everything looks fabulous again, as well in dungeons the field of view is mostly removed. Couldn't they of at least extended it a bit for the outside areas?
It seems, for every success Wind Waker, there's a fault. The sad thing is that apart from these faults Wind Waker is truly a fantastic game, that could have been the best Zelda game ever, if more time were put into it. Wind Waker is visibly rushed. The number of dungeons and items is disappointing, as mentioned before later areas are much poorer than earlier ones and the game is artificially extended with long boat travel and a tedious collect-a-thon part near the end of the game. With these complaints aside, Wind Waker is one of the best games we've played in a long time.