I haven't been spending a whole lot of cash on new video games lately. This is mostly due to few new releases that I have been itching to play. That, and the fact that I've got a pretty extensive collection of games (some of which I, admittedly, have not beaten) to comb through and conquer. Whether it's a game that I never accomplished as a youngling or something that never sparked my interest right away, I definitely have more than enough material to keep me occupied while I wait for things that I actually wantto be released. This brings us to the subject matter of a little game review segment I lovingly refer to as "Late to the Game."
The focus this time around is Nintendo's critically acclaimed addition to the Zelda franchise, "The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker."
Now, I was reluctant to get into this game from the start because I was incredibly put off by the choice of cell-shading as opposed to a graphical style similar to "Ocarina of Time." I know, I know, graphics shouldn't dictate whether a game is worth playing, but I just could
get past how goofy The Wind Waker looks! I'll admit that the mindset was a bit shallow, but come on:
Initially, my only exposure to The Wind Waker was the short demo that came with my Collector's Edition disc. It offered a couple of different gameplay scenarios, yet even with the variety I was still unimpressed. It wasn't until I decided I would force my way through The Wind Waker for the sake of literature that I saw it through to the end. My pros for this title are somewhat slim in comparison to someone who may have trulyloved the game, which may disappoint some of you, but I'm going to be as objective as I can.
: Like every other Zelda title, The Wind Waker did not disappoint in the name of musical accompaniment. The title music lends a very nautical, adventurous feeling which is indicative of the story you're about to play. My personal favorite piece is probably Outset Island which isn't surprising since the village themes are always good. Additionally, the music throughout was fitting to the cartoony feel. A particularly impressive use of music was the nearly silent hum of notes the player hears when first encountering Hyrule Castle. It lent the perfect feeling of eeriness and unknown to the situation and accomplished its goal perfectly.
: Though the music was fitting with the happy-go-lucky, carefree feel of the rest of the game, it made it difficult for me to take some situations seriously: battle music wasn't very intense, few dungeon pieces offered a real sense of mystery, boss battles lent no sense of urgency... I could go on. Where the village themes were in perfect sync with the overall game feel, other pieces offered up no variety; no tension, no remorse... just a tad disappointing.
: The game plays just like any other Zelda title. Controls are smooth and easy to grasp, and situations give you enough time to learn how to effectively use new items, some of which can be very fun in battle as well as casually. Dungeons are trying at times and definitely exercise your abilities.
: As with Ocarina of Time, your available item slots are limited. While it seemed that the most pain-in-the-ass thing about OoT was switching items out for the Iron Boots in the Water Temple, switching between items in The Wind Waker was downright tedious. Some items were very one-note in their functionality and could have been condensed together to cut down on how many times you have to stop playing, open the menu, swap an item out, use the item, walk forward, open the menu, swap the item again, and then continue on.
The Open World
: The world being entirely flooded, with the exception of a few islands, gives the player plenty of space to explore. Just about every island has an activity to accomplish in order to gain an item relevant to the story, be it the main quest or a side quest. Also, no load times, which is always nice!
: THERE IS NOTHING TO DO. Sure, when you get to the island you're headed for you've got things to hack and slash at, but when you're just poking along on the water, there is nothing to keep you entertained. Mob of enemies coming your way? Sail straight, they won't even touch you. I'm serious! The only time I stopped while in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by enemies mind you, was if I needed some rupees. The mobs can literally be avoided altogether. For the most part, I could set sail in one direction, go to the kitchen for a snack, and come back to resume playing. Save for the intermittent rupee slalom, it just feels empty. That, to me, is a let down. The open world could have been made so much better if there were at least things to look at while you were blowing through the water! Stopping every few minutes to change the direction the wind blows is also an annoying hindrance.
This is where the waters get the murkiest and I don't truly feel like I can discern proper pros and cons. The story was good, I liked it for the most part, but the execution was just terrible. It's like every good nugget I come up with has an equally horrible (or worse) counterpart. This is the first title in which Link isn't called to duty as "the hero," he is simply out to save his little sister. It isn't until near the end of the game that you discover he is actually a descendant of the heroic line. That aspect is pretty neat.
Discovering Hyrule underwater was a very cool and grand reveal, but you
explore any of it! The castle was one big open room and once you were able to move outside of it your only available route was straight to the next dungeon. I do, of course, understand data limitations on the Gamecube discs, it was just saddening that you couldn't roam around some dry land without having to get into your boat at some point.
The most brutal injustice done to gamers in this story is the incredible downplay of Ganondorf and the depth his character had to offer to The Wind Waker. All you really know about him is that he is kidnapping girls with long ears (in an attempt to find Zelda/the Triforce of Wisdom) and that is essentially all you get for almost the full length of the game. It isn't until near the end that Ganondorf drops
of golden plot devices that are never fleshed out or explored in any way. His character has so much tragedy, anger, and malice, and it never goes beyond him being "the bad guy" and I was
by the wasted potential. Wind Waker's incarnation of Ganondorf was easily the most relatable and human (for lack of a better term) that we'd ever seen, and it was a travesty to not have that expanded upon.
All in all, I am glad that I have finally beaten The Wind Waker. As one of my favorite franchises, I feel it is a duty to see each story through to the end, regardless of how painful it might be. I appreciate the experience, though I don't really feel the need to play through the game another time. Maybe one day for nostalgia's sake, but nothing in the foreseeable future.
I'm sure plenty of you out there have your own opinions on The Wind Waker, so share them with me! What here did you identify with? What makes you want to slap me across the face in disagreement? Let me know!
*Header image courtesy of FanPop