The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker

Developer: Nintendo EAD
U.S. Publisher: Nintendo
U.S. Release: Feb. 2003
Platform: GameCube

Games | GameCube | The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker

Article by Ben Langberg | September 18, 2009

When The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker was first revealed to the public, fans cried foul. The cartoony visuals were a far cry from the realistic Zelda footage they had seen when the GameCube was announced. The nickname Cel-da spread quickly and encapsulated widespread, frustrated fear that the latest game in the Zelda franchise would be a dumbed-down “kiddie” affair. Those fears were put to rest once the game was released... mostly.

Far from making the game seem childish, Wind Waker's cel-shaded graphics give the people and creatures that inhabit its world a much-needed dose of personality. The look and feel cribs from the animation of Studio Ghibli, while avoiding trite anime conventions, to create a unique style.

Compared to Ocarina of Time, the game is lighter in tone, easier, and lacking in dungeon count, but it excels at a different key franchise strength by featuring an overworld that begs to be explored. In a change of pace, the game world consists of a series of islands. When players first gained access to their sailboat, their options are somewhat limited; once they've gain control of the wind and obtained the world map, though, the world truly opens up. The map is broken down into 49 huge areas with plenty to do and find nearly everywhere. With day and night cycles and variable weather, simply sailing and exploring the high seas can be breathtaking in itself—particularly during a storm.

The subsequent big-screen Zelda reverted to the realistic look fans had clamored for in the first place, while the Wind Waker style continues on in the portable Zelda titles on the DS. While it was good to see cartoony Link again in Phantom Hourglass (even if I ultimately didn’t care for the game itself), I would love to see a proper sequel on a console. This game's world is far too rich to fit in the palm of your hand.

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