Early morning. Everyone else is asleep. You sneak downstairs, turn on your console, and insert Wind Waker. Then, when the title screen pops up, you only hear seagulls. Then, light, airy music fills your ears as the camera passes over an island. You boot up your file. You’re standing at a small house. Pause game. Look at the map. So many unexplored areas. Grab some fish bait, rupees, and some arrows, and then it’s off to the sea for you, child.
When I was young, I adored the Zelda games. My very first was Ocarina of Time, and for a very long while, nothing could top that. You were destined to explore a gigantic land! Save a beautiful princess! Fight skeletons, spiders, lizards, and and evil wizard! But it wasn’t like those fairy tales of valiant knights. You were just a boy. You weren’t training for years. You were chosen against your will. It was so different, so amazing, so perfect that nothing could top it. Then along came Wind Waker.
In Wind Waker, you live on an island. Unlike Ocarina, you don’t know that there’s a world out there. You only know that it’s your birthday. Then, out of nowhere, a bird drops a girl from the sky, you grab a sword, your sister is kidnapped, and then you’re a pirate breaking into a fortress.
Everything in this game is so well put together. The gameplay is a mix of adventure and combat. In this game, more than any other, the combat is fantastic. You have so many ways to attack. You can either head straight in for an intense battle, or stay back and wait for the opportunity to strike. And the adventure, oh, the adventure. I’d visited places like Maine for vacations, so the wide open sea was always so appealing. Here, you sail through it, finding hidden treasure, sharks, squids, and even islands!
Next, the graphics. They were a hot topic for debate in 2001, as people had been promised a grand, mature Zelda game and instead were given this. The fans hated this “Kiddy” Zelda game. They eventually got their mature Zelda in the form of Twilight Princess. However, that game doesn’t look as good today as Wind Waker does. It feels the same way Brawl does, as if you took the colorful worlds of Nintendo and sucked all the life out of them, topping it with a heavy coating of gray. In Wind Waker, they didn’t try to look next-gen, so they ended up with something that looks timeless. This is a living, breathing world. The sea laps gently at your feet. The computer characters walk around, looking at the stores, their friends, and the ocean and sky. The enemies patrol around, waiting for you. It gives this game a life-like feel.
But perhaps the greatest thing about Wind Waker is the Sound design. The soundtrack is beautiful, a mix of orchestral epics and guitar-based relaxation. The sea crashes under your boat, and the deep caves have light background sounds that relax. The enemies grunt when swinging their heavy weapons, and Link himself speaks in adorable high-pitched grunts. It completes the game.
SPOILER WARNING: The best sequence of the game comes late into the experience, when Tetra the Pirate has gone missing and you summon a giant tower. After a sequence of water puzzles, a long climb, and a battle against a giant head, you ring a large bell, opening up a mysterious portal. When you enter, you’re brought to a building underneath… something… When you enter the building, you see many things. Portraits of people that are oddly familiar, long hallways filled with frozen enemies, and most surprising of all, a giant statue of Link. It’s at this point that you realize: The land of Hyrule from Ocarina of Time is under the ocean! This twist blew my mind as a kid. Even more amazing was seeing Tetra, the pirate girl, was really just a disguised Zelda. She is taken away once more, and you must draw the Master Sword and become the Hero of Legend. SPOILERS END HERE
In conclusion, this game is a masterpiece. Every little detail is perfect. I can’t think of a single flaw that this game has. There’s a reason why I’ll never stop loving Nintendo. It’s because they don’t want to make money. They want to make an experience you’ll never forget.