The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker Reader Review
As with all good Japanese RPGs, the protagonist starts off as a young boy (or girl) who goes around telling people that they are going on an adventure to rid the world of evil, etc etc. And, for me, it never bores. You know what's going to happen - nobody in your village believes you, you head off to some initiation or training ground, get told by some wiseman that there's trouble ahead, you ponce off away from the safety of the village walls (or land, in Wind Waker's case), and you go and find the evil and beat seven shades of shit out of it. Sorted.
It's always the same, and the only thing that could ever change is the storyline and that doesn't happen all to often. Why? Because there really is no need for it to. It's a familiar storyline and one that I've played so many times that it's becoming more and more embedded in me in a good way - me, afraid of change? Not really, but it's a comfortable place to be in and it means that the developers can get on with the mechanics of the game.
The thing about storylines, well actually, I'll have to discuss some other time, but the main thing with Wind Waker is the way it plays. And it plays phenomenally well - the control mechanics are smooth and intuitive and makes the overall experience a joy. The premise of the game is that you, Link, are able to control the winds of the world to assist your journeys and generally make things easier and quicker, all via a magical baton stick thingy. For one, your able to set the direction that the wind blows, and this is important as you'll be doing a hell of a lot of sailing (and it doesn't come early enough when you get another musical tune that whirlwinds you to a selected points across the map). The Triforce (that golden triangle made up of three smaller triangles) has been broken into lots of pieces and scattered around the world, which of course, you must find.
And this is what makes up the majority of the game - traversing the ridiculously large expanses of water to get from one island to another. The first time you go sailing it's a joy as you can see, in the distance, the isle that awaits - a new piece of land with its own little puzzles and people to talk to. And it's fun... for about half of the map and then it becomes tedious, giving you the feeling that you should really complete the whole map (which is marked by fish and their pencils... classic wierd Nintendo stuff) even though you probably don't want to. So, what makes the game also makes it dull - a real shame that, even though there are little adventures out at sea like finding treasures or shooting other ships with cannonballs (the biggest highlight has to be fighting the Kracken sea monster).
The biggest down fall is that it is tiresome and, dare I say it, boring trying to find those Triforce pieces. And finding the Triforce pieces isn't all that difficult because the process is the same for all of them - battle dungeons and find a map, get someone to decipher the map, sail to the relevant world map square, pick up treasure chest containing Triforce piece.
But the fun is (and always has been) in the dungeons, mainly because the controls are so easy and fluid that targeting and attacking are quick and easy, and the developers have made good use of the buttone to change between weapons/tools meaning that you can boomerang a hovering bug and sword it to death when it lands, all without having to go into your inventory system. And with three slots available, you'll have your 'dungeon' weapons readied for quick access. In fact, it is like Zelda (The Ocarina of Time) on the N64 and takes the perfect control system from that and places it into their latest game. Indeed the main changes between the two are that you have a semi-decent manual control over the camera and that controlling Link is smoother.
As well as finding the Triforce, you also have to rejuvenate a special sword with the mystical powers that can break an evil seal, yadda yadda yadda. Again, it's battling through dungeons to defeat the boss. And boy, are these bosses something else. Nintendo have done it again with some fantastic little puzzles that require you to figure out so that you can kill off the boss. Most are not too difficult and the others you'll figure out after trying out a few random things - it's logical that you'll have the tools to defeat the monster and it can't rely on non-replenishable weapons like arrows or bombs (but they can help), and the surround environment also provides some clues as to what you need to do.
And when you do find these rejuvenating powers you can tell the game is going to end soon, and in its path leading to the final battle of them it gets a bit lame with you fighting the old bosses again - nothing exciting or different, just use the same methods to kill them - and then it's off to fight that evil green-faced man (who's name escapes me, begins with G...). And then you realise that Nintendo aren't going to leave it on a lame note as you get treated to one of the toughest bosses in the game that requires more dexterity than you ever needed to get this far. And for the first time, you're treated to water reflections and they use the graphic effect as part of the battle - it's not just something to oggle at (even though you can and I did), but comes in handy. In fact, this was probably one of the scariest cartoon bosses I've ever seen, mainly because I hate spiders so you can imagine what it's going to be.
And then you're still not finished as you find yet another final battle with more ingenious ideas of gaming mechanic. It works well and isn't actually all that easy to complete, which gives even more satifation when you finally get to see what Link does to the evil boss-man - something I wouldn't have thought Nintendo would show in such a game.
And all of this is wrapped up in style - cell-shaded graphics. Many fans didn't like it as it was completely removed from the usual, from what they were used to. But I loved it because it was stylish and suited the cartoony animation of the game extremely well. I could see why people say that Nintendo may be seen to focus on kids because the graphic style can be quick sickly at times, with myself rapidly button bashing to skip through animations and lengths of text that was far to sweet and cute for my liking. But the animation of Link is great and he interacts with the world and its objects realistically (for an anime). The bright, vibrant colours worked well with the style, and there's some decent shadowing effects and other little bits of detail to spot like whisping wind trails or flowing windsocks.
Ultimately, it is a flawed game - there's just too much of one thing that is done all at once. If the sailing and Triforce finding was spread out then it would have been so much better, even if it had to be made more linear. There were times when I would set sail, point in the right direction and leave the controller on the table and fix myself a drink to while away the travelling time - surely no game should allow the player to drop the controller and not face any consequences. But you can tell this is a game you really should play - I'm torn to say whether it's actually worth buying a GC just for this, but I will say this: You must get a GC to play Resident Evil 4 in its original form (and not on the graphically weaker PS2 version, for all its extras it may have), and in which case you might as well pick up Wind Waker whilst you're at it.