I actually finished this game shortly after it was released in the States, but thought I’d take time out to let the impression fully sink in. “The Legend of Zelda” series has always been the strongest product produced by Nintendo, holding its own and standing above well established and world-loved characters such as Mario & Luigi, Samus Aran, and Fox McCloud. The Wind Waker is no different in that aspect, but does tend to fall short from its predecessors, especially The Ocarina of Time. The only fair way to compare The Wind Waker (TWW) and The Ocarina of Time (OoT) would be for you to imagine the game that OoT would have been (gameplay, graphics, storyline and all) had it have been made for the GameCube. In that aspect after playing and thoroughly finishing TWW, you’d probably be left with the same feelings I had after I finished slicing Ganon a new one, which is something I’ll go into in a bit. First, I’d like to talk about the games positive points, which are in great abundance. Just like 99.7% of the Zelda fans out there, when I learned of the new cell-shaded look of the game that would be TWW, I was disappointed and… well, scared, quite frankly. It only takes one bad release of a game to make that series disappear for a very long time and I certainly didn’t want Nintendo’s strongest series to be banished to the “bad games” abyss, not to be heard from until some brave development team decided to try and breathe life back into the series once again. However, I was very wrong (thank you Nintendo!), because the graphics present in this game are excellent. While not texturally advanced, the animation is beyond comparison, which is exactly what the development team was going for. This game looks like something you’d see if you managed to roll out of bed early enough on Saturday morning to catch the cartoon line-up. In fact, the game’s fooled many a guest at my house when they happened to walk by and see Link running across the screen. Everyone always inevitably asks what new show is on, and the look on their face is priceless when I reveal the truth (which is easy to hide since I play with a wireless controller). Even the smallest thing like the movement of the grass in the wind is given great attention and detail. I found myself wrapped up in the animation, even at points when the game became unnecessarily tedious and time consuming. Anyone who has yet to play this game and is still a little off stand-ish because of the graphics, trust me, you’ll get over it very quickly. The gameplay is excellent, with the triumphant return of controls based on those of OoT. That controller configuration is by far the best that I’ve come across for 3-D combat and will probably stand the test of time for quite a while. This Link is just as agile and combat worthy as OoT’s Link, plus this Link has the very suave “parry” option, which allows you to dodge and attack and L-targeted enemy all in on button press. Every weapon and item that is able to be equipped can be used quickly and easily via the X, Y, and Z buttons, depending on what item is assigned to which button. For fans of the original Z-targeting system, the gameplay here will not disappoint. The storyline is a great addition to OoT’s story. While the original Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link featured the same Zelda and Link characters, it featured two different stories with Zelda II coming in after the original defeat of Ganon and features an all new enemy and set of foes. OoT and TWW are the only two Zelda games that feature a continuation and reference of one history and story of Hyrule, with OoT becoming folklore and legend in TWW. The story is told very well and being attached to the story of OoT will bring players a surprising amount of comfort. Now for the *groan* negative qualities of the game. For starters, TWW is surprisingly easy compared to the other Zelda games. Granted, none of the Zelda games have been overwhelmingly difficult, but this one is by far the easiest. The puzzles are pretty simple and can be solved within a relatively shorty amount of time. My favorite and also most hated dungeon of all Zelda games would have to be the dreaded Water Temple of OoT. I loved that dungeon because it was the most mentally challenging dungeon to date for the series. I hated it because it was also the most tedious. You’ll find nothing in TWW that comes close to comparing to that beautiful pain in the butt. If you’re looking for a challenge, you’ll not find it here. The lack of dungeons was a big disappointment for me. There are only seven official dungeons that exist in the game, one of which you have to visit twice (The Forsaken Fortress). Compared to the usual line up of three dungeons just to get the master sword, and a whole slew of them afterwards, this game is seriously lacking in that department. Having so few actual dungeons to conquer has the indirect effect of removing a lot of the challenge from the game, since most of the Zelda series’ challenges came from the dungeons themselves. It also means that you have to fill the game up with something else in order to lengthen the story and gameplay, which bring me to another negative point. The game moves at a decent pace for the first half of the game but staggers very quickly after that. With so many side-quests and islands to hop (49 in all with additional little adventures in the same quadrant as any one of the islands), you’ll find yourself getting very drowsy if you sit still for more than 15 minutes or so of the same baton conducting and sea-sailing. If it weren’t for the Ballad of Gales, which allows you to warp to key areas of the Great Sea, this game would be unbearable to play. It takes quite a long time to sail from quadrant to quadrant, along with doing the several side quests asked of you during your stay in each section. You pretty much have to go looking for trouble in order find any action, especially since this is the stage of the game where the appearance of dungeons starts to thin out. Add to that the fact that you to have visit some islands an obscene amount of times in order to complete everything that needs to get done on said islands, and you’ve got a potential snooze-fest in the making. My last gripe with this game, and it’s a small one at that (literally and figuratively), is the size of Link compared to everything else, especially Ganon. Granted, adult Link in OoT was still somewhat shorter than Ganon, but this is ridiculous. This Link is supposed to be the same age as adult Link in OoT (his birthday, the whole coming of age thing, the hints are there), but he looks like a mere child. Anyone who’s played and beat, or even has made it half way through OoT knows that the childhood version of Link was not enough to defeat Ganon. So that, and the fact that Link is smaller than just about everyone else that he meets leads to confusion as to how old TWW’s Link is actually supposed to be, because he doesn’t appear to be any older than 12 and, technically, a Link that young shouldn’t be able to finish off Ganon. This last thing isn’t really a negative point in the game, but it is something that annoyed me to no end. In summary, TWW is a great game that everyone should play, regardless if you are a Zelda fan or not. The graphics and action (when you can find any) don't disappoint. However be prepared for a big stall-out a little after the halfway mark, with the only thing driving you being the goal of getting to the end and fighting Ganon.
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