After months of waiting, and a few delays, the Legend of Zelda has finally come to the GameCube. The anticipation alone has driven gamers insane, over 600,000 of us pre-ordered this title. Adding to the pre-launch frenzy, Nintendo offered a limited edition GameCube playable disc that contained the Ocarina of Time (originally for the Nintendo 64 system) and a revamped Master Quest version. Simply put, this is pure marketing genius! Nintendo giving back to the fans that have so eagerly put the company at the forefront of the gaming industry. Not only that, but I can personally guarantee that many gamers pre-ordered just to get the pre-release disc. A few of us here at NLG have decided to dive head first into this quest, one that is sure to prove legendary.
Zelda has always been one of Nintendo’s flagship titles. We can honestly say that we have never been disappointed with any Zelda games. Miyamoto always seems to know what the average person loves about a video game. And what he does with Zelda is no exception. Many say that the N64 version of Zelda, “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time“, changed the face of videogames forever. The intriguing story line and plot twists alone are Oscar worthy. Many also said that Zelda would not be able to thrive in a 3D world. Miyamoto proved them wrong. Zelda is back again, but the graphics are cell-shaded. You have heard the critics about this change, often poking fun, calling the game “Cell-da.” I have to say that I was one of the skeptics, but my attitude changed quickly once I was able to play a demo of Zelda this past fall on Nintendo’s CubeClub tour. But hopefully after playing this amazing title, it will silence those moans and gripes.
This is THE reason to own a GameCube.
Lets first start with the controls of Wind Waker, it is pretty much exactly the same as Ocarina of Time. That is a good thing though, why change what isn’t broken? Game play like this only comes once in a great while. The GameCube controller also plays a great role in your adventure. You have the freedom to assign weapons to various buttons. And I must say that you have a large variety of weapons. From wooden sticks to large swords, Link will use whatever is at his disposal to kick butt. As with most GameCube titles, the controls/controller combination takes some time to get used to. However, as we have seen, it just fits. It almost seems that Nintendo designed the GameCube controller specifically for this game. Who knows, maybe they did!
The graphics are simply amazing. As we brought up before, this time around, cel-shaded graphics take the place of polygon infused 3D models and environments. If you have been playing console games over the past six month you may have noticed the trend of the cel-shaded route. The first time I spotted this system was in “Dragon’s Lair 3D.” Quirky, yet functional, it’s like controlling a really well animated cartoon film. Many critics questioned this move. After one ponders this philosophy of game design, one may ask, “How realistic should it get?” I mean you really can only go so far, why not take a step back. In no way is this a step towards the worse, just simply another view of how games can look. The level of detail is really quite impressive. Typically in a game you notice graphic textures and structure patterns that are repeated, sometimes to the point of shear dullness. While this is the case here, the patterns that is, it all looks natural. For example, take a look at one of the wood ladders in the game. Look at the grains on the wood and the imperfections in its construction. Natural substances should look natural, not plain and perfect as if machined by man. When playing the game you may question whether or not you are actually playing a video game, it’s so much like a great movie. The colors, the animation and the detail bring me to think of two words: “Pure Perfection“.
Along your journey you will encounter a multitude of characters, both friend and foe. Never before have there been characters with such amazing facial expressions. You can honestly see the mood of each character [you can almost feel the sadness in Link when he leaves his grandmother behind]. Some of the characters are also funny. From the snot-nose kid on Link’s home island [the snot literally hangs down to his kneecaps, he sucks it back in every now and then] to the dude with the big afro dancing in a funky ABBA-esque outfit, the characters you meet in your journey are very fun and pretty damn cool.
What you hear, is just as pleasing as what you see. The sound is equally as impressive. Zelda’s soundtrack includes some very familiar melodies from games past. In addition to these nostalgic treats we are introduced to some new music. I was somewhat disappointed that in game characters rely on subtitles to convey their message. While their animated mouths mimic an audible conversation, I was hoping that some nice voice-dubbing would have been incorporated. But on the same side of the coin, is their any actor out there worthy of lending their voice to such a challenge? I would almost prefer to read what they have to say. Besides, the characters in the game have enough depth as it is, they don’t need an ego too. Aside from a few grunts and chirps, we don’t “hear” much from our hero.
Most gamers that I know that have been fans of the Zelda franchise, find interest in the games’ challenge. How hard is it? Even way back in the NES days, the early Zelda games were somewhat difficult, with their own in depth story line and character development. Many argue that some titles along the way lost direction and strayed from the path. I was personally thrilled with the level of difficulty presented in the Ocarina of Time on N64, and equally disappointed with its sequel. Nowadays, many gamers can think from the “Ocarina” point of view. A lot of the puzzles and challenges in Wind Waker are in the same spirit as previous games. You still have your basic dungeons with maps, keys and compasses. Very happily I can report that the challeneges are not exactly the same, this is a completely new game. But, it would pay off in the long run for any “would-be” Wind Wakers to complete the Ocarina of Time once for strategy-sake before beginning this new journey. Have no fear, there are plenty of surprises and plot twists to keep you on your toes.
Another major difference in this new entry to the franchise is that the game doesn’t necessarily take place in our beloved home of Hyrule. (Is this a Nintendo trend? Mario has officially left the Mushroom Kingdom for an Island Resort. Now Link? What next?) Instead, our character travels from island to island on his trusty dragon boat. Dragon boat you ask? Well, as you play the game you will notice the eastern-influence presented in the visuals. Nothing overwhelming, just a nice change of pace. Back to the boat, you have this craft at your disposal to take on the high seas. Now this is no ordinary dragon boat, this one talks. Occasionally offering comic relief, this object actually develops into its own character as the game progresses.
I apologize for the multitude of Ocarina of Time references, but most gamers can relate. A title this grand must be compared to its predecessors. Any game that can live up to and exceed the accomplishments of its forefathers should be considered a success. In Ocarina of Time, Link uses a small clay wind instrument known as an ocarina to play a series of learned songs to summon various changes and spell-like events. This time around Link has the Wind Waker at his disposal. As it turns out the Wind Waker is not a person, but an object. It is actually a conductor’s baton. In order to cast changes on your surroundings you must learn a series of songs by actually conducting them. This in itself is a challenge, but being a band director myself it came naturally to me. (No, not really, it was still pretty damn hard. And yes, I really am a band director.) I was very pleased to see that music still plays such a huge role in the game.
Wind Waker also boasts support of GameBoy Advance connectivity though and optional connecting cable. Once you have rescued the character known as Tingle, you can connect your GBA for some multiplayer cooperative play. You can activate the “Tingle Tuner” to assist you in your endeavors and give you gameplay tips on the GBA screen. Tingle also provides assistance with maps and directions. The best part is, you don’t have any game inserted into your GBA for this feature to work. Fortunately this feature is not required in order to be successful, just a brilliant option.
Overall we are extremely pleased with this game. Bravo! As I said with the release of Ocarina of Time, this game is going to shape the future of action and adventure games. The bar has been raised. As it is this game is sure to be a platinum seller, by it’s name alone. As it’s content proves, this game is well deserving of the accolades given so far. Add this one to the pile. This is THE reason to own a GameCube. Not only is it a fine addition to the franchise, but to video games in general. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is without a doubt the best Legend of Zelda title game ever made, and quite possibly the best video game ever. One last question, where is princess Zelda?