ouldn’t necessarily call Shigeru Miyamoto obsessive, but it’s obvious that this legendary game creator is infatuated with the world’s most abundant substance. Recently, Mario got wet and wild in Super Mario Sunshine. Now, Link is abandoning the land of Hyrule in favor of the high seas. While it may seem like video games’ most respected visionary has fallen off his rocker into a dirty puddle, the results produced from the inclusion of this element throughout this game are concrete proof of his astute judgement and unrivaled creative genius.
In taking Zelda to the next level, Miyamoto stuck with gameplay basics that have worked in the past and added a gimmick. In many respects, this game is essentially The Ocarina of Time meets Kevin Costner’s Waterworld. That may sound atrocious; but, in actuality, it’s the perfect wedlock of gameplay and design. Like Super Mario Sunshine, this Zelda is built upon its 64-bit lineage. While the gameplay still fits like a glove, the quest itself unfolds quite differently and feels completely foreign at times. Rather than returning to the familiar confines of a small kingdom, this adventure takes place on an ever-expanding ocean. The islands and dungeons that you’ll traverse are but pebbles in this enormous body of water. In such, a good portion of the game revolves around Link navigating the seas in his boat.
Not only will you have the ability to unearth sunken treasures by sending your grapple to the seafloor; your bombs double as cannonballs, and you can map out the endless ocean on a nautical chart. While deep and overflowing with variety, you almost spend too much time getting your sea legs. As with every Zelda before it, Wind Waker’s body and soul resides in its trademark dungeon exploring, combat, and puzzles. It’s a nice complement; but, while you’re at sea, you’re thinking about what the next stretch of the game will be like. This aspect is great for building suspense, but it can be viewed as the way Nintendo chose to drag out the quest and keep people playing for eons. Believe me when I say that you’ll be lost at sea for ages if you wish to uncover every secret.
Outside of this trivial complaint, Wind Waker is nothing short of flawless. I love the Nintendo 64 games, but the muddy texturing was unacceptable. This time, Link’s world unfolds with the beauty of an animated Disney film. Some people may still be bitter at Miyamoto for axing the mature, realistic look in favor of the new cel-shading; but, once you see it in action, it’s impossible to complain. My jaw was on the floor for a good portion of the quest. I think you’ll agree that the look of the game harnesses the essence of the 16-bit classic A Link to the Past; and elaborates upon it with silky smooth animations, incredibly detailed character models, and lush living landscapes. It’s one of the best – if not the best – looking game on the market.
I won’t ruin too many of the surprises, but I will say that the story is fairly puzzling. It’s still a variation on the clichéd "boy saves girl" theme, but the way that it’s presented is quite different and a nice change of pace for the series. Since Majora’s Mask was basically a side story along the lines of Alice in Wonderland, The Wind Waker is developed as a sequel to Ocarina of Time. You can only imagine what kind of twists and turns are in store.
I wanted to save the best for last, and if you’ve played a Zelda game before, you know exactly what’s coming. I didn’t think the gameplay could get any better than in A Link to the Past, but I was proven wrong when Ocarina of Time hit the market. The same goes for The Wind Waker. The gameplay dynamic hasn’t changed much between generations, but it’s grown into something far greater, deeper, and more complex than one can fathom. New solutions to puzzles, uses for items and gadgets, and rip-roaring sword combat run rampant throughout this game. Link can now counter enemy moves by leaping over their heads or rolling around to their backside. The dungeons are the best the series has seen, and are ripe with newfangled ideas and the most menacing of bosses. However, since the core mechanics are 64-bit, some of the puzzles and boss strategies are recycled to a certain degree. But, as the Zelda games do so well, just when you feel comfortable and at ease with your environment and gameplay; it rears up and hits you smack dab in the face with an innovative and completely mind-blowing new idea.
The Wind Waker blows every Zelda game out of the water and stands as the video game event of a lifetime. It’s an absolute necessity for anyone who considers themselves a gamer.