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Gamecube Reviews: Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

 

Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker Screenshots


The Final Say!
Gameplay
10.0
Graphics
10.0
Sound
10.0
Value
10.0

Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
 - reviewed by Rick Thorpe - Review Date: 4 May 2003
Review Score: 10/10 
Distributor: Nintendo

It's very reassuring that Nintendo received game of the year from many websites and publications last year for Metroid Prime. When such a wonderful game gets the recognition it deserves it makes up for all the other bad video games that sell umpteen million copies due to licensing or advertising and not gameplay. Nintendo's next big sequel to an established franchise is Legend of Zelda : The Wind Waker and once again Nintendo shows the industry how sequels should be done, utterly perfectly.

I am not going to get into the arguments about Zelda's new look, except to say if you decide not to play this game because of its graphical style, then you should really just find another hobby instead of playing video games. Video games in their best form take you to another place, and really should spark your imagination, whether its through, graphics, audio or interaction. When a game does all of these, and then some, it really is something very special indeed.

The best thing about LoZ:WW is simply the fact that it is a Zelda game, pure and simple. You forget how pure Zelda gameplay is, regardless of which Nintendo system they have been on. It's not until you pick up the controller and start playing that you realize just how fun and riveting Legend of Zelda games are.

From the beginning you are introduced gradually to all the gameplay aspects as well as being introduced to the items at your disposal. The game holds your hand to a certain degree, so that you are well familiarized with all the moves and items available. There's no guess work involved here, everything is very logically layered out and by the time you are actually ready to get the game underway, you will definitely feel confident enough to continue on your epic quest.

And what a quest it is. The scale of the adventure becomes apparent after an hour or two and in true Zelda fashion becomes another "one hero to save the world" style epic. The story itself is very charming and the character given to everyone in the game is done simply and succinctly. There is no speech, however, but every character is given a vocal sample that plays when you talk to them. The lack of speech is a bonus in this regard as it adds just that little bit more to your own interpretation of the character themselves, instead of the hackneyed, soulless voice "talent" most games get.

The control set up hasn't changed much from the Nintendo64 iterations of the Zelda series bar the targeting system which now uses the left shift button instead of the Z button on the 64 controller.
Assigning different items to the face buttons is simply organized and very easy to adjust via the pause screen.

Auto jumping has returned also and works perfectly. The biggest new addition to the control aspect is King of the Red Lions, your Viking inspired boat which you use to traverse the huge ocean that makes up most of the over world. Sailing the seas takes up a large portion of the game and its made very entertaining by the many things you can do on the way to your destination, like hunting for sunken treasure or exploring the smaller islands and emplacements dotted about the sea. The grand scale of this is awesome, it "feels" like you are out in the middle of the ocean complete with changing weather, varying swell and some wonderfully epic sailing inspired music, more about that later though. 

The bigger islands in the seas are where a lot of the dungeons are located, typically themed fire, wood, rock, etc, and all introduce a new element to the gameplay via a new item or a new use for one you already have. The puzzles are always logical and are still very satisfying to complete. They are not incredibly hard puzzles, but the implementation of many of them is sublime. The satisfaction you get from solving and completing the dungeons is wonderful, which is really what Zelda dungeons are all about.

Aside from the dungeons there are a massive amount of side quests to undertake, it's very easy to get sidetracked into one and all of sudden a few hours later you remember what you were supposed to be doing. It's great fun and really adds a lot to the games lifespan. Seemingly every character, at one stage or another, has a task for you to do for them, which really makes a difference to the overall feel of the game and makes it work all the more like a cohesive and believable world.

The gameplay exemplifies what an action adventure game should be. The use of all your weapons and items is really perfectly implemented, through your own inventiveness you can discover some really amazing uses for them. The combat aspect of the game is great, the different attacks and defensive moves allow for a lot of ways to attack your enemies. Some really nice little details go a long way here, like if an enemy is defending only a certain attack will hit them, of course its all very logically set up and makes for very fun and thoughtful combat gameplay that doesn't let you get away with just button-bashing. Another little mention must go to the musical changes that effect the battle score that plays when you fight. Each consecutive strike accents the music and really sounds great when you get a few hits in a row. The combat never gets tired or boring and the boss battles are really amazing and epic too. The perfect balance of combat, exploration and puzzle solving means that you never get bored or fed up with the repetitively simple combat that most action/adventure games have and makes the combat feel well implemented and not just tacked on to give the player something to do. 

The new integral item in LoZ:WW is of course the Wind Waker itself, a conductors baton that allows you to control the wind in various ways. Much like the Ocarina in LoZ:TOoT you learn new patterns to make it perform differently. Its a little tricky to get the rhythm perfect in the beginning but as you use it more often it becomes second nature to perform even the more complicated arrangements you are taught. Some of the later arrangements allow you to summon some really awesome wind powers and as a bonus create some beautifully whimsical melodies.

The rest of the games music is very befitting and full of atmosphere, the pirate/seafaring style gameplay lends itself well to some epic tunes that set the mood for exploration. Some classic Zelda themes return and there's some great new remixes, all with the benefit of the Gamecube's superior sound technology they all sound fantastic, while still retaining some classic 16bit elements that add just that little bit of extra character.

The music and sound blend flawlessly with the entire visual aesthetic. The art style is implemented more completely than any other game I have played before. Everything is stylized in a way that it all fits together into a hybrid cel animated and CG rendered look that makes for a beautiful looking game. From the way the characters are designed to all the fire, smoke and water effects, everything ties together perfectly. Just the way to sea is drawn and animated is a site to behold. One would be wrong in assuming this art style makes for less detail in the game, as the details and interaction are really packed in. The entire world looks, animates and feels amazing. Technically Zelda runs very impressively, the frame rate is virtually locked at 60, the lighting and shading effects are incredible and the animation is really second to none. Another bonus is the complete lack of any loading apart from a pause for a second when you enter or exit a building. You really develop an affinity with the new look Link, especially when you discover a new facial animation or another way of interacting with an object, the amount of animations seem endless and all are beautifully realized.

Wind Waker is what I believe to be the perfect length for modern games. It isn't short enough to leaving you wanting more or feel cheated (if you do all that you can in the game, not just the set tasks) and it's not so long as to seem unbeatable or get boring. You will get the most out this game playing it at a leisurely pace and do all the side quests available to you. Of course if you go through it as fast as you can and just do the set goals, you will finish it inside 20hours. But playing games this way, when there's so much else available to do, is really cheating yourself out of a wonderfully complete experience.

Zelda is a perfect game. It is at its core a perfectly conceived and executed action adventure game, after playing this you appreciate all the effort that goes into first party Nintendo titles. LoZ:WW really shows the rest of the industry that when Nintendo gets it right they make every other action/adventure game seem just so incredibly "average".

- Rick Thorpe

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