Written By: Dustin Stewart
The game opens with a story told through still pictures with words under them, and a remix on the classic Zelda theme blaring in the background. Once you hear that music and find out where this story is taking you, you know you’ve got something special on your hands by the way it sends chills down your spine.
The first thing you will notice as you take control of the lead character, Link, is that the graphical style is like no previous Zelda game out there. The style is called cel-shading, and on first seeing it, your jaw just might drop in shock. Most people react badly to the new style at first, but once you move Link around and get a feel for the game, you are completely immersed in it. It’s like you are actually in a cartoon, and you won’t believe how fun that can be until you pick this game up for the first time. The emotion conveyed on the characters faces through this incredible graphical style is equaled by none. You can tell exactly how Link is feeling: sad and angry when his sister is kidnapped in the first few minutes of the game, happy and excited when opening up a treasure chest, set and determined while fighting off hordes of enemies. The world is huge and alive as you explore every nook and cranny of it, whether by land or by sea.
From the very first notes of that classic Zelda theme in the beginning of this game, the music is spot on. What the graphics do to the characters expressions to convey emotion, the music does the same by being spot on with what Link is feeling at any given time. If things are going well for our young hero, the music soars with upbeat tunes blaring through the speakers. If things aren’t going so well, the music is dark and dreary, giving the player the sense that Link is no longer having the time of his life. There is also a great music effect implemented into the sword play. With each successful hit, you hear a short surge in whatever track happens to be playing at the time. The more hits you land in a row, the higher in pitch the music goes, for a great effect that very well may have you trying to see how many blows you can land just to hear the bright and encouraging surge.
The graphics may be miles from previous Zelda games, but the game play is fully intact and improved upon in some cases. The classic “Z Targeting” (now “L Targeting”) has returned from the Nintendo 64 installments, and works just as well here as it did before. Simply hold down the L button while near an enemy and Links view point will lock onto his foe, allowing you to move any way you want without losing site of your target. The fighting aspect is better than ever, as you can now pick up enemies weapons to do some major damage, or use the classic Master Sword to do some quick but effective damage. If timed right you can even pull off a front flip over your enemy and strike him in the back before he knows what hits him, a necessity to beat some of the heavily armored baddies.
Like all Zelda games that have preceded this one, you have a large arsenal at your disposal, including the classic bow and arrows, hook shot, boomerang, and bombs. New comers such as the deku leaf, which lets you glide from high cliffs to ledges below, and the Wind Waker, a devise somewhat like the ocarina used in Zelda: Ocarina of Time, are welcome additions that add new layers to the game play. Zelda just wouldn’t be Zelda without some dungeons, and Wind Waker has its fair share of them. They are a little easier than those seen in the N64 Zelda games, which is somewhat disappointing. They are still great fun though, and the bosses are as big and bad as ever. The story starts out small, but about half way through the game you realize it’s just as epic as previous installments. It all sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? Almost like the perfect game right? Well, now I have to mention the traveling by sea aspect of the game. If you thought that traveling across the vast Hyrule Field in Ocarina of Time was tedious, be prepared to be frustrated, because the sea is huge and your boat is slow. You’ll spend a lot of time on the sea just wondering if you’ll ever get to your destination. Sure there’s plenty to do out at sea, like hunting for treasure, fighting giant squid or murderous pirates, but it gets old about half way through the game. Winning the ability to use the Wind Waker as a warp devise helps some, but not enough to keep the sea travel aspect of the game a chore.
Die hard Zelda fans will want to play through this game again, because there is bound to be a few things you weren’t able to do the first time around, such as collect all the picto-box statues, or play all the mini games. There are plenty of things for you to do, and there’s virtually no way you will cover them all by the time you slay the main bad guy (I wont spoil anything for you) for the first time. You also get to play in a different outfit (blue stripped pajama looking things) if that kind of thing is any incentive for you. Casual gamers will probably be satisfied with just one time through though, considering the monstrous task of traveling constantly by sea.