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Enough of my blathering, here’s a Guest Review of The Legend of Zelda: the Wind Waker for Gamecube (NOT the HD Wii U re-release), by commenter ShadyKnights.
Greetings and Salutations one and all and welcome to Thoughts of ShadyKnights brought to you by your host, ShadyKnights. With Breath of the Wild out now, why the hell am I talking about Wind Waker? Because I played Wind Waker and I haven’t played Breath of the Wild yet. Besides, there’s something I’ve wanted to talk about Wind Waker for a while now and now’s a decent time to speak on it before I play and possibly even speak on BoTW, so let’s go shall we?
Very few Legend of Zelda stories have what one would call “deep and engrossing” stories, generally opting for a simple premise that opens up to a more important journey Link, the main protagonist of the series, must take. Wind Waker is no different, as the premise that gets our Link off his home island, one of many on a flooded world, is that his sister, Aryll, has been mistakenly kidnapped and Link is the only of age trained person to go out and try to rescue her. On his journey Link finds his sister, but is unable to rescue her as he is thrown off the island where she was only to wake up the next day on the shore of a new island, Windfall Island, on a strange talking red boat named “The King of Red Lions” who informs Link of the antagonist of the game, Ganondorf, and that Link’s role is to defeat the wizard of evil, who is kidnapping girls around the same age for some unknown purpose. From there Link goes on to travel, find the Master Sword, travel, power up the Master Sword, travel, fight monsters, travel, meet new people, travel, fight bosses, travel, and travel.
The game play is a natural growth of the 3D LoZ game style. You auto jump, attack with B (hold then release B to spin attack),interact with A, can lock on to things/people/enemies, have an inventory, and there are side quests to be had. And most importantly, there’s the travel mechanic. As I mentioned earlier, the world is flooded, so to get from one important destination, to another, you will be sailing on your King of Red Lions. The islands are relatively small and the ocean is vast. So get used to sailing, and love it.
The Overall Experience:
Okay. So, look, if anything I said before in this ToSK appealed to you, play the game. You really can only find out if the games mechanics work for you from actually playing it and I’m not here to tell you what to think of feel. I am, however, here to plainly say I don’t like this game and it is the absolute weakest of the 3D home console entries into the series to me because none of the elements clicked. Not story or mechanics, the both failed in my eyes. The game functions and runs about as smoothly as one can hope for and the HD version is a sharper, cleaner version of an already sharp and clean game. But my thoughts on the game and how it works for me start now.
The Weakest Link, A Bad Partner:
Okay remember how I stated Link was the only able bodied person of age who could go after his sister? Yeah the story starts off and he’s turning ten years old on the first in game day. There’s families on the island, and even a grizzled old warrior, but everyone just lets the kid who’s never set foot off the island go off to travel with notorious pirates to fight a damned PHEONIX, on a known dangerous island. Now, okay maybe they didn’t know Moblins had inhabited the island, and they certainly didn’t know Ganondorf was there, but that reeks of irresponsibility. Everyone just waving at him and wishing him good luck on getting his sister back, and not banning together to get one of the island’s family back. This isn’t a huge island, the village is a very small one and as such the people should be far too close knit to just send Link off on his own.
From there, we move on to Link’s initial failure to rescue his sister where he’s rescued by The King of Red Lions (a stupid and stupidly long name >,> So I will call him Sean, because I imagined his voice as Sean Connery), who is the absolute worst partner Link has ever had bar none. Navi was a helpful little fairy who just wanted to help you on your journey and make sure Link was safe. Tatle was a douche bag jerk who didn’t care about Link, but needed him to save her brother. Midna was a dubious scamp who may or may not have been an ally all along. Fi is Window’s pop ups that tell you you have a message even though you don’t read your messages, but you’re too lazy to find out how to get the pop ups to stop showing up. But Sean? This asshole doesn’t tell link a damned thing. There is one point he sends Link to fight Ganondorf, only to tell Link once he gets back after getting his ass handed, that he knew Link couldn’t win because the Master Sword wasn’t powered up. Well thanks a whole hell of a lot buddy! If you look at all the times Sean has mislead Link, out right didn’t tell him things, or straight up Deus Machinaed the plot (THE END ESPECIALLY) it really makes this Link look like a flunky or just a joke. He doesn’t feel like he grows mentally. Instead he’s just an unquestioning chump who, after being given sour information more than once, blindly follows Sean’s every word under the veiled promise of getting his sister back, and then of how important he is to saving the world with nothing showing this importance at all.
Now I know no Link really questions their companion when it comes to their helpfulness, but there’s rarely a reason for the other’s. Navi was sent to Link by, basically his dad. Yeah there’s good reason to trust her. Plus she’s is helpful, friendly, and and very nice to Link. Tatle and Link are basically on hostilely friendly terms, as are Midna and TP Link. Fi is SS Link’s sword. Of course he trusts her. All of them also don’t misinform or tell Link he’s important, other people do, which no one does to WW Link. WW Link is just a kid who should be in school, part time mail delivery man, country bumpkin who can swing a sword. And it’s not like there’s the looming threat of Ganondorf’s wrath on all the islands Link has been to, or any sign that he hurt any of the girls or mistreated them. There’s actually more signs that Ganondorf went out of his way to not harm the girls he kidnapped making him a bad guy, but not looking like the monster Sean pinky swears he is. With Link just ignorantly following Sean’s lead and not growing in any assertiveness at all and Sean’s dubious assistance, the two are just a terrible pair that pair terribly. OH! Yeah! And Sean has secret conversations in ancient Hylian with deities and never felt it was necessary to divulge to you what they said. Imagine how Majora’s Mask would have gone if Tatle didn’t friggin tell you what the Giants said after you freed them. And while the game informs you the player on what’s being said your next play through, Link remains wholly ignorant of the conversation.
A World of Problems:
Did I mention how much you travel in this game? See the map above? See all the Blue? Barely any land masses. See this is my worry for Breath of The Wild currently as it has been a growing problem since Wind Waker, and that is the unreasonable and down right unfun travel times from place to place this series has gotten bogged down in. The smaller world maps of OoT and MM allow for one to enjoy the travel and plenty to explore, but also get on with it and get to where you want to go before very long. Well to me the boat traveling in Wind Waker takes too damned long. It’s boring and dull and nothing goes on. Just set sail and wait. Occasionally steer around an island or dig up treasure, but that’s it. Oh maybe you’ll see a pirate ship or barrel to fight or invade, but ultimately if you’re in a bit of a hurry, the novelty wears thin fast. Sure the speed sail you get helps (if you realize you get it from the auction before you’re 3/4ths done with the game), but even then, it doesn’t help much in the grand scheme of the game’s world.
The warp system you get in the HD version also kinda helps, a little, except for when it doesn’t. See with the world being so empty and the islands so small, you’re never really close to anything. On the Warp System, the name sake of the game itself is the absolute weakest connection to Link or anything, than any of the other 3D Zelda title main items. It just changes the wind. A powerful sounding concept that is almost never utilized outside of travel. So much so that one could really just have given Link a magic sail if we’re going to be needing to change wind directions so dang much to get from point A to B. But that isn’t why I say it’s the weakest main item. You see the waker has zero connection to Link as a character outside of him being told “You’re the Hero of the Winds!” or something to that nature. What connection does the Ocarina of Time have to OoT Link? The last thing he’s given from his home is an ocarina to remember his best/only friend, Saria, by and the Ocarina of Time is one of the four keys to open the gates to the Sacred Realm. What’s the importance of Majora’s Mask? It’s dropping the moon on the planet. What importance is the Twilight Princess? She kinda rescues Link early on, travels the whole game with him, and is an important ally in stopping Ganondorf and Zant. Why’s the Skyward Sword important? It becomes the Master Sword and Link is in school to become a Sky Knight who has used swords before, so he can wield such a weapon. There is no such connection with WW Link and the Wind Waker. He wasn’t a conductor in the village band who had an excellent ear for music or anything. He has no innate sense of the wind at all. It’s just a wand that he’s given and that’s that.
People, Places, Passivity:
There’s three types of people in actual distress in this game. The kid who’s upset that his mother passed and who’s afraid to take his rite of passage due to his deity causing a ruckus, the families of the kidnapped girls, and the Koroks. That’s bout it. There’s very few people alive in this game, but the up beat and happy music would keep any feelings of dread from forming. No one is really unhappy, in trouble, distressed, or hurt. Oh Sean swears on your mother’s grave things are totally gonna get worse, but they never do. Even when one sees and island that was destroyed, Great Fish Isle, it was so completely destroyed that no one other than Sean can assure Link that Ganondorf did this. Yeah going from what we ,the god-like player, can very easily assume and believe Ganondorf did do this, fact of the matter is Link doesn’t know. He just knows this old dude had something to do with his sister’s kidnapping and none of that something resembled island destroying capabilities. I get he’s 10, but I was a smart 10 year old who often questioned what adults told me if only just a casual “why?” to understand better. If Link is a clever as Sean says he is, the boy should be raising those highly animated brow at this assertion that old man beat up an island.
But back to the lack of feeling any intensity building or danger, this game takes the harshest step backwards in the series when it comes to races and populations. Zora, gone. Gerudo, gone. Kokiri, replaced. Gorons? Reduced to three. Sure if you like the bird people, that’s nice, but their existence in this game is stupid considering the race who used to live on Death Mountain. The Gerudo were a pretty venerable race in OoT, which this game very clearly comes after, so where the hell are they? The Kokiri being changed to Koroks… I.. Guess makes a sort of sense even though I despise the change (they’re cute, but the aesthetic of forever children who had a strong link to their fairies was an interesting and fun concept). Then we have the mind numbingly stupid exemption of the Zora in a FLOODED WORLD where they would likely thrive better than anyone. At least the Goron’s being missing makes morbid sense considering they likely couldn’t survive, but the Zora is inexcusable. Speaking of flooded world, Link’s ability to swim in this game is terrible considering that very fact. I may not be Michael Phelps, but I also live in the center of the US. Not many large bodies of water for me to be surrounded by. Wind Waker, however, is a world flooded for hundreds of years. In that time you bet your sweet rolls people would have learned to swim exceptionally well unless there was some strong taboo against it, which is not the case here.
So with the lack of different races as well as the lack people suffering or at least distressed for different reasons to help drive home how much good you’re doing, it really makes WW Link’s journey seem less over all impressive. Sure he helps the Koroks and rescues the girls, breaks a thief out of jail… And goes on a long ass treasure hunt, but that’s it. And there aren’t many island islands. As is bit of land capable of sustaining at least a town sized island, island. They’re more just bit’s of ground you can run into or walk on for a minute, but nothing that would allow for the world to feel anything but empty. Onset, Windfall, Death Mountain, and Forest Haven are your four civilization centers and Windfall is the only one that is the closest to feeling alive, but it never feels truly so since hardly anyone seems bothered by anything that goes on outside their island. All the islands are so insulated from each other that what happens on one doesn’t affect the others save for what gossip people will speak about. Hell when girls from Windfall are kidnapped the wealthiest man runs himself into poverty trying to get his daughter back by hiring anyone he could to rescue hid daughter, while his mirror poor counter part takes advantage of the situation to become the wealthiest man in town. No one from Windfall seemed overly broken hearted, fired up, or really upset about what was going on with it’s citizenry.
And I’ve held off as long as I could getting into talk of specific people but Tetra is kinda the worst person around. She knows girls are being kidnapped who fit a general description that she shares, and that this mistake, as well as her crew’s intervention, got Link’s sister kidnapped, yet she treats Link with more or less contempt and casual flippant snark when he’s got a damned mission to do because of her and her pirates bringing that damned phoenix to his back water island that’s barely on the map. The pirates berate Link for clearly not being prepared for this, yet not one help. I get it, pirates, but she owes him more than a damned boat ride for his trouble. And until plot draws her into things, she more or less is about as helpful as a boil near your bunghole. Then we have Link who is the blandest, dullest Link of the batch thus far. Don’t get me wrong, he’s got heart. My favorite scene from him is when he saw his sister being carried off and he just charged off a broken bridge in a near-insane-with-panic attempt to rescue her then and there. That’s love and I liked that. Problem is, for all his highly animated faces, that seem to amuse every player I’ve seen play this game like dangling keys in front of a small child, there never feels like anything is going on in that head of his. His own goal is just rescuing his sister, and I never feel like he cares very much about the dangers of the islands of his world. It’s very much in character with everyone else, but it never feels like he has a personal steak in the matter once his sister is safe… Speaking of which, the pirates keep his sister with them rather than returning her home for… super ill defined reasons. I believe it was so Ganondorf wouldn’t go after her, to go after him, but, see, Ganondorf has done NOTHING to any of the girls untoward outside of the initial kidnapping. There’s even a side quest for Link to have a letter delivered to a Moblin because the previously poor girl has fallen in love with him. And none of the girls really talk about how terrible things were save, I think, the rich girl who was snobby to begin with. Link doesn’t really have an arch or feel as if he’s grown, or even really learned very much. He certainly left on an adventure, but he ends his story basically the same way he started it as a character both literally and figuratively. Even his titled “Hero of Winds” feels hollow and empty. Sure it could mean something if Link himself had any connection to the wind, or if the wind was an important obstacle he had to overcome and eventually conqueror, but that isn’t the case. The Hero of Time saved the world in two timelines and a parallel world from destruction by going through time. The Hero of Twilight saved the Twilight people from Zant and Hyrule from Ganondorf. What the hell does the Hero of Wind do? Rescue a few girls, travel with pirates, use the wind to sail from island to island easier. He actually did not save the world from Ganondorf.
And lastly we come to the two biggest characters in this game, Sean and Ganondorf. Let’s start with Ganondorf. Many people say this is the best incarnation of Ganondorf. I argue that he isn’t the best, but he does actually make OoT Ganondorf look somewhat noble. A king who only wanted healthy land for his people to live on and in. That’s all he wanted. Yeah he went to crazy extremes for it, but he wanted something more for his people which kinda explains why he ravaged the world when freed… supposedly. I’ll get to that in a moment. He also, while being my least favorite design of the character, is a heavy weight badass for two big reasons. Firstly, the gods couldn’t stop him when he was free. All they could hope to do was just flood the world and wish everyone good luck with surviving the waters, all to stop one man. Secondly, the gods friggin failed in stopping him. They stalled him, sure, but dude basically saves the land from the flood waters with is own magic, sustains himself for hundreds of years, then manages to slip up to the surface once he’s recharged. Dude is hardest of the hard core and baddest of the asses. Now quickly back to that supposedly I mentioned. See, the lost kingdom of Hyrule is fine under the ocean. Ganondorf kept it all preserved for when he’d roll back the waters. So perfect was the preservation that it was all, literally frozen in time. Suggesting that where there destruction, we’d have seen it, and no destruction was really visible. The Castle was fine, we couldn’t see castle town, but there was no debris or ruble or even dead grass. For a horrible, tyrannical despot, Ganondorf sure kept the place tidy this time he took over compared to the 7 year jump with OoT.
Now on to Sean. Sean is kind of the worst person in the series to me, and I’m not a fan of Tingle and I down right hate Tatle. But while Tingle is at least a silly goofing weirdo, and Tatle is a jerk, Sean is an untrustworthy companion who leads Link by the nose rather than a friend who aids him, or companion who travels with him. Early on it’s the promise of rescuing his sister that Sean tells Link to do go hither and thither. And Sean, as I earlier alluded to, loves to keep things from Link. Not telling him what he and Jabun, were discussing for instance. That actually he was supposedly looking for the Hero of Time, and not this Hero of Winds guy. That Link wasn’t in fact destined as Sean kept telling him he was. It was all a lie and complete BS. He sends this 10-year-old kid, who has “promise”, after a 400+ year old warlock who managed to keep an entire country from being destroyed by divine powers, with a sword that he knows isn’t powerful enough to hurt him. Let’s not look for a capable replacement or anything, you’ll do kiddo. WTF is wrong with this asshole?! Especially considering, SPOILER ALERT, he’s the king of Hyrule and is about as ancient as Ganondorf himself is, and yet he gives advice like a bumbling bafoon attempting to sound wise by being needlessly vague, or just plain dangling the carrot of Aryll in front of Link to get him to do all this tedious crap. I don’t think anyone can tell me anything that will ever change my mind on how legitimately awful a person Sean is.
And the two most least important, important plot characters in this game, Link and Zelda. I already alluded on Link being the weakest of the Link’s in the series, but honestly, that’s just cause he’s a regular kid. And its’ fine for him to be a normal kid, but nothing interesting builds on any of that. He’s ballsy, sure, but nothing really necessitates himbeing the guy doing any of this stuff. There’s nothing unique about him ever brought up or utilized like I’ve seen in just about every other LoZ game that basically states “Yeah this kid is special”.
This is probably the worst Zelda in terms of personality over all. She’s a jerk, a criminal, is the cause of Link’s problems, takes no responsibility for her behavior in general (save, I guess for when her identity is revealed and even then it’s meh), and is actively causing more tangible problems than Ganondorf has through most of the game. Sure Ganondorf kidnapped the girls, but she extorts money back from the citizens and takes all the credit for the rescue (or at least suggested such extortion).
Okay, after all that hulabalu, me going into grotesque detail on why I dislike the story would probably seem very childish. After all, the plot is as simple as it always in with these games. Go to rescue sister and find out you have to save the world. Well by now I’d like to hope I hammered home the issues I have with what builds on this plot. I know that it seems silly to actually have this story to be something that chaps my hide, but I am not one of those “Gameplay >>>> Story” people. I’m a man of context. Sometimes the story is legitimately more important than the gameplay (as in the game play needs to be functional/good, but doesn’t need to be innovative), sometimes game play is all that matters and a story isn’t needed, sometimes integrating one into the other is the best choice. It’s all a matter of what the game is aiming for. The NPCs are nice, but bland and sterile people who don’t add much to the world or atmosphere. The named characters hardly contribute anything save The Great Deku Tree and Koroks who are at least trying to regrow land… somehow. Even Ganondorf doesn’t go out of his way to be menacing or anything. All in all, Ganondorf is efficient as hell in getting what he wants done. Letting the kids come to him, going to where he could likely not be stopped, and basically winning. Yes, following all actual logic, reason, and sense that this game presents and establishes, Ganondorf wins. Flat and cleanly. Then the bull crap happens.
Let’s rewind a bit before the bull crap. See in even this world, a 10-year-old scrub can’t dust a 400+ year old god tier warlock warrior. But it turns out Ganondorf really was just wearing Link down, with the dungeon and fight before, that’s all. Most powerful cutscene in the game plays and Ganondorf explains exactly what kicked off his behavior in Ocarina of Time. In a moment of quiet, somber explanation, he explains to this dopey kid, who really may not understand the gravity of what he’s talking about, but that he feels he needs to just say this. He wanted better land for his people. The desert life was killing the Gerudo and he wanted better for them. He wanted them to have fertile lands, cool days and warm nights. He flatly admits he coveted the “wind” that Hyrule had and vaguely mentions how this “must be fate”, alluding to last time victory was just within his grasp, there a kid in a green tunic was to lead him to the triforce or stop him. He states how he has the triforce of wisdom and power and all he needs is one more thing. It’s a very good moment where for a moment you can see there’s more to this man than just murdering all who gets in his way. Hell if you didn’t play OoT, you don’t even know of the murders so all you can see is just an old man who’s not really into this fighting BS anymore. He just wants to get his wish and be done with things. Then he makes his move, knocks Link flat, assures him he has no intention in killing him, that he only wants the triforce and badadadah~ there it is! He makes his big wish and then THERE THAT FUCKER SEAN IS OUT OF NOWHERE TOUCHING THE TRIFORCE AND WISHING HYRULE AND GANONDORF DROWNED! As in RIGHT NOW! This man, just bore his soul about how while he did bad things he really isn’t a monster, promised to not kill the two kids he easily could to just make sure no further troubles occurred, and is about to make a wish that would actually make life better for everyone on the ocean above, and what does the previous King of Hyrule wish for? That the world be flooded and Ganondorf drowned with it. Out of pure spite of Ganondorf wanting Hyrule, he’d sooner give the land to no one than to let Ganondorf have it. He opens the gates to the whole ocean falling down on Ganondorf right now, putting Zelda and Link at terrible risk of death, all because he has beef with this one man for a kingdom no on even remembers any more or cares about. How is this monster not hated for this? There was infinite benefit to Ganondorf’s wish and nothing but loss for Sean’s. And if one doesn’t consider him a monster, how the hell can you say him wish blocking Ganondorf makes ANY damned sense?! How did he get up there? Without Ganondorf seeing him? If he could do that, why did he even bother Link? Why couldn’t he have just wished Ganondorf dead or erased from existence if he wanted Ganondorf gone? Why did he have to finish the flood when they could have made things right for all peoples and not just the Hylians?! Hell the Hylians are gone, they could have just made a country for everyone. Why didn’t he even try talking to Ganondorf? King to king, man to man, ruler with citizens he loves and wanted to protect to ruler with citizens he loved and wanted to protect. Why was that not an option for this old bastard?! Instead he just let Link clear out the way for him so he could steal the Triforce wish thanks to plot teleportation. I could have forgiven much of this game if the story had it’s natural conclusion of Ganondorf wining legit and maybe even being something of a changed man and for Sean to be the actual bad guy who’s just been living on blind hatred and bitterness. The logical step would have been for that heel and face turn for the both of them and for Link, Zelda, and Ganondorf to fight for fixing the sins of the past, while Sean wants to bury all his mistakes and choices and damn everyone to just move on with life in ignorance, but not truly live.
In a story like this, the premise and climax are the most important parts of the story, with the journey supposed to be adding on to that premise so the climax is actually interesting. The build up and climax are terrible to me. I wanted a world I could happily explore, enjoy, and get a fun story from. This game is just to empty and vapid for me to enjoy exploring and the story missteps in every place possible to make me out right hate it. The only characters I like are Ganondorf, the guy who plays the Battle Ship mini game because he says “Sploosh” and “Kaboom!” very well, and Beetle because he says “Thank you!” well. What about Ganondorf? Dude earned his victory and he really went about getting the Triforce in a surprisingly peaceful manner considering how obsessed he was about it (though he was actually fairly passive about it in OoT as well) and his message was actually about redemption in a way. Yes, he wanted Hyrule for himself to rule, but this is also the man who had lost the most. Stories tend to suggest those who know loss tend to be the better people in the end, if they embrace change which, considering Ganondorf’s promise at the end of OoT and his actions in WW, he had changed.
Taking art style out of the equation, this is a changed man. And his soliloquy in Wind Waker suggest his “King of Evil” days were more youthful ignorance and don’t represent the man standing today. He watched his people die, and for years all he had was just the idea of at least claiming the land he wanted for his people and maybe making things right. I mean he takes a moment to tell Link a bout a concept the kid could likely never grasp with what he’s seen of the world. A desert. And while the ocean may be a desert with it’s life underground and the perfect disguise of all, the concept of an arid, dry desert likely would just be an alien concept to Link. I know he was really speaking more to himself than to Link, but I do believe he needed to say that and that it does explain about who he was then and is now. He just wants the wind of life for himself, if not for his people any more, and he was pushing for it for the third time. I tend to root for people like that and his character arc deserved a better ending than he got. This game deserved an ending about making things better. In stead, rather than Sean passing on the old world for the new people to build and learn from the past, he sends them off to find “their own land”. Cause he’s taking his and flooding it. Screw you kids. What a wonderful adult.
They kinda look like how I feel about that. “…Why couldn’t we have had that nice fresh land down below? Why’d you have to flood it dude?”
I’m not a fan of the game. I think it’s an over all bad LoZ game, but an okay adventure game. It’s weird to hear Link talk too, but no one talks about that, so whatever. If you just like or are easily amused by sailing like apparently everyone in the gaming community *coughassassinscreed3&4cough*, then you’ll love this game. If you want atmosphere, tension, plot cohesion, and an in-world logistical flow of events, then you’ll probably not like it so much.