Seven reasons why The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is the best in the series
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is getting a total HD makeover next month, and with good reason. The 10th installment in the Zelda series is among the most beautifully directed games to ever grace a console and it features some of the best music of any Nintendo title. Heck, the game is even serving as a test for the team producing the as-of-yet announced Wii U Zelda title, as series director Eiji Aonuma told Wired. In fact, that’s why we’re getting a Wii U remake for the game. Folks at Nintendo loved the portions of the game the Zelda team re-created so much that they figured, “Why not?” Thank goodness they did, because The Wind Waker is probably the best Zelda game that’s ever been made (It might even be the best game ever made, period.) Here’s why:
Toon Link is probably the most expressive video game character. Ever.
Just look at those eyes.
One of Wind Waker team’s goals in creating this version of the legendary hero was to make him more reactive than any who came before him. The immediate result was those incredibly expressive eyes. Take, for example, Link’s wandering eyes in Dragon Roost Cavern — they drift toward elements such as weak walls and hanging branches to tell the player that there’s probably something important over yonder, like maybe a bomb-able wall or a grappling hook anchor point. Or what about when he’s hurled unceremoniously into Forsaken Fortress via catapult? This little guy’s expressions pretty much make the game.
Those rope controls
There’s nothing quite like learning the ropes aboard Tetra’s ship at the beginning of the game. Few experiences in the Zelda franchise’s history can top the thrill of finally swinging from lamp to lamp flawlessly (Forget the fact that you’re putting all of your weight on a rope with a lit torch dangling on it. That’s totally not going to fall and kill everyone on board the wooden ship.) And the fact that Toon Link doesn’t even use his legs to help hoist himself up ropes as he climbs solidifies his place as the most badass Nintendo character ever created. The kid must be a pro on that pull-up bar.
Sailing the high seas never gets old
It’s a total coincidence that The Wind Waker came out the same summer as Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl — you know you sailed from island to island, boasting to non-playable characters that this was the day they almost caught the Hero of Winds. But sailing the vast expanses of the Great Sea wasn’t all fun and games. Whenever the skies darkened and a torrential downpour began, you knew it was time to break out that cannon and brace yourself for a fight with a Big Octo. And how much fun was it to raid Bokoblin outposts and submarines? Bonus points if you picked them off from your boat with the Hero’s Bow.
That final battle
Wind Waker gets a lot of flack for its cel-shaded art direction. Early critiques of the game by the well-informed and totally not over-reactive Internet masses derided the look as childish. But the final battle atop Ganon’s Tower proved quite the contrary with what’s probably the most gruesome finale to a Zelda game to date. After sufficiently weakening the boss, Link jumps through the air and plants the Master Sword directly into the King of Evil’s forehead. Ganon’s body then petrifies, the sword stuck firmly in his head. What happened at the end of Ocarina of Time, the most popular entry in the series? The final boss coughs up blurry, 64-bit green blood. So much better, right?
The callbacks to older Zelda titles are just awesome
Nearly every Zelda game recycles elements of the titles that came before it: The Triforce. Three symbols of virtue. The Master Sword. But it’s Wind Waker that does the best job of repurposing those elements and paying homage to what’s probably the second best game in the series: A Link to the Past. The art direction makes Wind Waker look like a 3D re-imagining of the Super Nintendo classic and the music is absolutely astounding, from the 10-second melody introducing Princess Zelda halfway through the game to the updated version of the Hyrule Castle theme from Link to the Past. Even the game’s take on the Kakariko Village theme is the most inventive in the series. What’s that? You don’t remember hearing it? Probably because it’s the Windfall Island theme. Listen closely and you’ll hear it. Trust me.
The game is beyond beautiful, even 10 years and two console generations later
The Gamecube’s 3D Zelda game is one of the little purple box’s few games that still look good on an HDTV. Again, the art direction is what helps here, sufficiently masking that console generation’s technical limitations by utilizing graphics that are simple and elegant. And it’s the little things, such as the floating fireflies in the Forest Haven and the hopping mailboxes, that really bring the game to life. Beyond the game’s gorgeous environment, the character design also lends itself to some of the most heart-wrenching moments in series history. Admit it: You teared up when Link’s grandma serves up that first bottle of Elixir Soup.
And the music. Oh, that music.
From the title screen to the end credits, Wind Waker has some of the best music in the Zelda series. The soundtrack’s Irish influences are evident and there’s nothing better than swashbuckling on the Great Sea while the theme plays in the background. Even the YouTube fan covers of the game’s soundtrack are astounding. So, what are you waiting for? Get off your computer, phone, tablet — whatever you’re reading this on — and get your Wind Waker on.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD comes out for the Wii U on Sept. 20 in the Nintendo eShop, Oct. 4 as a retail release.
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