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Looking Back to 2003 with The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

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Despite my clear and undying love for all things Xbox, growing up I was actually much more of a Nintendo gamer. I spent my younger years with all of the greats: Mario, Kirby, Samus and Donkey Kong to name but a few. However, none of these captured my imagination in the same way Link did. Shigeru Miyamoto reportedly created The Legend of Zelda whilst reflecting on his love of adventure as a child, wanting to tap into it. This is abundantly clear in every entry of the legendary series.

It’s currently an exciting time for fans as we hurtle towards the newest release, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. So let’s take a little time (now seems like the perfect opportunity) to rewind some twenty years back to 2003 and look back over one of my favourite games featuring the green capped hero. Oh, and it just so happens to be top of my wishlist when it comes to remakes. Nudge nudge.

the legend of zelda the wind waker keyart

I’ll always be a huge Nintendo fan, however there was one console I never ended up purchasing. You guessed it, the Wii U. Unfortunately for me, it just so happened that Nintendo decided to drop a HD release of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker back in 2013. Even this (and a rather beautifully decorated edition of the console itself) was not enough to make me take the plunge. I can already feel the desire to hunt down an old unit rising within me as I type.

First off, I immediately fell in love with how The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker looked. It was stunning, and remains so to this day. The cel shaded graphics oozed character and flaunted bright, vibrant colours. Little details such as the cartoon style swirly smoke was absolutely gorgeous. In fact, many sequels adopted the same visual style in the “toon link” strand of games.

The style attracted criticism at the time, splitting opinion, as some argued it was chosen mainly because the GameCube was viewed as less powerful than its rivals. This was, of course, utter tosh and the game was no worse off for it, still managing to strike all the chords it needed to. There was also a growing school of opinion that the GameCube was just for kids, as more mature titles ended up on Xbox and PlayStation 2 instead. If these games were released on GameCube, they were often cut down due to the smaller disc size. In the boom bust Nintendo cycle of hardware (in my opinion) these were certainly worrying times to be a Nintendo gamer, but we still got loads of great games.

Story wise it was the usual stuff for the series. A young incarnation of Link watched as a giant bird flew off with his sister in its talons (okay, so maybe that bit isn’t so typical). After saying a quick goodbye to his grandma, Link set out with his pirate ally, Tetra, in tow to get his sibling back. Before long he was fighting evil once again. Despite the structure of the narrative bearing similarities to the games of the past, the way the story was told is simply brilliant. Emotionally, it got me every time.

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Many familiar characters and elements made a return, including the Great Deku Tree, the Triforce and even the dastardly Ganon himself. As you would expect, there were plenty of dungeons to master and nasty bosses to see off, but this time around there was one major difference. The Great Sea.

That’s right, Link bagged himself a talking boat in which he could explore a huge open world peppered with islands, enemies and other mysterious structures. He could fish for treasure too, as well as fight off enemy pirates with a very handy cannon. In order to travel around efficiently, Link needed to master his Wind Waker.

This weather controlling artefact could change the direction of the wind at Link’s will. By simply waving it around like a conductor at the helm of an orchestra, he wielded control over the elements. As instruments go in the series, it was a pleasingly simple and graceful one to use.

I remember being absolutely bowled over by how huge the world in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker felt. That sense of exploration was so exciting, especially as every quadrant held something different to discover. As usual, there were plenty of secrets to find too. Some critics thought that the sailing got tiresome pretty quickly, but for me it was such a lush environment to be in, I didn’t mind too much.

the legend of zelda the wind waker screen 2

New areas were continually made accessible when you nabbed the correct gear to access them. Whether it was the iron boots, Hero’s Bow or the boomerang, you know the drill. One thing I do remember clearly was trying to conquer a seemingly endless, bottomless pit of a dungeon on Outset Island, Link’s home. Much like Miyamoto, it reminded me of exploring the great outdoors when I was a kid. I loved every second.

In the days before the musical scores were performed by a full orchestra, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker still punched above its weight with a utterly charming soundtrack. Right from the title screen, many of the whimsical and somewhat traditional themes became instant classics for me. The legendary Koji Kondo was once again involved, and you can tell. I can still hear the music in my head all these years later as I type. Magical. 

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker differed in numerous ways to its predecessors. But what resulted was no less (perhaps even more) of an engrossing, deep and magical adventure which holds a special place in my heart. It’s been another ten years Nintendo, let us have a shiny new version already!

Do you need more Zelda on your life? Let us know your Wind Waker memories by dropping into the comments. 

Darren Edwards
Darren Edwards
I have been playing games since a very early age, thanks to my Dad's encouragement. I've been an Xbox gamer since the very beginning, the Master Chief is to thank for that. I'm also a big Nintendo geek, and my other half is a PlayStation nut. I'll play pretty much anything in any genre (although FIFA and COD maybe pushing it).
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