PICTURE, IF YOU WILL, the scene: It's afternoon on an ordinary day in America, maybe a Wednesday, school has just let out and a harassed Mother is taking her son to the nearest mall to spend her hard earned greens on a videogame for him. The son, probably called Mikey, probably dressed in a Baseball cap and a sneer, drags her to the games retailer.
'What about this game, dear?' Asks the ever-harangued mother.
'No way Mom, don't be stoopid, it's a kid's game, just look at the graphics! I want Grand Theft Auto, 'cos that's really phat, all my hommies say so!' Replies the little Mickey-Marshal-F*** You, Man-Not Guilty, Your Honour-Mathers wannabe.
In the corner of the store, a Nintendo stalwart stands, a tear rolling down his face, and he is sure if he listens hard enough, through the din of consumerism, far away in Kyoto, in the land of the rising sum, he is sure he can hear a thousand gamers crying for the loss of a true gaming mascot.
For all those who don't know, the most controversial, and possibly financial year defining, game in the history of Nintendo has just been released in America. The game is The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and we are here to tell you not only if it is a good game, but also if it is one that will break down the barriers between the hardcore and casual gamer and finally give a united gaming community a chance in the form of Nintendo.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, is the long awaited sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask which was itself the sequel to the seminal The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time. Due to this, the most sensible way to review the new outing of our hero, Link, is by comparing it to its predecessors, which date all the way back to 1986 and the American launch of the Nintendo Entertainment System, or the NES as it was known to its friends.
The first NES game to use battery back-up technology to save your position, The Legend Of Zelda was the game that first launched our little Link, then just a plain hero of Hyrule, to the rank of World Super Star. While it may have had a few problem with text localisation, with classics of bad grammar such as 'Go find the eight units, Link to save her', the game was never the less a huge success and a defining moment in video gaming. The birth of a legend, if you will.
In the early days of the NES, we saw games with much more regularity than we do now, and so in 1987, just a year after the launch of the original Zelda game, we saw its sequel: Zelda II: The Adventure Of Link. Surprisingly, after the phenomenal success of the original game, the makers of Link's second outing went down the side-scrolling route. While fans were in uproar at the change of an already beloved franchise, we here at Cubed can see the merits of Zelda II. It was a great game, with some nifty Metroid inspired moments; however it gave Nintendo some good advice for the future; 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'.
Unfortunately, this was the last Zelda game to be seen on the much-loved NES, and it wasn't until 1991 that we saw our hero again. This time Link wowed players around the world on the NES' big brother, the SNES, or the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Now in full 16bit glory, The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past, is regarded by many as the best and defining game in the Zelda series, even better, say some, than its 64bit counterparts. A Link To The Past, provided a huge challenge; even with our gaming know how here at Cubed it is still difficult to complete the game in one sitting, which for it's time was a real rarity on the gaming market. Not only was the world map huge, but it also had a myriad of side quests to be completed and, what's more, the map actually doubled in size half way through the game, when you got access to Dark World, a copy of the Hyrule map, with many idiosyncrasies. Dark world represented another Dimension where the evil Gannon, the villain in nearly all the Zelda titles, had acquired part of the triforce.
After a dalliance onto the Game Boy in 1993, we had to wait until 1998, a full seven years after his last console appearance, to help Link once again fight evil from the comfort of our armchairs. This game was to many the definitive Zelda title. Beset with many hold ups, and apparently the game responsible for nearly giving the series creator, the inimitable Shigeru Miyamoto, a break down, The Legend Of Zelda: The Ocarina Of Time, is the game that introduced a whole new generation of gamers to the magic of the Zelda. The most noticeable difference between this game and Link's previous outings was the transition from 2D gaming into the vast world of 3D loveliness. The world available for Link to explore was huge, probably even bigger than the challenge offered in A Link To The Past. All in all The Ocarina Of Time was a huge success and made everyone clamor for the next Zelda game.
In the year 2000, we got the chance to play this new game, and while incorporating a number of new features, one of which being slightly higher resolution graphics and sharper sound by the use of the required expansion pack, the game left a sour taste in a number of gamers mouths. Although it was agreed that the game was still a great adventure, it was generally accepted that it paled in comparison to the awe inspiring, The Ocarina Of Time. To many the game came across as an extra section of its N64 predecessor, and although there were little ideas that would extend the game, for example the three day clock or the ability to change, via masks, into other races from the Zelda universe, many considered it offered no where near the challenge of The Ocarina Of Time. However, one of the games saving graces was the overall atmosphere, and we think that no game has ever captured the melancholy of walking around clock town, with time slowed down, just before the moon crashes to earth. With a mix of sad colours and somber tones, it really is a defining moment in video game history.
So, after ignoring the dire games made available on the Philips CD-i, we come to Link's first jaunt onto the Gamecube. The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker is one of the games that could make or break Nintendo's fortunes, and maybe help the Big N claw back some ground from Sony. This review is going to deal very little with the story and try to provide as fewer spoilers as possible; suffice to say however, there are some familiar faces, items and maybe even a golden triforce piece or two. Unless you have been living in a hole under the ice in the middle of the arctic circle, without any contact to the outside world, not even homing penguin, and had not only your eyes gouged out but also your ears spiked, then you will probably already know of the two controversial aspects of Miyamoto's new Zelda game. First of all is the inclusion of the ocean setting, and with the Gamecube's added processing power, this is no ordinary ocean. Stretching as far as the eye can see, in waves of mouth-watering blue, is the most luscious ocean ever seen on a videogame. Suffering from hardly any popup, islands rise out of the sea in the distance, birds fly past your boat and fish and octorocs come and attack you. This truly is an expansive game. There are problems associated with the ocean, these we will come onto later. Of course, the other major controversy was of course the cell-shaded nature of the graphics. Well, let me tell you this, there has never been a game that has the feel that the graphics used in the Wind Waker gives it. If the idea of playing a living, breathing cartoon appeals to you then Miyamoto has succeeded; if the notion of playing a true sequel to A Link To The Past floats your boat then Miyamoto has succeeded; if the thought of playing one of the most empathic video games ever tickles your fancy even the slightest then Miyamoto has succeeded. Although to say succeeded is like saying World War Two was a bit of a scuffle, or that
Or more accurately, I see Ocarina of Time game play. It seems that Nintendo have taken the hugely popular and wholly brilliant mechanics of The Ocarina Of Time and updated it for this new game. There is the superb camera and great battle engine still present, admittedly with a few tweaks. You can jump, parry, shield and summersault like you always could, but now there is the added bonus that if you wait for the A button on screen to flash you can launch a devastating counter attack. Added to this, you can also discover the fabled spin attack later in the game. The longer you hold down A to charge the more ferocious this attack is, and if you leave it to finish of it's own accord, after Link has stopped spinning like a dervish, he is left with his head reeling. Another throwback to previous Zelda games is the music: little else should really be added than it is full Zelda Magic, reworked for the Wind Waker.
Early on in the game you discover your old chum from Majora's Mask, that old human parading as a fairy, yes it's Tingle. After helping tingle get out of a tight spot, he gives you a GBA to use in the game, this 'Tingle Scope'TM can be used for all sorts of fun and hijinx. From laying bombs as tingle through your own GBA, and finding secrets only available from Tingle, to yes, you guessed it, annoying your mates. I don't think Nintendo thought that most players with a GBA link up situation, would have their friends around to annoy them, by having tingle chase them around with bombs. Leaving the hero of Hyrule a smoldering mess. But hey, it's all in good fun!
With the good, inevitably comes the bad. Maybe because Zelda games should be excellent we are being too harsh. Maybe because the game looks and sounds brilliant then we look harder for faults, but non-the-less we feel our gripes are valid and justified.
For a start, although as previously mentioned the 'cell-shaded' graphics are out of this world, there are instances of clipping and poor collision detection, where Link's legs, for example, just pass through a wall. Not a major criticism we have to admit, but all the more noticeable because of the polish on the rest of the game.
On top of this come the two biggest disappointments of the game; it's too easy, and the ocean is just a tool to lengthen the game. Being too easy speaks for itself but, suffice to say, this is more of a Majora's Mask in terms of difficulty as opposed to an Ocarina Of Time. The ocean on the other hand is a real disappointment. It's all well and good sailing for ten minutes, but when you have sailed for over ten hours to finish the game, with very little to act as a distraction, it is rather tiresome. That isn't to say the game is bad but it could have been so much better!
The Legend Of Zelda: The Ocarina Of Time with some extra bells and whistles. As Nintendo have learnt, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'
Come on, this is the most graphically accomplished game ever. A gaming world has never been more real or interactive than this.
If only for the classic Zelda tunes, this game deserves a 10. Now, to just stop us whistleing the damn things around the house.
A game that will last you for up to forty hours but with not enough actual gameplay to fill those forty hours, makes what could have been one of the best games ever fall slightly short. Also the dungeons are not long enough or difficult enough. A trait picked up from Majora's Mask, maybe?
While this game will undoubtably be labled a classic, we can't help but feel that there are some things that would have made it ten times better. A brilliant game, just not up to the standard of The Ocarina Of Time or A Link To The Past.