Yes, I know I’m jumping around like crazy instead of beating these games in order, but I play what is available. I’ll get to Majora’s Mask and the Oracle games soon, but Wind Waker HD just came out and I was excited to play it again. So here it is.
Wind Waker is an odd, contradictory game. More than most games in the series, it feels as though it were created with a specific vision. A vision somewhat different from the rest of the series. The original, A Link to the Past and Ocarina were all variations of the same on progressively more powerful hardware. Link’s Awakening and Majora’s Mask were very clearly side stories. Wind Waker has all the trappings of the main games: Zelda, Gannon and the fate of Hyrule in the balance, but the rest of the game is wildly different like the side games. It feels like a real evolution for the series. This feeling is helped by the divisive art style. This is the Zelda team changing the rules of what it means to be a Zelda game. At the same time, this game seems compromised on a fundamental level. There are spots where dungeons appear to be missing. The wide open seas feel lifeless and empty. It feels rushed, which is generally not the case with Nindendo’s “delay it until it is done” policy. Still, despite its occasional compromised bits, Wind Waker is far from mediocre.
Calling the graphics divisive is giving the brainless naysayers too much credit. The graphics are terrific. They are timeless, as the HD rerelease really showcases. Sure, there are some touch-ups and new lighting, but it still looks excellent even after ten years. The squat, expressive Link is the series’ most memorable. Likewise for the tough, sea-faring Zelda and somewhat tragic Gannondorf. Despite its somewhat empty sea, the world feels more real and lived in that most. This is largely due to the colorful, expressive graphics. Sometimes the characters in a Zelda game are just freakishly weird. Like Twilight Princess. This may be my favorite version of Hyrule.
Honestly, Wind Waker is my standard answer to what is my favorite Zelda game. I might actually like some others better, but I never felt like Wind Waker got the love it deserved. The response to Wind Waker HD has been overwhelmingly positive, though. It really warmed my heart. That is the reaction that the game deserves. It still feels fresh. A lot of that is because the reaction to this game caused Nintendo to overcorrect and hew too closely to the Ocarina model for the next games. Nintendo’s attempt to move the series beyond its initial trappings was rejected. On the negative side, it does suffer from a lack of dungeons. The first couple are a little basic, but the latter ones are really good. There just aren’t enough of them. There are two sets of two dungeons that really feel like they should be sets of three. Still, the last couple dungeons are really great. The HD version really sands down the original games rough edges. Speeding up the speed bump triforce hunt is greatly appreciated and the swift sail makes exploring a lot of fun instead of a somewhat tedious hassle.
Wind Waker hammers home that with one exception, the Zelda series is great all around. I love this game.