The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (2002)

There is no game that can instill a sense of adventure and discovery better than The Wind Waker. While The Legend of Zelda games have a healthy mix of combat, exploration, and puzzle solving, The Wind Waker takes the exploration aspect to the extreme. Vast oceans cover the land of Hyrule and there is treasure and discoveries to be made in every corner and on every island that the world has to offer. Of course, The Wind Waker also has some great combat mechanics and intriguing puzzles tied in with the strong dungeon design. As somebody who can spend hours just exploring the crafted worlds in video games, The Wind Waker is probably my favorite installment of The Legend of Zelda series. I have played both the GameCube version and the Wii U HD remake of the game, and I can definitively say that the remake has made some excellent changes to the timeless title. Most of the changes made in the Wii U version were focused on reducing some repetitiveness as well as tedious tasks that were present in the original. Unfortunately there were still a couple of minor issues that still made it into the HD remake.

While I consider The Wind Waker to be one of my favorite games of all time, there are a couple of small problems that I have with the game. Even though the HD remake of the game speeds up some repetitive or tedious sections, there are still a few instances of the game moving a little too slowly. This is a not a big issue at all, but I do think that a couple of the mini-games or side-quests took a slightly too long with not enough payout. For example, training with Orca is just ten to fifteen minutes of using a repetitive pattern to get through the mini-game. Again, it is really not that big of an issue but they could have afforded to slim down these type of segments. Most of the side-quests in the game were actually extremely engaging and fun, only a select few were problematic. My only other issue with The Wind Waker the game was to easy outside of the final boss and the Savage Labyrinth. Enemies just did not seem to deal enough damage to ever be a realistic threat. While the combat was fun and engaging, it just was not punishing enough if I ever screwed up. So if you want a decent challenge I highly recommend you play on Hero Mode to alleviate this issue.

Although I do not think that the game was hard enough during combat, it was still tons of fun to fight all the different types of enemies. Controlling Link was smooth and using the different combos was simple to master and the use of different tactics was needed for every enemy. I enjoyed the intense sword fights with the Darknuts and trying to outmaneuver the hard-hitting Stalfos. There are plenty of unique and interesting enemies in The Wind Waker and adapting to different situations and enemies was great. There are also some interesting strategies that you can implement by making the enemy drop their weapon and picking it up for yourself. The boss fights were also fun, albeit easy. The dungeons that contained these enemies were also pretty well designed. There were plenty of interesting puzzles to be solved to match the quality of the combat. The Tower of the Gods and the Earth Temple in particular had some really intriguing puzzles. What really stood about the dungeons, and the game as a whole, were the atmospheres that were created.

Whether sailing across a vast ocean, exploring a cavernous mountain, or discovering the secrets of small islands speckled across the sea, The Wind Waker really feels like a true adventure. Every chunk of the ocean has something unique and worth exploring. Enemy strongholds, giant Octos, hidden treasure under the sea, or haunted ghost ship are just a few of the things that you may stumble across while sailing across the sea. I loved the treasure charts and how they made it feel like you really were treasure hunting. I was a little nervous to attempt a 100% on this game as the ocean is so ridiculously vast, but there are many tools at your disposal to find every item. Special treasure charts are there to detail where to find the Heart Pieces, Fairy Fountains, and all other important things scattered across the ocean.  Every island has a purpose and no piece of the world is uninteresting. I spent hours just sailing the high seas and visiting every island to see what it had in store. On top of the sense of adventure, it was extremely relaxing to just sit back and take in the beautiful world of The Wind Waker.

This installment of The Legend of Zelda is in my opinion the most aesthetically pleasing of the series. The cell-shading was masterfully done and the game is just extremely beautiful to look at. All of the characters had very expressive faces and you could easily tell what each character was thinking without the need for much dialogue. Being able to see places like Dragon Roost Mountain or The Tower of the Gods looming over the oceans from leagues away was a great to give a feel for how massive these places really were. I stopped every so often just to take in the scenery around me. It really was a pleasure just to look at the world.

I personally love The Wind Waker and I recommend it to anybody who loves adventure and exploration. I do think that you have to take this game a little slower than most other titles to really appreciate it. While there is plenty of classic The Legend of Zelda elements in The Wind Waker, its world and atmosphere are extremely unique. I do recommend the HD remake on the Wii U over the original version as it cuts down on some of the issues. If you just want to sit down and explore in video games, The Wind Waker is the perfect game for you.


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