Easily one of the most controversial Zelda releases to date, not many people expected much from the cartoonish aesthetic when they had originally been teased with the high detailed battle between Link and the oversized adversary. To everyone’s surprise though, it released with stellar reviews and is considered one of the best iterations to date.
For those who have played any Zelda game, the overlying story is pretty identical. However, the path to get there is what truly seperates it from old and new titles. Ganondorf, returned once again, sets out to find the elusive princess Zelda. And in doing so, finds it necessary to kidnap every young girl along the way. The small boy, Link, is called to action when his own younger sister becomes the very target of these evil plans. Equipped with nothing but a wooden shield and sword, he sets out on a journey that will span across miles and miles of ocean, changing his life forever.
The world of Hyrule is large, beautiful and bright. Rather than the usual high detailed fantastical style, Windwaker has a vibrant cel-shaded pallet. The water is beautiful as the waves slowly swell around your ship, and the villages shine charmingly against the rays of the sun. The townspeople are exuberant and usually express every step of the emotional ladder. Some may be excited to see you, while some are downright depressed. Others, however, are distraught and look towards you for guidance in the disappearance of their daughters as well. The enemies carry a darkness to them, but can even find a way to stand out against the gorgeous backdrop of the world. Although small, some of the best visuals I’ve seen are the particle effects from striking enemies, or the splash of water created when you jump into the ocean.
The world is large, and carries dozens of activities throughout. The main cities usually carry the same cacophony of crazy activities seen throughout the series. Auctions held at midnight against many of the townsfolk and simple gliding challenges can be found among the ocean. As much praise as I carry for this game, I do believe it has one of the worst mini-games; A randomly generate game of battleship. Fortunately, the rewards are always beneficial to the player. Pieces of heart are usually the number one reward, but you’ll always come across unique items, such as a faster sail, or the eventual ability to fast travel to certain points among the map. While not a game per se, sailing across the map searching for sunken treasure can become tedious fast, as it involves a multitude of steps to do so.
If the overlying world isn’t enough to take in, the dungeons are where Windwaker truly shines. Trading high complexity for fluid level design, many of the dungeons require a synergistic approach and understanding between you and your items. Notably, many of the rooms usually require the equipment that you found in that current dungeon in order to even proceed. Such as the bow and arrow, which is used to activate platforms or doors, by shooting switches. Apart from progression, it’s impressive to see the work and ideas that were placed into each of the bosses. Not only do the dungeons require your newly gained items, but defeating the bosses will depend upon a proficient understanding of each item as well.
Outside of the dungeons, many of your items will still be used for progression. The bombs could be used to destroy rocks blocking the way to dungeons or to fairies. The oversized leaf used for mini-games to fly long distances, and the boomerang to trigger multiple switches at the same time. You could also use the boomerang to knock enemies off balance, or even the hookshot to steal from them, which in turn helps you in the long run. The bow and arrow eventually becomes a no brainer as it seems to one hit kill most of the enemies. Sword combat feels great. Defending and dodging are easy to accomplish, although I did have some trouble countering. I believe this to be more of a collision issue than an actual problem on the players end though.
For those awaiting the arrival of Breath of The Wild, I ask that you play Windwaker if you haven’t already. Either before or after, I don’t think you’ll find another game as charming or beautiful as this one. The creativity is astounding, and the world flourishes under the bright, colorful palette it was given. Few goals may be tedious, but they all reward you every step of the way with the accomplished feeling that many games somehow forget today.
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