Games of a Decade: The Wind Waker

As part of 10 Years of Games Asylum, the site’s fine writers are each choosing one game to represent the last decade. Jake is up first.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was responsible for an unreasonable amount of unrestrained emotion flowing from my brain, through my fingers and keyboard, and onto the web. It’s embarrassing, really.

Honestly, embarrassing. The following is from a column, which was intended to be about the dangers of public opinion shaping the development process. It turned out to be a sweary attack on anyone remotely criticising what was then just The Legend of Zelda for the GameCube.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

“The footage of Link, shown at last year’s Spaceworld in Japan, was met with criticism from Nintendo fans all over the planet. But what we say is this: what right do the public have to try to interfere with a creative process, about which they know the sum total of fuck all? That’s right – absolutely none. Miyamoto has a proven track record of quality games. Very few people would argue with that. But the people who claim to be the biggest fans of those games feel that they are in a position to question Miyamoto’s creative integrity, on the evidence of a few seconds of bad quality early footage.”
Pandering To Your Public, March 2002

Whoa, calm down! Look, I was young, okay? And an idiot, it would seem.

I first got my hands on the game a few months after its E3 debut, at a Nintendo event in the blisteringly hot downstairs room of a London bar.

“Try as we might, we cannot possibly convey the sheer joy with which The Legend Of Zelda has been imbued. […] Playing the game feels familiar, but astonishingly fresh and ‘next-gen’. We are happy to sing its praises, because on the evidence of this demo there is nothing to stop this game from becoming an instant classic.”
First Impressions: The Legend of Zelda, July 2002

Ludicrously high praise to bandy about at such an early stage, of course. But it’s easy to forget just how exciting it was to see a ‘serious’ game, which could quite reasonably have looked ‘serious’, adopt a refreshingly fun art style.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

I didn’t review the game, but I did take the opportunity to lob some superlatives around not long after release.

“There really are too many joys to detail, but one of the most significant is spending huge amounts of time making absolutely no progress in the game, just sailing around, exploring islands, solving puzzles and completing small tasks. […] But doing as you are told is no less enjoyable, as the story – almost as unashamedly self-indulgent as a Kevin Smith film – unfurls before your eyes.”
Most Played, June 2003

Almost a criticism there: it’s self-indulgent. But most of the best of Nintendo’s work is hugely self-indulgent, isn’t it? We love them for it.

Inevitably, the game was top of the pile when I was called to look back over the games of that year.

“There were two kinds of people in 2003: those who rightly enjoyed the sailing in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and those who didn’t. In a world where most games are ‘BANG! BANG!’, sailing the oceans of The Wind Waker was ‘aaah’.”
2003: The Good, The Bad and The Lovely, December 2003

I think that’s what my boundless enthusiasm for the game stemmed from: it was an alternative to the by-then rapidly accelerating war game bandwagon. Plus it was a very good game.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

I thought I should revisit The Wind Waker for the purposes of this article. In the hour and a bit I spent with the game, I found myself by turns underwhelmed and delighted.

In retrospect it probably wasn’t revolutionary, except perhaps in terms of opening up what can be done visually. But there was a lot of stuff to make me smile: the boy with a massive bogey dangling from his nose chasing Link around; the little noises and faces Link makes.

Part of me was tempted to keep playing, but I think sometimes these things are better left in the past, happy memories intact.

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