In the last week, I have been playing a lot of Wii U to give me a break from all the Fire Emblem I have been playing on my 3DS. Legend of Zelda: Windwaker has been one game which really has stuck in my mind since I bought it a couple of months ago and I finally have got my opportunity to play it. On first glance, this game DOES NOT look like any other Zelda game I have ever played with a very different more cartoon-y style. However, I was in for a treat.
THE GOOD! : First thing first, you are NOT in Hyrule! You are a young boy from Outset Island living with his grandmother and younger sister, along with other quirky people in your village. The new "Link" so as to speak has a very expressive face compared to his predecessors who were very one dimensional and reminiscent to other previous silent heroes like Red from Pokemon. In the second dungeon of the game aka Dragon Roost Cavern, in the cutscene before the dungeon mission begins, Link glances and looks out for weak links in the walls, and the expression alone shows what is going on inside his head.
If there is one thing Nintendo is the master at, it is teaching the player a skill rigorously such that the player actually masters it during the tutorial. One primary example is the rope swinging in Tetra's cabin, which is a skill required in the entire game ahead. The cabin boy ensures that you cross the entire length of the cabin before you can get the treasure he promised. However, even you fail, there isn't lava or flames below to consume you, it's just wood. You can click the buttons to get the platforms up again and restart the entire process. This is very good game design as it teaches the new incoming player a skill without being harsh and punishing the player with death for failure.
THE AWESOME!: The exploration in this game is insane! There's no boring overworld map for you to travel from one island to another. The player travels from one island to another with the use of the King of the Red Lions, which is a living and breathing boat. Using the wind direction, the player is guided indirectly to his next destination. However, this process is so much and never gets old and really shows off the glorious artwork and true beauty of this game.
What's a Zelda game with out extensive and detailed dungeons to make you feel lost? I am proud because I managed to beat this game without using a single walkthrough although I was tempted to on many occasions. Dragon Roost Island was honestly my favourite dungeon to beat alongside Forsaken Fortress. The maps had so many layers to it, along with a lot of tracking back after getting a certain item and mistakes were punished pretty heavily. In the end, however, that feeling of satisfaction of beating the boss is still the best feeling ever!
THE AWESOMEST! : Since the original release of the Windwaker for the Gamecube, critics and fans alike have been split on the art direction for this game. The more conservative Zelda fans were really incensed that the game went for more of a cartoony- look in order to pander to the younger players. The fans also believed that Nintendo was doing a disservice to the hardcore fans by changing the setting and art of what was already working with the Zelda franchise. However, over time they have come to appreciate the game and it has become a cult hit within certain branches of the Zelda community. The art is so detailed and just plain drop-dead gorgeous!
Last but by no means least, the music! MY GOD, this alone turned the opinion of many fans who disliked it on first sight. I spent over two hours on the Dragon Roost Island dungeon solely because of the music. The music was very much like the old Zelda with European music used as an influence much like the Gerudo Valley theme from Ocarina of Time(had a very mariachi feel to it). In fact this game's soundtrack is so legendary that there have been many covers dedicated to it. Just check out Smooth McGroove's acapella take on the Dragon Roost Island theme!
Overall, I would say this is one of my favourite Zelda games ever along with Ocrina of Time! However, I have never had the chance to play A Link to the Past, which by many is considered th best. Looks like I have the next game I'll be playing!