GAMECUBE REVIEW: THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: WINDWAKER

The points positive for owning a GameCube just increased with the release of Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. This action adventure title takes advantage of the Cube's capabilities and is destined to do for it what Ocarina of Time did for the N64.

There are those among the gaming community that eschew the direction that Nintendo has chosen for the graphical presentation of this game. Sure, it looks like they're pandering to kids weaned on anime with the cartoonish design, but let me tell you, anime never looked so good. I was not a big fan of the new-Link look myself but once I experienced the entire Zelda world as presented in this game, I can only commend Nintendo for a job well done. This is one great looking game. Not only are the colors bright as you would expect in a cartoon but there is plenty of subtleties as well. Shading, particle effects, detailed environments and animated backgrounds are of consistent high quality and will soon make you forget about your grudge as you embark on your latest adventure.

The events of this game take place 100 years since the Ocarina of Time as a new "Link" is out to save his sister who has been kidnapped. He travels by foot on land and by boat on the sea. He can control the power and direction of the wind as he navigates his way over the vast liquid expanse in search of islands to explore. Link's daily activities haven't changed much since the last few games as he still has puzzles to solve, items to collects, dungeons to crawl through and enemies to combat. The map is huge and the game can take up to 40 hours if you want to discover all of its secrets. Aside from the actual collecting which can get a bit tedious, the game is extremely well balanced in that the gameplay is varied and elicits a feeling of great freedom as you don't feel forced into any particular missions or objective.

Aimed at a wider market, the Wind Waker will definitely appeal to younger gamers. The focus is on adventure and exploration and it's almost impossible to lose your life, though you will encounter many close calls. It's this style of gameplay that will addict most gamers as they don't have to restart at a particular level over and over to get it right. What the Wind Waker does is to let you explore areas and find puzzles that you may or may not be able to solve depending on your current abilities and weapons. This will cause you to have to locate items or powers in other areas should you choose to take the challenge at that time. It feels as though the whole world is open to you all at once.

Controlling Link never felt better. He moves around the 3D environment with ease as he jumps, runs, climbs, flies, shoots, stabs and throws bombs. Aside from his assortment of weapons which include a bow and arrow and his master sword, Link is now able to take his enemy's weapons and use them against them.

As good as the graphics are, the game would have benefited from more character dialogue. While the music is good and plays right on cue, it feels empty without some relevant commentary coming from the characters. There is a lot of interaction where it could have been implemented; even the occasional out-loud thought by Link on one of his boat journeys would have been a nice touch. The sound effects such as the clanking swords and various thumps, thuds and thunders are brilliant and are presented in Dolby Pro Logic II for a true surround sound experience.

The Wind Waker is an improvement of Ocarina of Time in many respects but some may find it too different in its presentation. Just let me tell you that if you cast your prejudice aside and check this title out you might really enjoy this game as you can ill afford to pass up any good Cube games at this point in history.

Preview by Vaughn

The cel-shaded look of the upcoming Legend of Zelda game has been the topic of heated discussion on forum boards, newsgroups, the playground, 7-11 parking lot and the watercooler. From the promise of a "more mature" gaming platform with updated mature characters from the lips of Miyamoto himself before the Cube launched, it's obvious that somewhere along the way, Nintendo decided to stay with the tried and true. In fact, the screenshots of the Cube version of LoZ that surfaced at SpaceWorld 2000, gave gamers and Nintendophiles hope, that indeed a more mature Link was in the works....and then Nintendo dropped the bomb last year.

Having finally seen and played the latest LoZ, I can tell you to put your fears aside. It plays almost identically to the N64 Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask and the cartoony look of the title is amazing, and believe me, I was one of those that didn't appreciate the new look at first.

The story is a little odd and at least for now, seems to be a departure from what we know of the Zelda Universe. The impetus for the adventure is the abduction of Link's little sister (???) by a gigantic bird. At this point there is no mention of Princess Zelda herself or Ganandorf. Even the world the games takes place in doesn't seem to be related to Hyrule. Of course, Nintendo only shows what they want to, and they know that anything that didn't fit the "norm" would be discussed all over the world. And that's exactly what's happening.

The game itselft will feel instantly comfortable with anyone who has played either N64 adventure. The various items and weapons are mapped to the Cube's face buttons for easy accessibility and the ever popular, ever functional Action button has returned to multitask it's way through another quest. As mentioned, the visual presentation of the game is incredible and quite honestly screenshots don't cut it. You have to see this game in fluid motion to appreciate the animation and quality. It truly is a 3D cartoon come to life.

Delayed until Feb 2003, which was the groan heard around the world, Zelda is a long time off. Expect more details to surface at this years Space World in Japan.

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System: GameCube
Dev: Nintendo
Pub: Nintendo
Release: March 2003
Players: 2
Review by Shelby
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
4.5
GRAPHICS
5.0
CONTROL
5.0
MUSIC/FX
3.5
VALUE
3.5