|Probably the best game. Probably.|
You put it on a boat.
I have no(which means some) shame in saying that I am a child of the Gamecube era. To me, that's when gaming pretty much got to the point where interacting with a 3D environment seemed to hit the right amount of immersion and developers began playing with art style. That's probably why the Wind Waker was one of my favorite games- because instead of going for a route that seemed obvious, Nintendo went the complete different direction and still proved they could kick ass.
Wind Waker may or may not take place a hundred years after Ocarina of Time (the "adult" ending... yeah, it's weird), when Hyrule has been flooded and remains instead as a series of islands with new species and treasures abound. The playing field is completely different this time around- instead of a large, 3D Hyrule we had a MASSIVE Ocean to explore. Not only that, but islands provided us our "solid ground" they gave us destinations to reach, to map, and to uncover. The story was jam-packed with moments that tied it to Ocarina of Time and wove the story together- it was a bleak future for Hyrule, as we soon discovered.
The Wind Waker pretty much took Zelda to a new level that allowed us to look at the franchise and see more than just the stagnant land of Hyrule- we saw how Zelda's traditional mechanics could be applied to other locales and how the story could truly live on and be more interconnected. It was also a demo for what could be done with an art style- as graphics became more streamlined, we wanted to see things more realistic. Nintendo saw the other side of that- with clearer graphics, crisp, cartoony images could be portrayed with much more effectiveness- and thus, the art style was born.
It was controversial. However, playing more than fifteen minutes of the game shows that though Link and friends have a different art style, the gameplay is still intact- polished to perfection with parrying and dungeon-crawling abound. There's just so much to do in this world. Each piece of the great sea is potentially filled with possibility and discovery- you feel inclined to find new islands and figure out what's going on there. The dungeons are crisp and clear- it's almost easier to complete them, considering how everything is built- so that it's recognizable and and easily identified. Even so, the use of new and old items throughout the dungeons are inspired and fun.
There's really not much else to say about this installment. I'm a huge fan of Wind Waker, personally. The story, the characters (strong female characters for the win!), the visuals- the scope of the game is encompassing and remarkable. Its flaws have been pointed out time and time again, and I have no need to repeat them- I wish the Song of Wind was easier to get through so I could just GET GOING already- wait, no. I said I wouldn't. Something to note about the Song of Wind is that it really was an easily mastered device- switching the direction to one of the diagonal directions (Southeast, Northwest, etc etc) allowed you to really travel in both directions- albeit at a slower pace the more you lean out of the actual direction. Still, I never found the method of travel annoying, just the preparation. Besides, you get a instant-shortcut before you're even halfway through the story.
It's really just a fantastically cinematic game. The cartoon visuals give stark contrast to areas- everything doesn't feel dark in nature, like Twilight Princess. It's clean and polished and massive, and it's one of those games that still looks good today BECAUSE of it's art style. Nintendo realized its limitations and overcame them, churning out a classic that stands tall because of its individuality, yet is still clearly a Zelda game. It stands very high on my list, but again... that's partly because I'm a Game Cuber...
What are your thoughts on the Wind Waker? A brilliant adventure that sails over the others? Or the least-fun title? Comment, if you'd like!