Just one week to go before the Nintendo Switch arrives and I get to enjoy the next instalment in the glorious The Legend of Zelda series. You can’t imagine the goosebumps I have just thinking about it and I’m counting the days until I can play with the Nintendo Switch.
I’ll be honest, I don’t know what makes me more excited, having the Switch on Launch Day or having a new Zelda to play. Probably the latter. As you know, I have a very close relationship with The Legend of Zelda.
But let’s get to down to what we’re all here for, my number 3 in the Top 5 favourite Legend of Zelda titles:
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
I still remember the announcement trailer and the outrage that followed. Fans felt betrayed, they had seen a photorealistic-ish Link and Ganondorf fighting it out with swords months before and so thought Nintendo had played a prank on them, whet their appetite for a realistic The Legend of Zelda and instead gave them a cartoon.
I didn’t care. I’ve never been one to put much stock in graphics, in letting the visuals drive my opinion of a game. But the cel shading also had an irresistible charm for me. I had seen Hyrule in the “best” graphics of its time with Ocarina of Time, and had already grown weary of the direction most games took, favouring the photorealistic, the grim and dark over the colourful.
On its release, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker would change people’s minds, in fact it would blow them away with its grandiose scope, beautifully expressive characters and their amazing personalities. Link wasn’t just a nameless hero, with tenuous ties to the plot, but someone deeply invested in it. It wasn’t a strange princess calling him in the middle of the night but his own sister Aryll, kidnapped by forces of evil, that spurs Link to take on the mantle of the hero and set out to vanquish the dark forces that took his family from him.
In fact, family is at the core of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, which I love. It’s about families making sacrifices for those they love to keep them safe. Even Ganondorf has as bit of this, as his wish to conquer Hyrule this time around stems from his jealousy of the peaceful winds that blew through the ancient Kingdom, in sharp contrast to those that blew in his homeland, bringing death with them. His ambition is born from his desire to have some of that wind, and I always felt, in the way the character behaves and speaks, that he hides a deep sadness that sent him on his mad quest.
Make no mistake, Ganondorf is a mad king, but in Wind Waker, you get a glimpse of the reason for that madness, for that obsession with Hyrule.
Speaking of Hyrule, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is also one of the darkest games in the series, despite the tremendously colourful visuals. In every Legend of Zelda title, when the wave of darkness threatens to wash over Hyrule, there is always a Princess and a Hero to stop it, to make sure everyone lives to see and fight another day.
But in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, that didn’t happen. The hero was off on another adventure, and so Hyrule had no defender when Ganondorf returned. Without any other choice, the King did what he had to, he wished upon the Triforce to flood the Kingdom, to seal it and Ganondorf beneath the waves. The citizens, the races of Hyrule, escaped to the mountains, but let’s be realistic: not everyone must have made it out. Imagine how many souls perished in the flood, how many died because the King’s wish, how much that weighs on his shoulders.
You can see it in his bearing and grim determination. He doesn’t just carry the will of his people, but also the guilt of so many deaths. The fact that Ganondorf still lives and is on the move, trying to make his way back into Hyrule must be terrible for him, all the sacrifices seemingly in vain. His only choice is to guide the next chosen to the blade of evil’s bane, The Master Sword.
But there’s a catch. The Master Sword resides in Hyrule and while it may be the sword to vanquish Ganondorf’s darkness, it’s also the seal to his powers. Still, the King guides Link to the blade and has him take it from its pedestal, knowing that in doing so, the great enemy of his people would be reinvigorated.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker’s story has many angles, different points of view and it explores some and hints at many more, and it does so without having to shove them down your throat.
But as much as I love the darkness and sobriety of the story, I also love the vibrant world it takes place in, the vast ocean that feels so alive, at times more so than any other Hyrule before it. From the seagulls flying alongside your ship and pirates stalking the waves to the people living in the many islands, the descendants of Hyrule’s old races and the ghosts of Sages past.
The world of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is a post-apocalyptic Hyrule but it bucks the trend of such stories by giving you the opposite of a barren wasteland, where only the darkest impulses of mankind thrive. Instead you have these amazing islands full of such beautiful people, each with their wants, dreams and fears but also with so much to teach and give.
It’s a beautiful world.
So, there you go, my number 3 pick, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.
Next week is the big day, so on Monday I’ll tell you about number 2 and on Thursday, one day before the big launch, you’ll know which title stands at the top!
And on Friday? I’ll be too busy playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild!