Sometimes you just need something to cheer you up so that’s why I can’t wait to play The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD with my friend on Friday. I remember back in 2003 when I was 11 and in the final year of primary school. I’d been buying NGC magazine and following the development of the new Zelda religiously. I wasn’t a big internet user as this was the early 00′s and I was very young so I had to rely on magazines for all of my gaming news. Initially I was taken aback by the vast aesthetic changes Nintendo had brought to the series but eventually I was won over by the expressiveness and charm that these changes brought with them.
I began seeing adverts on TV and reading reviews and I wanted the game more than anything. The Zelda series had a major impact on me in my childhood and I wasn’t about to miss out on the next big instalment. In short, I was obsessed. The problem I realised was that the game launched in Europe in May. My birthday fell in December close to Christmas so I had no way of obtaining it and any pocket money I did receive came nowhere near to the games £40 price tag. I often saved but I’d recently blown my cash on something useless. Probably Beyblade, gaming magazines or whatever trading cards the kids were obsessing over at the time. I knew that The Wind Waker wouldn’t be mine for a very long time so like the spoiled consumer 90′s born child I was, I got really down about it. I just wanted to journey across the ocean and go on an adventure with Link again. It’d been a while since I’d played Majora’s Mask and set foot in the harrowing world of Termina and time seems to pass slower when you’re that young. It seemed like a lifetime since I’d been to Hyrule. In fact, I hadn’t been there since Ocarina of Time in the 90′s. These games were my Narnia. I needed to return as soon as possible.
One Saturday I set off to football practice, even stopping at Woolworths (yeah, we’re talking that long ago) and picked up the gold Gamecube game case adorned with a beautiful image of Link sailing The King of Red Lions, the sea breeze blowing back his hat. I read the back of the case and realised there was a bonus disc featuring Ocarina of Time and the much harder Master Quest version and then I knew I had to own the game even more. Ocarina was one of the games that got me into the series and playing a harder re-imagining on Gamecube that came free with The Wind Waker blew my mind. Two Zelda games for the price of one.
I got to football practise and mundanely dealt with the concept of exercise with one thing on my mind. Playing Wind Waker. I thought maybe my cousin would have it and I’d get to play it at his house. I came home later that day only to find that my Mum had bought the game for me as a surprise and I’l always remember how mental I went. As a kid back then, I didn’t expect games being bought for me apart from birthdays or Christmas so it was a huge deal for me. She pulled the same trick when the Gamecube first came out. I was being bought a copy of Sonic Advance for doing well in school and she told me on the way home she couldn’t get it so I was really moody about it. I went upstairs to play my N64 an in the drawer was a Gamecube with Luigi’s Mansion. My skeleton nearly evacuated my body. I never did get round to getting that copy of Sonic Advance. I had bigger fish to fry.
After I’d calmed down, I popped in the Wind Waker disc and let the melodic title screen music wash over me. I was back in Link’s world after all this time. For the next few weeks I played it with my Mum all the time since she was just as big a Zelda fan as I was. That’s one of the reasons the game holds such a huge nostalgic charm for me since it reminds me of really good times with my family. I used to play it with my cousin a lot too since he was the main friend I had that shared the same taste in games I did. I remember him bringing over a huge game guide that also had a Skies of Arcadia Legends walkthrough in it and we spent days trying to find all the game’s secrets.
Everything about the game is jaw dropping and the original Gamecube Version stands the test of time in terms of gameplay and visuals. The cel shaded art style gives the environment the illusion of being a cartoon you can play and the openness of the Great Sea leaves you with a sense of empty seclusion as if you really are Link taking the helm of the King of Red Lions alone in the vast watery expanses. The overworld theme counteracts this feeling of isolation by giving you the motivation and drive to explore and find treasures hidden away on remote landmasses. That sense of exploration, of danger and the fact that anything could happen out to sea mirrors the barren frontier of Hyrule that was the game world of the original Legend of Zelda on NES.
The music is enough reason to play the game alone. The Hispanic vibes of Dragon Roost Island are perhaps the most memorable but who could forget the moving “Legendary Hero” from the games opening cinematic? I’d go as far as saying that Koji Kondo produced the best OST in the entire series for this game.
I’m eager to return to the Great Sea this week and while The Wind Waker isn’t my all time favourite Zelda game (that accolade going to Link’s Awakening on Game Boy) it’s certainly the one that puts me in the best mood and even got me through some tough times in my first year of university. I hope playing it on Friday will help me through some even tougher times right now. How can a game that bright, colourful and welcoming not put you in a good mood? I urge everybody who didn’t play this game back in the day to pick up a copy or even buy the new HD remake. It’s a classic piece of art that needs to be enjoyed by all. It’s just so damn cheerful.