THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: THE WIND WAKER is the most highly anticipated game of all time, with pre-orders exceeding those of even GRAND THEFT AUTO. All around the country, retailers are selling dozens of copies of the game to eager gamers who once again want to journey to Hyrule.
Things are a bit different for this journey though. First and foremost, the scene has changed; the game now takes place on the high seas and Link has to sail from island to island in search of clues and items to help him save his kidnapped sister. It's a bit different that the normal "rescue Zelda" bit, so we'll take it.
Instead of an Ocarina that allows you to control time, Wind Waker provides you with a conductor's baton to control the wind. This allows you to get where you need to go, and has quite a lot to do with puzzles in the overworld. In addition, it also allows you to conduct songs that have different effects, much as in THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: OCARINA OF TIME.
The gameplay doesn't vary much from the two N64 installments. The controls remain largely the same, although they've been remapped a bit to suit the GameCube controller. Fights work the same, and now Link has a counter move, as well as the ability to shimmy along a narrow surface up against a wall. Other than that, veterans of OCARINA will feel right at home.
The biggest flaw is that WIND WAKER is fairly short. There's a lot of life in the overworld, and the quests you can do there, treasure hunts and the like. But there are fewer dungeons than in OCARINA and the main story doesn't last quite as long. It's also not as difficult. I breezed through it in comparison to the N64's hallowed Zelda title.
There's quite a bit of value in the title. Tons of subquests, and a second quest after you complete it, but the main run-through is just not as satisfactory as OCARINA's was. It holds WIND WAKER back a bit.
Nintendo took a big risk by going to the cel-shaded look. But I think it has paid off marvelously. In gameplay, the game looks like a gorgeous cartoon. The enemies in particular are superbly crafted. The animation is absolutely stellar, it's silky smooth and really looks fantastic. The only problems are some clipping issues. The other flaw lies in the close-ups on the characters. They look blocky and just not very good at all. I wish Nintendo had replaced these with real cartoon animation; it would have looked A LOT better.
There's a lot of really great music in WIND WAKER. Fitting in with the high-seas theme, some of the new songs have had me humming them over the past week when I wasn't playing. The remix of the overworld theme during the intro is haunting. I thought the musical effort was at least a solid, if not better, than that of the last few games. WIND WAKER hits the high watermark for musical quality.
In short, THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: THE WIND WAKER, is the best game to hit the GameCube yet (amazing considering METROID PRIME hit just five months ago). It's the front-runner for Game of the Year, and a must-own.