Nintendo may have missed releasing other notable franchises on various consoles over the years but there are two stalwarts that get a console release each and every time. The ubiquitous Nintendo mascot, Mario, and the Legend of Zelda always find their way into gamers homes during each console generation.
For the early 2000s era Gamecube, Link’s first adventure would be “The Wind Waker”, released in North America in 2003. This particular Zelda title was notable for its unique 3D cel shading cartoon effect, a dramatic change in aesthetic from the blocky, polygonal look that Nintendo utilized for the Zelda games released on the Nintendo 64. This same animation style was kept in place for the portable sequel to “The Wind Waker” released for the Nintendo DS, “The Phantom Hourglass”. In “The Wind Waker”, Link must save his sister, not Princess Zelda, from Gannon. In this adventure, the gameplay takes place on both land and water, around the islands and on a boat. Nintendo did a great job with the visuals for “The Wind Waker” in spite of early criticism that the cartoonish style made Link and the Legend of Zelda franchise too child-like. However, the game is far from being child-like in terms of challenge and complexity. It still retains all the major aspects of a good Zelda game ensuring that someone familiar with the tropes of the franchise wouldn’t be lost. “The Legend of Zelda” games are primarily action-adventure style with heavy emphasis on puzzle solving and exploration with a touch of RPG elements included. “The Wind Waker” is no different in that regards.
The dungeons that the Zelda games are so known for are also still present in “The Wind Waker” but much of the game is spent sailing between islands and exploring the sea. As a result, there will be new items not found in previous Zelda titles, such as a grappling hook, used to retrieve items underwater. While on his talking boat, The King of Red Lions, Link must utilize the direction of the blowing winds to quickly and easily traverse the sea. Also, the titular “Wind Waker” is actually an item that Link procures early in the game, allowing him to control the wind and gain other powers through melodies. With “The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker”, Nintendo really succeeded in creating a new style of Zelda game, complete with a new look, new locations, new enemies, new gameplay mechanics, new items/weapons and improved 3D gameplay mechanics over “Ocarina of Time” and “Majora’s Mask”. “The Wind Waker”, despite initial reservations by fans, has remained one of the most beloved titles in this long running franchise and is arguably the best game for the Gamecube.
Currently in my collection: game, manual, case
Additionally in my collection, I have a copy of “The Legend of Zelda Collector’s Edition” which included both NES Zelda games and both N64 Zelda games as well as a playable demo for “The Wind Waker”. It’s a nice addition to the collection, often bundled with the Gamecube or obtained through Nintendo Power subscriptions as well as other means. It was never officially released independently, however. The game contains updated versions with corrected Japanese to English translations, especially notable in the NES Zelda titles. Get it if you can!