A Hero Takes Flight

While Link prepares for take-off, we discuss land, water and air in Zelda.

By Nintendojo Staff. Posted 11/17/2011 10:00 1 Comment     ShareThis

The Nuances of Naval Gameplay by Adam Sorice

We all have theories about what makes a brilliant game. Some people think it takes characters that grip your attention, others argue you need a gameplay or art style truly original but I don’t think you need any of those things. A brilliant game is one that offers you just as much pleasure when you’re progressing through the story as it does when you are actively avoiding it. The Great Sea in The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker is one of a select few titles I’ve ever come across that offered this pleasure to me, as I whiled away whole afternoons bobbing about on gentle currents in the middle of a vast ocean, exploring tiny islands and admiring the view of a candy coloured world of innocence and true exploration.

Link sailing in the King of Red Lions boat, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker
The freedom of the open ocean redefined the vastness of Hyrule. Plus it was quite pretty.

While I may be alone in my love affair with the open seas of sunken Hyrule (obviously, others lack my patience) there is no question that for the first time the environment of a Zelda game felt truly vast. While the dried out terrain of Twilight Princess made the kingdom of Hyrule seem largely inconsequential (a smattering of towns with very little in between that could be traversed far too easily) the far reaching emptiness of the Great Sea immersed Link in a shattered society that existed on far-flung mountain tops between high waters. Journeying from one island to the next could take a fair amount of time and while others may have been bored, the rolling clouds, marauding pirates and distant structures looming from afar made even the smallest, most banal experiences to be a true pleasure.

While it’s rather unlikely that the Zelda series will return to such a similar, low-tech ocean vista ever again, Wind Waker will always hold a special place in my heart. My passion for it may perhaps be best summarised by discussing another ill-fated GameCube game, Pokémon Colosseum, which omitted the independent travelling between towns usually found in Pokémon games and instead utilised a brief cut scene to bridge the gap. While slowly progressing through tall grass and encountering the unexpected may not be the main objective of the Pokémon franchise, it’s often the part that resonates most acutely with its fanbase and this is (partly) why Colosseum fell relatively flat. Just as in Wind Waker, perhaps it proves that it’s not the destination that matters to players as much as the journey.

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