By Robert Ward . September 20, 2013 . 1:55pm
One of my favorite things about the Legend of Zelda franchise is the care with which the design team makes even the most insignificant of characters charming and the most inconspicuous of details meaningful. It’s no surprise, then, that in the middle of a hide-and-seek game with the Killer Bees, a group of pseudo-rebellious children (with golden hearts) who roam the streets of Windfall Island, my attention was instead stolen by Hylian text scattered about Ms. Marie’s classroom.
On the blackboard was a poem which, when translated from Hylian to Japanese and then Japanese to English, reads something like “Blue sky, boundless clouds.” A poster to the right of it says “Cleanliness. Correctness. Beauty,” perhaps hanged to encourage students to practice (or pursue) proper penmanship. Above this sign is a children’s drawing depicting a young girl petting one of Windfall Island’s indigenous pigs. Written atop the image is a gentle reminder to Ms. Marie’s students: “Be considerate.”
I’ll be the first to admit that I tend to spend too much time hunting for and making sense of these little details. After all, the Hylian text in Ms. Marie’s classroom isn’t something that’ll send diehard Zelda fans into a frenzy of theory-making, but I think that that experience represents a small part of what The Wind Waker does best, and that’s promoting an awesome sense of discovery.
The Wind Waker lets you make the most of your adventure. Each square on the map only has one island to explore. Each island has a wandering fish that’ll tell you more about that square, but also anything it’s overheard on its journey throughout the high seas. You can use this information to continue exploring the ocean, hunt someone down, or find new power ups and items that’ll help Link along his quest to save his sister Aryll.
You’ll come across treasure maps that reveal locations of hidden chests on the great sea—but they only show a sliver of the area where it’s located, so you’ll have to be well-traveled and well-acquainted with the seemingly endless sea to find most of them. You’ll be able to pull chests up from the seafloor as soon as you get the grappling hook item, and you’ll find that other items will grant you access to islands you couldn’t reach before. These quests will bring you to and fro, often naturally, so it never feels forced or cheap.
I feel as though the true potential for making your own adventure unique, though, lies in the Miiverse. I haven’t had a chance to access the Miiverse functionality yet, but experiencing the game alongside two different generations—those who love it and are picking it up again, and those who are experiencing it for the first time—is going to be great. I can’t wait for the community to open up and for submissions to start pouring in.
I’ve only made it about half way through the game, but I can already pick up on the ever-so-slight changes in presentation and music that completely transform its sense of presence. Generous bloom lighting makes you feel the heat of an isolated island in the midday sun, and the sudden change in weather marking the calm before a storm create a sense of apprehension its predecessor couldn’t quite match.
I’ll elaborate on that just a little bit more next time, but for now, it’s time to find some those blasted triumph-forks these fish keep telling me about…