Playing The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker for the First Time

A few weeks ago I was at a friend’s place to play the new Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U around launch day. While waiting for everyone else to show up, I opted to start playing The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD.

And it was gorgeous.

Last week I fell under the weather, and between bouts of rest and drinking plenty of fluids, I opted not to use Netflix to catch up on terrible movies my wife won’t watch with me and instead play a game, something I don’t do nearly enough on the Wii. I didn’t want to pull out Twilight Princess or Skyward Sword because both required motion controls and I didn’t feel I had the strength necessary.

So I got out my copy of Wind Waker, the non-HD Gamecube version, got out the Wavebird so I could play from the couch, and settled in.

I haven’t played it in years. I still had the save file with my then-girlfriend’s name on it, and my own save file which didn’t have much progress in comparison. I deleted both, and I started a fresh game.

Even in non-HD, it’s a beautiful game. I remember people hating the way it looked because they wanted something more realistic, but the emotions communicated on Link’s face when he fears he is disappointing his grandmother or when his sister is captured are evocative. When you are hiding in a barrel and avoiding the lumbering moblins in the Forsaken Fortress, it’s like playing out a cartoon. And I’m convinced that when the Deku Tree reveals the Koroks, it has to rank up there as the cutest introduction to an Ewok-like race since Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi.

The world feels like a place to explore, and as you sail around, you see islands in the distance that appear to seamlessly come into view as you approach. There are hints that despite the people not leaving their islands that they know each other, and I’m looking forward to returning to my home island to see if I can do some match-making.

There’s a lot of noise out of the recent E3 about a new “open-world Zelda game” for the Wii U, but Wind Waker seems pretty open to me already.

I was having fun, and it was like the game was being seen with fresh eyes.

And then, when I came upon a volcano island I don’t remember ever seeing before, it dawned on me: I haven’t actually played this game.

Remember my then-girlfriend’s save file? Yeah, she was the one who played it. I watched sometimes, and occasionally she would hand me the controller to help her get past some dexterity-based puzzles, but I somehow thought that I had experienced this game when I hadn’t.

So, Wind Waker is my current obsession. Aside from World Cup soccer, that is.

I want to document the game design elements I notice. For instance, I liked the way you get challenged by one of the children of Outset Island to jump across rocks, which helps teach you, the player, how to handle jumping in a safe way.

I’m looking forward to playing Wind Waker again, for the first time.