“The memory of a kingdom vanished, but its legend survived on the wind’s breath.”

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is my favorite Zelda game in the franchise and it so happens to be my favorite video game of all time. This ”Retro Review” is gonna be more like a joyful trip down memory lane for me.

First let me tell you the story of getting this dang game back in 2003. My friend’s girlfriend (now wife) was in labor with their first child the night before release. My friend didn’t have a car at the time so guess who, instead of going to Gamestop, takes their best friend to go see the birth of their kid? Me! Because I’m cool like that and take care of my pals. It delayed me playing the game by a whole day but worth it in the end to see my friend’s face light up when he got to meet his baby daughter. This has nothing to do with the review but some backstory behind my mental state of mind when picking the game up.

I pre-ordered the game and got the Zelda Collection on Gamecube just so I could play the small demo of Wind Waker on top of playing Ocarina of Time. So, you know, bonus? The opening scroll hooked me, the music was different, the telling of the story of Ocarina of Time hit different, just everything felt different from the jump. This was a tale being played and told at the same time. What happened to THAT kingdom? Where was The Hero of Time? Those answers were mind blowing back then.

This Link was different. He wasn’t chosen at the start of the story to save The Great Sea, he just wanted to save his sister Aryll from the giant-ass bird that took her to the Forsaken Fortress. Link set off on a journey to save her and along the way met some pirates, a talking boat aptly named “The King of Red Lions”, and a host of other guardian spirts like Valoo, Jabun, and Great Deku Tree. Upon my travels as Link, I got the normal Legend of Zelda weapons but this time some were useful in other ways: bombs could now be used with your ship to shoot out like a canon, the Grappling Hook was all new and allowed you to swing across gaps or drudge things up from the bottom of the Great Sea, and the Boomerang could now target up to 5 different things at once in a single throw. You now had a spoils bag for live bait and food, a delivery bag for taking items to trade with, a camera to snap photos of characters (to be made into statues), no longer were you playing an Ocarina – you were the conductor by using the Wind Waker to change the direction of the wind as well as the normal functions of changing the time of day!

This Link set out to save his sister and when he was about to, a familiar (to us) entity showed up to stop him – Ganondorf. The same one that was imprisoned at the end of Ocarina of Time, the same one who still held onto the Triforce of Power. Ganondorf waited 100 years for the time when he could return and this Link had no idea beyond a simple story told on an island far south in the Great Sea. Link just happened to put on the customary Green Tunic like the Hero of Time that day to celebrate the events of Ocarina of Time but little did he or we know that we would be right in the mix. Ganondorf dismissed Link like a child and tossed him to the far corners of The Great Sea and thus my adventure, his adventure to obtain 3 pearls to unlock a power that could beat Ganondorf, began. The King of Red Lions led Link to an empty spot in the middle of the sea but it didn’t stay empty for long. After placing the pearls onto statues (that just so happen to be likenesses of the goddess’s from Ocarina) they created a Triforce symbol in the empty spot and arose was my challenge – The Tower of the Gods – tall, menacing, and half flooded. Here is where my first dungeon really began. Climb the tower and ring the bell so I may signal the Gods that I was worthy of obtaining a weapon to defeat Ganondorf.

I beat Bongo Bongo 2.0. I rang the EFN-you-know-what out of that bell and a portal opened up. vAfter a vague explanation from The King of Red Lions I entered the portal and was taken to a kingdom – a sunken kingdom. One that looked very familiar to me but everything was grey and numb, no color at all. A complete contrast to above the waves. I entered a chamber in the castle and saw old friends!…well, at least painting of old friends. Sages that helped guide the Hero of Time. Then there it was, I couldn’t believe I was about to pull it from it’s pedestal. The sword of Evil’s bane. The Master Sword itself was my prize for proving my worth. Once I pulled the sword all EFN-hell broke loose! All the frozen and grey monsters came to life and it was a damn scramble to stay alive at that point. All said and done it was time to return to the surface to meet Ganondorf and save my sister.

But the Master Sword didn’t do a damn thing to Ganondorf!! You know how annoyed I was when I saw that cutscene play out? Come on!! Changing the wind 4,212 times, chasing down pirates, playing battleship (a mini game on Windfall Island) for 4 hours (by choice) and lifting a cursed Great Sea by getting all the pearls! What a rip off! I got tossed and was told the rest of the story of Hyrule and what happened. Seems Ganondorf is a murderer and killed the remaining Sages of the last two temples in Hyrule that were built (I assume) after Ocarina of Time – the temples of Earth and Wind. There I needed to awake NEW Sages to take the place of the ones that died. So we set off on another journey! I ended up meeting Tingle, A Great Fairy (who is a child by the way in this game), Cyclos (God of Wind) to now travel around to warp points, and I even got to meet a creepy school teacher that more-than-likely killed people and put the bodies in a dungeon.

Now let’s not forget that I just found out that Zelda was Tetra the whole time being hidden by the King of Hyrule who also was hiding as The King of Red Lions!! This family, man. Just all kinds of messed up since the Hero of Time went to Termina, I swear! Anyways – Medli and Makar were awakened as the Sages of Earth and Wind respectfully. But I couldn’t enter the portal to return to Hyrule and to Zelda until I had one more item. The mother-EFN Triforce of Courage! It had been broken in pieces when the Hero of Time left Hyrule. Now it’s up to me to find them. In the original game I went on a massively long hunt for Triforce maps and fragments of the Triforce and back in 2003 I didn’t mind it at all! With the HD remaster in 2013 that sequence/quest was shortened up quite a bit. Also sailing got faster with the Swift Sail in the remaster as well. Back to me being a badass. I reformed the Triforce of Courage and presented it to the Gods at the portal and you know what they did? They gave me the power of it! There it was on the back of my hand just like previous Link’s before me (and after) I was now the wielder of the Triforce of Courage.

This is where The Hero of Winds was born, not chosen, by the Gods or anyone else, really. This Link made his way to the top by the choices he made. Those choices made the Gods see that this Link wasn’t like other Link’s. No bloodlines here, just courage and the will do right by his family and save everyone. He got caught up in a story he never intended to be in. The Hero of Winds mowed down some of the biggest bosses to date and traveled farther and longer across Hyrule/Great Sea more than any other Link up to that point. He did so with determination and courage, so much so that the Gods had no other choice but to give him what he earned all by himself – The Triforce of Courage.

One final showdown. Ganon’s Tower. Puppet Ganon and his 3 forms of craziness, reaching the top of the tower and sealing away evil was all that I was thinking about. Here we are at the end of 30+ hours. The craziest cel-shaded battle ever. Ganondorf vs The Hero of Winds. Oh, and Zelda? Zelda wasn’t sitting this one out this time. She would help by shooting Light Arrows at Link’s badass looking Mirror Shield so he could deflect them at Ganondorf. The battle for the now fully completed Triforce (all 3 parts together) was in the middle of gusting winds, flooding, waterfalls and rain! With one of the cleanest looking spin counters ever, The Hero of Winds plunged the Master Sword into Ganondorfs head and turned him to stone. The King of Hyrule wished for Hyrule to be flooded anyways and for this Link and Zelda to find a new land to call Hyrule, to wash away the sins of the past. Start fresh and new. Ganondorf and the Hyrule King would stay at the bottom of the ocean to keep the past buried. That was some heavy heartbreaking stuff to see them go out like that, I ain’t gonna lie.

My time with Wind Waker was awesome and I wish I could relive it again and again. Come on Nintendo, release it on Switch please! Everything about the game I think was a big improvement over Ocarina of Time – from combat, to items, to mini games, story, and characters. I even prefer the boat to Epona. There’s something about being a treasure hunting pirate in training that is EFNcool to me. Sure, were there less dungeons, maybe less items? Yes. But I’m not letting any of that take away the time I had with both versions of the game. The art style was flawless and even proven to stand the test of time before the HD version showed up in 2013. This Link is my favorite Link because he earned it. Everything he did he earned his way to be recognized by the Gods and gifted the Triforce of Courage. My hope is that you try this game and fall in love with it the way I did in 2003 and again in 2013.

Forever knowing a flooded kingdom would raise again. Surviving on nothing but the wind’s breath.