Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Replaying The Wind Waker

We're currently celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Zelda Franchise and one way to celebrate is replaying some of the Zelda games. In the last months I've replayed Spirit Tracks, A Link to the Past and Ancient Stone Tablets, as well as Twilight Princess and Link's Crossbow Training. Some of these games were definitely some odd choices, but I had my reasons. And I also had my reasons when I picked The Wind Waker for my next replay, probably not the best choice for a replay. At first I was thinking about replaying either Link's Awakening or Ocarina of Time Master Quest. However, both games are going to reappear on the Nintendo 3DS and I will play them on this system sooner or later. Then I thought about replaying The Hyrule Fantasy, but I just played that last fall. Majora's Mask would have been another nice candidate, but I already replayed it when it appeared on the Virtual Console in 2009 and I'm expecting a 3DS version of this game as well.

So, you see, The Wind Waker wasn't really my first choice, the game has a terrible replay value save for the 2nd Quest, where you complete your figurine collection and where you get nice extras. But after the 2nd Quest I was done with this game, I played the 2nd Quest in 2005 and I never played through the game again after that. I revisited the save file from time to time to catch some of the game's atmosphere, I also played the demo in the Collector's Edition just for fun, but replaying the full game was never an option for me.

The game is just so sloooooooow. And with that I don't just mean the sea travelling. Actually for some odd reason I always enjoyed the sea travelling itself, but all the other things in the game are made in a way, that they will always slow you down. And as someone who is used to play fast paced games like Unreal Tournament 3, The Wind Waker felt especially slow. It's not the overall gameplay, it's how a lot of things are handled. For example the Grappling Hook. Normally it would be just shoot and swing, Metroid Prime style, but it's not that simple. After you threw your Grappling Hook at a grappling post the game shows you a lengthy and dramatic cut scene of how the Grappling Hook gets attached to the grappling post. And most times after that the Grappling Hook is latched differently than you aimed at the post, which is inconvenient, because now you have to stop swinging in order to re-align. In other Zelda games you shoot your Hookshot and "boom" - you're on the other side of the gap. Well, The Wind Waker also has a nice Hookshot, but not until later in the game. And the Grappling Hook is just an example, everything in the game is just trying to slow you down in similar fashion. For example salvaging treasures. Those treasures are just a distraction from your previous goal to begin with. But in other Zelda games you open a treasure chest and you go on. Here you have to stop your boat at the right point, hope that you got the right spot, let your Grappling Hook sink, watch another cutscene how Link slowly opens the treasure chest and get ... 20 rupees, yay, those were definitely worth your time! Ironically the fights in this game are some of the fastest in the series, especially when you're surrounded by tons of enemies, that's usually fast action and tons of fun. But most of the other stuff is slow.

If I replay a game, I always go for the 100%, but The Wind Waker is one pain in the ass to get a 100% again. The biggest turn off are all the "sidequests" on the ocean. Travelling the oceans of The Wind Waker is never as simple as going from A to B, there are always many distractions on your way. "Well, let's look out for the Fishman first, so he can draw me a chart of the next island. Wait, there's a Platform out there, let's conquer this first before I visit the island... oh, wait, there's a Light Ring out there indicating a treasure. Oh, wait there's another one..." - this is how the game rolls for a looooong time. And while it's nice that there's so much stuff on the ocean, it's extremely boring stuff. None of this is exciting, the Platforms get boring fast and salvaging treasures is slow. Or there are these terrible dice shaped "Eyed Reef" islands, who thought that something like that would be fun? Most smaller islands look the same and don't offer much to do. Clearing the ocean of The Wind Waker is just a long series of repetitive stuff and a very tedious tasks. It just isn't fun. And it's hard to overview, especially the uncharted treasures. I wonder if there's a map which really covers the Great Sea in detail, showing the exact positions of all islands, the Platforms, Submarines, Big Octos, enemies, all Light Rings and so on? That would be handy. I'm always taking notes, where I conquered Platforms, found Blue ChuChus and so on, on a small minimap, but a large detailed map would be a huge help. (Update: Found some stuff on GameFAQs.) But overall it's boring, because it's completely lacking in variety. It's common knowledge, that Nintendo prematurely ended the development of the game and that some parts just couldn't be finished in time. But the ocean just feels like they took the few things, which they've made, and copy pasted them all over the place. Pirate Platforms, Submarines, similar shaped islands, sunken treasures, cyclons, all of this gets old fast.

However, the question remains, why I decided to replay this game, when it's so not fun to replay. Well, there was always something I wanted to try with this game. Namely getting a complete Minintendo Figurine collection during a 1st Quest. Usually you'll play through the game once, where miss at least some of the figurines, but then you'll play the 2nd Quest, where you start with the Deluxe Pictograph Box from the beginning and all your figurines from your 1st Quest save file. But I always claimed, that it's entirely possible to complete your collection during your first run and I wanted to prove this to myself by trying it myself. Well, the following shots and their resulting figurines are permanently missable:
  • Big Octo
  • Helmaroc King
  • Knuckle
  • Kogoli
  • Phantom Ganon
  • Puppet Ganon
  • Tetra
  • Wizzrobe King
  • Zephos & Cyclos
The Big Octos and Phantom Ganons appear multiple times during the game, so they are no big deal. Kogoli (one random Rito that just disappears later in the game) must be gotten before you play the Earth God's Lyrics to Medli. Knuckle (the Tingle Brother that only appears after a Tingle Tuner side quest) must be gotten before you get all other figurines. And during some of the bosses you'll have to save & quit during the fights to get them. However, this doesn't work for the Helmaroc King. If you snap him and try to quit, you'll start at the beginning of the fight, where the tower is flooding. This makes the Helmaroc King and Tetra the most critical shots. Remember that you don't have the camera at the beginning of the game, so your only chance to snap Tetra is at Hyrule Castle after fighting the Helmaroc King. So, you have to beat the Helmaroc King, go through all the cutscenes, take a shot of Tetra at Hyrule Castle, go through some more cutscenes and all without saving. Then you'll need to go to Forest Haven and if Carlov wants to be a bitch rejecting one of your Pictographs, you'll have to reset and start all over again at the beginning of the Helmaroc King fight, watch all the cutscenes again, etc. It makes the quitable cutscenes in Twilight Princess look like one of the greatest inventions for the Zelda franchise in the last years.

However, if you go through all that, you'll have a perfect first save file. If you now start a 2nd Quest from this save file, you'll start with a complete figurine collection from the beginning, so you'll never have to take any pictographs again. It's like in the Metroid Prime Trilogy, where you carry over your scans. If you get a complete log book there, you'll never have to worry about scanning anything ever again on your replays. But getting a complete Minintendo Figurine collection is a much longer task than the scanning in the Metroid Prime games, it's definitely one of the longest collectible quests in the Zelda series. It's all part of the "slow you down" thing that this game likes to do. You can't just snap something and that's it, like basically in Metroid Prime (or Pokémon Snap, dunno, never played that one). You can take three photos, bring them to Carlov, show him the first one, pray to Din that he doesn't reject it, then skip to the next day (fortunately you can skip through time, imagine this side quest in Twilight Princess, ugh) and then you'll get the figurine and you can show him the next photo. And this you'll to do for more than a hundred snapshots. It's quite a task. So, having an original save file with a finished collection like described above is definitely nice and adds to the replay value.

However, having this save file now doesn't do me anything good, since I probably will never replay the GameCube version again. I might be playing the game another time, when it gets a rerelease for Project Café or whatever and then I'll have to do this all over again. But collecting the figurines actually isn't so bad as I made it sound. Most characters are all cumulated in the same places, so the whole thing went down faster than expected. The only real problem are the missable figurines. And other sidequests in this game, like exploring the ocean, can be more boring.

Some stupid sidenotes... the spiral rock at Great Fish Isle totally reminded me of a similar rock next to the Snow Peak Mansion in Twilight Princess. Probably recycled, wouldn't be the only thing. Salvatore's Battleship minigame actually gives you THREE items, a piece of heart and two treasure charts. It's a nice minigame, so I don't complain, but the auction does the same. What's up with that? On the other hand there are lots of places, where'd you expect to get something of worth, but you only get rupees. Like the crazy grotto on Shark Island or the cruising minigame. What's up with that? That's quite some imbalanced item distribution. And why do I have to hit Orca like ten thousand times until he gives me the piece of heart? What's up with that? You would think, that I've proven that I know the drill after hundred blows.

But it's not all bad. Far from it. The game has a lot to go for it. The style is sweet, enemy design and behavior are great, the music is superb and the atmosphere is very atmospheric. While the smaller islands might be boring, the bigger ones are really well designed. Forsaken Fortress is simply one of the most impressive and atmospheric environments ever made in any Zelda game. Windfall is also my favorite town in the Zelda series next to Clocktown. I like how the houses are intertwined, walking alone through this port town is already fun. There's lots to do and the atmosphere again is great. I love how the windmill makes sounds at night, ahhh, good times.

Another nice thing worth mentioning are the spoils. Collecting spoils is fun, it makes fighting enemies really worth it. Sometimes I specifically go after certain enemies, because I want the spoils. And stealing the spoils from the enemies with the Grappling Hook is fun. Spoils are great and much, much better than the treasure system, which they had invented for the Nintendo DS Zelda games. Because spoils are not random, when I want a certain item I just fight the enemies, who has it. Combining the spoils with the treasure system from Spirit Tracks, where you can buy something like train cars from the spoils, would be great. No randomized bullshit, but fighting enemies!

So, that's it for my replay report of The Wind Waker. Thanks for reading.


Stefan said...

Iam replaying wind waker atm and i really love the game and i think it is better than twilight princess. TP was really uninspired. Wind waker is (besides Majoras Mask) the freshest take on the zelda series yet. They really tried something different. Also i think it has such an amazing and consistent artstyle which makes the game really timeless. And it is the most japanese zelda - and thats awesome.

TourianTourist said...

It's funny how two years later it seems like Nintendo pretty much tried to eliminate all my complaints from this post.

The Wind Waker HD has increased a lot in replay value thanks to its improvements.

Jeffrey Krieger said...

I played the wind waker hd, and honestly I still find the game very slow paced. my biggest complaint is the restricted dungeon linearity. while it is a major improvement, tingle is still a troll most cut scenes cannot be skipped, and the pacing is still a problem. the fast sail does make sailing much less tedious, but after searching for all the treasures, I still got bored in the end. the over world is so big while the hero mode exists, there is not much diversity in sequence breaking with the triforce shards. only the savage labyrinth really makes a difference because the seagull shard is just an obstacle where you must hit switches, 2 shards come from attacking a ship, one from the private oasis (which contains rats and a couple redeads, but severeal crawl spaces), the ghost ship involves the annoying floormaster maze and the ship was a let down (which is a shame because that was one thing I liked seeing in the game before entering it) due to a poe and summoning wizzrobe (who will bring out a redead of stalfos)and then you have the 2 battle arenas, but one of them has weaker enemies and I recall the other requires the hookshot. also many of these fetch quests cannot be done until after the revisit of the forsaken fortress. in comparison to albw oot, Zelda 1 or alttp, shifting between dungeons does bring that challenge. unfortunately, alttp is impossible to perform a 3 heart challenge, but many enemies could still wipe you out in a few hits as they are the strongest in the series ( ignoring hero mode and only rivaled by albw.