It's that time of year again, folks. The days are short and cold, the nights are long and even colder, and one of the best places to be is in your nice warm house. Since you're there, you may as well break out the good ol' videogames and make those chilly winter evenings go by a little faster.
In honour of this, I'm going to be posting about one game each day in the run-up to Christmas, finishing on the magical day itself. Keep in mind that these aren't necessarily going to be games that feature Christmas (although some do). Rather, they're going to be a mix of winter warmers, personal nostalgic favourites, and games that echo some traditional Christmas pastimes. I'm sure other people will have their own winter favourites, but this is my unique list and I'm going to do my best to give a little history on each game and explain why they're featured here.
So, without further ado, onwards with day eight!
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
The first glimpse of a then next-gen Zelda came at Nintendo's Space World exhibition in August of 2000. The video that was shown featured the same graphical style as the Nintendo 64 titles, Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask. Exactly one year later, at Space World 2001, the wraps were taken off a very different looking game. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker featured extremely stylised cel-shaded visuals, looking more like a Disney movie than the more realistic style of the Space World 2000 video. Fan reaction was, to put it mildly, not entirely positive. "But Zelda's supposed to be for grown ups! Why does it look like a cartoon?!", cried fans. These complaints fell on deaf ears as Nintendo pressed on with it's new game, confident that fans would be won over when they actually got to play it.
Nintendo's confidence and fan's patience payed off, when Wind Waker was released in 2003 it was hailed as one of the greatest games ever made. Critics loved the feel of the game, which essentially resembled a refined Ocarina of Time. The structure too, was very familiar. Fight your way through a dungeon, acquire a fancy new item, use that item to defeat the big bad boss at the end of said dungeon. Classic Zelda. Combine this with a story involving an ancient evil rising from the depths and you had everything a Zelda fan could want.
What made the game really unique was its world. The traditional setting of Hyrule had been flooded, leaving only a few mountain tops jutting out of the newly formed sea. These acted as Islands in this strange new land, each one unique, housing dungeons, towns, merchants, mini-games, treasures and even the 'distinctive' Tingle. Players sailed between these islands on an anthropomorphic boat known as the King of Red Lions. Some critics found that this became tedious and it was commonly noted as the weakest part of the game.
Nearly ten years on, The Wind Waker is still remembered fondly among a great number of gamers. Strangely enough, those graphics that so incensed at the time have aged like a fine wine. They still look absolutely incredible and I can't imagine a time when they won't.
Why It's Here:
You remember that favourite Disney film of yours that's always on around Christmas? Everyone's got one, and Wind Waker is the gamer's equivalent. It's vibrant world, filled with colourful characters, absolutely screams animated classic. The gorgeous graphics, with their timeless visual style, only reinforce this. Seriously, this game still looks absolutely incredible.
Although the game is charming, it also features a certain melancholy tone. Just like the greatest Disney classics, it is superficially beautiful and appeals to all ages, but if you go looking for it there's a huge amount of depth. The King of Hyrule is a genuinely tragic character who is haunted by the decision to flood his once great kingdom. Tetra the pirate must accept the fate of her bloodline and become Princess Zelda. And our hero, Link, is forced to leave his comfortable island home and become the hero he was destined to be. Although these characters are simple and the dialogue takes place completely within text boxes, their huge emotive eyes really made me connect with them. This is where the art style becomes more than just eye candy, it actually helped me to identify with the characters.
The Wind Waker is just one of those games that will warm your heart. The looks will drag you in, the amazingly solid and pure gameplay will hook you, and the utterly unique world will become a part of you. It is the perfect escapist game for those looking to wrap themselves up in a warm metaphorical gaming blanket. Watch out for the ending though, it may give you a serious case of the feels.