The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

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The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Original North American box art. Later releases and releases in other regions feature different background patterns and gradients.
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Director(s) Eiji Aonuma
  • Mitsuhiro Takano
  • Hajime Takahashi
  • Eiji Aonuma[1]
Series The Legend of Zelda
Platform(s) GameCube
Release date(s)
  • JP December 13, 2002
  • NA March 24, 2003
  • EU May 2, 2003
  • AUS May 7, 2003
Genre(s) Action-adventure
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (Japanese: ゼルダの伝説 風のタクト Hepburn: Zeruda no Densetsu: Kaze no Takuto?), is an action-adventure game and the tenth installment in The Legend of Zelda series. Developed by Nintendo Entertainment Analysis & Development and published by Nintendo, it was released for the GameCube video game console in Japan on December 13, 2002; in North America on March 24, 2003; in Europe on May 2, 2003; and in Australia on May 7, 2003.

The game is set on a group of islands in a vast sea—a first for the series. The player controls Link, the central protagonist of the Zelda series. He struggles against the evil king, Ganondorf, for control of a sacred relic known as the Triforce. Link spends a large portion of the game sailing, traveling between islands, and traversing dungeons and temples to gain the power necessary to defeat Ganondorf. He also spends time trying to find his younger sister, Aryll.

The Wind Waker follows in the footsteps of Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask, retaining the basic gameplay and control system found in the two Nintendo 64 titles. A heavy emphasis is placed on controlling wind with a baton called the Wind Waker, which aids in sailing and floating in air.[2][3][4][5] Though controversial during development for its cel-shaded art style and younger incarnation of Link, The Wind Waker was met with critical acclaim. A direct sequel, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, was released for the Nintendo DS starting in June 2007; a high-definition remake, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, was released for the Wii U in 2013.


The Wind Waker's cel-shaded art style makes use of real-time lighting and effects like depth-of-field blur, making the game feel stylistically similar to a cartoon while also setting it apart from other games in this style.

The control scheme of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is largely unchanged from that of Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask. Link's basic actions of walking, running, attacking, defending, and automatic jumping at ledges are retained. Link also uses the control system introduced in Ocarina of Time that allows him to "lock-on" to an enemy or other target. An addition to this basic control scheme is the ability to parry. When Link is locked on to an opponent and not actively defending, certain attacks by the opponent will trigger a visual cue, a vibration of the controller, and a chime. Attacking at that point causes Link to dodge or parry then counter-attack from the rear or while leaping over the foe's head. This tactic becomes crucial for defeating armored enemies or bosses.

The new art style used in The Wind Waker gives Link eyes that are much larger and more expressive than in previous games. This allows Link to focus his gaze on approaching enemies or important items. For example, if Link needs to solve a puzzle by lighting a torch to set a distant object on fire, his eyes might turn to look at a nearby stick, giving a hint to an observant player on how to proceed.

As with all Zelda games, The Wind Waker features several dungeons—large, enclosed areas. Link battles enemies, collects items, and solves puzzles to progress through a dungeon, fighting a boss at the end. To complete a dungeon, Link primarily uses a sword, shield, and one other item found in the specific dungeon that is often used to slay the boss. Other weapons commonly used by Link include a bow and arrow, hookshot, skull hammer, a boomerang, bombs, and a grappling hook. Certain enemy weapons can be picked up and used, a feature new to the Zelda series.

The Wind Waker, like most Zelda games, includes many side-quests, such as the Nintendo Gallery. When Link is in the Forest Haven, he can use a Deku Leaf to glide to a cylindrical island with a hatch containing the sculptor Carlov and his gallery. Once Link obtains a color camera called the Deluxe Picto Box, he can take pictures of non-player characters and enemies, which Carlov uses to sculpt figurines. There are a total of 134 figurines to collect, but Link can only hold three pictures at a time.

After completing the game, the player can replay it with minor modifications: Link starts with the Deluxe Picto Box, making the Nintendo Gallery side-quest easier to complete; Aryll wears a maroon dress with skulls given to her by pirates; Link can understand the Hylian language; and Link wears his blue crawfish outfit, as in the beginning, throughout the game, instead of the traditional green tunic and cap.

Another side-quest present in The Wind Waker is the collection of Heart Pieces, which increase Link's total health when the player collects a certain amount of them. The Wind Waker also includes Treasure Charts, which are scattered throughout the Great Sea. The player can find these maps and recover them, then search for whatever is charted on the map. Treasures include Rupees, Pieces of Heart, and other various charts such as the "Big Octo Chart" and the "Island Hearts Chart".

If the game is connected to a Game Boy Advance using a link cable, a second player can use it as a "Tingle Tuner" in order to control Tingle.

Wind and travel[edit]

The Wind Waker is set on a sea consisting of 49 sections arranged on a seven by seven grid. Each section contains an island or small group of islands. Therefore, a significant portion of the game is spent sailing between islands, allowing the game to mask loading times by accessing data while the player is approaching an island.

To sail between areas quickly, Link uses the Wind Waker, a baton that manipulates wind direction with a series of pieces of music. The Wind Waker also lets Link teleport to certain sections of the map. Additionally, wind is often needed to solve puzzles. The Deku Leaf allows Link to use wind to spin turbines or to glide for short distances. By creating a tailwind, Link can glide farther distances to reach remote areas. An on-screen weather vane displays the current wind direction while the player is traveling by boat or it is displayed on the on-screen mini-map an any over world island.


Background and setting[edit]

The game takes place several centuries after Ocarina of Time,[6][7] in which Ganondorf is defeated by Link, the Hero of Time, and is subsequently sealed away by Zelda and the six sages. The game begins the New World timeline, or Adult Link timeline. The game is set on a vast ocean dotted with tiny islands known as the Great Sea. A legend, passed down among the islands, tells of an ancient kingdom that was attacked by a great evil called Ganon.[8] Ganon was eventually defeated and sealed away by a boy known as the "Hero of Time", who wielded the Blade of Evil's Bane. Some time after the boy left the kingdom—as following his victory, he travelled back in time to his childhood—Ganon reappeared and attacked once again, but neither the boy nor the Blade reappeared. The ultimate fate of the kingdom remains a mystery.

The story then shifts to a small island on the Great Sea, Outset Island, where lives a young boy named Link, with his sister Aryll, and their grandmother. The elders of Outset Island customarily dress their male youths in green like the Hero of Time when they reach a certain age.


While Link is celebrating his 12th birthday, a gigantic bird flies overhead and drops a girl into Forest Of Fairies, a wooded area of Outset Island. Link rescues the girl from Bokoblins in the woods, but as he returns Aryll is kidnapped by the bird. The rescued girl introduces herself as the pirate captain Tetra, who reluctantly agrees to help Link rescue his sister. With Tetra and her pirate crew's assistance, Link finds Aryll on an island called the Forsaken Fortress, along with two other kidnapped girls named Maggie and Milla from Windfall Island. Before he can rescue them, he is captured by the giant bird known as the Helmaroc King. The bird then takes him to the top of the tower where a man in black stands. With a single shake of the head from the man in black, the bird flings Link far out into the sea.

Link is rescued on Windfall Island the next morning by a talking boat that calls himself the King of Red Lions. The boat tells Link that the giant bird is controlled by Ganon, the same evil from the ancient legend. He also says that Link needs to find the three Pearls of the Goddesses, Farore's Pearl, Din's Pearl and Nayru's Pearl, to gain the power he needs to rescue Aryll. Farore's Pearl is found in the Forest Haven, an island with a giant talking tree known as the Great Deku Tree. Din's Pearl is found on Dragon Roost Island, given to him by the lava spirit Valoo. Nayru's Pearl is found on Link's hometown island, Outset Island, inside a cave on one side of the island, and within this cave, a water spirit, Jabun hands over the final pearl. Once Link has all three pearls, the King of Red Lions leads him to the Tower of the Gods, where Link faces several trials before being taken deep beneath the ocean's surface to a castle, suspended in time, where he finds the Master Sword, the legendary Blade of Evil's Bane.

Link returns to the Forsaken Fortress to rescue Aryll. He is soon joined by Tetra and pirates Gonzo and Senza who take Aryll, Maggie and Milla to safety while Link duels with the Helmaroc King. Link comes out victorious over the Helmaroc King, but Ganon easily overpowers Link. Tetra returns to help Link, but she is also overpowered. Ganon reveals that the Master Sword has lost its power to repel evil, and discovers that the necklace Tetra wears is a piece of the Triforce, being the Triforce of Wisdom, leading Ganon to conclude that Tetra is the previous owner of that sacred relic, Princess Zelda. Tetra denies it before she and Link are rescued by Prince Komali, lava spirit Valoo and Quill of the Rito tribe.

Link returns to the underwater castle with Tetra. There, the King of Red Lions reveals himself as Daphenes Nohanson Hyrule, the King of Hyrule, and that they are standing in Hyrule Castle, the seat of power in the ancient kingdom. The King explains that after Ganon had broken free of his seal, the gods ordered those chosen to take refuge on the mountaintops and subsequently flooded Hyrule, sealing it and Ganon under the Great Sea. The King confirms that Tetra is, indeed, Princess Zelda, the predestined protector of the Triforce of Wisdom.

Zelda is told to remain in the castle while Link and the King return to the surface to investigate why the Master Sword lost its power. They discover that two of the ancient sages that provided power for the Master Sword by prayer, being Fado, of the Kokiri tribe and Laruoto, of the Zora tribe, were killed by Ganon's forces. To restore the Master Sword's power, two new sages must be awakened. Link eventually finds the new sages among Medli, of the Rito and Makar, of the Koroks, and restores full power to the Master Sword. Soon after, the King of Hyrule learns that the Forsaken Fortress had been abandoned by Ganon, and begins to fear the worst. He then urges Link to seek out the eight pieces of the Triforce of Courage left behind by the ancient hero of legend, the Hero of Time.

Link accomplishes this task with Tingle's help, and returns to Hyrule to find that Ganon has found Zelda and kidnapped her. Link follows them to Ganon's Tower; there, Link kills Phantom Ganon and Puppet Ganon before the real Ganon overpowers Link and takes his piece of the Triforce, the Triforce of Courage. His own piece of the Triforce, the Triforce of Power, combines with Link's and Zelda's pieces to form the complete Triforce, which grants the power to govern all. Before the Triforce can grant Ganon's evil wish, the King of Hyrule appears, lays his hand on the Triforce and wishes for Ganon and the rest of Hyrule to be washed away, and for Link and Zelda to be returned to the surface. Enraged, Ganon duels Link and Zelda as water begins to downpour over Hyrule. The battle ends with Link stabbing Ganon in the forehead with the Master Sword, turning him to stone. Link and Zelda then return to the surface, while the King decides to stay in Hyrule. Zelda returns to her old form as Tetra, Prince Komali, Medli, Makar and the pirates find them and Link is reunited with his sister, Aryll.

In the post-scene credits, after returning to Outset Island, Link, Tetra and the pirates decide to sail away in search of a new land to call Hyrule.


A screenshot from the The Legend of Zelda 128 tech demo at Nintendo Space World in 2000

Nintendo announced on March 3, 1999, that a new video game system, under the project name "Dolphin", was under development. This system, the GameCube, was revealed on August 24, 2000, the day before Nintendo's Space World 2000 exposition.[9] Along with the specifications and designs for the console, Nintendo had several software demonstrations on hand to showcase the power of the GameCube, one of which was a realistically styled real-time duel between Ganondorf and Link. This demo was given the name The Legend of Zelda 128, similar to Super Mario 128. Despite being a hastily assembled technical demonstration, fans and the media speculated that the battle might be from a game under development or at least an indication of the direction the next Zelda game would take.[10] Staff at IGN referred to the demo as an "unofficial sequel", calling it "absolutely everything we could have hoped for in a Gamecube Zelda title" and stating that "the future looks very bright for Nintendo loyalists".[10]

In the meantime, the developers at Nintendo Entertainment Analysis & Development were wondering if a new Zelda would take the realistic graphic direction the games had entered with Ocarina of Time. One day, designer Yoshiki Haruhana came to the office with a cartoonish drawing of Link, which caught the eye of the team and led them to instead consider a stylized design with cel shading. Designer Satoru Takizawa said that the new art style opened new gameplay paths for the team, as the cartoonish animation could give "a new sense of combat", and by ditching the photorealism that "had the adverse effect of making information difficult to represent game-wise" the puzzles could be presented in a way players could understand easier.[11] Nintendo said nothing more about the possibility of a GameCube Zelda game until one year later at Space World 2001, where a completely new Zelda was shown. Replacing the dark, gritty demo of 2000 was a new cel-shaded look, which resembled an interactive cartoon. Shigeru Miyamoto said the new look was designed to "extend Zelda's reach to all ages".[12] The cel-shaded approach was a radical shift and IGN staff wondered if two separate games might be in concurrent development.[13]

While some at the event enjoyed the new look, there was a backlash from disappointed fans who had been expecting a realistic Zelda game. Many critics referred to the game as "Celda",[14] a portmanteau of "Zelda" and "Cel-shading". Miyamoto was surprised at the reaction to the footage and the media's claim that Nintendo was shifting its focus to a younger audience,[15] and he refused to reveal anything further until a playable demonstration became available. It was hoped that once critics played the game, they would focus on the gameplay, rather than simply reacting to the new graphic style. Miyamoto promised a playable version for E3 2002 and a release later that year.[16] When Nintendo did exhibit a playable demo at E3 2002 it picked up the 2002 Game Critics Awards for Best Console Game at E3. An editor at IGN said the cartoon look "works very nicely" and that "it feels very much like Zelda".[17] The whimsical style was compared to A Link to the Past and promotional artwork from previous Zelda games. E3 also introduced new features, such as the ability to connect to the Game Boy Advance and receive help from Tingle.[18] The script of the game was written by Mitsuhiro Takano and Hajime Takahashi,[19] based on a story idea by Aonuma.[1]

On October 15, 2002, the Japanese subtitle Kaze no Takuto (Wind Baton) was revealed, to emphasize the role of wind in the game.[20] Nintendo announced the official translation, The Wind Waker, on December 2, 2002,[21] and a North American release date of March 24, 2003, was set two days later.[22] During the end of the development of the Wind Waker, two planned dungeons were omitted, as they were not finished within the release schedule.[23]


The music in The Wind Waker was composed by Kenta Nagata, Hajime Wakai, Toru Minegishi, and Koji Kondo. The game's soundtrack, Zelda no Densetsu ~Kaze no Takuto~ Original Sound Tracks (ゼルダの伝説~風のタクト~オリジナル・サウンド・トラックス, Zeruda no Densetsu ~Kaze no Takuto~ Orijinaru Saundo Torakkusu), was released on March 19, 2003, and comes in a two disc set featuring one hundred and thirty-three tracks. The music has an Irish influence,[24] and some pieces feature uilleann pipes. Other pieces, such as the theme for Dragon Roost Island, which was composed by Nagata, is more influenced by Andean or Incan music, relying heavily on pan flute and guitar. Several pieces from The Wind Waker are featured in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.[25] The mandolin that can be heard in the intro story scene is a sample of Shigeru Miyamoto playing the instrument.[26]


On November 22, 2002, an update to the Japanese The Wind Waker website revealed that a bonus disc was being offered to customers who pre-ordered the game in Japan.[27] This bonus GameCube disc, given at the time of the pre-order, contained an emulated version of Ocarina of Time and Ura Zelda, an expansion for Ocarina of Time with modified dungeons and other small changes that hadn't been released previously due to the failure of the 64DD peripheral. On December 4, 2002, this offer was extended to North American consumers, with Ura Zelda translated to Ocarina of Time Master Quest.[28] Some retailers distributed the bonus discs and mistakenly allowed a consumer to thereafter cancel his or her pre-order without returning the disc. As a result, the European version of the bonus disc was included with The Wind Waker in a two-disc case.[29]

On November 17, 2003, Nintendo released a new GameCube bundle that included The Legend of Zelda: Collector's Edition, a compilation disc comprising emulated versions of the original The Legend of Zelda, The Adventure of Link, Ocarina of Time, and Majora's Mask, as well as a twenty-minute playable demo of The Wind Waker and two short featurettes. The disc was also given to consumers who registered a GameCube and two games on Nintendo's website or subscribed or renewed a subscription to Nintendo Power.[30]

For a limited time, Walmart customers could buy a GameCube bundle including The Wind Waker, the Ocarina of Time bonus disc, and a Nintendo GameCube – Game Boy Advance link cable. In Australia, Collector's Edition was available with the purchase of two GameCube games or the console; Australians could also purchase a bundle with the console, The Wind Waker, and Collector's Edition for a limited time.

Wii U version[edit]

In a Nintendo Direct presentation released on January 23, 2013, a high definition re-release of The Wind Waker was announced for the Wii U, slated for release in October 2013. New features include Off-TV Play and Miiverse integration. The remastering came about as the development team experimented with art styles for the next main Zelda title, also in development for Wii U. HD remasterings of the later Zelda games in the series, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, were also tested during the planning stages, but the development team considered The Wind Waker's visuals to be the most improved.[31] The Nintendo Direct also stated that they would be "tuning" the gameplay, which—during E3 2013—was revealed to mean that a faster sailing mode had been added to lessen travel time across the ocean in the later half of the game. IGN noted improved dynamic lighting and shading in the game's graphics engine.[32] In the Wii U version, the "Tingle Tuner" item (which used the Game Boy Advance as a peripheral to the GameCube) has been replaced with the "Tingle Bottle" (since the Game Boy Advance is incompatible with Wii U), which is used to send messages to the game's Miiverse community if players are in need of help.

Along with graphical updates, the HD version for Wii U offers various new features from the original GameCube version. The Wii U GamePad's touchscreen serves as an inventory, allowing players to freely assign items to certain buttons. The touchscreen can be used to control certain items, such as Link's Wind Baton, whilst some weapons, like the bow, can be aimed using the GamePad's gyroscope features. The game also supports Off-TV Play on the GamePad. With the new technology allowing for faster loading of the ocean, players can now unlock faster speeds for their ship. There are also tweaks to certain aspects of the original game that were considered tedious, such as cuts to the Wind Baton sequences.[33]


Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 94%[42]
Metacritic 96% (80 reviews)[41]
Review scores
Publication Score
AllGame 4.5/5 stars[34]
Famitsu 40 of 40[35][36]
Game Informer 10 of 10[37]
GameSpot 9.3 of 10[40]
IGN 9.6 of 10[38]
Nintendo Power 5/5 stars[39]
Publication Award
GameSpot Game of the Year, 2003[43]

The Wind Waker is the fourth of twenty-three games to receive a perfect score from Famitsu magazine, despite assertions that it lacks the sense of newness that accompanied Ocarina of Time, the first 3D Zelda game.[36] Reviewers favorably noted the gameplay similarities to Ocarina of Time and the best part of the game was the cel-shaded art style. GamePro called the game "a combination of vivid artistry and timeless gameplay";[44] IGN advised gamers to "forget that Wind Waker looks totally different from Ocarina of Time" since "these two games are very much alike".[38] The 2004 Game Developers Choice Awards and the Seventh Annual Interactive Achievement Awards gave The Wind Waker awards for Excellence in Visual Arts[45] and Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction,[46] respectively. In 2007, it was named fourth best GameCube game of all time in IGN's feature reflecting on the GameCube's lifespan.[47] Nintendo Power named The Wind Waker the 2nd best GameCube game of all time, losing only to Resident Evil 4.[48]

The game's most common criticism is the heavy emphasis on sailing. GameSpot noted that the game "starts out in a very brisk manner", but that in the last third of the game, the "focus on sailing (...) is pretty tedious".[40] IGN complained that viewing the animation of using the Wind Waker "hundreds of times" became "a tedious nuisance", and that the lack of an option to skip the animation "is more bothersome still".[38] GameSpot thought that some players would be "a little put off" by the "easy puzzles and boss battles"; IGN called the boss battles "slightly simplistic" and noted that enemies "inflict little damage onto Link". GamePro, on the other hand, felt that the dungeons tended to be "huger and more challenging with new twists", with treasure hunts that would "tax even the most accomplished Zelda gamer".[44]

Despite some negative comments, critics consistently gave The Wind Waker high reviews, with Nintendo Power calling the game the fourth best game to ever appear on a Nintendo console,[49] while Official Nintendo Magazine placed it 12th.[50] Nintendo Power listed its ending as one of the greatest in Nintendo history, due to the final battle's climax.[51] Further praise came from Game Informer, who awarded the game a perfect 10/10 while saying that it "blows every Zelda game out of the water and stands as the video game event of a lifetime."[52] UGO listed The Wind Waker on their list of the "Top 50 Games That Belong On the 3DS", stating "Sailing through the oceans of a submerged Hyrule in 3D shatters the word epic into pieces."[53]

However, sales wise, Nintendo stated that the game did not live up to expectations. Although Wind Waker boosted hardware sales of the GameCube during its first week in Japan,[54] and amounted to the most successful pre-order campaign in Nintendo history at the time,[55] Eiji Aonuma, the game's director, noted that by the time the game "had reached the million mark in sales, [it] had become sluggish in North America, where the market was much healthier than in Japan.[56] The game ultimately "did not fare as well in Japan."[57]

According to the last reported numbers provided by Nintendo, Wind Waker sold 3.07 million copies worldwide, far below the 7.6 million set by Ocarina of Time.[58] Aonuma would later comment in 2007 that he was "convinced the reason the Wind Waker did not perform well was because of its toon-shaded graphics style. It was something that you either loved or hated, and there was nothing that we could have done about it."[57] As a result of Wind Waker's poor sales, Aonuma decided that "the only thing we could do was to give the healthy North American market the Zelda that they wanted," which led to the creation of the more realistic The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.[56]


The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, a direct sequel with a similar art style, was released for the Nintendo DS in 2007. In it, Link sails the Great Sea with Tetra and the pirates, but is separated after an encounter with a ghost ship. Director Eiji Aonuma was inspired to create the sequel out of his desire to continue The Wind Waker's art style.[citation needed] A modified version of The Wind Waker's engine was used in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess,[59] released in 2006. Twilight Princess uses a realistic art style, but some cel-shaded elements remain.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl has a second playable Link character, called "Toon Link", based on the style of The Wind Waker, with all of the various weapons that the regular Link uses.[60] Other content based on The Wind Waker includes trophies,[61] stickers,[62] music,[25] and a partially cel-shaded pirate ship stage.[63] The character also appears in the latest installments in the series, Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U.[64]


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