Metal Gear Link?

Link has to go see Zelda, as instructed by the Great Deku Tree. However, she is in a castle surrounded by guards. What can one boy with a green cap, annoying fairy and easily-burnable shield do? In times like this, Link must put his years of totally not honed sneaking skills to use to get past the elite guards of Hyrule Castle and one Mario-look-alike. Yes, see, the first time you try sneaking in, there’s a man blocking the avenue for a block puzzle you need to solve; he looks like Mario if Mario retired, Princess Peach left him, and he bought a farm. When you return to the entrance (or get thrown out by the guards; I found I had to do that to get the following scene to trigger), his daughter, Malon, is standing outside the entrance of the path to the castle. She gives Link an egg for some reason, then tells him to wake up her dad if he finds him. Some time later, the egg hatches into a chicken you can use to wake up her dad.

Anyway, the guards are pretty easy to sneak past. They just stand there, looking in one direction. There’s one point when you walk up a hill between two sets of guards. They would just need to look the corner of their eyes to notice you, but nope, you can walk right past them. I actually missed this the first time because it seemed incredible to me that the guards wouldn’t notice Link rushing past them.

Once you get inside the castle-proper, you must sneak past more sets of guards. You get a fixed camera angle for the next five areas and deal with varying patrols, but they’re never too hard. Though I must say, every time I play a game where I have to sneak past the guards, I wonder why I can’t rush past them or fight them. I could take them! Seriously, just give Link a cardboard box and he’s got this covered. That or a tranq gun.

After deftly maneuvering past the guards, Link enters the royal garden. There’s three things of note here. Two windows and one person. The window on the right reveals a gallery of Mario characters. The windows of the right reveals a flower pot: shoot at it with the fairy slingshot and someone tells you “don’t do that”, and throws a bomb at you. Technically, Link could die here if he was nearly out of health and that bomb hit him. Which would be as funny as it was sad. And, finally, Princess Zelda!

Princess Zelda takes one look at Link and instantly trusts him with the legend of creation, the royal song, her prophetic dream, and her plan to stop Ganondorf. She just assumes that because he’s wearing green clothes he must be of the Kokiri, and that he must have their sacred treasure, the green pendant. Well, she’s right, but still, what are the odds?

Anyway, Link agrees to help her (although there were several times when I could have said “no” to a bunch of her questions; I’m fairly sure I’d have to redo the entire conversation, so I didn’t bother) and gets entrusted with Zelda’s Autograph, which enables him to travel up through Death Mountain. Impa, a Sheikah whose Zelda’s guardian, accompanies him out.

By the way, Impa talks about how Kakariko Village is her home town (not to be confused with Link’s village, which is spelled extremely similarly). However, there are no other Sheikah there. It’s really weird. Would it have killed the designers to include a few other Sheikah in the game? Well, there’s one later, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

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Link Goes to Town

Hyrule Town is surprisingly big. It’s almost what you would expect in an RPG. There are many people to talk to, a lot of shops and at least one random house you can enter. The most frustrating place is the treasure chest game. You have to open up five sets of two treasure chests and get a silver key each time in order to earn a heart piece. You have a 1/32 chance of succeeding, and it costs you 10 rupees per try. You’re going to waste a lot of money here if you hope to get that heart piece. At the beginning. You can come back much later and cheat with an item called the “lens of truth”, which lets you see the contents of the treasure chests. Haha, shopkeep, little did you suspect that I would risk my life against skull-spiders, zombies and flying winged flaming skulls in order to defeat your little game.

If you visit the town at night, there are a lot of scotty dogs running around. Like ten of them. The first one that sees you will follow you around until you leave town. It’s just weird.

Solve It with Fire!

The Inside of the Great Deku Tree features spiders, webs, and lots of fire. If you’re like me, this seems like a problem. How is it that the Great Deku Tree hasn’t yet burned down? Perhaps it’s part of the evil now festering within him! Or maybe the Great Deku Tree has a thing for interior lighting. And mechanical switches apparently. Did the things infesting him put those there too? I’m not sure I understand their brand of evil. Interior decorating! Mwahaha! Eeeevil interior decorating! Quite.

I actually got stuck on the first puzzle. Myself, and two of my friends, all of us good at video games, puzzled over it for a while. It’s the one where you have to get through the webbing at the bottom of the first room. The first thing I tried was jumping down onto it. That was the answer, but I didn’t realize it at first because I didn’t hit it at exactly the right angle, so I thought it didn’t work. After trying various ways of setting the web on fire, all of which ended very unfortunately and involved cursing at these spiders that swing back and forth to block your way, I tried to just jump on it again; success! It just goes to show, if at first you don’t succeed, try try again. Huh, I was going to make that one humorous, but it really is true enough in its original phrasing. And to think, I usually avoid cliches like the plague.. (Do you see what I did there?).

The boss is Queen Gohma, a gigantic four-legged armored cyclopean parasite whom fights by clambering toward you, hoping you stay still and passive long enough for her to bump you for minimal damage. When you hit her eye with a slingshot and tear into it with your sword, she switches to “drop eggs from the ceiling mode”. This is countered by swiping the eggs before they hatch. Then she drops down and the process repeats. I might as well add here that most of the bosses in this game are easier than those of Wind Waker, if you can believe it.

With Queen Gohma dead, the Great Deku Tree can die. Wait, what? That’s right, the Great Deku Tree dies. After you save him. So, what, all of that was for nothing? I mean, he could have just as easily handed over the first gem, told me the story, and sent me on my way without me ever needing to enter. Ah, video game logic.

I suppose it’s better than the Ruby Cave in Lufia II. Lufia II has several dungeons which exist for no reason other than to make the game longer. They don’t carry the plot. Case in point, you pass through a town and find that the bridge is broken. And, hey, there’s some unrelated troubles in the Ruby Cave. The bridge will not be repaired until you go through the Ruby Cave. Still an overall awesome game though.

The Sword of Frustration

Ocarina of Time kicks off with a nightmare. A dark stormy night (to borrow a classic phrase); the drawbridge of the fortified town of Hyrule drops and a pair of figures riding a single horse ride out at full speed. They are pursued by a tall, grim man on a mighty steed.

Link awakens in his house, miming the classic RPG beginning of every adventure. In D&D, your adventures always begin in the inn. In video game RPGs, you’re always in bed, being awakened. Link’s close enough, thus perpetuating the infuriating question as to whether Zelda is an RPG series. No, it’s not, but that’s a discussion for another time.

He is greeted by Navi, his new spritae/fairy, whatever you want to call it. Presumably the Kokiri are fairy creatures too, and what’s what and why isn’t really the concern of an adventure game: we want to bash some skulls in and press some switches! But in order to do that, we first need to deal with some annoying brat blocking our path. He won’t let Link see the Great Deku Tree, even though it’s at the GDT’s personal request; not, at least, until Link has a sword and a shield, for, as we all know, the GDT is deserving only of death, its wrath feared such that at any moment, it might strike out with its mighty leafy branches and see all the Kokiri smote. Actually, it’s because the brat’s just being a self-appointed ass, and it would break tradition for a Zelda game to let you actually begin with your equipment.

In a bizarre twist of expectations, the sword is past the area which tells you how to use it. Let me explain: you get to an area called the testing grounds. And the testing grounds have signs explaining how to use your sword. Presumably, then, you have your sword before you venture into the depths of the testing grounds because, after all, if it’s going to teach you how to use your sword, you should have your sword with you. So, you leave and go to the Lost Woods, get lost, figure out how to navigate the entire place, and ultimately realize that it’s really not there and you’ve gone everywhere else. So you go back to the training grounds, go through the entirety of it, including the part where you crawl through a small hole and dodge a boulder, and you find the sword at the end. Seriously, it’s like giving somebody painting lessons without giving them a brush.

The shield makes sense, sorta. You have to buy it at a shop. This being an insular hamlet, wherein none may leave but to die, and none may enter save by the will of the GDT, one might expect everyone to be buddy-buddy, no shops be present, and someone willing to hand over a wooden shield. And if Zelda games were predicated on such logic, they’d lose so much of their charm.

So, 40 rupees and one training ground expedition later, it’s time to go meet the GDT. By the way, that brat: i tried to target him and backhand him with my sword, but the game wouldn’t let it happen. He’s seriously annoying (and most of the other villagers are kind of dull, so take your pick).

The Great Deku Tree tells me that a great evil has come upon the lands and is going to ruin everything. He tells me that it is my destiny to save the world. But first, he is hungry, and asks if I wouldn’t terribly mind if he ate me as a snack. Okay, actually he just wants me to go kill some evil creature which has taken root inside him, but it doesn’t change the fact I have to walk into the mouth of a gigantic tree.

And, yes, Navi is annoying. I think I’ll make that into its own post.

Pre-Play Impressions – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

When the N64 came out, Ocarina of Time was one of the must-have purchases. I had enjoyed “A Link to the Past” and “Link’s Awakening”, so it was a no-brainer to pre-order this one. I’ll never forget that limited edition cartridge in its gold case, nor the first time I played the game. The surprisingly dark and engaging story, cool puzzles, fun combat, and interesting places to explore. Plus, getting to see Ganondorf before he got all big and piggy. It’s still a wonder I never actually beat it.

I got quite far. As I recall, I only had a temple or two remaining to clear, but something made me put down the game. Of course, this was long before I began my blogs, so it might have been simple frustration, or a new RPG came out for the Playstation.

Well, it’s time to fix that. I’m on board to beat this game this time. I’ve got the GCN version of it, so the only question is which version I’m playing. After checking the poll results and getting the opinions of some other gamers who’ve played both, I’ve decided. I will be playing the normal version first. After I beat it, I might go onto the Master Quest version if the game still grips me enough to want the greater challenge.

Well then, onward, to Hyrule!

Conducting with Courage – The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker Review

I’m going to jump right into this one. This game has some great features: in fact, everything except the story and the plot. I am going to get those out of the way first.

The story and plot progression are definitely the weakest aspects of this game. Basically, it riffs on the ending to Ocarina of Time. The Hero of Time defeated an evil being (Ganondorf) and sealed him away. Fast-forward to today, where you play as a village youth whom gets caught up in an evil plot during his coming-of-age ceremony and has to save the world. However, this isn’t the classic Hyrule of most other games, with vast rolling hills and great mountains; rather, you begin on an island in a vast, unnamed ocean, and your adventures take you across the many other islands. Without giving away the plot, this change in direction is eventually explained in-game, albeit in an unsatisfactory manner. The resolution is also kind of hard to believe, and although it helps explain one of the series’ inconsistencies, it doesn’t seem like the writer put much effort into it.

The game also railroads you for the first few hours without bothering to explain the situation very well. The last few hours preceding the final dungeon are also an arbitrarily long, easy fetch quest that could have, should have, been cut from the game. It’s hard for me to believe I’m saying that, considering how short the game is, but I am.

Wind Waker really is that short. I have only played a couple Legend of Zelda games before, and my experience with action-adventure games is relatively limited, but I still managed to beat this game in under 20 hours, and that’s with doing some of the side-quests for heart pieces and such. I can’t imagine a hardcore player needing more than 25 hours to scour the entire game for all its secrets.

However, the length isn’t a problem. Like I said, they actually could have cut out a part toward the end of the game and made it even better. It didn’t feel like the game actually needed to be longer, although players might crave more of the action.

The combat system and puzzle-solving are what really keep you going. Link has a couple 4-hit combos to vary up how he approaches enemies, a jump attack, a spin attack (the classic, which can be done stand-alone, or as part of one of the two aforementioned combos), parry (to dodge a blow and slip in with one of his own, sometimes an essential strategy) targeting, blocking, side-steps, back flips. He can also bring his tools into battle, using a grappling hook to steal items from enemies, firing elemental projectiles from his bow, or using many of his other tools for a variety of esoteric tactics. The enemies come in varied sorts, from demon imps whom rush you en masse to bizarre bird-wizards that can teleport and throw fireballs, and from ghosts that are can possess you and remain insubstantial until struck by beams of light to anthropomorphic dogs in armor, carrying massive high-damage swords, whom must be defeated with fancy footwork and clever parries.

Most of the bosses are gargantuan, but beyond their size, they’re usually not that impressive. The hard part is figuring out their weaknesses (and even then, after the first time, it’s usually pretty easy to figure out). After that, they usually go down easily. Even in the mean time, they usually aren’t that threatening. The exception is the final boss, whom packs a whallop and requires some precise timing, good aim, and a bit of bravery to overcome.

The game’s dungeons are filled with puzzles, and the further you go, the more items you will need, drawing on what you got from the previous dungeons and what you find in the current one. Most of these puzzles aren’t very difficult, but there’s just enough that take a moment of thought that you cannot just breeze through them all. Rarely is a puzzle actually annoying or frustrating, nor were there any “gotcha” moments.

The game’s title, by the way, comes from it’s gimmick, a conductor’s wand called the Wind Waker. It’s a magical device that can control the direction of the winds and has a role to play in the game’s story. Of all the items in the game, it has the most different uses: changing the direction of the winds, the time of day, commanding other characters and so forth. It’s neat, although sometimes I wished I could just skip the input commands and select which effect I wanted to happen.

On that note, you can also expect to spend a lot of time on the ocean. The ocean is a vast place, divided into a 7×7 grid with one island on each. You don’t need to visit all the squares to beat the game, although you will miss out on a lot of the game’s extra treasures if you don’t. Traveling from one place to another can take a long time, but fortunately, you gain a new ability with the Wind Waker around the time this begins dragging on, which expedites your travel across the waters. That said, there will still be plenty to do, such as hunting for sunken treasure and fighting off the monsters that try to prevent you from getting to it. The monsters, by the way, are the one really frustrating thing about the ocean. You can’t just swing your sword at them; you have to fire bombs from a cannon, shoot them with arrows, or hit them with your boomerang. The first two options are somewhat inaccurate and the last is usually weak. As your boat is dependent on the winds, it can be somewhat difficult to steer, so you can expect enemies to bombard you (knocking you off your boat every time they hit) and thus drag out sea battles.

A lot gets made of this game’s graphics. Following on the heels of the realistic-looking Ocarina of Time and Major’s Mask, Wind Waker was originally slated to continue the same tradition. Part way through production, they switched over to a cel-shaded look, which, by definition, looks more cartoony. However, it’s not a flaw in design; it is an artistic decision. The game’s vibrant hues mesh well with its (usually) lighthearted atmosphere. Plus, the enemies look cool, especially the main villain. The exaggerated style really brings out some of the detail of certain characters, particularly the main character, whom is a silent protagonist, enabling him to express himself through a wide variety of facial expressions. If nothing else, it’s more interesting than most silent protagonists, whom usually either have everyone else do the talking for them, or express themselves in the rare choice between two text options and the occasional expression box or sweat drop.

The music is gorgeous and stands as one of my favorite soundtracks. The ocean tracks, the whirlpool noise, dungeon music, town theme; they all fit their areas so well, actually adding to the mood of the place, effectively instilling excitement, happiness, dread or wonder as appropriate.

A Very Long Link

Okay, time to talk about this game all the way through to the finish.

Windfall Island is the hub town in this game. It’s a relatively large island populated by an even two dozen people. There’s a potion shop, which you will never use because you put faeries in the bottles (or grandma’s broth), not potions.

Speaking of which, when you trap a faerie in a bottle, you see it pressing against the glass with a helpless expression on its face while Link smiles at the camera like he just got a new toy. You feel really bad for those faeries.

An auction house, which opens up later in the game, lets you bid on treasure maps, a heart piece, and other things. It’s kind of cool. You have only a minute to bid and you compete against eight other people. By pressing “A”, you build up your bidding meter, though you could let it slowly fill by itself, but the auction will drag out. However, you want to fill it quickly because any time somebody makes a bid, they push the price higher (and the time pauses, making the game drag out). When you bid, if you bid higher than everyone else (about 30 rupees per bid seems to do it), you daze everyone else for several seconds. They all get really impressed by your candor; the overhyped drama is the best part about the bidding, even more interesting than the item itself.

Also, while I’m thinking about it, there are no chickens in this game at all. A Zelda classic, you find chickens, attack them, and they summon their friends to tear you apart. Fond memories. Instead, there is this large black pig whom you can piss off. I don’t know how much damage his attacks do, exactly, because the one time I hit him enough to get him really riled up, he one-shotted me. You can also pick up the pig when you get power bracelets, then feed him bait to have him dig up things for you. It’s worth mentioning mostly just for the sight of Link picking up and carrying around this large black pig that could devour him in a single gulp.

So, there’s this bomb shop, too. Only the guy running it is a jerk and won’t sell his bombs for less than 10,000 rupees. There is no way you could have that many rupees – ever. The game maxes out at 5000, even after upgrading your wallet twice. Later on, after getting hassled by pirates whom out-and-out steal his bombs, he decides that maybe it’s a better idea to sell his bombs at a reasonable price.

A combination lighthouse/ferris wheel occupies the center of town. The first floor is occupied by a bored-looking thin-faced man operating a carnival game styled after Battleship. If you want to play the game, he grabs a wooden board with a cut-out large enough for his face; the board is painted up like a strong-jawed sea captain. Suddenly, he shifts personalities, becoming excited and getting into the role as he instructs you to destroy giant squids. If you destroy them all, he puts on a different board, which is styled after a woman surrounded by children. Win or lose, after he puts down the board, he immediately goes back to being bored. Odd fellow.

The lighthouse is inoperable when you get to it. Much later in the game, you can light it, which illuminates a hidden treasure chest. Only the treasure chest isn’t really there until the light hits it. You can see the treasure chest as a transparent shimmer. You can walk up to it, but you can’t open it. You can even walk through it, though that doesn’t make any sense. However, once the light hits it, the chest becomes solid. Magic!

A schoolteacher here owns her own private island and cabana. She is also obsessed with jewelry for some reason and wants you to bring her 20 joy pendants. They’re worthless items otherwise, which you can find in treasure chests and as drops or steals (go go grappling hook) from certain monsters. Beside her, at least two other people in the game want you to collect 20 of some object.

Did I mention Orca, the weapon master from Outset Island? Okay, you can fight this guy to earn feel-good ranks, rupees, and even a heart piece. You have to hit him 500 times before he hits you 3 times if you want that heart piece. You don’t know this the first time you fight him. He wants you to hit him 100 times. Then it’s 300. If you want (and I did this just to be sure I got that heart piece, not knowing the # requirement at the time), you can hit him 1,000 times to be declared “Master”. Nothing special. It just demonstrates you had the time to waste smacking him 1,000 times with your sword. And believe me, after the first 200, you really just want to stop. Hours of gameplay indeed, as one of my friends put it.

Then there’s the eskimo. He came from a faraway land to trade goods. In his possession is, of all things, the sail you need. And he gives it up to you without a fight. So, sail in hand, or on boat anyway, you can be railroaded to Dragon Roost Island to the east.

Dragon Roost Island is dominated by an active volcano. The dragon roosting at the top is in a frenzy for some reason the locals can’t understand. The locals, the Rito, are bird people, but those beaks look like they could be masks. Pretty silly ones too. Anyway, their civic duty is to deliver mail between the islands, what with them being a civilized race capable of continuous flight. However, they don’t get the ability to fly until they go through their Coming of Age ceremony, a ceremony which involves visiting the now-very-angry dragon. The prince has yet to undergo his ceremony, and guess whose job it is to fix that? You wouldn’t have to, but you need this orb he has. The boat says you need this orb, so you better do whatever the boat tells you. It’s seriously just like that too, as I recall. “You want to get your sister back? You want to beat the bad guy? Get these orbs and don’t ask any questions.”

Anyway, you climb to the top, fight some enemies, then find out that the dragon is angry because something keeps attacking its tail. Unfortunately, the dragon is apparently incapable of pulling its tail loose from the volcano. You’d think, it being a dragon, this would be simple, but it’s Wind Waker, so let’s run with it.

The interior of the volcano is the game’s first real dungeon. The key feature is the grappling hook (not to be confused with the hook shot, which you find in a later dungeon). By chucking it at any of the improbably convenient furnished horizontal poles you can find here and many other places, you can swing from one side of a pit to another, climb up onto the pole, or even change direction. You can also swing it into enemies for a guaranteed item-steal. This is really useful for getting those items that certain townsfolk desire.

The boss is an overgrown bug with a chitinous shell, scythe-claws and jutting mandibles framing a big cyclopean eye. It, and every other boss, is fought in a large circular chamber. This one has a lava pit in the middle, where the bug rests and several platforms you cannot reach except by grappling the dragon’s tail in the roof. To take down the bug, I had to grapple the tail, swing forward, let go and let the blockage in the top of the roof (which sealed the tail) slam down onto the bug. The bug then pushed the blockage back up. Three times later, the shell cracked. At that point, I just had to wait for it to slap down both its claws, get close to me with its eyeball, and slash that sucker to ribbons. Pretty easy strategy, but it took me a little bit to figure out, as grappling needs to be precise, and the first time I aimed at the tail, it didn’t register, meaning I thought it didn’t work. A kind of fun boss, although it sometimes takes him too long to get his eye into the right position.

Once the bug has been crushed, you get the orb and go along your merry way. The next railroad destination (“Now, use that technique you just got to make the wind go south; DO IT! DO IT I SAY!” Okay, he doesn’t say it like that) is the Forest Haven. This is the home of the Great Deku Tree, whom looks dumb. He’s a big tree with a jutting round chin, a face shaped like a squash, and a big ol’ wooden tooth jutting out of his lip. He wants to help you but, y’know, the Koroks (lil’ fat-bodied wood sprites with leaf-propellers in the top of their heads, wearing leaves with funny shapes for masks; they’re adorable) need to get their festival song ready. This is important. To him. Anyway, one of the Koroks has gone missing; but where could he be? Could he be in the Forbidden Woods? Why, yes, yes, he is.

To get to the Forbidden Woods, you need a new item: the Deku Leaf. It lets you blow gusts of wind and, more importantly, fly short distances. Catch a hurricane and you can go faster and higher.

You know, it’s kind of peculiar that none of the puzzles really stand out to me. Well, there are a few that are annoying, but that’s not the same as awesome. My favorite’s in the third dungeon, but we’re not there yet.

So, the boss here is a gigantic plant whom reminds me of the spider queen from Okami, but easier. Take out the nifty boomerang you find in this dungeon and swing it at the tendrils that keep the plant connected to the ceiling. Be sure to dodge the easily-avoided vines that attack en masse every few seconds. When the tendrils are down, rush in and tear apart the stalk in the middle. Really, if you die during this boss, something is wrong with your hand-eye coordination. Very wrong. He’s incredibly easy. Your pirze is a Korok with a violin. Sweet. Take him back to the Great Deku Tree and you get the pearl.

So, what do we do next? If your answer was, get railroaded, congratulations, you’re as bitter about it as me. You head to another land mass to find the great sea god, but he’s gone. You find out from one of the Rito whom lands there that the great sea god is holing himself up at your home, Outset Island, and has sealed his hiding place with a gigantic stone. You’d need a bomb to blow through. Unfortunately, he also told the pirates that know about you, so they’re off to find the sea god themselves. I’m not sure what they hope to accomplish by it, but you must stop them! I think. You know, they’re pirates, and they helped you out once, and… and they’re evil… not really, kinda-sorta maybe… sea god! We must save the sea god!

So, it’s back to Windfall Island to stop them from getting those bombs. Like I said earlier, they choose to steal the bombs. They originally plan to set out for Outset Island immediately, but Tetra spots Link observing them, so she decides to wait (I dunno, I guess she likes him, even though she tried screwing him over?). Link sneaks onto the pirate ship and steals the bombs. Well, not exactly steals. You have to do another test; swing between ropes quickly enough to get to the back of the room, this time without platforms. It’s a touch more challenging than the first one. I think it’s mostly the fact that you’re on a timer, but you don’t know how long you have.

Anyway, once you have the bombs, you go back to Outset Island, get sucked into a whirlpool and blow open a great stone door. for some reason, this destroys the whirlpool and you get to meet with the great fish god. A~nd… well, that is pretty much what he is. A gigantic fish. You can’t understand what he says because he speaks in some ancient language (also known to the Great Deku Tree). He gives you the pearl, then it’s on to the tower of the gods! Since you have the three orbs, you can do that. Granted, it’s the first somewhat logical thing that happens.

I actually forgot about this dungeon. You spend the first part of it in an area where the water levels rise and fall. It leads to one really annoying puzzle where you have to descend a ladder, affix the position of several blocks for best jumping (while the water level rises and falls, interrupting you), then climb back up, set a stick on fire, jump across without falling in the water, and light the torches on the other side. If you run out of sticks (usually by accidentally falling into the water), you have to leave, come back, and reset the blocks. It was easily the worst puzzle in the game.

At the top, you have to fight a giant statue using the bow and arrows you find in the dungeon. It is composed of a gigantic head and two hands. The objective is to shoot these nodes in the hands to make them fall, then shoot the statue’s eyes until it falls. Then you throw a bomb in its mouth to damage it. It doesn’t take long to defeat, and its attacks are pretty easy to avoid (gigantic hand slowly floats over to you… just keep moving, watch as it falls to the ground in futility, then shoot it).

For your reward, you get teleported outside, and your boat sinks beneath the waves to a mysterious (it’s Hyrule, you know it is) castle. Inside, everything is frozen in time, and gray. There is a tremendous statue of Link (older Link, as in from Ocarina of Time). You move some blocks around, forming the Tri-Force symbol, and the statue moves, revealing a secret passageway. In the hidden basement, you see stained glass windows fashioned after the sages from Ocarina of Time and… the Master Sword! Link draws it forth and time begins again. It doesn’t look very impressive by the way. Like any regular sword. Where’s the magic? (actually, they explain that a bit later)

Back in the castle, you have to kill a bunch of monsters whom were frozen in time before you can leave. You can try walking out the front door to explore Hyrule, but a barrier prevents you from getting far.

After that, it’s time to go rescue your sister.

Back to the Forbidden Fortress, you use a bomb to blow open the gate. Actually, I let the fortress’ defenses blow up the wall for me. A happy accident that.

As you might expect, some things have changed about the fortress. There are no more swinging ropes, so it’s harder to navigate. More enemies, plus some blockades. You also have to fight some weird phantom, but he goes down pretty quickly. You also get the Skull Hammer here, which is a gigantic hammer that can crush things.

Back at the top, you find Aryll and the other girls still held prisoner. Tetra shows up and tells you that she was distracting the bird. At that moment, the gigantic bird shows up again. Tetra gets the girls to safety and the bird goes after you. The tower you are in begins filling up with water, and what ensues is kind of cool. You have to run up a spiral staircase while the gigantic bird lashes out at you and moblins drop in to attack. The bird sometimes destroys part of the walkway with its beak, and if you aren’t moving at full speed, you are in for a nasty fall. I managed to avoid it the entire way up. Finally, the bird slams down in front of the stairs; smash its mask with your hammer and you get to keep going.

Then you have to actually fight the bird at the top of the tower. It’s pretty basic. Wait for it to fly in, stop and attack you, then smash its mask with your hammer. Once the mask has been destroyed, you can slash it up.

Then you can finally meet the big man himself, Ganondorf, master of the chin. Seriously, he has one of the widest chins I have ever seen. I was really expecting something more along the lines of Super Smash Bros. But maybe I’m being a bit harsh. He does look pretty cool; olive green skin, red beard, hulking, upright regal frame, wearing a black robe with golden trim and a cipher resembling a demonic pig. And the way he grins. He’s wickedly regal.

Link rushes forward, but is easily repelled. Ganondorf reveals that the Master Sword has lost much of its potency, so much so that it cannot hurt him. To make matters worse, removing it in the first place removed the seal that dampened his powers. To wit, Link is screwed. But then Tetra jumps in! She distracts Ganondorf and escapes with Link, upon the dragon from Dragon Roost. The dragon then blows a gout of flame into Ganondorf’s chamber, setting the entire place (and presumably him) on fire.

You reconvene at Hyrule to figure out what to do next. A voice summons Link and Tetra into the basement. There, they meet a huge man with regal bearing and matching attire. He announces that he is the true form of the King of Red Lions, and that he is also the King of Hyrule. Then he explains that he didn’t want to have to reveal this unless it was necessary. As for Hyrule, it was put under the ocean so Ganondorf couldn’t get to it (let’s pretend it makes sense to submerge an entire kingdom and preserve it in a ghostly stasis). Then he tells us that Tetra is *gasp* Princess Zelda! (You had to wonder, even though it doesn’t make the least bit of sense). Yes, because she is descended from Princess Zelda, she is Princess Zelda. The King then unites her necklace with a symbol he has, giving her the Triforce of Wisdom. Thereupon, her clothing changes into a pink dress and she’s wearing make-up.

So, confirmed powers of the Triforce of Wisdom
1) It can turn you into a princess
2) It can turn you into a guy (Sheik, Ocarina of Time)
Still no word on whether it can make you any wiser.

The King of Red Lions doesn’t explain why he is called the “King of Red Lions”, now or ever. He also tells Tetra that now she must remain in Hyrule, for her own safety, even though she spent perhaps years as a pirate, has proven her competency, and could probably handle her own in a fight.

Then he sends Link out to the Earth Temple and the Wind Temple to meet with the sages whom maintain the Master Sword’s power. Also, upon leaving, you learn you cannot return to Hyrule without completing the Triforce of Courage, even though that makes no sense. Why am I suddenly arbitrarily forced to put together a Triforce? Couldn’t they come up with a better reason? At least say “oh no, Ganondorf’s going to be ready now; you need the Triforce to be able to resist some magic he’s working up”. Arbitrarily denying me access to a place I’ve already frequented is just bad game design.

You need to tackle the Earth Temple first. To tackle either temple, though, you need the Power Bracelets and the Iron Boots. You get them in a Fire Cave and an Ice Cave. To get to the caves, you need to get the Fire and Ice Arrows. To get the Fire Arrows, you need to get to Mother Island. To get to Mother Island, you need to ride a cyclone. And to be able to ride a cyclone, you need to attack Cyclos, the god of the winds, and get him to teach you the cyclone spell. Sheesh.

So, Power Bracelets equipped, I enter the Earth Temple and learn that the sage has been slain. Her ghost tells me to find her successor, whom will be playing a harp. I find out that Medli, one of the Rito, has such a harp. I play a tune for her and she recalls that she is the sage. So, her and I tag-team the Earth Temple, which is filled with darkness and undead. There are a bunch of cool puzzles here based on light, where you have to reflect light off of the mirror shield you find here, and/or Medli’s harp. The light reveals hidden chests, destroys walls and empowers certain devices. The last puzzle, which involves about a half dozen mirrors, is the longest, most complicated, and fun. The only thing I didn’t like were the skeleton guards. Hulking skeletons with horse-like heads and bone clubs, they swing them around, becoming invulnerable during their attacks. They take a lot of hits to destroy, and once their bodies are gone, you must destroy the head, or it is all for naught. Fail, and you are right back to destroying the body. They’re painfully annoying.

There are these really interesting ghosts in the dungeon too. You hit them with a beam of light and they solidify. Then you have to hunt them down and slash them before they become insubstantial again. They can also possess you, which is a pain.

And the black ChuChus. These ChuChus are immune to normal damage. To hurt them, you have to hit them with a beam of light, which turns them to stone. Then throw them. Instant ChuChu death.

The boss is a gigantic ghost in a room pocked with beams of light and framed by several spiked pillars. The trick is to shoot the ghost with light reflected off your shield, thus making him substantial. Then pick him up and throw him into a pillar. This makes him explode into about a dozen smaller ghosts, which you have to hunt down and destroy. It’ll take several times, as they fuse back into the big ghost before you can destroy them all. Do it again, and they don’t respawn. Oddly, even if there is only one left, it can still turn back into the big ghost. It’s a fun but easy fight.

After you leave Medli to rot in the Earth Temple singing your praises, it’s time to go pick up the Korok you saved back at the Forbidden Woods and do the same to him. Onward, to the Wind Temple!

This is one really frustrating dungeon. There is this huge shaft which intersects the whole place. You’ll be flipping switches all over the dungeon, changing this area up twice, and finding the entire area seeming to get bigger. It’s kind of novel, and really shows off how you can use 3D to make a dungeon cooler (as you have to travel up and down the shaft on the wind currents), but it’s also annoying when you mess up and fall the whole way and have to get back up; it’s one of those things that feels cool, but is somehow frustrating at the same time. This dungeon also features a lot of these annoying Toucan Sam birds that toss fireballs. Oh, and grasping hands. Theses big black hands surrounded by a pink lining; they try to grab you , then drag you into some other zone in the dungeon. It’s like the entire dungeon just hates you. Granted, that’s how a dungeon should feel, but it borders on frustrating in this place. And yet I can’t really criticize it because it is a very well designed place.

And the boss is clever too, though I hate him so bad. It’s a gigantic sand worm, which looks like something from Tremors or, so I’m told, Dune. His deal is that he sits in the sand, creates a pool to suck you in, and clamps his jaws around you when you get close. You are supposed to hook shot his stalk, drag it forward, and slash it. However, he starts summoning mini-sand worms to keep you busy, and it’s very easy to accidentally target them instead of him. The only way to really fight back is to get as far away from the main sand worm as possible, hook shot his little friends, kill them, then go after him. After the first or second series of hits, he switches up tactics and flies through the air (without wings) before crashing down, trying to crush you. Pretty easy to dodge, but again, the little sand worms can get you.

Upon defeating him, you drop off your Korok friend and gain the Pimped Master Sword. It has little wings and a glowing gem. And can seal beings of immense evil.

And now it’s time to get the Triforce of Courage. This part was unnecessarily long. Let me summarize. First, you use a map you obtained earlier to go find the eight Triforce maps, hidden on eight different islands. That’s right. Maps. To shards of the Triforce of Courage. After you have all eight maps, you visit Tingle in his creepy totem pole tower (his family are busy turning a great wheel for unknown purpose), where he can translate each map for 398 rupees. Each map. 398 rupees each. So, if like me, you didn’t have your biggest wallet, then you are going to be about 2000 rupees short. So, you need to go get 2000 more rupees, which means you might as well get the bigger wallet that holds 5000 rupees, so you don’t have to keep leaving and returning to Tingle’s tower. So, once you’ve got all eight maps translated (and, by the way, you went through mini dungeons to get most of them), you can go fishing on the sea for the eight shards. Only then can you finally fuse the shards to have the Triforce of Courage.

So! After all that, you finally get back to Hyrule (“We must hurry!” says the King of Red Lions; really? hurry? if anything was going to happen by now, it has). There, you find that Tetra (I refuse to call her Zelda; it’s such a ridiculously blatantly unnecessary costume change) has been *gasp* kidnapped. By Ganondorf. He somehow got into Hyrule. So now you have to go to Ganon’s Tower to fight him.

It’s a very short dungeon. Refight all the bosses up to this point, except the bird and the god statue, solve a few little puzzles, traverse a series of look-alike rooms (I somehow navigated these by luck, despite the fact I was supposed to kill the mini-boss, the phantom, in each room, except the last one that locks you in) kill a bunch of enemies up a very long flight of stairs, and find Ganondorf. He taunts you, then has you fight a series of three puppets. These fights are a little odd. The first one is a gigantic pig-like puppet. You cut its strings with the bow and arrow, then shoot its tail with a Light Arrow you got in the dungeon. The second form is a gigantic spider. It usually drops in such a way that its weak point is right in your line of sight. Shoot it. Third form, a snake with a pig’s face. This one is a touch tricky. You have to hit its face, then quickly get around its flank and shoot its tail.

Then you have to climb a rope and some scaffolding to get to the very top of the tower.

Now, time for the final confrontation!

Ganondorf takes a moment to reflect on everything that has brought him to this moment. He remembers his time in his homeland, a desert touched by a cruel wind that brought nothing but misfortune. Perhaps, he muses, he coveted Hyrule precisely because it was a land without such troubles. With little effort, he rebuffs Link’s attempt to harm him, and summons the actual Triforce now that all three symbols are gathered. Yet, before he can make Hyrule rise above the sea, the King of Red Lions somehow appears and touches the Triforce instead; he asks it to bring hope to Link and Tetra. The Triforce disappears and Hyrule begins to be drowned by the sea. Ganondorf begins laughing maniacally, as his plot has been ruined, the Triforces spread far away. It’s a really cool laugh, I have to say; he sounds extremely pissed and insane.

Link and Tetra prepare for the final fight. Tetra now has a bow which can shoot Light Arrows. As for Ganondorf, he decides to go old school, pulling out twin long swords. Seriously, his entire strategy is to kill you with swords. And he is a really good swordsman. The proper strategy is to try to time your blocks and parries so that you deflect his blows and move in for a death strike at the one moment he lets down his guard. Meanwhile, Tetra shoots Light Arrows toward you, which you can deflect with your shield at Ganondorf, stunning him long enough to move in for a strike. It’s a pretty cool battle, all things considered.

Your final blow actually strikes Ganondorf directly through the forehead. The Master Sword gets stuck in him, turning him to stone and freezing him in place. Awesome.

After that, the King of Red Lions tells you that it is up to you to go find new lands to explore, a new place to call Hyrule. Tetra’s costume changes back to normal. She and Link float up to the surface, protected by an air bubble. And then they sail off together, along with her crew, and with the King of Red Lions, whom said that he wouldn’t be able to come with them. Or maybe it’s just the boat, and no longer contains his spirit. Whatever. Game End!

So, that’s Wind Waker for you. It’s an interesting look into the game’s time line. So, it seems that The Ocarina of Time came first. Then the Wind Waker story happens. In the meantime, Hyrule was covered in water. After Wind Waker, Link and Tetra go to find a new land, which they call Hyrule, but which helps explain why it looks so different from the Hyrule in Ocarina of Time.

I won’t even try to create a full timeline for the game series, as I don’t believe the series would prove consistent, but it’s nice to see they at least make a novel effort with this set of games.

So, next up is my review of Wind Waker. And after that, it’s on to Ocarina of Time. 🙂