A thread explaining my intense dislike for The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. As requested by @Kaynil .
So, first off, I actually did a podcast about how much I hate Wind Waker. So if you'd rather listen to that, it's an option for you. Here ya go: http://dumbstufftakenseriously…er-sucks-and-no-mans.html
But for the benefit of the deaf, and those who'd rather not suffer through my shitty podcast, I will also write out my thoughts on this awful, awful game.
First, I think it's important to establish that I wanted to like this game. My Zelda series fanboyism was at its peak in the lead up to this game. As far as I was concerned, this franchise could do no wrong. A Zelda game had no flaws, simply by virtue of being a Zelda game. Several times I went out of my way to tell people that Adventures of Link wasn't as bad as everybody said it was, despite the fact that at that point I hadn't even played the game yet. And while a lot of impotent nerd rage was spewed across the Internet over the "cartoony" look of the upcoming Zelda game, I was the game's valiant defender. I wrote multiple essays about how good the game was going to be.
Being a poor fuck, I wasn't able to get my hands on the game right away. But when I finally did borrow a copy from a friend and play it? The game LITERALLY put me to sleep. I've never been prone to take naps in my life. I was a spry and energetic 16 year old, it was the middle of the day, I'd gotten plenty of sleep the night before, and I was playing a game I'd waited to play for years.
But the sailing in this game was so boring, that I fell asleep despite all of that.
Honestly, that's enough for me right there. If a game puts me to sleep, it's a bad game. Or, at the very least, it's not a game well suited for my tastes. (Though given how much I loved the previous Zelda games, I think it's fair to assert the 'bad game' point.)
However, that's not the end of the story. Because my girlfriend loves Wind Waker. And I love my girlfriend. So earlier this year I sat down and played through all of Wind Waker, from start to finish with her. Playing the game with someone I love didn't help though. Wind Waker still sucks.
For starters, the sailing. The sailing is horrendous. Not only does it take forever to get anywhere, but the act of changing the wind direction is tedious. It's something that has to be done way too often, and takes way too long to happen.
Which leads into another problem: cutscenes. Cutscenes, cutscenes, cutscenes. This game interrupts the action constantly, forcing you to sit through endlessly repetitive animations, boring narrative and mechanical exposition, and so many needless story segments. How many times do I need to see Link's amazed face as the wind changes direction under his command? Does he ever get used to it? Because I've been bored of it since the first time it happened.
I'm going to repeat an anecdote from the podcast, because it's relevant and it pissed me off so much at the time. There's this puzzle. It's pretty simple. You freeze a slime guy, then you put him on a switch, and the switch makes stairs appear. Then you have to run down a hallway as fast as you can, so you can get up the stairs before the stairs disappear again. I figured the puzzle out as soon as I walked into the room. It's not exactly a hard puzzle.
The first time I tried to complete the puzzle, it showed me a long cutscene of the stairs appearing. I couldn't control Link during the cutscene, so I didn't have enough time to run down the hallway. That meant I had to run all the way back, freeze a new slime, and try again. This time it didn't show that cutscene, so I made it alllllllmost to the end. But a Stalfos appeared, and I had to sit through a "Stalfos appearing" cutscene. During the cutscene, the stairs disappeared.
If the cutscene hadn't happened, I coulda just ran past the stalfos and straight up the stairs, but nope. I had to fight the stalfos, run back down the hallway, freeze a new slime, put it on the button, and run back to the stairs a third time. This time there were no cutscenes at all, and I made it with time to spare.
That's not game design. That's garbage. Gameplay in WW is constantly interrupted by those stupid little cutscenes, and they always break up the action. Frequently, this causes enough of a disruption in gameplay that the player fails in a situation where they would otherwise succeed.
And while we're on the subject of dungeon / puzzle design, it's mediocre at best. A lot of the game's "challenges" are really just lock-and-key barriers. When you walk into a room and there's a high ledge with a target above it, you don't have to do any thinking to figure out what the solution to the puzzle is. If you have the hookshot you can pass, if you don't have the hookshot you can't. It creates the illusion of overcoming barriers, while really you're just uncreatively repeating the same action over and over.
There's also a weird amont of platforming for a zelda game. Zelda games aren't platformers. They don't include a "jump" button. The moderate amount of platforming sections that were included in the N64 Zelda games worked pretty well I feel, but they really ratcheted it up for Wind Waker, and it doesn't work for me at all. I kept falling and needing to start my whole climb over just because the twitchy, not-optimized-for-platforming controls just don't work for platforming. If they wanted to include a 'jump' button, that'd be a different story! I think a Zelda game that incorporated 3D platformer elements could be super interesting! But that's not what they did.
Moving on, lets talk about some of the items.
Telescope: what the fuck is this even for? Did any of you ever use it ONCE outside of a scripted segment? I guess there are a couple bits where someone says "I see something in the distance," and you can stand next to them and Telescope it. Maybe this could have been interesting if that was a more relevant aspect of play. But, as mentioned above, the sailing sucks.
Iron Boots: Since you never really go underwater in this game, these are literally only useful as a lock-and-key item. In Ocarina of Time, you could use the Iron Boots to explore. Walk around underwater areas, and try to find new solutions to problems. In Wind Waker you only put them on if you jump on a button and it doesn't go down. (Or if it's one of the 3 areas of the game with strong winds).
Hookshot: My poor neutered hookshot. Coolest item in Zelda games. It used to stick to all sorts of things. In Link to the Past, you could use the hookshot to latch onto pots and pull yourself towards them. Pots! Pots are everywhere! In Ocarina of Time, there were a ton of wooden surfaces that worked. In Wind Waker it's pretty much only the targets and the fat little tree things. If you see one of those, you know the game wants you to use the hookshot.
You might as well be watching a cutscene.
The Leaf: This is actually kinda cool. It would be better if the platforming segments didn't suck as much, but if you're using the leaf, the platforming parts can be a whole lot more fun to play. Plus it can knock enemies back, plus it's the weakness for certain enemies! It's actually a pretty creative and fun to use item. Although, I do have one question:
Why not just use the sail? I mean, you have the sail in your inventory. And the Sail is really only useful when you get in your boat, which means it spends tons of time just sitting uselessly in your inventory. It would make sense if you could also use the sail as a parachute sorta thing.
Boomerang: This is actually really well put together. Very satisfying to use. A real improvement over Ocarina of Time. Bravo.
The Grappling Hook: Oooooo the grappling hook. How I hate the grappling hook.
First off, we can all acknowledge that it's redundant, right? The Hookshot is already a thing. Why did we need a second thing exactly like it? With a little tweaking, the hookshot could have done everything the grappling hook did. There's no reason for both items to exist, and the hookshot is an established part of the zelda cannon. So, right off the bat, the grappling hook never should have made it out of the pitch meeting.
The grappling hook is also awkward to use. You've gotta shift into first person mode and nudge the controller around eeeeeever so gently until your cursor says you've hovered over an acceptable part of the grappling point. I always ended up bumping past it and needing to move back the other way. Goddesses help you if you need to use the grappling hook in combat, such as you do during that first boss fight. Blerg.
And then there's that stupid cutscene that plays every time you grapple onto an object. Made all the worse for the fact that you often have to grapple multiple times in a row. So. Many. Cutscenes. This stupid item could have been forgivable if it had been quicker to use.
Finally, there's the way it's used later in the game, which irks me. You enter a room, there's a locked door. You look around, you try a few different things, but nothing seems to open the door. Finally, you think to look up, and there's a grapple-hook lever in the ceiling. It's been two hours since you needed to use the grappling hook. Nothing in the room indicated you should have looked up. It's just a dumb, time-wastey-"gotcha!" puzzle. There's no cleverness involved.
If they'd wanted to be clever, they could have put a statue in the center of the room with a grappling lever on its tail. You'd see the statue as soon as you entered the room, and you'd know that there was something special about it. The statue has a lot of details, so you'd spend some time looking at it. You might overlook the fact that the tail is shapped like a grappling lever at first, but if you're clever you'd give it a try, and be rewarded for thinking your way through the puzzle.
But no. Instead they made the solution painfully obvious, and simulated difficulty by placing the solution out of your line of sight. Whee.
Lets see...Oh! NPCs! Wind Waker is when Zelda NPCs started to suck. It's a pretty clear line of delineation, actually. Before Wind Waker, NPCs are grounded in the game's reality. After Wind Waker, NPCs are characters in a children's cartoon. The kind of character that's always loud and clumsy, because some white guy in a suit thinks that'll keep children entertained. I can't take modern Zelda NPCs seriously. They all seem as though they might slip on a banana peel or get hit in the head by an anvil in the next scene. Blergle.
Lightning round because this is getting super long:
Boss Fights: Bland. Often the only difficulty in the boss fights is the difficulty of getting the controls to do what you want them to do.
The Opening: Aside from the dozens of cutscenes, the bit with your sister and the bird is alright. Until they send you to the forgotten fortress. Why is there a stealth section in a zelda game? It's awful. Obviously it's awful. Zelda isn't a stealth game series. This was a terrible idea, and they made it the first dungeon. That's stupid.
Difficulty: The game overall has no decent difficulty curve. 90% of the game could be played while you're sleepwalking. Then you'll walk into a room that requires intense effort and concentration. Like that fuckin' gauntlet you needed to go through to get one of the triforce pieces. What was that? I mean, it was kinda tedious, but it was really fucking hard compared to every other triforce piece! Why?
No Index of hints: This just felt like a dumb choice to me. Why don't the hints the fish give you get recorded anywhere? Dumb.
Talking to the fish to get map segments: I like the idea of making map charting a bigger part of the game, but I didn't like the way they did this at all. One, it required you to haul around a bunch of bait, which was annoying. But more importantly, you had to find the place that the fish was in each square, which meant you had to change the wind around a bunch so you could get to the fish. Dumb. Why not just have a bottomless bait bag, and be able to throw the bait anywhere in the square?
Slow ship movement speed without a sail: Seriously, moving when you don't have a sail is too fucking slow. Like, why have this feature at all if it's going to move at 1/100th of Link's swim speed?
The ghost ship: I really though this was going to be an interesting quest. I thought I was going to have to figure out what the symbols meant, and I was all excited about that. I actually did figure it out. Then I realized they just showed you exactly where the ship is on your map. Lame. Why give all those hints if you're just going to tell me?
Zelda/Tetra: This is a big one. Tetra is an interesting character. A strong woman who takes her fate in her own hands, and has a real impact on the game. Then she learns she's Zelda, and pretty much immediately becomes a damsel in distress. Fuck that noise. Dumb, dumb, dumb, stupid.
That's all that comes to my mind at the moment. I do want to emphasize that I don't think WW did everything wrong. I think the art style is beautiful, and I think the combat can be very fluid and enjoyable. Particularly if you're fighting Darknuts. (The weaknesses in the combat system become more apparent if you fight large numbers of fast enemies. So the Darknut's slow speed allows the positive aspects of combat to really shine.)
But, overall, I hate Windwaker. I think it's a bad game.