So many pathetic creatures, scattered across a handful of islands, drifting on this sea like fallen leaves on a forgotten pool. What they can possibly hope to achieve?
This is the list of At the Buzzer’s top 25 games of all-time, as voted on by the main ATB cast members and other friends of the show. We’re now getting serious in the top 10. For more information on how this whole thing works or for the other games on the list, check out the Related Links at the bottom of this post.
9) The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GC)
Chris: I love everything about Wind Waker with two exceptions: the Forsaken Fortress and Tingle.
First, Tingle. Yes, he’s ridiculous and annoying. But he was tolerable in Majora’s Mask because he was mostly on the side, and you could beat the game without his maps if you chose to ignore him. Unfortunately, in Wind Waker, he’s mandatory — you cannot locate the pieces of the Triforce of Courage without his ludicrously expensive maps to help you find them in the ocean.
The Forsaken Fortress was a decent dungeon the first time I played it. Dave and I bought this game at the same time right when it came out (we even preordered it at the same store in Colorado to get Ocarina of Time: Master Quest), and we were both so excited that we started playing it immediately at his house. That meant watching him play through the fortress, then playing it myself at his house, then playing it on my own GameCube because I needed a new save file. So it’s my own fault, really.
You know what’s not among my complaints? The graphics, the sailing, the slightly smaller number of dungeons, etc. People bitched and moaned about the graphics from a series of screenshots, but watching Wind Waker in action is a thing of beauty. A decade later, this game still looks better than a number of current releases, because the swirling explosions and facial expressions have held up tremendously well over the years. Exploration was fun — you could stick to the main quest, or sail around and find a ton of secrets both above and below the water. The characters and music were great.
And the final battle…my goodness. WW has my favorite moment of any video game ever in that fight, and it’s not the finishing blow. Ganon slowly adapts over the course of your sword duel, taking away your options gradually. You can land some regular attacks at first, but he starts blocking those. Then he takes away your overhead parry by blocking with his swords. Then he smacks Zelda across the face to stop Light Arrows. But his final adaptation blew my mind — after spending the whole fight getting an opening with the parry that rolls behind an enemy, you swing behind Ganon and he blocks your attack with his sword BEHIND HIS BACK. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Couple all that with the water falling in the background and the epic music, and…man. Fantastic game with a lot of heart.
This is the other game besides Fallout 3 where the three of us had a consensus. Shaun and I had it at number 12, and Dave number 10. We all think Wind Waker is pretty great.
Shaun: You almost can’t avoid talking about the haters when you bring up Wind Waker. This whiny group of miserable people are inextricably tied to the GameCube’s finest title because they were so vocal and adamant about how cel-shading and a young Link would destroy the series. It’s these same idiots that cried tears of joy when the Twilight Princess trailer showed a realistically drab Link riding a realistic drab Epona through a realistically subdued palette.
Flash forward to now. Wind Waker is THE BEST looking game from that generation of gaming on any console. Twilight Princess, with the exception of Midna, is arguably the most forgettable entry in the entire series.
This anecdote was long-winded, but necessary — when Nintendo bends their will to fan expectations, they deliver a weaker product. When Nintendo is allowed to follow their unique vision, they create one of the most beloved games ever made.
And one of the most beloved it is. The art style is visually striking and gorgeous. The puzzles, equipment, and level design are impeccable. The story and characters are second only to Skyward Sword (which also utilizes a cel-shaded-esque art style). And hell, I even enjoyed the sailing. Sure, it got a little tedious, but the sense of freedom and exploration it granted are practically unmatched.
To top it all off, Wind Waker includes the best third act in the series; after fighting through a Hyrule Castle frozen in time under the ocean, you take on a fatter, more samurai Ganondorf in his castle. Through a series of thrilling boss battles, you eventually end up with a sword match on top of the tower, with water cascading down around the battlefield and Ganondorf continually finding new ways to deflect your attacks. Burying your sword into his forehead is simultaneously one of the most shocking and epic moments in the entire series.
Wind Waker possesses all the qualities that embody Zelda so well – exploration, combat, and a sense of wonder with every new discovery. Let’s all forget about Tingle and give the game the recognition it deserves.
Dave: I can’t figure out why this game is so hated by the masses. Yeah it looks cartoon-y, and it does have Tingle, but overall I think it’s the most fun Zelda game I have ever played.
For all of the complaints that people had about the graphics and the time it takes to sail, I found that those elements were the game’s strongest points. Subtle graphics made the quest more enjoyable, as Link’s eyes would look up at certain secrets or treasures hidden around the temples, and the sailing allowed the player to find treasures simply instead of having to memorize a difficult path through a mountain or something like that. While the action was well put together and the items were fun to use, this game really became the best Zelda I’ve ever played at its conclusion. After finding out that your character is basically Link reincarnated and your pirate friend is Zelda reincarnated, you have to fight Ganon, who blocks your every attack. Finally, you have a chance to parry his attack (one of the best parts of combat in any Zelda game), roll around Ganon and plunge the Master Sword right in his mug. The utter shock of that moment made my jaw drop to the floor, and I realized that I had just played through the best Zelda game to date.
For a “kiddish” as this game looked, it was incredibly dark and deep, and well deserving of being in our top 10.
MORE FROM AT THE BUZZER’S TOP 25 LIST
(15) The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
(18) Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
(21) The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
(22) The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask