Five Things Zelda Wii U Should Borrow From The Wind Waker

Today marks the 10th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker’s release on Nintendo GameCube in the U.S., so to celebrate I’m posting the next chapter in my latest Zelda-related article series a bit early. Also, be sure to check out our The Wind Waker 100% Livestream! Happy birthday, The Wind Waker!

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is one of those rare games that manages to carve out its own distinct path, and yet does so brilliantly. While many were initially put off by its art style, over time it’s come to grow on people, and unlike many of the “grittier” games of its day it’s actually aged as gracefully as fine wine.

I’ve frequently advocated that the upcoming Zelda Wii U should work to strengthen the series’ image as a high fantasy adventure by focusing on the core elements that make Zelda tick, but there’s still more than plenty that The Wind Waker did well enough to be worthy of emulating.

#5: Capturing the Feel of the Treasure Hunt

The Wind Waker had a lot of stuff to collect, and much of it you had to haul up from the bottom of the sea. While I certainly wouldn’t advocate for such a large focus on often tedious ocean-salvaging, I did think the game’s loot-hunting had one fantastic strength: it made excellent use of treasure maps to guide players to secrets. Combine The Wind Waker‘s treasure maps with, say, the Shovel from the classic games, and I think there’d be a lot of fantastic potential.

treasure-mapI don’t think it’d be a good idea to use treasure maps to quite the same extent, or in any kind of required fetch quest like the Triforce Hunt, but as a means of finding buried Rupee stashes, some kind of analog to Link’s Awakening‘s Secret Seashells or Phantom Hourglass‘s Spirit Gems, or even secret mini-dungeons? That’d be neat.

The GamePad screen would be a big help in coordinating the treasure hunt, too. Instead of having to pause the game to pop open the chart, you can just line your player icon up with the “X” on the map and dig away! Plus, it’d be a good opportunity to include an old map-related character, Ting- You know what – let’s not go down that road!

#4: Setting Sail Across the Sea

No, I’m not saying I’d like to revisit the Great Sea. We’ll already get to do that on Wii U with The Wind Waker Wii U, so I think it’d be a tad redundant anyway. I do think, however, that it might be pretty nice to visit the Hyrule coastline – which we’ve seen in a few games, including the original Legend of Zelda, Zelda II, and Four Swords Adventures – only this time, we’d be able to sail to outlying and uncharted islands, and perhaps even travel to entirely new continents!

tww-sailingObviously the scale would have to be significantly reduced compared to The Wind Waker, but I think this would be a great way to incorporate a wider trip across the Hyrule universe – a real and meaningful expansion of what we know about the game’s world – while making use of familiar elements to get us there.

Instead of being forced to sail everywhere like in The Wind Waker, however, gaining access to a ship opens up entire segments of the world, more like the way Surfing works in Pokémon. A number of other JRPGs take a similar approach – you’ll start off the game in one continent and later travel to every corner of the globe in your fancy airship – so we know it’s something that can be done. Let’s get on it, Zelda team!

#3: Whimsical Visuals That Endure the Ravages of Time

While the visuals in games like Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess may have aged… pretty poorly, in hindsight… The Wind Waker looks wonderful even today. A lot of that has to do with the way the developers approached the game’s graphics – less focus on gritty details and more focus on making the visuals match the artwork.

WiiU_ZeldaWindWaker_Scrn09It’s an approach that I think future Zelda games should keep in mind. The more game graphics try to replicate reality, the more prone they are to becoming outdated once future advancements in technology come along. Games that focus on strong artwork expressed directly in the game visuals, however, will always endure.

I don’t think Nintendo should focus too much on being overly unique with its art style – the series needs to nail its appeal to the wider gaming audience, as Twilight Princess did back in the day. I do think, however, that it’s critical that Nintendo focus on building up a strong portfolio of standout artwork and represent it as faithfully and as fully as possible in the in-game visuals. It’s superior artwork, after all, not superior realism that has driven some of the most memorable games to greatness.

#2: A Fluid Combat Engine

A lot of people may look to Twilight Princess or Skyward Sword as the height of Zelda‘s combat mechanics. Personally, I loved the more skill-based motion control sword combat in Skyward Sword… but something about the combat system in The Wind Waker just felt like a great expansion of everything that its predecessors, Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, already did brilliantly. Sure, parrying was a bit broken – but it was damn fancy, and the absolutely fluid sword combos were really satisfying to perform.

Perhaps the most noticeable improvement was the better targeting camera. It not only gives you a better angle on your battles, but it’s more responsive when you want to swap between enemies, less obtrusive in terms of the on-screen targeting indicator, and most importantly it sounds a lot less annoying.

I also really enjoyed the enemy weapon drops. They were a tad unwieldy, but it was a great idea and something I’d love to see fleshed out in a future Zelda. Perhaps we could try out one-handed enemy weapons and shields that we can mix and match with our other equipment?


There were tons of other improvements as well. The way enemies guard your attacks was a cut above their behaviors in Ocarina of Time. “Shield bashing” your enemies to get them to drop their stuff was a nice touch. There were loads of funny and unexpected enemy reactions – try stabbing a Moblin in the backside, for instance, and try to tell me that Zelda doesn’t have some of the most freaking charming little touches ever conceived. And, of course, the Hurricane Spin was awesome and I’m a bit down that it’s unlikely we’ll ever see it again.

I’d love for the next Zelda to improve upon the core combat engine just at least to the extent that The Wind Waker did, offering new moves with just as much flourish, new combat features that add just as much variability, and new enemy AI behaviors with just as much character.

#1: A Story That Hasn’t Been Told

Ever since the original Zelda, we’ve seen a gradually expanding Hyrule mythos. First we heard about the origins of Princess Zelda in Zelda II, then we delved into the Hyrule creation story, the Triforce myth, and the rise of Ganondorf in A Link to the Past, then we saw the story of the Seven Sages in greater detail in Ocarina of Time, and most recently we experience the forging of the Master Sword and the historical sky settlements of the Hylian ancestors in Skyward Sword.

These expansions have usually been logical. Usually, we’ll find out the real story behind some element of the series’ lore that was introduced in a previous game… but that’s not always the case. The Wind Waker in particular was a gigantic curveball – instead of exploring an existing element of the Hyrule universe, The Wind Waker did something drastic: Ganon broke loose from his seal, and with no hero to oppose him, the gods were forced to flood the kingdom, covering it beneath a seemingly endless ocean.

I don’t think anyone saw that one coming.


Rather than going the predictable route and taking on yet another unexplained element of the existing Hyrule timeline, I think Zelda Wii U should do something incredible – something unexpected. We’re getting tired of the same-old Master Sword story, the same-old demon king threatening the land. We’re hungry for something we haven’t even dreamed of yet, something that meets our wildest expectations for the future horizon of the series – and then surpasses those ambitions tenfold.

Check out Zelda for Wii U and 3DS Zelda Dungeon:

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  • Jono

    5. Yes

    4. eh…. it’d be cool, but I could do without it.

    3. Yes

    2. YES


  • K2L

    I never expected anyone would even remember today was TWW’s anniversary. At all. Especially not from you, Alex. You gave me a surprise.
    There is one thing TWW did better than any of the aspects you mentioned: Item versatility. I really liked how the items could have their use and purpose accomodated to the current situation. The Grappling Hook, for example, not only was to cross chasms, but also to steal items from enemies, and on boat it was essential to hunt sunken treasure. The Deku Leaf was useful to fly through air as well as to shoot gusts of wind to stun small enemies, push inaccessible objects and activate fans. The normal, fire, ice and light arrows all shared one single item slot, as did the numerous spoils, bait and delivery stuff thanks to the bags. After all of this, I find a bit heartbreaking that the next game, Twilight Princess, barely exploited the potential os many of its items, especially the Spinner, Ball and Chain and Dominion Rod. Meanwhile, Skyward Sword avoided this to an extent, there you could use extensively the Slingshot (especially since the Bow comes much later this time), Beetle and Bombs,
    but the whip was still a bit underused to an extent.
    That’s one thing Zelda Wii U has to keep an eye with. That and, like I said before, not relying too much on elements from past games so it too can contribute new ideas that can be revisited in future installments.

  • Truth

    I honestly am against 4 and 3. The series should take a mix of realism along with an anime-fantasy like feel(This is coming from someone who doesn’t watch nor want to watch anime, btw) – not cel-shaded, not too colorful, but more like what we saw in the Wii U Zelda Demo.

    • Truth

      Also, as for the sailing part, no. We’ll get our share of sailing in WWU this fall, so I want the new zelda to be in Hyrule again. No, not like SS Hyrule, I mean an advanced hyrule like TP, where it’s a realistic midieval age theme. But bring back magic pls.

      • http://www.gengame.net/ Alex Plant

        There was “sailing” in LoZ, AoL, and OoA. That’s more along the lines of what I’m talking about here.

        • http://www.facebook.com/albert.lucero1 Albert Lucero Jr

          I agree with you on the sailing part Alex. I remember in LoZ I was always wondering what is over the world. What kind I find there? Etc. The raft in that game was such a big thing for me because it allowed me to explore what I couldn’t before. Same exact thing with AoL, it just opened a new part of the game. I think Zelda could use that again, bring back the magic. Make the boat or raft etc something you have to win in a minigame or a trading sequest. It’s something you have to continue your quest but not part of a dungeon etc

  • zdog

    This brings the total count to 23, and something tells me that number will get higher. Don’t get me wrong I agree with what needs to be implemented, but it is going to be a tall order.

    At the end of the day I only want one thing: Surprise but don’t alienate.

  • Sketchie

    I can’t do anything but agree with this 100%, though I express some caution at “treasure hunt.”

    One thing I hated in LttP (and this will sound strange at first) was always have a full wallet.

    I wasn’t even at the Dark World dungeons yet when I reached the 999 marker at the top of my screen… It wasn’t satisfying. There’s nothing to buy, there is just NO reason to get rupees unless you’re just God-awful at conserving your arrows. Bombs are everywhere to collect, as are arrows.

    I found the same problem in Twilight Princess. Not once did I ever buy arrows. Why would I, when I can just kill that sword-wielding Moblin that has no bow and still get 10 arrows? Or just sit and let them shoot arrows at me and pick up the ones that missed?

    I don’t want this to be a “treasure everywhere! NEVER BE POOR AGAIN” kind of deal. Wind Waker handled this… decently. There were rupee “hotspots,” if you will, like Pawprint Isle. Covered in grass and Chu Chus. Not hard to make an easy 200+ rupees, especially when the grass extends into the caves AND often includes yellow and even red rupees. This is bad.

    Including quests that require you to spend rupees, such as the 110 required to open a dungeon in A Link to the Past? This is good. You should have at least 300 at this point, so this is a great way to make the spending meaningful.

    Including a fountain that gives you minor capacity upgrades for the sake of completion and doesn’t really benefit you much? This is flat-out TERRIBLE. I’m sorry, but it’s true, LttP fans. I found 0 reason to upgrade my quiver or bomb bag throughout the entirety of the game, and only did so because I could.

    In summary, I would love to see Wind Waker’s treasure-hunter like system, but without rupee “hotspots.” Maybe increase the odds of getting rupees in tall grass outside of a town? Decrease it in the middle of a desert? Then I’d like to see a USE for them, as wonderfully done in Skyward Sword with item upgrades.

    • lizalfos

      The biggest culprit of this is Between Worlds. Rupees were EVRYWHERE. Mini games were easy to master and offered huge prizes, especially the rupee hunt one to the south west of Kakariko. And with 9999 maximum capacity you are never short of rupees. And this hurts Between Worlds especially badly because they make rupees the only hurdle to almost every significant upgrade. Both my play throughs I was able to rent every item as soon as the shop opened, and bought them not long after.Took away any sense of achievement.

      I love that game, but I don’t want to see a return of the rental system without a major rethinking of how it works, and with adjustments to how easy it is to come by money.

  • bradtastic2

    All 5 are being used in Assassins Creed 4 Black Flag to a certain extent.
    5. Treasure hunting is how you get upgrades for your ship and character.
    4. Setting sail across the sea and exploring the Caribbean islands is what ACBF is all about.
    3. The ocean in this game looks incredible whimsical as do the sunsets and weather systems.
    2. Assassins Creed fighting is basically Batman Arkham style but with swords, axes, etc. which is regarded as one of the best combat systems ever.
    1. Controversial but it’s moreso a pirate game with Assassins and Templar story weaved in. I can’t remember the last decent pirate game with a great story.

    • lizalfos

      ^I was thinking this as I read the article.

      One of the higher-up items on my wish list for Zelda U is a combat system along the lines of Batman Arkham or Assassin’s Creed. I particularly love Batman’s combat where you’re outgunned in almost every fight except those against the aboslute weakest enemies and you have to use wits and gadgets to disable as many enemies before the fight even starts. There’s nothing like sitting on a roof top scoping out an occupies area, using your disruptor to disable two guys guns, throwing a cluster freeze grenade to disable three more for a few seconds and dropping down onto the last guy to take him out instantly. Then keep each guy disabled as you fight on the fly and take them down one at a time. Brilliant.
      And Zelda has all the gadgets you need: hookshot, Ice Arrows, boomerang, etc.

      I mean, with Batman the focus is on stealth so it lends itself more to that. And Zelda shouldn’t become a stealth game, but the combat system would still work perfectly in Zelda.

  • Kevin

    Despite many criticising the Downfall Timeline, I personally love the idea of a what-if timeline. I don’t make more games in the Downfall Timeline, I mean make a ton of what-if timeline branches from the timelines. Maybe a WW sequel where Ganon was sucessful in resurfacing Hyrule. Or a OoX sequel where Ganon was properly revived?

    I think they do themselves a disservice by sticking to the established plot events and happy endings. They’re only limiting the kinds of stories they can make.

  • lizalfos

    That feeling of the treasure hunt – probably my favourite aspect of WW. I think WW had the second best and most extensive side content of any Zelda, behind Majora’s. And I loved how much there was to do if I wanted to avoid the main quest.

    The combat needs a fresh direction though. As I’ve said several times now, I want a more contemporary combat system akin to that of Assassin’s Creed or Batman. Those combat systems are a pleasure and basically make the recent Batman games great single handedly. There’s no reason Zelda couldn’t do a similar thing, while also having everything else that makes Zelda great.

  • Joe

    I still disagree with OOT and TP graphics aging poorly. To me the graphics are unique to their game and are part of what gives them the feel of their time period.