New 'Legend of Zelda' is a masterpiece

Saturday, April 5, 2003

Fans of the "Legend of Zelda" series are in for a huge treat.

"The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker" for Nintendo's GameCube is an absolute masterpiece and one of the most delightful games I've had the pleasure of playing in many years.

Shigeru Miyamoto is revered by gamers for his work with this series for Nintendo, and he won't lose any stature with his latest creation. Aside from some camera problems, it's a work of art.

The game begins with our little hero's birthday on his island home, where boys his age wear, for a day, the green suit that honors their legendary hero, Link. He's known as the "hero of time" from the last Zelda game, "The Ocarina of Time."

Our boy dons the outfit and is immediately plunged into an amazing adventure, joining a band of pirates in an effort to rescue his sister, who's been carried off by a huge bird.

Of course, things get far more complicated down the road. The new Link must battle through the familiar (from previous versions) dungeons to collect items, battle bosses and eventually unravel a riddle that threatens, yes, the entire world.

The combat mode is similar to the one you know and love from "Ocarina." Targeting is the same, and Link still has his handy sword, shield and other items, including a boomerang, bombs and the wind-creating Deku leaf.

It's a watery game, in which the world is a vast ocean dotted with islands where Link searches for clues, battles foes and collects items for his next stop. He travels from island to island across the Great Sea on a trusty vessel known as "King of Red Lions."

The game isn't incredibly difficult for the most part, although some of the puzzles will have you gnawing on the controller. Unfortunately, the game's lone serious flaw, the camera, makes some puzzles and battles far harder than they should be.

Nobody, apparently, is perfect. Not even Miyamoto.

The title, by the way, comes from a wand which Link can use to control the direction of the wind pushing his ship along. Like most things in this game, it sounds easier than it is.

Graphics get an A+. They are delightfully simple, with just the right detail and glorious color. Take time to watch the characters as you play; expressions are wonderfully entertaining and are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.

Sound is an A. Strings create a haunting background to ordinary activities, with combat music and effects perfectly designed for their tasks. The noises Link makes as he jumps, swings, fights and runs are hysterical.