Monday, March 30, 2009

Wind Waker, Fanboyism, and Growing Up

This morning, after coming back from an 8:00AM to 11:00AM class, I booted up my Wii and finished the final fight in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. I decided to play Wind Waker from start to finish not too long ago (maybe around the beginning of the month), and this morning brought an end to that journey (a journey which also ended with collecting all of the in-game Nintendo Gallery figurines – well, except for an entirely optional one that would have required a Game Boy Advance and a link cable, but I no longer have a GBA). On the surface, it is nothing really worthy of mentioning. At first glance, the fact that I beat the game may seem like merely a footnote. But this game and I have a history of love/hate, a history that could not escape my mind throughout the playthrough. This playthrough, though, seems to have changed that history. After defeating the final boss, I can once and for all say that I no longer hold enmity toward The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.

Before going any further, though, it would be necessary to delve into the aforementioned history. Wind Waker was released in 2003 (according to Wikipedia), and at the time, I was a fresh-faced 13 year old. It is safe to say that, at that time, I was still in the realm of fanboyism. Namely, I was a major Legend of Zelda fanboy. Granted, I still love the series to this day, but in my 14th year (and no, that’s not a mistake), my mind was much clouded by the thick fog of “brand loyalty”. But it seems even this may require another tangent of history.

You see, like a sizeable number of Zelda fans, I met Wind Waker with a quantifiable dose of scepticism. Coming off the heels of Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, entries which seemed to uphold a “realistic” approach within the limits of the N64, fans were expecting another realistic outing with the Zelda that would appear on the GameCube. This sentiment was only heightened when, in 2000, a video was shown at the now defunct Space World video game trade show in which, to show off the GameCube’s potential, a realistic Link and Ganondorf battled. The following embedded videos are of the duel in question (the first video is the 14 second clip that most people are accompanied with, but the second video, although lacking sound, is a rare look at the full length 24 second clip):

In 2001, however, the video of the true next Zelda for GameCube appeared at that year’s (and the last) Space World, and it had a much different look. The 55 second video is embedded below:

That video was an early version of Wind Waker, a game which seemed to be a complete 180 degrees in the other direction of the realistic style. Wind Waker was colourful, carefree, and adopted a very cartoonish style. Many fans were expecting realism in the next Zelda, and were thus disappointed with this early look. When the game was finally released, the feelings were still there.

Now to get back to my 13 year old self. At the time, I was still “hurt” that the Zelda game was not the realistic dream game I had hoped for. In my “pain”, I joined other disgruntled fans on the official Zelda forum, the Hyrule Town Square (I think my username there was The Unknown, maybe with an underscore between the two words). The forum, which eventually became part of the official Nintendo forums that exist today, had quite a few threads dedicated to demonizing the game, and I was a participant in them. The fervour only increased when players reached the end of the game and learned that, in the game world, the land of Hyrule – the setting of almost all Zelda games – was ultimately intentionally destroyed. This seemed like a slap in the face to the fans at the time, and I was not willing to forgive Wind Waker for it. Regardless of what image the above may paint, though, I had in fact enjoyed parts of Wind Waker, but this was the final straw, especially because it seemed to indicate that future Zelda games would no longer take place in Hyrule.

However, these disgruntled Zelda fans were greeted with quite a surprise at E3 in 2004. A 1 minute long video had been shown of a Zelda game that would not only take place in the beloved Hyrule, but also feature a realistic style that was much more in line with the video shown in 2000 at Space World. The video, which is embedded below, was an early glimpse of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess:

On its release in 2006, those once angry fans wholly embraced the “new” visual style, and the rest, as they say, is history.

To return once again to my story, at this time (at 16 years of age), I had come to forgive Wind Waker to an extent. It was not the apocalyptic end of the series and Hyrule as I had once thought, but even so, I still held some animosity toward it. It was never really founded on anything substantial, and it was thus probably just remnants from that age of loathing, but it was there.

It had remained there for all these years up until present (now 18 years old), though it had been slowly ebbing away as time went on. And then the time that was mentioned in the post’s beginning came in which I decided to play Wind Waker yet again. And like I said at the beginning of all this, I no longer feel enmity toward it. Sure, it has flaws like all games do, but when it comes down to it, it’s a great light-hearted Zelda game, still visually astounding, and actually quite groundbreaking when you think of it (Example: They decided to get rid of Hyrule. Bold move indeed). Ultimately, I had a good time playing through it again, and I would recommend giving it a go to others.

The point of all this? It seems that today, I might have grown up just a little bit. Shed a lingering piece of fanboyism, perhaps. Whatever the case, it bodes well for the future. If I encounter another game or creative piece I love/hate in the same fashion, I can merely point myself to this experience as an example.

That being said, my love/hate for Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is a different matter entirely, but that can wait for another post. =P

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