Wind Waker HD

wind waker title screen

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is the tenth installment of the Zelda series. It is the first Zelda title for the Nintendo GameCube, and was released between late 2002 and early 2003. The game is notable for being the first in the series to utilize cel-shading, a technique for lighting and texturizing that results in a cartoonish look. It is also differentiated by its massive overworld, the Great Sea, which must be explored by a boat, the King of Red Lions. The game is an indirect sequel to Ocarina of Time, taking place hundreds of years later. Despite criticism for the art style of the game, The Wind Waker ended up being the fourth best-selling GameCube title of all time. In autumn 2013, a remake of the game was released for the Wii U, with enhanced graphics and gameplay in a fashion similar to Ocarina of Time 3D.


Set hundreds of years after the events of Ocarina of Time, The Wind Waker finds Link in a sea scattered with 49 different islands. Link lives with his grandmother and younger sister Aryll on Outset Island, one of the few inhabited islands in the Great Sea. The people of the Great Sea pass down a legend of a prosperous kingdom with a hidden golden power; an evil man stole this power, spreading darkness across the land until a hero dressed in green sealed the evil with the Blade of Evil’s Bane. The boy became known as the Hero of Time, and became a legend. One day the sealed evil returned, but the hero was nowhere to be found. The inhabitants of the Great Sea are unsure of the kingdom’s fate, but it is clear that this legend is the story of Ocarina of Time.

When boys of Outset Island come of age, there is a custom to dress them in green, similar to the Hero of Time. The elders hope to instill the same courage the Hero had in the children. It is Link’s birthday when The Wind Waker opens, and he receives the familiar green clothes and cap as a present from his grandmother. Aryll gives Link her telescope (temporarily). As he looks through the telescope, he sees a large bird, the Helmaroc King, carrying a young girl to a nearby forest. He retrieves a sword and sets out to investigate. Link rescues the girl, but only to have Aryll kidnapped as he is returning.

The Great Flood

Ganondorf, the evil that was thought to be sealed in the Sacred Realm, had returned to resume his dark plans. As darkness was spreading over the kingdom, the people hoped that the Hero of Time would appear to save them, however, he never came. Ganondorf’s next step was to make an aggressive move for the Triforce. The king, Daphnes Nohansen Hyrule, made an attempt to stop him, but was not strong enough.

As the end drew nigh, the king and his people prayed to the gods, leaving their kingdom in their deities’ hands. The goddesses answered their prayers by instructing those chosen to flee for the mountaintops before flooding the land. Ganondorf and his minions were sealed along with Hyrule in an enchanted air chamber at the bottom of the sea, with the Master Sword being the key to the suspension of the flow of time within the chamber.

Over the centuries, the memory of the kingdom vanished, but its legend survived on the wind’s breath. On a certain island at the south end of the Great Sea, it was customary to garb young boys in green when they came of age. The youths aspired to find heroic blades and cast down evil like the hero of legend, but the elders wished only for the youths to know courage in the same way he did.

Link’s Quest

On that same particular island, Link’s birthday is happening and he finally comes to wear the green of the hero, despite not seeming very happy about it. Unfortunately, his birthday gets interrupted when he sees a giant bird flying over the island, a young girl in its talons. Hot on its tail is a pirate ship, sending a catapult barrage on it in an attempt to bring it down. One of the projectiles causes the bird to drop the girl, who lands in a tree in the forest atop Outset Island. Link grabs a sword and rushes off to find her. He learns her name is Tetra, and she is the captain of the band of pirates that was pursuing her.

As Link leads her back to her ship, the bird swoops down and kidnaps Link’s younger sister Aryll, having mistaken her for Tetra. A Rito postman informs the shocked Link and unsympathetic Tetra of stories of a large bird that has been kidnapping young girls with long ears and taking them back to wicked place known at the Forsaken Fortress. He charges Tetra with helping young Link to rescue his sister from the cursed place. Tetra reluctantly accepts, and with her help, Link is able to infiltrate the fortress and reach the cell where his sister is being kept. However, the Helmaroc King discovers him and at the command of a sinister shadowy figure, hurls him into the sea.

He awakes upon a boat that can talk and introduces itself as the King of Red Lions. The King tells him of the story behind the shadowy figure and the threat that the figure posed. The shadow was Ganondorf; somehow, the seal of the gods and failed, and the world was once again in danger since he had returned. The key to defeating Ganondorf was locked away in a great power that could only be wielded after a great deal of toil and hardship. One who was able to overcome the trials that awaited in the Tower of the Gods would be permitted to wield the power capable of destroying evil. That power was none other than the Master Sword, and it could banish Ganondorf from the world above, or so the King of Red Lions believed.

Before entering the Tower of the Gods, Link is required to gather the three Goddess Pearls, which is accomplished with the help of an ancient conductor’s baton known as the Wind Waker. He does success in his trials and claim the sacred blade, but learns, when he goes back to the Forsaken Fortress to challenge Ganondorf, that the blade has lost its power to repel evil. It is revealed later on that Ganondorf had attacked the temples where the sages prayed to the goddesses for the Master Sword to retain its power. He also gathered that by withdrawing the sacred blade from its resting place, the final seal that the gods placed on Hyrule and on Ganondorf’s magic was broken, stirring the monsters below from their centuries-long slumber.

Tetra rushes to Link’s rescue, and another revelation occurs. When Tetra approaches Ganondorf, his Triforce of Power resonates. This means only one thing – Tetra possesses the Triforce of Wisdom, the sacred power of the gods kept within the royal family and away from Ganondorf’s clutches. Tetra’s mother had instructed her to keep it close and safeguard it always; it was proof of her birthright as the heir of the royal family of Hyrule, and the last link in the bloodline. Tetra was Princess Zelda. Ganondorf notices this immediately, trying to seize the Triforce in that moment. At this same time, a pair of Rito postmen swoop down and rescue the children from Ganondorf’s clutches.

Zelda is brought to the castle below the waves, and King Daphnes explains to her the news of her identity and her role in the events to come before giving her the missing fragment of the Triforce of Wisdom. He then instructs her to remain in Hyrule and sends Link back to the sea above to reawaken the Master Sword’s power and to reunite the Triforce of Courage, which was split when the Hero of Time left the land after completing his mission. Until that time came, the portal to the world below the waves would remain sealed.

To complete this task, those who carried the blood of the sages needed to be found to take the mantle of the old within the temples and ask the gods for their assistance. The Korok Makar and the Rito maiden Medli are the ones who awake as the sages of Wind and Earth, respectively; with their power and prayers, Link is able to restore the Master Sword to its original form. He then hunts down the scattered shards of the Triforce of Courage and brings the completed piece back to the Tower of the Gods, to present it to the gods. The Triforce piece then comes to dwell within him, showing that he is a true hero, the Hero of Time “reborn.” The King of Red Lions deems him the Hero of Winds as he had been using the power of the Wind Waker to travel the Great Sea.

When Link descends beneath the waves, he discovers that Ganondorf has kidnapped Zelda and taken her to Ganon’s Tower, a daunting fortress that even the legendary Knights of Hyrule had been unable to overcome in ages past. Link makes for the tower and scales it to find Ganondorf waiting for him. He catches Link off guard and manages to summon the full Triforce, having once again gathered the three crests. He wishes that the rays of the sun expose Hyrule anew so that the kingdom and the world may be his. He didn’t notice that the King Daphnes had touched the Triforce first, however. The King wishes for Hyrule and Ganondorf to be buried beneath the waves of the Great Sea, and hope for his descendants, that they might be able to create a better world. The Triforce then vanishes, possibly going to the Sacred Realm to await a new owner.

In a fit of madness, Ganondorf attacks Link. With the Master Sword at its full power, Link is able to deal the final blow to Ganondorf. Link and Zelda are spirited away to the surface of the sea, and the floodwaters come crashing down, burying Hyrule beneath. Link and Zelda sail away in search of a new land, with the winds as their guide. This scene marks the beginning of the first Nintendo DS game, Phantom Hourglass.


The Wind Waker, despite criticism from fans regarding its visuals, was not only praised in terms of graphics, but in terms of gameplay as well, having retained many elements from the N64 titles in the series. As Link progresses through his adventure, he meets and helps many people, often gaining rewards for his deeds. During his quest, he explores dungeons, solves puzzles, and defeats enemies. The game’s controls are similar to previous 3D titles, albeit with improvements; for example, the C stick allows the player to adjust and control the camera with greater ease than the up-C button from the Nintendo 64. The controller’s buttons are used for multiple actions, like wielding the sword, rolling, using the shield, or using items. Along with these staple elements, new ones are introduced that debut in this title.

Sea Exploration

Like Majora’s Mask, The Wind Waker is mainly set outside of Hyrule, although the once known kingdom is visited in this title. Link explores a vast ocean known as the Great Sea, and he travels with the help of the King of Red Lions, a boat that is capable of human speech. With the help of the eponymous Wind Waker, Link can control the direction of the wind at his choosing, which is helpful to navigate the expansive waters. As he does so, he frequently visits multiple islands (49 in total), all of which have something interesting to find, be it a hidden prize or an area that is crucial to the game’s story. When Link enters the boundaries of a new island, he can ask a Fishman for information on said island, as well as to have it added to his Sea Chart. Link also gains the ability to warp from one island to another with the help of cyclones, an ability given to him after defeating a deity named Cyclos.

When Link travels from island to island, he deals with threats from the sea, including enemy bases, deadly creatures, and natural phenomena. Besides the islands, Link can venture into the aforementioned bases as well as submarines, usually populated with enemies and housing various treasures. Link can foresee sunken treasures, which are illuminated by rings of light on the water’s surface, and he can bring these treasures to the surface with the assistance of the Grappling Hook.

As Link defeats enemies, solves puzzles, helps people, and conquers obstacles, one of his frequent rewards is a Treasure Chart. When Link opens one, he is able to find previously inaccessible prizes, which will then be pinpointed by intensely bright pillars of light emanating from the surface of the sea. This is an important feature of the game as certain key items that are needed to gain access to the final area are hidden under the sea; these can only be located after collecting special charts that need to be deciphered.

GBA Interaction

The Wind Waker was the first game to utilize the connectivity between the GameBoy Advance and the GameCube. When Link rescues Tingle from the jail at Windfall Island, the 35-year old man will give him the Tingle Tuner and the Tingle Chart; after this happens, the young hero will be aided in many ways when the player connects a GameBoy Advance the GameCube using an Advance Cable. For example, when inside dungeons, he can watch its rooms prior to obtaining the dungeon map. Link can also purchase items from Tingle for use, and a special sidequest regarding the dungeons will be unlocked. The use of this connectivity is the only way to find Knuckle, whose figurine is impossible to obtain otherwise, since he doesn’t appear within normal gamplay at all.

Wind Control & Items

As mentioned above, the Wind Waker gives Link the ability to control the wind’s direction after having learned the proper melody. Manipulating the wind not only makes sea navigation faster and more convenient, it also gives the hero numerous other uses for the wind; these include being able to glide with the Deku Leaf, helping other characters fly farther, causing a treasure chest to appear when playing a melody before a marked wind spot, among other things. After learning another song, Link can use the power of cyclones to warp from one island to another, reducing the travel time to get to a destination. Other melodies serve purposes less wind-related, but nonetheless make the use of the Wind Waker multi-faceted.

Link can also obtain and use item bags to house up to eight different item types each, which helps to organize them by use. For example, the Spoils Bag holds jewels and items that enemies drop upon their death, and can be used for other purposes, such as preparing potions, receiving rewards, and giving them to those in need. The Bait Bag is also extremely useful as it houses food for animals and creatures that can be used in exchange for prizes, new information regarding something, or even to control seagulls. The Delivery Bag is used to keep letters, souvenirs, or documents, and is used in a sidequest and trading sequence that ultimately leads to an optional magical artifact.
Some gameplay elements make a return appearance from Majora’s Mask, such as the Pictograph Box, which has much more use in this game than in its debut. For example, there is an entire sidequest, called the Nintendo Gallery, which consists of taking pictographs of every living being, be they divine or mortal, within the game. The camera can be upgraded to take full-color shots and can support three pictographs at a time, whereas it could only support one in its debuting title.

Another returning element is the ability to control other characters through psychic faculty; after learning a certain melody, Link can control seagulls, statues, and even secondary characters that he had previously met in his travels. This ability in used in three dungeons, which require Link to control characters or statues. Unlike previous Zelda titles, The Wind Waker features multiple items that have multiple uses, such as the Grappling Hook and Bombs. The Grappling Hook can be used to pass over cliffs and large holes, to steal enemies’ items, and to retrieve sunken chests from the sea; the Deku Leaf can be used for flight or to blow gusts of wind. Bombs can now be used both on land and from the boat (it includes a long-range cannon used to fire bombs) while at sea. Elemental arrows are now accessed directly upon usage of the Hero’s Bow instead of being separate items; the Hookshot can take Link to higher spots and can be used to move heavy statues when combines with the Iron Boots; the Boomerang can now hit up to five targets with one launch.

Second Quest

The Wind Waker is the first game in the franchise to feature a Second Quest. When the game is cleared for the first time, the opportunity is given to restart it with some important changes; Link and Aryll’s outfits are different, the Hylian text spoken by various characters is translated into the English, and the Deluxe Picto Box is available from the start, allowing the Color Pictography Quest to be completed much earlier as well as the Nintendo Gallery, being able to get a head start from the onset of the game; Nintendo Gallery progress is retained from the completed save file to the Second Quest file.


The Wind Waker, at first glance, appears to be much more childish than previous installments of the series, due to the appearance of the characters and the vibrancy of the world. Programming the game with an engine based on this style was actually more difficult than programming Twilight Princess, which had to simply be modified to favor more realistic graphics. The style of this game was influenced by a former Japanese animator that Nintendo had consulted for inspiration. The cel-shaded style was found to well mask system limitations, and was later adopted for the handheld titles, such as Phantom Hourglass.

Contrary to the visual style, The Wind Waker is often cited to be one of the more emotional titles in the series, mainly due to the expressiveness of the characters. Additionally, its graphical style is said by some to evoke the spirit of the older 2D titles more than the N64 games did, as this was difficult to see because of technology constraints. Some also consider the Eastern-inspired music score to have helped recreate the atmosphere of the earlier games.

Among the visual effects in this game are the smoking explosion the enemies and most bosses make upon their defeat, as well as the swirls in the air to indicate the direction of the wind. When something is struck, there is an instant spark of light that can be seen and that can light up nearby areas. Characters’ clothes and hair, as well as flags, leaves, and other loose objects are affected by a real-time cloth simulation engine; these elements were present to a limited degree in the game predecessor N64 titles, though they are exaggerated in The Wind Waker, partially due to the use of the cel-shading.

The Wind Waker is unique among cel-shaded games for its lack of an outline around objects and its usage of detailed textures. The usage of advanced effects, like light-mapping, heat haze, and depth of field blur also set this game apart from others of its type. The HD remake of the game adds more visual effects, including more advanced lighting and shadow effects to make the game look more realistic. A bloom effect is also present, giving a sense of bright sunlight when out in the open.


The game features strings, flutes, and horns in the background, like when Link opens a chest. However, there are some electronic instruments, such as in Gohdan’s boss theme. For the most part, the music is based upon traditional Celtic themes, with several using bagpipes. The intro’s theme is based entirely upon the European baroque, renaissance, and medieval music. The game also features Link and other characters being more active with vocals than seen in previous titles. For example, Link meows when following Mila and she may have noticed him, and also calls certain NPCs with various English words. Though Ocarina of Time was the first Zelda game with English-speaking characters (Navi had a set of interjections), The Wind Waker was the first seen to incorporate this voice acting into a wide variety of characters, like Beedle saying “Bye!” and “Thank you!” when purchasing from him.

This game, like its N64 predecessors, has a dedicated track for when Link is within close proximity of an enemy. However, this game’s theme is more developed and has flourishes when Link or the enemy is attacked, especially when the attack is successful. Likewise, an audio technique is used where drums are added to the mini-boss music when either Link or the mini-boss in engaged in combat. Bosses also have their own themes, a first in the series. The audio in cutscenes is in a recorded music format, opposed to the MDIs used for background music tracks, marking the first step towards live orchestrated music within the Zelda series.


The game is set in the Great Sea, a vast body of water consisting of 49 islands, which are of varying size, shape, and purpose. Some are inhabited, housing dungeons, sidequests, shops, etc; these include Dragon Roost Island, Forest Haven, Ouset Island, and Windfall Island. Greatfish Isle used to be inhabited until Ganondorf destroyed it and cast a curse on the entirety of the Great Sea. There are islands that are either uninhabited or overrun by monsters, but still key to Link’s quest. These include the Forsaken Fortress, the Mother & Child Isles, Headstone Island, Gale Island, and others. There are also islands that are similar to each other, such as the three Triangle Isles, the Great Fairy Islands, and the six giant coral reefs that house enemies and cannons within. There are also three giant archipelagos that are nothing but isolated rock formations, and have no possibility for landing or exploration. The rest of the islands serve minor or optional purposes, mainly the collection of Charts and other prizes. The entirety of the Great Sea consists of 49 square units; the measurement of these squares is unknown, but is most likely kilometers.


The Wind Waker was commercially successful, selling around 3.07 million copies worldwide, becoming one of the most popular GameCube games of all time. However, most of that success comes from Europe and North America, as the game fared much worse than expected in Japan; in fact, Eiji Aonuma commented that the low popularity of the game in the region would have meant the end of the franchise. There was a limited edition version of the game available only in Europe. The game was bundled with Master Quest in a single case, whereas it was only a pre-order bonus in North America, coming in a separate case. A limited edition pak was released, also only in Europe. The bundle included a copy of the limited edition version of the game with Master Quest, a Gamecube console available in both platinum and purple, and a controller that matched the console’s color.

The game received mostly positive reviews, especially in reference to the style of the graphics. It also received high praise for its gameplay and storyline. On the consumer side, the reviews were mostly positive, ranking around a 9 out of 10 from various sites. While fans were expecting a more realistic game with graphics more in line with the tech demo from SpaceWorld 2000, this was not the case for the final game. In 2001, the impressions of the graphics were very mixed, rendering the game as controversial as The Adventure of Link and Majora’s Mask initially were in past decades. The art style was immediately decried as childish by many within the fan community, and unfit for a Zelda title.

However, the game ultimately satisfied the consumer, leading to commercial and critical success. Yet some players expressed complaints in regards to the sailing concept as well as Tingle’s role in the game. Modern reception of the game is much more positive, many now citing the graphics as a strong point, and others still resisting the change to the style as seen in the game’s HD remake.


1. According to the English translation of the game, King Daphnes says that the Hero of Time left the land on Hyrule on another journey, which could be interpreted as a reference to Link’s adventure in Termina. The Japanese text mentions instead that he left Hyrule traveling through time, referencing Link’s return to his original time at the end of Ocarina of Time.
2. According to the ‘Guinness Book of World Records Gamers Edition 2008’, The Wind Waker had around 500,000 pre-orders and was at the time, in 2002, the most pre-ordered game on record.
3. The Wind Waker is the first Zelda game where every single boss has its own theme; in subsequent games, at least two bosses share a common track.
4. Although the Korean version of The Wind Waker is actually the American verison with Korea-specific region coding, its boxart is much more similar to the Japanese version, with the logo swapped out for the English (international) one.
5. Link yells, “Come on!” when he calls Medli, Makar, or a statue, making The Wind Waker as the only canon Zelda title to date in which Link has spoken actual words until the release of Twilight Princess, where Link can be heard yelling, “Giddy-up!” as he rides Epona. In The Adventure of Link, there is a text box at one point that says, “I found a mirror under the table,” however, the Japanese version used no pronouns and is written in a similar manner to the text when Link receives and item.
6. On the disc of the American version of the game, the Hylian reads “Zeruda no Densetsu Kaze no Takuto,” which is the game’s Japanese name.
7. If the player has a file of both The Wind Waker and the GCN version of Metal Gear Solid, in the latter game, the boss Psycho Mantis makes a mention of the former game during the fight.

8. The game contains an abnormally large amount of unused/early content left within the data, most likely a result of rushed development in later stages.

a. The Wind Waker is notable for its test rooms, which can be accessed with an Action Replay device; the textures within these rooms are shared with Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario 64 DS. The Wind Waker’s first test room contains transparent water in a pool, which is likely a leftover from the earliest stages of development when transparent water was going to be used in the ocean. There is also a slope going from the surface down, indicating that an item like the Iron Boots would have allowed Link to walk underwater, similar to Ocarina of Time. Another test room actually has leftover content from the SpaceWorld 2000 Tech Demo, featuring Link and Ganondorf fighting in a dungeon with textures similar to the demo.

b. Staricases in the later parts of the game use ramp collision boxes instead of the stair programming seen in the rest of the game; most of these occur in the Hyrule Castle area, but some also occur in Forsaken Fortress. The main difference is that Link can roll up these to quickly move forward, whereas if he were to do it on other staircases, he will crash into them and fall backwards.

c. A vast amount of unused stages can be found within the disk as well. These range from a very old forest area that was showcased in the first E3 trailer, to multiple test rooms, to a different design for the Tower of the Gods and an art studio on Tingle Island. More unused areas exist than the amount of islands within the final game.

d. Hyrule Historia contains a compendium of early concept art from this game, revealing many unused ideas, some of which were implemented in later installments. The most well known concept was of Link aging as the quest went on, but was scrapped due to issues in the implementation. Another example was an island resembling a GameCube was drawn, possibly the original idea for Dee Ess Island in Phantom Hourglass. Another concept involved Link interacting with the submerged Hyrule through the use of special portals around the Great Sea guarded by a different type of fishman. This was likely going to be the implementation of walking underwater, as described previously. Remnants of that idea can still be seen via hacking the game, as Link is able to walk below the water on invisible ground.

e. A version of Dragon Roost Island that has a plucked bass sound isn’t present on the final game, but can be found within the unused data. The version with the plucked bass was implemented into Super Smash Bros. Brawl.