Anyone able to recall the time when we first found out that the Wind Waker was going to be cel-shaded? I know I remember the entire event. Back in 2001 when I was a wee-little Mirren of eleven years, I was visiting the Odyssey of Hyrule website, and I came across a news blurb-

“All New Zelda GameCube shots released. Don’t be too excited, you might not like what you see if you’re over the age of 12. 🙁 Click Here Only if You Don’t Mind Being Disappointed”

I simply shrugged it off, figuring “How bad could it be?”. Then when I finally saw what the next big Zelda epic would be, I had a very different reaction…which involved quite a few obscenities…

Honestly, that’s pretty much along the lines of what I first said. I was furious, because at that time, I had no experience with cel-shaded graphics, and I was obsessed with the idea of Zelda being a more serious series that had to have adult Link in a realistic, mature world. I wasn’t alone, either, there were enough people on Earth that laughed at Zelda for becoming ‘kiddy’, and there are still a lot of people that feel that way for the Wind Waker. But, alas, over time I learned to accept the art-style, and to this day the game is my favorite entry into the Zelda series. Imagine that.

A few years ago, that was the surprise of the century for video games, but if it had happened today, I don’t think it would’ve had as big of an uproar. Cel-shaded games have become rather popular in this generation, and a lot of high-quality games have sported them. The other thing to note is how Nintendo has made a habit of shocking fans with new creations. Just a couple of months ago we found out that Revolution was named Wii, and before then we had learned that the controller for Wii would be the Wiimote. Nintendo knows how to draw attention to themselves, and they’ve been able to do it quite a few times using the Zelda franchise.
Wind Waker’s first showing of Cel-shaded graphics might be the perfect example, but before that, go back a few years ago, prior to the Gamecube’s release. The big thing then was the Spaceworld Demo of an untitled Zelda game. It featured highly realistic graphics of an adult Link battling Ganondorf in a sword fight. At that time, it was a visual masterpiece, and it had gotten fans all hyped up for the next title.

But there was a problem; the Spaceworld Demo wasn’t a video of any gameplay from any game, because it was just a brief clip made to demonstrate the Gamecube’s graphical capabilities. Naturally, people didn’t immediately think that it was just an exhibition for the system’s visuals, despite words from Nintendo concerning it. And, unfortunately, everyone went into the summer of 2001 expecting Zelda to be like that.

Then in August, every Zelda fan realized just how wrong they truly were. Everyone had figured that what we saw at Spaceworld was the next Zelda game, while in reality; it had always been the colorful, cel-shaded Wind Waker. The change was simply astounding, to the point where many gamers lost all respect for Zelda because of the way the Wind Waker looked. Sure, some people were ignorant of how good the visuals could be, but it’s understandable how some might’ve been disappointed. You ended going from a Zelda game that featured the popular Adult Link in what were some of the most stunning graphics at that time, to a game where our hero was a skinny squirt in a world that looked like it was ripped right out of a cartoon.

And yet, Nintendo wasn’t done there. Fast-forward a couple years to May of 2004, where perhaps the biggest news about Zelda was revealed; Twilight Princess. It made just as big of an impact on the gaming population as the Wind Waker did, but for different reasons. With the Wind Waker, most people were dissatisfied in the way it looked, whereas for Twilight Princess, fans and non-fans alike were enthralled that a more realistic, older Link was returning.

It was particularly a huge revelation because unlike with the Wind Waker, we had almost no knowledge whatsoever of what the next Zelda game would be like. As common for Nintendo, they left us in the dark for quite a while, withholding all information from us about Twilight Princess. This event was something like a homeless man living on the streets for a year, and then one day finding a bag in an alley with thousands of dollars inside. It was completely unexpected, so we ended up getting the full impact at one time on how great Twilight Princess would look.

Just like that, in one swoop, Nintendo had given the fans what they loved; realism, a teenaged Link, and a more extreme environment. You can simply consider it Ocarina of Time’s older brother, and that’d be an accurate description. Twilight Princess has the most popularity of any Nintendo game in years, maybe the most in their entire history, and it’s still a few months away from being released. Could there be so much hype if it was Cel-shaded, or 2D? What if all we knew about it only came from interviews?

Nah, it’s all about a couple videos, official artwork and a batch of screenshots. Seeing is believing for many.

Did you notice a similarity between the impact of the Wind Waker’s and Twilight Princess’s first showings? Besides the fact that they were monstrous? The key for their effect on the fans was that they played off the past. Perhaps it wasn’t done intentionally by Nintendo, but because of the major Zelda games before them, Wind Waker and Twilight Princess had huge entrances.

Before the Wind Waker, we had Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, two of the most serious games in the series. We also were able to see the Spaceworld Demo in late 2000. Then, out of the blue, came the bright, light-hearted tale that was the Wind Waker. It really wasn’t anything new; Cel-shaded graphics were around long before that, but after two mature games and a video demonstration with some of the most realistic visuals for a Zelda title, Wind Waker stuck out like a sore thumb.

For Twilight Princess, it had the good fortune of having the Wind Waker be the major Zelda title before it. The video game world didn’t go absolutely crazy in May of 2004 simply because Adult Link was returning. The reason they went wild was because what came prior to it was a cartoony adventure, and just a few 2D entries. For so long had the franchise been without a gruff and tough hero, and a lifelike world, until we saw the first images of the next big Zelda epic.
I think it’s great when something like that happens, when a new report is able to stir up so much discussion amongst the fans. When a game company does that, it makes us interested in what’s going on with our video games, and it makes us active in the community. People become enthused in the new topic, whether they agree or disagree with it. It’s win for both the corporation and the fans; the corporation gets a huge deal of advertisement, and the fans get some new, crazy subject to argue about all across the internet.

And, between you and me, I love it when I bound out of my computer chair at the sight of some whacky announcement.