If The Wind Waker is the Zelda game that reflects Miyamoto the most, it’s also a game that represents a change in the direction of the series. Why? Because even though it reflects Miyamoto’s original vision, he actually didn’t know it at first. And not only that, but this game is not only a mirror on Miyamoto, but a mirror on the minds of the fans themselves.
A New Vision
Miyamoto isn’t responsible for the shift from the style and tone of the original Spaceworld demo for GameCube to the style and tone of The Wind Waker. Aonuma is. Ultimately, the shift was Aonuma’s idea. But Miyamoto loved the idea, and understandably so. His original vision, as that child in the cave, was indeed a vision of pure childhood, vibrant and untouched by the cares of the world. As I have said before, The Wind Waker truly reflects that fresh spirit, the spirit of adventure, naiveté, and general light-heartedness. It portrays that dualism between light and dark, good and evil, with stark simplicity (and yet at the same time brings a new gentleness to even Mr. G himself). If the Hero of Time is “cooler” and more confident and mysterious, the Hero of Winds is more childlike than many real children themselves.
But ultimately, we must remember that the style of The Wind Waker is really reflecting Miyamoto’s original vision. Miyamoto’s later vision, after the creation of the first Zelda game, was a bit different. I’m sure that when he had his original idea for the Zelda series, it didn’t begin with picturing how the graphics would look. But when he sat down to design it, the idea evolved from that original, unfettered vision. That’s what happens to all of us when we begin to work through the creative process. Indeed, the games have taken on far more complex layers than would have existed otherwise. Well, back in the days of the 2-D Zelda games, he, being the visionary that he is, was already picturing what the game would look like when and if technology could bring it into the 3-D realm. Way back when the Spaceworld demo was being shown, Miyamoto stated that he had always imagined Zelda as looking like Ocarina of Time. Now they only needed to progress the series more. But there’s the catch. Although the spirit of Miyamoto’s moment of inspiration, the basic concept that started it all, is most captured in The Wind Waker, Ocarina of Time is stylistically what Miyamoto had envisioned in the first place. And so The Wind Waker marks a slight shift in a new direction, a direction that Miyamoto did not instigate but embraced because it was close to his heart.
The Voice of the Fans
The Wind Waker is also a mirror into the minds of another group of individuals. The fans. Again, back when the Spaceworld demo was still being shown, Miyamoto admitted to browsing fan sites. How he might view an English site as this, I’m not sure. But it’s clear that Miyamoto is somehow more connected with the Zelda fan base than before. What does he read on the internet? I’m sure he’s seen the countless speculations, especially the discussion of continuity theories. And I have a sneaking suspicion that The Wind Waker reflects this. Note the greater attention to plot. Note the greater attention to explicit connections with other Zelda games, and especially to how they’re related by time. Pay attention to the explicit delineation of a Link who isn’t the same Link as the one in the previous games. Notice the attempts to smooth out the continuities-for instance, including a massive deluge to deal with the problem of a Hyrulian geography that changes from game to game. Part of this, no doubt, is part of a larger trend in gaming. But although I couldn’t prove it for certain, I think the game shows evidence of influence from the fans in an indirect way.
The Wind Waker is at once traditional and yet at the same time continues the evolution of the series. It’s a mirror of the mind of Miyamoto, in a way he never knew until Aonuma brought the idea to his mind. And it just may well be a mirror of the minds of the fans, reflecting their concerns for such things as continuity between the games. Whatever the case may be, we can expect the future games to keep this trend, at least for a while. That certainly isn’t a bad thing.* We’ll still be able to continue exploring the vibrant, youthful lands of Link’s world. And just think, rather than the sailing the vast expanses of the sea, we’ll get to traverse vast areas of land next time!
* On the other hand, it does mean that we probably won’t see a game that approaches the brilliance of my favorite game of all time, Majora’s Mask.
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