Today I was a seagull.

The fish told me what I needed to know. Another island, another chart – what, am I new? Kargorocs circle the many peaks. On the flat behind me I find a gate barring a treasure chest.

I turn to face the warrior birds. They sit still as stone and watch me – or perhaps they’re watching the sun glint off the end of my arrow.

Bam!

The nearest one explodes in feathers and purple smoke. Something glitters in the now empty nest.

I have pears for just such occasions.

My bow makes quick work of all but one Kargoroc, who circles the highest peak. I see the switches set like eggs in the other nests. There’s going to be one on top. There always is.

The Kargoroc flaps through lazy ellipses. Even with the telescope I can’t find a pattern. I aim; I fire. My arrows fall short every time.

Whatever. I can outrun it.

I put a pear on my head and in comes a gull…

…the wind gusts and off I go sailing on the air and a pair of borrowed wings.

A few game flaps – I head to the first peak. My wing barely brushes the switch. Snap. I head to the next one; already I can hear the nasal moan of a hunting Kargoroc. I look around. Snap!

I turn towards the next exposed switch.

Suddenly it’s on me. Not the master of the island, but one behind the tallest peak – one I missed outright.

Just like last time.

The second bird hits me before the other breaks its glide.

I am thrust back into my body, out of pears.

***

Zelda is well suited to open-end play; if something gets too tough, you can just walk away. In OoT, I went fishing when I failed the Water Temple. I tooled about collecting chickens, traded masks, rode about on Epona and looked ponderously at the sunset. Difficulty breeds perseverance, but perseverance sometimes needs busywork in which to grow.

OoT‘s Water Temple will always hold a special place in my heart – right next to the spot reserved for little boys who blow up frogs. I hated it. Even now, years from the game, I still remember aching with futility. I was close to giving up. In fact, when I decided to take my fishing break, I think I had given up. But Hyrule was full of ordinary people and extraordinary problems. I didn’t want to leave it yet. Not yet. So I went off and pursued a few tangents. And when I finally came back to the Water Temple, I beat it.

In every Zelda I find myself stuck at least once. Usually it’s something I’ve overlooked, or I’ve gone off half-cocked in the wrong direction, not being able to remember what I was told last time I turned the world on. A hiccup in the illusion of adventure – I am just a man holding a paddle and scratching his head. The side-quests keep me interested.

When I finished OoT, I never looked back – I kept the file, because whenever I felt like a fifteen minute fix it was fun to fight the Thief King and marvel over the finale (Best. Credits. Ever). But I never started again. With the help of my mom reading the official guidebook to me like a real-life Navi, which was just charming, I scoured the landscape for every anecdote. When I finished, I felt finished.

I’ve since given up on guidebooks. Besides, the internet has it for free.

I’ve played tWW twice now to completion, and each game was completely different.

***

Now I have an embarrassment of pears, a full quiver and one sneaky bird blown to bits before I land again (I should have known better). The other birds fall as easily as before. There is only the island master.

Seagulls frolic over the open water to my left. Aside from the profuse defecating, they act just like seagulls.

I remember the sneak attack from the bird I couldn’t see. But it saw me.

I have an idea that I’ve never had before.

Pear – wind – wee I’m a bird. I flap, flap, flap, making a beeline for the peak. It’s a long way. The sea beneath me becomes a foggy blue wash. I am soon past the untapped switches. I circle the only spire still reaching into the sky.

I see him, and he sees me.

He lets out his dreadful moan. He swoops, wings nearly six times as wide as mine.

My stunned self on the ground is a green dot on a green square. I turn from the island master and dive. All I hear is wind and my angry pursuer. I flap, flap, flap. The ground begins to bloom into detail.

Just as the Kargoroc lunges for the kill, I switch bodies, target, and let an arrow fly. The beast blows up close enough that a golden feather falls on my head.

Take that, Darwin!

***

The Wind Waker is like cheese – gets better with time. The first time I played through I was thorough. There’s nothing in tWW like the Water Temple to kick my ass, but the world was such a joy to explore – it was its own incentive, vibrating with life and colour. And of course, there’s the Big Damn Sea. I loved sailing. The distance made it all seem true, more-so than photo-realistic graphics ever could.

I finished tWW in a week of late nights after its release, alone in the livingroom with the curtains drawn. I provided Navi-support to my friends when they borrowed the game a month later. It’s been collecting dust beside Super Mario Sunshine ever since.

Until, that is, a few weeks ago when I got bored and decided to visit some old friends.

As the story unfolded on the second play-through, enough time had passed that I didn’t know what to expect at every turn. I remembered the major points, of course, because good Zelda leaves an indelible impression. Tragically, I forgot some other things best remembered – like the fight with the Kargorocs. On the first run, I was slave to the Quest; tWW had a palpable sense of urgency which swept me up and along (until the lengthy Triforce fetch-it), and even though I took the time to follow some tangents, I was all about the end result.

This time, I had thoughts I never had – like using the realistic behaviour of the creatures to provide their undoing. Great replay value is not just about how stunning the initial quest is. It’s about being able to make completely different choices the next time around that, while the main goal remains the same, paint a different picture of the world you’re saving.

Tangental experiences aren’t limited to side-quests. Zelda has long been a source of open-play greatness. Side-quests are involving, beneficial to your purse or arsenal, and each contain another brick in the wall of the current myth. They are designed to tow the story line. But in order to create a convincing world, developers gave us physics and intelligent enemies. And, as a result, a whole host of incidental joys.

Today, I was a seagull.

***

I swoop and dive at the exposed switches. Click!Click!Click! The tell-tale ding of success rings out when I brush past the one in the highest nest. Gate open – the quest continues.

At the top of my descent, I look around at the big blue empty above the sea. Islands dot the distance like punctuation in poetry. I don’t remember it being this beautiful.

I realize how much I like flying. It’s a lot more simple that I expected.

My hypnotized Hylian self is waiting below. All I hear is the wind and my occasional squawk of triumph.

As I lazily descend, the details shine up vivid. There’s my boat – there’s my body – and over to the right, there’s a group of playful seagulls doing areal acrobatics.

I look at the button which reads Return…

…and bank sharply to the right.

For the next few minutes I am just another seagull chasing my brother birds. No care for the urgency of the quest; I join the flock. They call to me – I answer. I flap. I am momentarily, blissfully and completely free.

______________________________________________________

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This retro article was originally posted April 10th, 2005.
  • CommanderLink

    and then links body dies and he stays a seagull for the rest of his life HAHA
    but this is an awesome article. Wind wakers my favorite zelda title of all.

  • cloverplayer

    if only you could keep on flying forever without a distance limit. *sigh*
    That's funny, i did that same technique to lure the enemies to me.
    (oh, and by the way, #2!)

    • CommanderLink

      there was no need to brag about being second man
      lol

      • GenoKID

        Second place is only first loser.

  • This just goes to show that the article writers can keep playing Zelda–for they spend so much time around it–and not lose interest.

    Funny, but I'm the same way. 8)

  • Shrub

    Wind Waker <3

    From the first couple of sentences, I knew immediately which island you were talking about. WW was so much fun to explore. So much to find, so many challenges and fun places to discover!

    • Same here; that island had one of the most enjoyable puzzles when it came to finding the Triforce Shards. I'm also glad they added more exploration opportunities, which kind of made up for the long rides to the next island. But aside from that, the game did indeed have many fun challenges.

  • I'm really upset at myself because I lost my stupid memory card with my WW save data on it. I wanted to go back and play it the other day, but now I need to buy a new card because I only had one… the question is, where did it GO?

    • Ryoni

      well…mine just broke a few moths ago… al my files, Sunshine, Wind Waker, OoT Master Quest and so on… at least 5 years of gaming…is all lost :c
      I am really sad….

      • Oh nooo! That is really sad! D=

    • Hey-Listen!!!

      I feel your pain mine got corrupted twice so I had to get a new one!

  • bobbby

    gotta love WW. I'm an avid bird watcher so being a seagull was one of my favourite sections of the game

  • da-da-da-dumb!

    First, I thought the first couple of paragraphs were supposed to be sung to the tune of that one song from Pocahontus… *facepalm*

    Awesome article though 😀

  • falconfetus8

    The part where you switched back to Human and shot the bird was so epic when I imagined it

  • ulrica23

    cool beans

  • GenoKID

    At least some people share my passion for sailing and enjoying the sea.
    Well, in TWW, at least.

    Bird's Peak Rock, gotta love it. Had exactly the same experiences.

  • Banooru

    I lured those birds closer to me my first run through the game as well. The second time, I had more fun dodging them by circling close to the tallest peak and then diving for the second tallest one.

  • Lábios Velha Flappy

    macaco-la merda é são os anões pan em meus dentes cerdas esfregar luta robô genital whack um molde!

  • flathedge Nooble

    i want to lick your hovering monkey feet

  • Gerudude

    And I thought I was the only one who could'nt kill that highest Kargoroc with mere arrows.

  • Artimus-Maora

    XD That sums up tWW pretty well for me. XD Very fun, very lifelike even though it's clearly not. Yeah, the "Gather the Triforce" part was annoying as anything I've ever seen, but still kind of fun. XD I'm glad everyone else had issues sniping that Kargoroc.

  • jau682

    this is amazing! i love this poem… thing… idk what to really call it, prose? but seriously, this is what makes me wish i could +fav articles here, lol.

  • Hey-Listen!!!

    Change that to take on Ganon and SAVE zelda haha my bad.