Some time ago I looked at the first 23 enemies of The Wind Waker. I noted that overall the enemies were well designed in that they added to the immersiveness factor (which I will refer to as the I-factor for the rest of the article), but that the few enemies that needed to be difficult weren’t. Let’s take a look at the remaining enemies and see how well they stand up to scrutiny . . .
23 More Baddies
Fire Keese—I was very much disappointed with the design of the fire keese. For one thing, I thought that the original fire keese were much cooler looking. More objectively, they were far easier to ward off than the older fire keese. The main problem is that the fire keese, like their furry brethren, flutter in Link’s face before attacking. In Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, the keese could ambush you, popping out of you from nowhere, slamming you into the ground. In the case of the fire keese, they could divebomb you unexpectedly from great heights. Of course, if you stopped and switched to a first person view, you could look up and suddenly see a small thing in the sky headed straight for you, and that was cool for the I-factor. So the new fire keese are not as good as the old fire keese for both gameplay and ambience reasons. And while we’re talking about fire keese, whatever happened to the ice keese?
Kagaroc—These birds were billed as difficult to battle. Yeah, right. But they do have three things going for them. One, they up the I-factor a good deal. And I’m not just talking about seeing these birds flying over the seas and nesting on high rocks. I’m also talking about how they relate to other enemies, particularly the fact that they’re used to drop in some “paratroopers.” Two, the scenerios in which you must avoid them as a gull are brilliant (especially to a birdwatcher like me). And third? Well, I’ll talk about that in a later article.
Peahat—I have nothing to complain about their design. They’re even a bit challenging at the first encounters.
Seahat—They can take you by surprise, but again, this is an enemy who mostly just contributes to the I-factor. On seeing them for the first time, just about everyone I’ve seen says, “That is NOT a happy thing.”
Gyorg—Sharks are a natural choice for an ocean-based game. They would knock me out of the boat every now and then, but they were never life-threatening. I’m not terribly amused by their name, but I’ll save that issue for later.
Octorok—A classic enemy. And as usual, they can be pesky! Their design is good, even if I prefer the previous Octorok art (the current ones look, well, silly).
Red Bubble—I probably wouldn’t change anything about their design. If I was feeling nit-picky, I might mix up their behavioral patterns a bit so that they sometimes behaved like their previous version, popping up at you out of the magma, perhaps inducing a quick scare. Maybe I’m forgetting something, but I seem to recall all the Red Bubbles in The Wind Waker just floating around. Oh, and their maniacal cackle gives them quite a bit of a character, even if it makes them seem much more whimsical than menacing.
Blue Bubble—Now these are sophisticated enemies! Dealing with Blue Bubbles is much trickier and more “Zelda-like” in The Wind Waker than in Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. True, you’re not in any real threat of dying, but it’s still very important and tricky to dispatch them. Add that to having them occasionally appear as ordinary skulls on the dungeon floor before unexpectedly popping up, and you get a perfect enemy design.
Red Wizzrobe—Wizzrobes are now toucans? I’m not entirely sure why, but I like it. Oh well. Well, they can be pesky enough. But why can’t their fireballs be more powerful? As with so many of the “hard” enemies, they hardly do any damage. If they did more damage, then perhaps it’d be more worth it to dodge their attacks and we’d be fighting for our lives rather than merely to rid ourselves of a nuisance.
Master Wizzrobe—Wowee! The summoning graphic really impressed me. It’s one of those areas where the cel-shading really shines. Anyway, I absolutely loved this mini-boss fight. I enjoyed it more than most of the actual boss fights. Unfortunately, while it was challenging, I wasn’t close to being dead by the end of the fight, and I even dragged the fight out because I was getting a kick out of beating off the summoned creatures. The same old problem comes up again—the attacks of some of the enemies are not as powerful as they should be.
Yellow Wizzrobe—As might be expected, the lesser version of the Master Wizzrobe is great fun, but not much more than that. You may have a frantic time trying to kill it off quickly, but even if that fails, you won’t find yourself anywhere close to death.
Poe—Another enemy that must be defeated with cleverness, just like the Blue Bubbles. As with the Blue Bubbles, I think that their design is perfect, even if I would have probably left out the “possession” thing.
Canon Ship—Battles on the high seas are a great idea. But besides the fact that they’re not deadly even in groups, I think that the canon ships are a little corny as far as the I-factor goes. Sure, I don’t expect a full-scale replica of naval warfare from the age of broadsides, but do the warships really need to look like little rowboats who think they’re something special, what with those “Viking” horns? Oh well, it’s better than no pirate ships at all. And I will give them credit for not showing us who or what is actually manning the ships.
Big Octo—They’re great for the I-factor. But given their size, rarity, and accompanying music, they’re portrayed as being at least somewhat dangerous. But they’re not.
Gohma—We now come to the first of the bosses. Between Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, there were only two bosses I didn’t beat on my first try: Phantom Ganon and Gyorg. I’d die to the Stalfos knights, but usually not to the bosses (it’s a much different story with the 2-D games, where bosses are much harder). In The Wind Waker, I managed to die the first time around to two of the bosses—and one of them was, believe it or not, Gohma. So to me, the creature is not only good for the I-factor, but also for the challenge.
Kalle Demos—I may have been successful on my first attempt at it, but I was still fighting rather desperately, perhaps since using the boomerang in first-person view puts you in greater danger of being hit a lot. All in all, a good fight.
The Guardian—What’s with the electricity and mechanical parts? More to the point, what is Andross doing in Hyrule? And why is he so easy to defeat? Maybe Andross should send his hands over to the world of SSBM and have the Master and Crazy Hands teach them a thing or do about actually doing some damange. Hey, even
Shadow Ganon—Wow. I was thoroughly impressed by this guy (mostly based on the second encounter, of course). The cel-shading enabled Nintendo to create an incredibly stylized monster who seemed to be made of living shadow. The presentation of the second boss fight was phenomenal. It almost approached the sheer emotional and psychological power of Majora’s Mask. Of course there still wasn’t much of a challenge, except perhaps when he uses the attack that fires multiple pulses of purple energy. But when the I-factor on the boss is that good, I don’t mind that it wasn’t harder than it was.
The Helmaroc King—As usual, the fight was cool, but not very hard. Nit-picky gripe from a Biology geek: It annoyed me when the giant bird would hover in mid-air, because that took me out of the game, since it looked very unnatural (it would be impossible, in fact).
Jallhalla—I think everyone reading this can agree that this was painfully easy. But I liked the character!
Molgera—A cool arena and a cool boss make for a good I-factor. Need I say again that the worms should have done more damage with each hit?
Puppet Ganon—Odd but creative. Only the last form gave me any trouble.
Ganondorf—Crikey! Boss after boss is painfully easy, which you’re quickly reminded of when you fight them all over again in black and white. But as soon as you get to Ganondorf, BAM! The difficulty goes through the ceiling. This boss fight is now my favorite boss fight of all time, although not necessarily because of the difficulty. These are the reasons, which probably won’t surprise you:
- The difficulty isn’t in trying to figure out how to kill him so much as it’s just an insanely difficult sword fight.
- Zelda fights with you!
- I actually had to be on my toes, being nervous about dying!
- The dialogue actually gives us a kind of window into Ganondorf’s soul.
- Ganondorf is actually an incredible fighter who doesn’t need magic to get the upper hand. His moves are so spectacular that I’m willing to forgive the fact that they broke from the tradition of previous Zelda games and designed Ganondorf’s fighting
- The falling water in the arena was a very nice touch.
The first time I fought Ganondorf, I died without dishing out one blow. The second time I was more wary and managed to defeat him without using a fairy. All in all, it’s a battle that does well in both in the I-factor and in the challenge. And after the baddie was turned to stone, I was rewarded with a great ending, the only part of the game in which I was emotionally moved.
Looking to the Future
A sequel is in the works, and it promises to be bigger and better. One area that definitely needs improvement are the way the most difficult battles are handled. The attacks of the most powerful enemies in The Wind Waker should be at least as powerful as the attacks of the most powerful enemies in Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. But they’re not far from it. As I pointed out last time, the battles emphasize non-stop aggression on the player’s part, meaning that the shield gets little use. Battles with most critters is just a succession of sword slashes, and that’s it. And so I think there are two ways that a future game could improve on the difficulty of the hardest monsters. One, the monsters should be able to block Link’s attacks more effectively. (And for those that can already block his attacks well, diminish the power of the “parry” attack, which is too simple for what it can do.) Two, when they get in a hit, it should hurt much more than it does. The Iron Knuckle could take off 5 hearts in one blow! Stalfos were even deadlier, with their quick attacks and ability to block. Now, I could try to simulate the difficulty of the older enemies by not collecting additional heart pieces. However, there are two problems with that. One, it would be a self-imposed constraint, sort of like giving them a handicap. They should feel dangerous! Two, it would take away the meat of the game for some Zelda players. I happen to be one of those Zelda players whose favorite part are the side-quests, especially those involving NPCs. Most of those result in the acquisition of heart pieces. Ironically, and I realize that I’m probably fairly unique on this, I like dungeons because they compliment the rest of the game, rather than the other way around! Anyway, the point is that the designers should force difficulty on the player, rather than the player forcing difficulty on himself by handicapping the enemies.
So, what’s the verdict on the enemies of The Wind Waker? With a few exceptions, they’re very well designed from the standpoint of the I-factor. And as we have seen, most enemies in this and the previous games have no real purpose other than to serve the I-factor. But The Wind Waker is lacking in another area of enemy-design: difficulty (which technically contributes to the I-factor as well, but that’s not the point). It’s simply too easy to fight off say, a bunch of Darknuts. We can only cross our fingers and hope that the sequel will bring back the difficulty of some of the Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask baddies.