25 Years of Zelda in 25 Days - 2003
Co-authored by Jonah and Joshua

2003 was a hugely important year for the Zelda series. It was the release year of one of the most popular Zelda games ever, The Wind Waker, as well as the release of the Legend of Zelda: Collector’s Edition and a two game bonus disc which included Ocarina of Time: Master Quest.

Dates to Remember

The first of these releases (at least in the US) came on February 17th, when a preorder bonus for The Wind Waker was released. This bonus was a two-game bonus disc that contained both the original version of Ocarina of Time, and Ocarina of Time: Master Quest. Master Quest contains much of the same content as the original version of the game, but with dungeons that were redesigned to be more challenging. Due to this disc only ever being sold with the preorder of The Wind Waker it is quite rare to come across or find nowadays.

The next important date, and arguably the most important was March 24th, when The Wind Waker itself was finally released. One of the very many reasons this game is notable is due to the fact it is the first Zelda game to employ cel-shading, giving the game a cartoon-like appearance. Upon release, this was met with major criticism, and still is today to a point. Though, it should also be noted that this criticism has slowly turned into praise over time and the cel-shading has come to be accepted by many as an interesting effect that truly makes The Wind Waker unique amongst the Zelda series. Another notable thing from this game that has over time either been generally accepted or generally hated was the landscape. The Great Sea is the massive overworld in which the game takes place. While the sailing can be tedious and quite a challenge on its own, it also opens up a huge amount of content and places to explore. With fifty islands in the Great Sea, there is still much to do even after Ganondorf has been defeated.

For those who are familiar with the Split Timeline Theory, it can be theorised that The Wind Waker is an indirect sequel to Ocarina of Time, taking place hundreds of years after Ocarina of Time‘s end. The Split Timeline Theory theorizes that after Link was sent back in time in Ocarina of Time, the series was split into two timelines: the Adult Link timeline (Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword The Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass), and the Young Link timeline (The Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass Majora’s Mask, Twilight Princess). The Wind Waker would follow the Young Link Adult Link timeline, as many hints are dropped and given throughout the game that the two are connected the prologue clearly references the Hero of Time who defeated Ganon (Adult Link) in Ocarina of Time.

The third and final important release of 2003 involving Zelda games was on November 17th, when the Legend of Zelda: Collector’s Edition was released. Its original release was in North America, where Nintendo Power magazine gave it away to its subscribers who had five or more registered games. For a limited time, it was also able to be obtained with the purchase of a Nintendo Gamecube. The Collector’s Edition contained four games: The Legend of Zelda, The Adventure of Link, Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, along with a demo of The Wind Waker and a Zelda retrospective video.

Celda

What were they thinking? What have they done to Zelda? Bug eyes. Childish nonsense. What happened to the game they showed us at Spaceworld? How dare they ruin my favorite video game series.

I could go on for hours.

Toon Link, as seen in his debut trailer.

It’s hard to believe that many fans used to refer to The Wind Waker in that way. When Nintendo first showed off the newly designed cel-shaded style that The Wind Waker would use, many fans were confused and disappointed. Ocarina of Time had been a masterpiece and now Nintendo had changed the winning formula into something cartoony and tailored only for children. Nintendo was going to prove once-and-for-all that they truly were a game company only for people under 10 years of age.

At least, that’s what we all thought would happen.

Instead, Nintendo proved once-and-for-all that the style of the graphics does not affect the quality of the gameplay. Since The Wind Waker was released, we’ve seen more game developers be daring enough to try something new with graphics. Making the most life-like graphics is not always the best solution, and many of the most highly acclaimed games of the last generation stand out as much as The Wind Waker. Would anyone remember Okami if they had changed the graphic style to something more realistic?

Next time you see a new video game announced that highlights a unique or interesting graphic style thank Nintendo and The Wind Waker for inspiring that creativity.

The End of Ganondorf

The Wind Waker has a very interesting spot in the Legend of Zelda timeline. It takes place after Ocarina of Time split the timeline and continues the story of Ganondorf that began in Ocarina of Time. If The Wind Waker is remembered for just one thing it should be the development of Ganondorf as a character.

“My country lay within a vast desert. When the sun rose into the sky, a burning wind punished my lands, searing the world. And when the moon climbed into the dark of night, a frigid gale pierced our homes. No matter when it came, the wind carried the same thing… Death. But the winds that blew across the green fields of Hyrule brought something other than suffering and ruin. I coveted that wind, I suppose.” ~Ganondorf

While we had always known it was Ganondorf’s desire to obtain the Triforce and rule Hyrule, his speech in The Wind Waker was the first time we learned why. Ever since The Legend of Zelda, Ganon had simply been a monster out to rule the world. The Wind Waker made him truly human.

At the end of the game you realize that, though still evil, Ganondorf had coveted Hyrule so much that he waited hundreds of years until he could finally bring together all three pieces of the Triforce and make his wish a reality.

When I first experienced the ending of The Wind Waker I cheered when the King of Hyrule touched the Triforce before Ganondorf, but I could also feel the devastation in Ganondorf. Could any of us possibly imagine what it would be like to want something and be willing to wait hundreds of years, have it within our fingertips, and then lose it?

The battle that followed ended in the death of Ganondorf. It was a fitting end for a chapter of the Legend of Zelda. Without the split in the timeline, we likely would have never seen the softer, human side of Ganondorf.

Every Game Has a Story.
Only One Is a Legend.

All in all, 2003 was a very big year for the Zelda series. While The Wind Waker originally received some criticism, it went on to become the fourth best-selling Gamecube game of all time.

For all those who are curious, here is the original E3 2002 trailer for The Wind Waker:

Update by Joshua 11/11/11: Sorry about the timeline confusion; we should have caught that before publishing! Thanks to Ben for pointing out our error!