The year was 2003 and of all the video game consoles I had, the Nintendo GameCube was my most played. I was poring through all of the gaming magazines my parents would let me buy, and any information I could get on Wind Waker was precious and valuable.
So when we went to the bank so I could cash in all the change I’d saved up over time, I was bouncing off the walls. One of the bankers looked at me and asked me what I was so excited for. “I’m gonna get a new video game!” I exclaimed. Once we got the game and went back home I immediately popped the game into my GameCube and readied myself for another grand adventure!
I played through the game like normal, getting adjusted to the controls and just being totally immersed in Wind Waker’s unique style. I still remember crawling to sneak up on the pig, and trying my best to avoid the snot-nosed kid as much as humanly possible. As I walked Link into his home, there was someone I wasn’t expecting to see; it was Link’s grandmother.
It was the first time that any video game had made me feel such strong emotions, and it’s for that reason Wind Waker is so special to me.
I was already surprised at Link having a sister, but a grandmother was out of left field. One of the things I did as a kid was project myself into the character I was playing as, which is why Zelda games are so special to me: When I play them, I am Link, even going as far as making it a tradition to name Link after myself when given the choice to. As I read the dialogue, I began to feel a real connection to these characters. Aryll reminded me of my real little sister, and Link’s grandmother naturally reminded me of my own. It warmed my little heart to see this sort of a connection in this game, and even though I was young, I still felt the emotional weight of these character relations.
I played the game through the Tetra sequence in the forest, finding the combat to be very fun and satisfying. Once we rescued her and all was well, I watched the scene as Aryll walked across the bridge and everything was great — only for her to be snatched by the Helmaroc King. I had already projected my little sister onto Aryll, and my mouth went agape and Link attempted to run after her in vain. Even though Tetra lambasted Link for what he’d done, I thought then in the moment that I would’ve done the same as he.
And so, our journey began to save our little sister. I was just as determined to do this as Link was, so I readied myself for the journey ahead. But, we needed to get a shield first. Where could we find one? I seemed to recall there was one at Grandma’s house on the wall.
I went back into our home, realizing that Link’s grandmother may not yet know that Aryll had been kidnapped. I felt a sudden tinge of anxiety at the thought of what would happen if she did know. I went to find the shield — but it was gone! So I jumped back down, only for that realization to hit. She knew. As her theme began to play, it brought memories of my own grandmother. Seeing Link’s grandmother cry over her grandchild being kidnapped made me cry as well. Though I had never seen my own grandmother cry, I could never bear the thought of it. This game and journey gained a whole different meaning, and in a sense it had become personal.
Wind Waker was, for me, not a journey about defeating Ganondorf. It instead became a journey of reuniting a broken family. No matter how far in the game I had been, or what I was doing, that thought lingered in the back of my mind. The thought that I had to save Aryll and bring her home, so that these characters could be a family once again.
One of the greatest teachers I ever had in my life was my grandmother. She taught me how powerful kindness can be, and I strive every single day to follow in her example in that regard. Even when I was young, she never once judged me for anything I did, and I could be myself around her. Though their interactions are short, it’s very clear that the same kind of strong bond is forged between Link and his own grandmother.
It was the first time that any video game had made me feel such strong emotions, and it’s for that reason Wind Waker is so special to me. My own grandmother is no longer with us, but seeing Link’s own grandmother in the game brings back all of the wonderful and fond memories I have of her when she was around. And I will always be thankful to Wind Waker for that.