As I’m sure I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions, The Wind Waker was my first Zelda game and remains one of my favorites to this day. There are so many exciting places to explore within the Great Sea, but my personal favorite is actually underneath it.
After a victorious ending at the Tower of the Gods, ringing the bell to signify your triumph, a portal appears before you. Slowly, you’re lowered down underneath the waves into an entirely new world that is actually a familiar one. To those who have played Ocarina of Time, this was the kingdom they strived so hard to protect, now washed away, lost and forgotten. In a way, I wished I could have played Ocarina of Time before The Wind Waker to see how it would have impacted me.
Upon entry, the whole underwater castle is colorless aside from you and your boat companion. You step into the castle to see a whole scene frozen in time; the remnants of a battle that happened hundreds of years prior. Moblin’s and Darknuts surround the castle, all frozen in place, untouched by time. The music plays a distorted, out-of-tune rendition of the Hyrule Castle theme, followed by three big bangs — a disturbing feeling that follows you as you delve deeper into the ruins.
Exploring the castle while in this state, there were some things that stood out significantly to me. Two large portraits hang by the entryway, foreshadowing the characters we are about to meet — or rather, already have met and will soon discover secrets about. On one side a regal king’s portrait, the other a princess and her oddly familiar-looking servants.
Then there’s the giant statue at the bottom of the stairs. This was the hero who saved this kingdom, the very same we knew in Ocarina of Time. With Wind Waker being my first Zelda game, I just saw this as the magnificent figure who came before me, and the one I had to be like if I were to save Aryll. When I first saw it, I was in awe, so interested in learning more about this mysterious hero and his conquests. Now after playing Ocarina of Time, I know of his hardships because I’ve lived them myself. Such a fascinating connection in one simple statue.
That is not the statue’s only purpose, though. Upon completing a simple yet tediously time-consuming Triforce puzzle, the statue moves, revealing the way to the weapon used by the hero long ago: the Master Sword.
Below the statue resides a stairway that will lead Link to the new resting place of the Master Sword, surrounded by beautiful stained glass portraits of the seven sages and the tale of what happened those long years ago. When the Master Sword is lifted from its pedestal, the armored statues surrounding you lower their swords in honor to you. The color returns to the world below and the creatures begin stirring about.
The colors are more vibrant and everything stands out in this brilliant new world. The music picks up, but is still as eerie as ever, creating a tense atmosphere. You go around the castle with your newly acquired weapon, slaying all the beasts who lurk these halls, climbing up and down the stairs and hallways, hiding behind corners and jumping off balconies. Most satisfyingly, you can rid the place of all these monsters who at one point caused you so much grief, but can now be slain with ease with your new weapon.
Throughout the game, you return to this location a few times after, though now empty and void of any life, but I still find it an incredibly fascinating place. It is also the location of one of the grandest scenes in the game where we discover that Tetra is, in fact, Princess Zelda. I know it’s quite a controversial scene, but to me, it was this mind-blowing discovery and a piece of her character arc that helped shape her as a character (whether people like it or not).
While it does have its highlights, I’ll admit it is a little barren, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the few things we do get out of this place. Its history is fascinating and its secrets are wonderful. This is one of my favorite places in The Legend of Zelda, and I think it always will be.