The first time I played Wind Waker, I was a thirteen-year-old kid and relatively new to the Zelda series. This game blew me away from the outset (see what I did there?), so the finale had a massive build up for me. Aryll’s being kidnapped by the bird, the bird owning Link, Link owning the bird, and then Ganondorf owning Link. I was invested in Link’s goals. Once I made my way to and through Ganon’s Tower, and all the repeat bosses lay dead at my feet (it seems appropriate to channel my dramatic, teenage self), I was ready to beat up an old man.
Everything about this final boss fight was designed to make the word epic flash through a player’s mind. At least, that’s what it did for me as I watched this ending play out that fateful and ordinary school night back in 2004. First, Ganondorf went nuts, drew two katanas out of nowhere and attacked Link. Second, the world was literally crashing down around me. The water was falling, running off the top of the tower and all around Link and Ganondorf as they fought. There was no time limit for this fight, but in my head, I knew the water was flooding all of Hyrule, and would eventually reach me. Ganondorf had to be put down before that happened (again, dramatic).
Third, Zelda was right there with me, shooting Ganondorf with the Light Arrows any chance she got. It was an epic tag-team where Link and Zelda were doing everything in their power to finish things and “return to their ocean.” Last, there’s the battle theme. Just listen:
This song got me hyped to win this fight. It was a clear signal that the end was near.
Halfway through the battle, Ganondorf grew weary of Zelda’s interference and knocked her unconscious. Link was ticked off. I was ticked off. Link and Ganondorf had a few moments of one-on-one, and I savored the chance to counter his attacks and watch Link go full prequel-trilogy Yoda on the King of Evil. Payback for everything this lunatic had put Link and me through was within reach.
I laid into him a few times before Zelda woke up and rejoined the fight. This time she had a plan. A really good plan. A plan I may have ignored at first, which resulted in me being shot in the face with a Light Arrow. Then I remembered I had a Mirror Shield, felt dumb for a second, and waited for her next round.
The arrow eventually came, bounced off my shield and into Ganondorf’s much-more-deserving-of-it chest. Then came the good part as I locked on and responded to the parry prompt.
Link got out a lot of aggression during this moment. I did too, but also with a mix of shock and amazement. Just, wow, right in the face. It was unexpected but admittedly cathartic. At that moment, the E 10+ rating was born. Toon Link was already best Link in my opinion, and this showmanship of swordsmanship only made that more obvious to me.
Ganondorf let out a groan-laugh mix as he accepted defeat, said his final words, and turned to stone to avoid the “T” rating. Link let out a deep breath and nearly fainted as the fact that it was all over sunk in. I may or may not have done the same.
This showdown was amazing. I guess I should say legendary. The theme of the entire game’s narrative culminated in this finale. It was the classic struggle of good versus evil, with good burying the fact that it will always triumph, right between evil’s eyes.