The Zelda series will probably make more than one appearance in this series, but I felt it only appropriate to start with my favorite and the most memorable game in the series, The Wind Waker. When Wind Waker was announced, fans revolted and the press was highly skeptical, much like the reveal of Metroid Prime and we know how that turned out. The cause for the revolt was the artistic direction the game had taken. Where the last entries in the console series, Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, had a more realistic look, Wind Waker opted for a cel-shaded direction. Fans were outraged, until they got their hands on the game of course. The game has since gone on to have a devoted following and sadly remains the only Zelda game to receive a HD re-release on consoles. (Step it up Nintendo!) Wind Waker was a beautiful game set in an intriguing and breath-taking world. The art direction was gorgeous, the story was surprisingly emotional for a Zelda game, and of course, the music was among the best in the series.
The soundtrack was composed by the master Koji Kondo who has composed music for nearly every Zelda game, with assistance from Kenta Nagata, Hajime Wakai, Toru Minegishi. Curiously, besides Mr Kondo, Mr. Minegishi was the only one who had previously been involved in the Zelda series. Each game in the Zelda series takes a different source of inspiration for the soundtrack. In Wind Waker, the music has a decidedly Irish influence that fits the nautical adventure.
The Irish influence is highly apparent during the title screen music. Just listen to this audio beauty and try not to get it stuck in your head.
As sublime as that music is and how it wondrously sets the stage for the game, I want to focus on a more powerful moment later in the game.
Eventually it is revealed that the vast world of water you have been exploring is on top of Hyrule. A long time ago, Hyrule was flooded, leading to the world of Wind Waker. Link gets the ability to visit and explore the flooded realm. And on top of all that, Link’s new ally Tetra the Pirate Queen, is Princess Zelda and his ship, the King of Red Lions, is the King of Hyrule. Of course, Ganon shows up to steal the Triforce at some point. Ganon manages to assemble the Triforce, granting him a wish. Before Ganon can make his wish, the King wishes to flood Hyrule again with Ganon as well and for Link and Zelda to be safe. What follows is an epic showdown between Link and Ganon with the sea crashing back to flood Hyrule again. After conquering Ganon once again, a somber sequence follows the exhilarating battle.
The song is a perfect accompaniment to the scene unfolding. After conquering the villain, one would expect a triumphant victory and upbeat music to play. However, the exact opposite happens here. As Hyrule is flooding, the king sends Zelda and Link away and stays with the forgotten land. While the king explains what is occurring and what he plans to do, this song plays. The song is morose and captures the emotions felt by the characters in the moment. The fact that they are cell-shaded allows for more expressive faces to really get their feelings across to the player. It was a surprisingly emotional moment for a Zelda game and continues to resonate with me long after I completed the game.
Skip to 1:33 for the scene.
Here’s the song by itself.