The Wind Waker Dungeons: Forbidden Woods

Axle the BeastApril 30th, 2013 by Axle the Beast

The Forbidden Woods is The Wind Waker’s obligatory forest dungeon, so it goes without saying that it follows certain Zelda conventions. Certainly, forest-themed areas can differ a lot in their other themes, but they will always have that central idea in common, and we come to expect certain things from a forest dungeon. The Forbidden Woods is definitely this; it’s pretty conventional in terms of its look and feel. And I would say, to somewhat of a fault.

This might seem odd to those who read my review of Dragon Roost Cavern last week, because I said that dungeon had very conventional themes as well, but I also said that it managed to pull them off because of the visual design and visual style. The thing is, while the visual style is intact here, the visual design isn’t. Certainly, the best parts about the Forbidden Woods’ visuals are basically most of the same things that made Dragon Roost Cavern great; its environmental effects of atmospheric and downright beautiful lighting mixed with eerie mist are awesome-looking, and it’s got an atmospheric tune that, while minimal, is actually pretty effective at giving the thorny, thorny dungeon even more atmosphere. This music feels dark and lonely while not seeming overly evil. These woods might be corrupted, but they’re not dripping blood and infested with skeletons; as a result, the dungeon’s theme is appropriately lonely-sounding, with an unsettling sense of looming, as opposed to being overpowered by a scary vibe. In short, its pretty elements and calming vibe mix well with the eerie aspects to give the dungeon the perfect music.

So how could I honestly complain about the Forbidden Woods’ art design when all of these things were also accomplished in a dungeon I praised? Well, the Forbidden Woods actually are missing one core element that the previous dungeon excelled at… which is room design. All of the cool atmosphere comes from the lighting, mist and music, not the areas that you actually have to navigate.

Oh, there’s still some unique rooms, plenty of which have interesting ways of traversing them, to be sure. But ultimately, in terms of look and feel alone, the vast majority of this dungeon’s chambers are little more than forested caves, with dull and uninspired walls with some wood, grass, and trees spread around. It would have been much better if they built the rooms less off of caves and more off of the forest; neater scenery, with stranger and more varied plants, to create more trippy and unsettling visuals and atmospheres. For a dungeon that looks so foreboding — and thorny! — from the outside, it seems pretty standard — and not thorny! — on the inside.

A bigger problem I’d like to bring up relates to something “Justac00lguy” brought up in the comments to the Dragon Roost Cavern review, which was how that dungeon’s outdoor sections helped to give it a sense of scale as well as diversity. First off, diversity would be a major weakness of the Forbidden Woods. While its rooms differ in shape, they do not differ in atmosphere, whereas Dragon Roost Cavern boasted multiple different atmospheres as you progressed through the dungeon. The scale issue is the bigger point, however, and I think this is where the Forbidden Woods really falls apart; can you honestly say you can make sense of what the place is or how it’s supposed to work? Obviously it’s an island, and it seems to be mostly enclosed in a hollow tree, but you get no sense of where in the thing you are as you navigate it, nor of how it grew and formed into such a cavernous wood, or anything of the sort. Had the dungeon been designed in such a way as to give you a sense of how things grew to be that way, or at least showed you where you were in the dungeon by giving you more open-roof rooms and perhaps rooms going along its thorny sides, it would have been far more striking and far more enthralling. It would have been especially cool to see a bigger and, particularly, more focal contrast between the day-lit sky and the darker and misty woods; as it stands you’ll only ever notice the sky if you happen to look all the way up, and there’s rarely any reason to. At the very least, the dungeon could have carried the thorn theme seen on the outside further than simply having those thorny wriggling vines, although at least that’s something.

Gameplay-wise, the dungeon is pretty easy, and most of its challenges are confined to navigational ones. This is fine and traveling through the dungeon is reasonably fun, but I think it gets a little annoying traveling through the dungeon because of all the starting and stopping. Jumping into many Baba Buds to get up higher, and blowing fans to get the gondola lifts to move, among a few other navigational quirks, get annoying in how they constantly ask you to stop moving. The dungeon would be a bit better if it flowed more seamlessly as you navigate; it should have been a bit less time-consuming to get around.

Those wind spinners are also rather annoying to get to work, and only on my most recent run through the game did I actually figure out how to get them to respond without any problems. For context, I’ve played this game a lot of times. I’m interested to know if other people had some difficulty working these consistently, or if it’s just me. The other navigational mechanic that bugs me is a smaller point: Chucking acorns or nuts or whatever they’re supposed to be at open flowers to kill them and get past their vines. This isn’t all that hard to figure out, but… honestly it doesn’t make a lot of sense! Like I said, very minor issue, but nonetheless confusing.

One other minor issue is the placement of the teleport cauldrons; once again, their placement isn’t terribly useful, and when they’re needed most you’re out of luck. There should have been one after getting the Boomerang for easy return to the beginning of the dungeon where the secrets you need the Boomerang for are, while the one in the room just before the boss should have been moved to the main shaft nearby, since they’re so close together and the shaft is used and returned to much more often.

As I said earlier, the dungeon is pretty easy. It’s harder than Dragon Roost Cavern overall, and it’s not so easy that it’s a problem yet, given that it’s still a pretty early dungeon. But I will say that at this point in the game, the easy difficulty is starting to get a bit old. I think the difficulty is especially annoying with the enemies, who aren’t that challenging to begin with and can literally be killed in one or two hits once you acquire the Boomerang.

The enemy designers should have been more conscious of the fact that the Boomerang basically murders these enemies, because the item can give the player a nice sense of revenge; how perfect would it have been to have dealt with seriously challenging foes in sparse numbers throughout the dungeon only to be able to come back and take them down with ease once you get the dungeon item (possibly fighting them in bigger groups later)? Green ChuChus were fine due to them being difficult to hit and their numbers, and Moblins have decent difficulty for this stage in the game and are much easier after getting the Boomerang, making it perfect revenge after dealing with them in the Forsaken Fortress and Dragon Roost Cavern. But the rest of the enemies, like the Peahats and Boko Babas, should have been much more challenging to bring about a feeling of satisfying revenge in the player when they can be easily killed with the Boomerang. I think the dungeon came so close to having an awesome, unique flavor with its enemy design, but alas missed the mark.

Boss-wise, Mothula is a pretty cool guy miniboss. I’ve written before about how Mothula in The Wind Waker is one of my favorite monsters of the series, and the fight itself is cool too, and since this is the first of the winged variety the player has ever seen up until this point, it’s one of the most unique minibosses; while technically the green Bokoblins are first fought as a miniboss too, they’re fought nearly the same as normal Bokoblins are, whereas fighting Mothula with wings is a very distinct experience. The fight’s a bit too easy because of Mothula’s low health and the frequent parry attacks allowed against it — allowing the player to attack with impunity — but otherwise it’s a solid miniboss fight.

Kalle Demos, on the other hand, is one of The Wind Waker’s few near-perfect bosses. Certainly, it’s a bit on the easy side, but it still manages to be much harder than everything surrounding it at this stage in the game. Kalle Demos has a great concept; while it is just a simple (though beautiful) flower bulb with vines, it has a very distinct-looking Deku Baba creature in its center as its head, and a very unique name that seems like it might have its own implications: Demos? Like a demon? A demon flower!?

The fight itself is pretty simple, but it does require the player to be constantly aware of the movements of Kalle Demos’ vines, watching for giveaways for its attacks while aiming to cut down the vines tethering it to the ceiling. Requiring awareness of multiple factors while targeting the boss is stimulating, and makes for a good boss fight. This element is even carried over to attacking the boss’s exposed weak point: When the flower is dropped from the ceiling, you can attack the small Baba creature within, but there’s a limited time before the flower closes on you and does a lot of damage. The window of opportunity is short, and the player is easily caught. This boss can drain your hearts quickly if you let it, and while it’s still a fairly easy fight, that’s forgivable as it’s only the second boss of the game because it actually provides stimulation and some challenge. Its music is a perfect fit to the battle, continuing the main dungeon theme’s wooden tinkles and clinks while introducing deeper sounds, carrying the wood theme and making it harsher. The almost cough-like sounds later in are unusual and, in my eyes, highly unsettling, and they lend the fight against this demon flower an awesome flavor. Finally, even the boss’s chamber succeeds where the rest of the dungeon fails; this chamber appears very organic, constructed from twists of vines, both visually distinct and pretty unsettling in and of itself. There are just a lot of factors that come together excellently to make this a great boss battle.

So all in all? The Forbidden Woods is an adequate dungeon for the second main one of the game, but it definitely falls short in places. Its art-design is minimal and fails to accomplish something new, and its enemy design is a little lopsided, both of which are unfortunate considering how much potential these elements had. On the other hand, the dungeon still manages a cool atmosphere, and has a neat miniboss and an awesome main boss. So it’s still a lot of fun.

But what about you? Did you enjoy this dungeon? Did you think it fell short of good art and enemy design, or did you think its themes and foes were great? How about Mothula and Kalle Demos? Tell me in the comments, and look forward to next week, when I review the Tower of the Gods!

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  • VikzeLink

    I really like the theme in this dungeon, Corrupted Deep Forest

  • JuicieJ

    Not sure what it is about this dungeon, but when I play through it, I feel like I’m in a stasis, or something. Like I’m just… going through the motions without even having to think about anything. It’s just a dull and boring dungeon for me.

    • Bob

      No matter how many times I played through the wind temple, I could never finish it without getting lost. This one, I agree, I could do in my sleep.

  • Elena Helen

    As you say, this dungeon wasn’t exactly hard, but I know that for me it was really unsettling. Excepting that open-sky room where you got the boomerang, the rest of the dungeon felt really claustrophobic for me, even though it actually had pretty big rooms.

  • Julian Delarosa

    I found it odd how there was 2 (or 3?) rooms where you could see out the top, yes from outside, you can clearly tell there should only be 1 room like that

    • Scott Reika Ripberger

      Perhaps it’s an optical illusion created by those 2 (or 3) rooms looking
      out that one big hole from three points. There really aren’t any
      reference to see up there unless you get REALLY into mapping the Great
      Sea’s stars.

  • zombie_eat_flesh

    A demon flower that eats the most adorable character in the game.

  • Emma Inglis

    “Can you honestly say you can make sense of what the place is or how it’s supposed to work?”

    *cough cough* Old Kokiri forest! *cough*

    • JuicieJ

      We don’t know that.

      • Skull Kiddo

        One of the Koroks (if you talked to them) pointed out that they used to live there and that you can see little houses in the dungeon where they resided. At least there is some background.

        • JuicieJ

          Hm. Well, I learned something new today! =D

        • Axle the Beast

          Yes, they did say that, but that doesn’t mean it’s the homes of the Kokiri nor old Kokiri Forest. As JuicieJ said: “We don’t know that.”

          And it still doesn’t explain the general formation of the woods themselves, why they’re on a mountaintop, etc.

          • EOTW

            Look at that first picture of the Forbidden Woods. It looks like those big thorny vines pushed the old dead tree up out of the water. That may explain the “mountaintop”. Not to mention the fact that geography can change drastically with art style. :p

  • Erik Ingvoldsen

    This is the only dungeon in the game I found on par with the other Zelda titles…but the boss really ticked me off. I understand it’s the 2nd dungeon, but Wind Waker only has 5 and the boss was easier to kill in 1 stun than Gohma in OoT.

    • EOTW

      I don’t know if I misunderstood, but WW has seven dungeons, not five.

      • K2L

        He probably doesn’t countr Forsaken Fortress. I want to know why most fans don’t. It has a map, a compass, AND a boss.

        • TheIvoryDingo

          Not to mention it’s own dungeon item.

          • K2L

            And not one, but TWO minibosses (the blade-wielding Bokoblin and Phantom Ganon.

        • Erik Ingvoldsen

          I don’t count it because it’s shorter than the Deku Tree and the mini dungeons in OoT (which also had a map and compass).

          • K2L

            Palace of Twilight, Hyrule Castle, and both Skyview and Earth Temple were shorter tan Forsaken Fortress, Oh, and the minidungeons of OOT lacked a boss, while Forsaken didn’t.
            I get TWW is the favorite of none and unfavorite of everybody, and that the two missing dungeons would have added more to the game. But I had no idea the hate would extend to demoting a dungeon with all the characteristics of a dungeon just because “it’s short”. Then again, Zelda fans are known for their doublé-standard opinions, so it’s unsurprising.

          • Erik Ingvoldsen

            If you actually look up video LPs and walkthroughs, both Palace of Twilight and Hyrule Castle take roughly an hour while the Foresaken Fortress takes roughly 25 minutes–if you do everything.

    • BlackRaven6695

      It’s impossible to kill the boss in one stun. The bud is guaranteed to close before it’s health hits zero.

      • Erik Ingvoldsen

        You’re not quick spinning.

  • TheMaverickk

    I thought the art design and style of the dungeon was rather well done.

    The idea that the dungeon is the abandoned homes of the Kokiri gives it history and a certain level of tragedy and you can see the stump like homes over taken by vines and enemies. In some cases the homes have become make shift prisons by the monsters in the dungeon I’m sure.

    Also there are different levels to the dungeon…. there are these above ground area’s where the old kokiri homes are and then you sink down into the roots of the dungeon and see the fossils in the ground. I also enjoy the fact that you can see portions of the outside while inside the dungeon.

    Wind Waker was always good at this though giving the player glimpses of the world outside.

    Not to mention that the Wind Waker boomerang is probably my favorite variation of the item in the series. Kalle Demos is a boss that actually keeps you on your toes, and forces you to keep moving. It’s not entirely that difficult, but it’s at least a boss that is engaging to fight as you cut away the vines that protect it.

    Personally as far ‘woods’ dungeons go this one is my favorite. I don’t consider Skyview Temple a ‘woods’ dungeon…. and I don’t consider the Forest Temple a ‘woods’ dungeon either. Just in case someone says ‘well what about those’. Both those dungeons blow this dungeon out of the water design wise.

    Personally never had much trouble with the fans. I think only once have I ever had the platform sort of get stuck in the middle.

    • JuicieJ

      For a second there, I thought you meant TP’s Forest Temple. I was like, “How is that not a ‘woods’ dungeon?”

      • TheMaverickk

        LOL, yea I should specify, I always forget that TP’s forest dungeon is called the ‘Forest Temple’ as well.

        • JuicieJ

          They definitely both completely pwn the Forbidden Woods, though, especially the Forest Temple. That is by far the best-designed dungeon in the series.

          • TheMaverickk

            I wouldn’t say that the Forest Temple is the best designed. Well it’s the best design they can get out of the type of dungeon it is.

            Either way the dungeon is up there with the Water Temple, Thieves Town, the Sandship, all the dungeons in Majora’s Mask…. lol.

    • Matthew Shannon

      never thought of it like this, awesome analysis.

    • Hyrule’s Hero

      The Forest Temple in Twilight Princess was a “woods” dungeon. You enter a huge tree in the middle of the forest, and the inside has vines, smaller trees, outside areas that show you more parts of the forest, more wood, and more wood.

      Skyview Temple doesn’t belong in the forest. First of all, the name. When can you see a view of the sky? You can’t! When I entered Faron Woods and saw the Great Tree, I thought that was going to be the dungeon. But NO! IT WASN’T! Second of all, the location of the dungeon. Why is it in a forest area? Shouldn’t it be in the SKY, because it’s called SKYVIEW Temple.

      • TheMaverickk

        OMG …. Juice raised this point, and after he did I even edited my comment to clarify that the Forest Temple I’m referring to is the Ocarina of Time version. So how you think I’m talking about the Twilight Princess Forest Temple I have no idea.

        I do count Twilight Princess’ Forest Temple a ‘Woods’ temple…. it’s why I didn’t mention it.

        Second Skyview Temple may be in a woods but that doesn’t make it a “woods” themed dungeon. That’s why I don’t consider it a ‘woods’ themed dungeon. The theme and design of the dungeon really has nothing “woods” related.

        I don’t know why they chose the name Skyview either, but it’s the name they chose. Even if the dungeon isn’t very “sky” themed either.

  • JeredenDonnar

    I’ve always liked Kalle Demos as a boss, so intersting. And you bring up a good point: Is it an island, or a tree-thing, or what? On forest haven, you can see the island part and the tree part, so they don’t need to show you the location in-tree. Perhaps its like that for Forbidden woods, too (the korok says that its where they used to live before it became evil); maybe the island part was swallowed up in those wicked vines? (the vine-thingies in there freaked the crap out of me)

  • Hero Of Wind

    You can bypass the wind spinners by facing directly opposite the direction you want to go and using the deku leaf. Much easier than trying to aim at the spinners.

    Also, about Kalle Demos. I like how you have the option to defeat it faster in exchange for losing some of your hearts. In other words, you can finish the fight in two rounds instead of three if you keep slashing up until the bud closes. It only takes one round in Ganon’s Tower.

  • Roth

    The first thing you have to realize is that hitting the spinners at all has one result; it doesn’t matter if you hit it clockwise or counter-clockwise. After that, you must recognize that the lifts will move from using the Deku Leaf while standing on them, not from the spinners at that point, so you just need to aim backward like with the flower in the water.

    It took me a while the first time, but not unreasonably long. Later I just had to fiddle a bit to remember, and since my third playthrough I’ve handled it naturally.

  • Mseevers95

    I always thought that the dungeon was the cursed decayed remains of the original Deku Tree

    • Link_The_Ultimate_Chronomancer

      But Kokoriki Forest was in a valley, and WW takes place on the mountains of OoT.

      • Mseevers95

        Then how did the the Deku Tree sprout survive?

        • Hyrule’s Hero

          Maybe it’s the Great Deku Tree Sprout from Ocarina of Time. He decided to name himself the Deku Tree.

          • Mseevers95

            But if the forest was in a valley how did it survive the flood?

  • Matt

    The wind spinners were a nightmare…

  • Jeshua

    Do you think that Forbiden Woods is the Lost Woods of OoT?? they are in the same place in the map, greetings Axle ;D I really really enjoy the section Curiosity Shop

  • Matthew Shannon

    the trick to the spinners is not to aim at them, but to simply fan in the opposite direction as to which you intend to move. this trick took me a few play throughs to catch on to.

  • oozy the wolf

    i did have trouble using the spinners

  • HyruleHistory10

    This dungeon is tied for 1st on my Fav Wind Waker dungeons. The other being the Earth Temple. I too also had trouble with the spinners. The dungeon boss is a beast taking cues from Barinade and making better in some ways.
    Plus about those Flower Door locks you need to use the Nuts(?) to kill it. I am pretty sure that if you have the tingle Tuner out you can use a Tingle bomb to clear it out too. It has been a while since i played it so do not quote me on it.

  • zeldabosses

    looks awesome! i hate that dungeons are so cramped and you can’t find a way out.

  • TheHyrulianGamer

    love the boss, and I usually would take the hit for extra chances at attacking :).
    This completely changed the first bosses boringness (somehow I find that boss the 2nd hardest boss in the game lol) and brought this wonderful game justice

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