It is March 3, 2003, and you’ve just got back from the store with a fresh copy of The Wind Waker for the Nintendo GameCube. You’ve avoided all the skepticism from your friends about the graphics, and now you are ready for the all new adventure. A few hours after diving into the game, your phone rings. Reluctant to be disturbed, you still answer it, and it’s that friend. You know, that friend that won’t buy anything unless he’s tested yours first; the same friend that refused to buy his own The Wind Waker because of the graphics. He asks to come over to see the new game. You’d rather just ignore him, but he is still your friend so you do the right thing and let him over.
When he arrives he sits quietly for a while watching you play, but after a few hours, he gets bored and asks if you can play something with him. You knew this would happen when he came over, and you’d much rather continue your remarkable game. You think to give him a turn, but you don’t want him tainting your precious record. Suddenly your prayers are answered by a small creepy man in green tights, Tingle.
The Wind Waker introduced us to the Tingle Tuner, probably the most overlooked item in the series. The Tingle Tuner allowed a second player to control Tingle using a Game Boy Advance with a link cable. The second player’s functions were heavily limited, but he acted as a support character, offering assistance in combat and providing hints throughout the game.
This feature was wonderful, because it allowed friends to hop in and out of another player’s game, bringing them into the adventure as well, rather than making them sit on the side lines. The only problem was that the feature played more like a last minute add-on rather than a properly implemented function of the game. To start with, the second player was forced to look at the Game Boy screen during game play. This would be fine if there was something interesting to look at. Two-thirds of the screen is dedicated to a very simple overview map of the area, with Link displayed in the center, and the enemies all displayed as the same generic dot. The rest of the screen pictures Tingle and displays tips for Link. This bland screen quickly becomes boring to look at after an hour or so.
Unfortunately, Tingle can be more annoying than helpful sometimes. Tingle can drop bombs to aid Link in combat or any other breakable object, for the cost of 10 rupees. If the bombs are well placed, they will leave 10 rupees behind for Link to pick back up, making the bombs free. This prevents Tingle from spraying bombs like crazy, but also allows players early in the game to still use the feature, when rupees are still necessary. The problem with the Tingle bomb is that Link takes damage from the explosion, much like standing too close to his own bombs. With the tiny Game Boy Advance screen, it can be difficult to tell what a safe distance is from Link, and since the shoulder button automatically locks the cursor onto Link, be prepared for several accidental bombings directly onto Link. This often occurs while sailing, sending Link flying from the boat nearly drowning him every time. Your friend better be competent and kind, otherwise Tingle can become a far greater evil than Ganon could ever hope to be.
With the other button Tingle does this annoying attention getter that completely halts the game forcing Link to focus in on the location of Tingle’s gay little avatar. We can assume that this feature is there to help Tingle point out points of interest to Link, but Tingle’s map is so bland that there are very few things to find. There are a few exclusive side quests to participate in with Tingle, but they are, for the most part, pointless. So the primary purpose of this feature is to further annoy the player, making Tingle all the more deviant. So only allow the most trusted friends to play Tingle, otherwise your progress will suffer greatly. There are other abilities to unlock as well, but they are merely excuses to pointlessly blow rupees.
Despite the shortcomings of the Tingle Tuner, the thought of the supporting character is a great idea. Super Mario Galaxy for the Nintendo Wii had a similar feature allowing a second player to fire projectiles or hold down enemies for Mario to safely hit. This allowed the player to watch the TV screen, rather than staring at the bland Game Boy Advance map. Imagine if Twilight Princess had something similar. The second player could have played as Midna, using her twilight hair/hand to hold down enemies for Link, or perhaps fire some sort of twilight like projectile. Once Midna collects the Fused Shadow, her abilities could improve, making player two’s actions more powerful and significant. During the final battle with Ganondorf, player two could have controlled Zelda’s light arrows, during Midna’s absence. So there are plenty of potential ideas for implementing a similar Super Mario Galaxy feature into an upcoming Zelda Wii title.
The Tingle Tuner was a nice step in implementing a hop in drop out two player experience for the Zelda series, although its functionality suffered due to bad implementation and poor planning. While the Tingle Tuner may have been just a shameless promotion for the Game Boy Advance link cable, that is no reason to give up on the concept. The game mechanic resurfaced in Super Mario Galaxy, which reopens possibilities for the upcoming Zelda Wii game. We shouldn’t have to wait for another Four Swords cooperative game, in order to share the Zelda experience with our friends.