The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is the first Zelda game for the Nintendo GameCube.
- Main article: The Wind Waker Story
The game was originally designed without cel-shading in mind; Eiji Aonuma suggested that the game should use cel-shading as a way to introduce new ideas to the series. The game was originally planned to include transparent water, but this was scrapped very early in development.
The earliest trailer for the game, shown in Spaceworld 2001, showed that the lighting and particle systems were already in place. However, the voice of Link from Majora's Mask was used as a placeholder, as the final voices for Link had not been recorded yet. The game's HUD was created in a style akin to that of the two N64 Zelda games before it. Link himself had clothing slightly different from his final clothing at this stage.
After the cold response to the Spaceworld 2001 trailer, Shigeru Miyamoto declared that no more trailers for the game would be shown until the game was well into the beta phase. In 2002, Nintendo showed the next trailer for the game at E3 in Los Angeles. By this time, Dragon Roost Cavern was nearing finalization, and a playable demo of Outset Island was included for attendees to try. The enemy music shown in the trailer was different from the final music, however. Link still had his early clothing from the Spaceworld 2001 trailer.
Between 2002 and 2003, more preview images of the game were released. The name of the game was revealed in October 2002, and in December, the English translation was revealed. Link's clothing, as well as the HUD, were finalized to their current versions. Several dungeons were scrapped to save time for a December release in Japan and a slightly modified American release in March 2003.
During Spaceworld 2000, Nintendo showed several tech demos for the then-unreleased GameCube showing off the power of the system. One of the demos consisted of Link and Ganondorf battling each other. Fans and industry reporters assumed that the next Zelda game would be in a realistic style. However, during Spaceworld 2001, Nintendo showed a trailer for the new Zelda game featuring a cel-shaded child Link, eliciting anger from fans, many of whom criticized the graphics as "childish".
When The Wind Waker was released in 2003, it received almost universal critical acclaim, in part due to the cel-shaded graphics style. Critics also praised the new gameplay mechanic of sailing, as well as the musical score. However, there were also points of contention about the game; the Great Sea featured in the game almost seemed too big, and sailing took quite a long time to accomplish, making side-quests and the storyline itself quite a long task to accomplish. Some critics also expressed dislike with the depth of field and character proportions, particularly the design of Link. Despite the negatives, the game received a 40/40 from the notoriously strict Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu, making The Wind Waker the second Zelda game to receive a perfect score from Famitsu.
The Wind Waker uses a unique style of cel-shading, designed to emulate the style of a large-studio animated film instead of the simpler style of a comic book or television animation. As such, background elements use textures that are somewhat more detailed than those used for non-static objects, such as characters. Most lighting on background elements is pre-rendered, though the game also uses much real-time lighting on all objects. A cloth simulation system, which affects cloth, hair, grass, and particles, provides some realism, as does the subtle depth of field effect and image distortion caused by heat. The graphics style itself was partly influenced by Japanese feature animation.
- Major Characters
- Outset Island
- Windfall Island
- Dragon Roost Island
- Forest Haven
- Great Sea
- Main article: The Wind Waker Races
- Main article: The Wind Waker Enemies
- Main article: The Wind Waker Items
- Main article: The Wind Waker Locations
- The Wind Waker Sports Watch was a free GameStop giveaway in early 2003 with the purchase of a Nintendo GameCube, used to get customers in GameStop stores, and to push sales for the GameCube and Wind Waker.
- The Wind Waker Bobblehead Doll was a free limited giveaway at Target retail stores.
- The Wind Waker Yujin Gashapon Figures are a 5 piece set of small figures of Link, Aryll, and Tetra. These were released exclusively in Japan at 200 Yen a piece.
E3 2002 presentation for The Wind Waker