The term system seller is thrown around a lot when referring to titles that are “must-own” alongside their exclusive consoles. Halo was that title for the original Xbox just as Super Mario Bros. was for the Nintendo Entertainment System. But on a case to case basis, a system seller can be more than a high water mark like Halo was. Personally, I purchased an Xbox for Dead or Alive 3, not Halo (which was actually the third game I purchased). To me, a system seller is a game that is immediately identifiable as a companion to a particular console. With that definition in mind, there is no game to console relationship quite like how The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker was to the GameCube.
My interest in the GameCube to that point was middling at best. The compact console with a carrying handle and the controller made specifically for platformers didn’t have a ton to offer me, a guy who was coming off a long 5 year stint as a dedicated PC gamer. It was an interesting console but the games didn’t grasp me. I passed on Luigi’s Mansion and Rogue Squadron looked fun but I’d rather go back to playing X-Wing Alliance. Besides, I had my hulking behemoth of an Xbox in my dorm room, complete with DOA3 and Project Gotham Racing to keep me occupied through the winter. The GameCube could wait, at least until it got something worthwhile.
That worthwhile game turned out to be Wind Waker. I remember distinctly all the controversy coming from the core fans, complaining that Wind Waker’s cel-shaded aesthetic was too childish to be the follow-up to the revered Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. What fans wanted was a teenaged Link, complete with all the fancy textures they were teased with at Nintendo’s tech demonstration. What they got was a Saturday morning cartoon.
Even I’ll admit that I found the Legend of Cel-da a bit of a departure for Nintendo, which needed to really grab the attention of its fans with some great games, especially after a launch many deemed to be mediocre. Toon Link, with his oblong head, miniature stature and cat clock eyes just didn’t seem like he’d be able to captivate gamers.
But then I saw the game in motion.
The new art direction turned out to be exactly what The Legend of Zelda needed as it was a shot to the arm of a franchise that knew it could be greater, despite all its previous accolades. Gusts of wind flurried across the screen, waves skipped and crested over the ocean, it was so amazingly understated that every where you turned in that game, something different would catch your eye. Be it puffs of smoke from Dragon Roost Island or the way bombs exploded with a distinct bang, Wind Waker consistently found ways to draw you further into its world.
All the while that little cel-shaded Link was front and center, with his wind baton, his giant Deku leaf and all his other gadgets in what might be the best playing Zelda ever created. If Ocarina of Time brought Link’s adventures into 3D with glorious success, Wind Waker perfected it.
What makes my experience with Wind Waker even more frustrating is that I was nearly finished with the game. I had already collected the TriForce pieces and decided to finish mapping out the ocean map, which turns out to e one of the most tedious things in the game to do. Of all my backlog games, this one has a particular sting, because I am so close and because the game is so stellar. That leaves me with two choices: dust off my GameCube (or play it on my Wii) or go out and buy a Wii U for the HD remaster. Considering the quality of the HD remaster, purchasing a Wii U might actually be justified. In which case it would have the unique distinction of being a system seller for two consoles.
Honestly, it’s a shame I haven’t finished Wind Waker because I use it as a barometer for a lot of games today. From the gorgeous art style, the perfect mechanics and the stunning musical score, Wind Waker should always be in the discussion for one of the greatest Zelda games, if not one of the greatest games of all time.