Amazing that I’ve only had 18 days in the last year that I was too exhausted, emotionally drained, or just plain sleep-deprived to come up with a good blog post idea. This time, it’s all three, so today’s a special post about what USED to be my favorite idyllic Legend of Zelda activity, before hanging out in the rain in Breath of the Wild became an option. I used to load this game up just so I could relax when I was younger, tooling around the map without any specific destination in mind and enjoying the feeling of controlling Link as we dodged enemies, swerved through hazards, and did our best to avoid getting roped into any cutscenes or battles. The swelling music rising and falling as the wind blew from behind me, hopping from the crest a wave to see how much air I could get, and the way islands slowly passed into and out of view as I sailed from one spot on the map to another at random… Nothing was as relaxing and satisfying as cruising around the surface in The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker when I was a teen and college student.
I was not a fan of the graphics, originally. I didn’t particularly enjoy the overly cartoony look of them, but I also didn’t truly hate them either. I thought they were fine. I absolutely loved how expressive Link’s face was, though. He’d look around the room he was in, glancing at enemies or interactable objects, even providing hints about what you might need to do to solve any of the puzzles through his facial eyepressions and where his eyes were pointing. I also loved being able to jump off most tall things in the game due to all the water and the gliding allowed by the Deku Leaf. The more varied combat system (compared to previous games) was super fun. I just loved fighting that old dude with the spear on Outset Island, which is the experience I’d credit with hand-eye-coordination and highly accurate sense of timing. I also absolutely adored the music. It was such a huge change from Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, but it was a huge improvement in the basic systems of the game, even if I was just sort of iffy on the graphics.
Still, that game was the main Legend of Zelda game that was out around the time my parents stopped controlling my video game time, so I was able to spend hours playing it whenever I wanted instead of having to parse out my time from day to day (I learned quickly at the outset of the limited gaming time period of my life that spending it all at once when it renewed on Saturdays was fun, but made the rest of the week frustrating). It was the first time I’d played a game with a world to explore where I wasn’t counting the minutes. It was the first time I got to forget the world around me and just play a game. I could spend an hour just sailing around for the fun of it instead of needing to stay super focused on my mission so I could actually make progress in the game. It was also my first time experimenting with ways I could push the limits of the world I was playing in. I practiced combat, the best time to jump when sailing over waves, how to move the fastest when the wind wasn’t blowing exactly the way I wanted it to, and so much more. Trading, glitches, beating my own personal records for how long it took to clear dungeons or get from point A to point B.
It was also the first game I played where I only looked things up when I got tired of trying to find them myself. The sea charts you can find the game meant that I had an easier time figuring out if I had found everything or if I was still missing something. Before then, the only way to know how many hearts you could get was if you looked it up or saw someone else’s file that had more than you. With the sea charts, though, it became abundantly clear that there was one chest per map segment, so I could figure out exactly how many chests I had to find and make an educated guess about heart pieces based on that. I also experimented with trying to find treasures without first getting the charts, but even though I was very good at remembering where to find them in a general sense, the level of specifity needed to actually grab one and the fact that they weren’t near anything I could use a proper reference meant that I never succeeded in finding any of them. Or, you know, that they’re only findable once you’ve gotten the sea chart.
Most of my time was spent sailing from one place to another. I know a lot of people hated how long it took you to get around the map and that the warp ability only went to specific locations which were usually only near the place you wanted to go, but I loved it. I loved cruising around, jumping over barrels for rupees as I dodged cannon fire, giant squids, and weird island hazards. It was so much fun to explore once the world opened up, and I filled in my map with a fervor I hadn’t yet experienced for any video game mechanic as I did my best to ignore the main plot and explore the weird islands instead. Most of them were pretty good about letting you know that you’re wasting your time as soon as you make landfall, if there’s something there that is contingent on an item or ability you get later, so I never felt frustrated if all I could do was add it to my map, take a look at the scenery, and then move on.
Once I’d beaten the game and cleared the New Game+ mode, I wound up just sailing around in my completed file, enjoying the waves and music, as I took time away from the rest of my life. This game was one of my only escapes from the trauma that marked those years in my life, one of the only sources of peace I had for my teen years, and perhaps the first time I had ever considered that it was alright to simply exist. To do nothing but be present in a moment as it passes. And the sailing song was amazing, can’t forget that. Seriously, listen to this shit. That’s what adventure sounds like! Such a wonderful experience.