In 2003, Nintendo released their 10th installment of The Legend of Zelda series with The Wind Waker for the GameCube.
Fans were ready for another adventure with Link as just a few years prior, both The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask were released for the Nintendo 64.
However, a lot of backlash came with the release of The Wind Waker as fans much preferred the more “realistic” and “darker” themes of the past games.
The Wind Waker sports a cartoon-styles scenery and characters, as Link is shown very small with stubby features and big eyes. Nintendo used cel shading to render the game to make everything seem flatter and more cartoonish as bright colors and rounded textures are littered throughout the game.
Luckily, over time, The Wind Waker became a favorite to many and the hatred over the cel-shading. Bill Trinen, a Product Marketing Director at Nintendo, referred to this as the “Zelda cycle.”
The Legend of Zelda’s producer, Eiji Aonuma, added to this by saying, “Basically, as time progresses, negative opinions about The Legend of Zelda turn into positive ones.”
He was right, because in 2006, Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, which had much more realistic graphics, and a lot of fans at the time wanted more of the expressive cartoon style that The Wind Waker had.
When looking at the original release of The Wind Waker in comparison to Ocarina of Time, it is clear which game aged better. Even for a 2003 release, the roundness and bright, vivid colors of The Wind Waker do not show as much age as the geometric and natural shading of Ocarina of Time.
This difference can really be seen in the different textures of the water. In Ocarina of Time, the water is see-through and was meant to mimic real water. In Wind Waker, the water is bright blue, accented with curvy white lines to represent the waves of the ocean.
Of course, what really matters is how well the game plays and not just how good the game looks. But I think it is easy for people to agree that simple, toon-styled games like The Wind Waker tend to age better.