Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker


Link, the main playable character and protagonist

The Legend of Zelda is a fantasy based action-adventure game series developed and published by Nintendo as a first party title. The gameplay consists of a mixture of action, adventure, puzzle solving, role-playing and occasional platforming, stealth, shooting, and racing elements.

The series centers on Link, the main playable character and protagonist. Link is more often than not charged with rescuing Princess Zelda – who’s almost always been kidnapped by Ganon/ Ganondorf. The game usually is set in Hyrule, a mythical medieval kingdom complete with elfs, magic and fantastical elements such as parallel worlds (which are often a core game mechanic)

Wind waker itself was strong departure from the overall art style of the series and was generally not well received. Rather than take a realistic approach, which the other games had attempted despite the lack of graphical power at the time, this entry in the series went with a purely animated cell shaded look.

Both the concept art and promotional materials use a similar cell shaded look but incorporate more hand drawn elements as opposed to the vectored lines found in the final product.


Artwork from the game cover is closer to the original concept art rather than the in game style

Prior to the games release Shigeru Miyamoto the creator of the series, said the new look was designed to “extend Zelda’s reach to all ages” although since then he has indicated that the style was chosen due to the Gamecube’s lack of graphic abilities.

The style itself is achieved by using strong thick outlines on quite bright colorful colors, which causes it to have more in common with a cartoon than a traditional video game. The world itself still runs in a 3D engine but incorporates 2D elements such as smoke and explosions which form the games unique look.


In game screenshot, the cel-shaded style is composed of bold colours, thick lines and 2D elements such as the waves

Either way the stark change in look for did attract its fair share of supporters and as with most things the sudden change was more to blame than the style itself. Since the release of Wind waker the cel-shaded style has been used for Nintendos portable systems while the home consoles have diverged towards the photo realistic styling of the previous titles.


The smoke to the right is another good example of the art style, which is layering of 2D sprites in a 3D environment

Examples of the Wind Waker cel-shaded style are Phantom Hourglass and the upcoming Spirit Tracks, both for the Nintendo DS/DSi,

All imagery is copyright Nintendo, and is taken from the game Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker exclusively available for the Nintendo Wii & Gamecube.


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