Initial Wind Waker Impressions

I think I’ve clocked about three hours total on Zelda: Wind Waker between last night and tonight; here’s the current good/bad/ugly.
Good: The cel shading looks great. Everything in the foreground looks really nice. A fairly smooth framerate means I don’t get the skippy badness that made me hate OOT so much.
Bad: The problem is, this cel shading apparently takes a huge tax on the Gamecube, because…
Ugly: Everything *not* in the foreground – according to my measurements, 5 running-Link steps away – gets blurred out. I’ve been running towards characters and only been able to make out their facial details when I’m within talking distance of them. This makes me feel like I’m going blind, which is NOT an enjoyable gaming experience. Also, there are faint grey vertical lines that are somewhat visible at various times throughout the game. This is not just my TV, as I’ve confirmed other people have seen it.
Good: Sound effects are well done, the new music is enjoyable, and they did the whole Dolby Pro Logic II thing again. (If only I had an optical audio cable…)
Bad: Since there are still interactions similar to that damnable fairy in OOT, you still get “HEY!” sounds occasionally, which triggers a psychotic flashback and results in my fist repeatedly striking my forehead until it stops.
Ugly: A lot of the music is still the same – particularly the “In The House” theme and the “In The Town” theme. And it’s not that it’s just the same song, it SOUNDS exactly the same. As in no change in quality. As in, I still don’t want to listen to it.
Good: Easily controlled with the C-stick.
Bad: Like most games, it’s finnicky, so in tight spaces you’re going to have problems. I’ve also seen a bit of the “Mario Sunshin Camera Can Go Through Walls” problem.
Ugly: The whole “crawling through tunnels” thing should be first person, and not force us to examine Link’s ass as we make directional choices that may lead us to fall through trap doors when evil mice pulls strings with bells on them.
Good: Menu is simplified from OOT/MM; the GC controller works well for the main game play; I like how the d-pad is mapped to map functions.
Bad: There are three satchels which you can carry items in that are within your inventory screen, but you can only open them by pressing X, Y, or Z. Why? It’s not like you’re binding them to an item slot.
Ugly: Even worse, there’s STILL no way to skip past the majority of character speech. This was my biggest problem with OOT, that you were forced to read the text at the Nintendo-selected speed. It’s not like there’s voice acting here, and hell, most games with voice acting LET you skip it. This is absurd.
Gameplay and Plot:
Good: Although it’s a little slow at the start, it picks up nicely and draws you in. There’s enough side quests and treasure hunting to keep anyone busy. The gameplay is sufficiently fun.
Bad: I’m still trying to figure out where this fits into the Zelda timeline. Then again, I lost track after Link To The Past, so…
Ugly: There’s a section near the beginning where you lose your sword and have to “sneak” around this fortress. This is, by far, the least fun “sneaking” I’ve ever had to do in a video game. Why? Think of it like this:
You’re a super spy with sneaking skills and the fifth freedom and blah blah blah. You are sneaking around in a container-type object, be it a cardboard box or a barrel. You are spotted by the enemy. They SOUND THE ALARMS. You have no weapons. What do you do?
If you’re playing Metal Gear, you ditch the box. You can fight with your hands, but normally you want to go hide in a nook and lay low.
If you’re playing Sly Cooper, you gracefully dodge the lasers, knock out the alarm, and carry on.
But if you’re playing Wind Waker? You remain standing in your barrel, while the orc-guy throws his lantern at you and your feet burn. THEN YOU ARE THROWN IN JAIL, which is easily escapable.
I realize this is a fantasy game, and allowances need to be made to keep the game fun and all, but come on. I ended up getting hot foot / thrown in jail about 8 times (largely due to the fact that apparently the orcs can see BEHIND THEM). This isn’t fun, it’s tedious. Give me a chance to run for my life at the very least.
Oh yeah – and it continues to irk me how Link doesn’t talk. Then I realized he never talks. Which means he has less personality than Squall from FF8, because at least HE occasionally said something that wasn’t controlled by the user menu. All you can judge Link on in Wind Waker is his facial expression, which most of the time reads “wishy-washy”. He and Charlie Brown, they’d get on like a house afire.
All in all, I do LIKE Wind Waker, but I need to play through more of it before I can give it a final rating.