As I steered baby, cartoon Link around the oceans of Wind Waker, I realized that fundamentally, Zelda games are creepy. I already wrote at length about the unsettling world of Majora’s Mask, but every game has something in it that makes me recoil. Something uncanny, just not…quite right.
In Wind Waker, that would be Tingle. Tingle appears in multiple Zelda games — he’s a round little human that really, really wants to be a fairy. He dresses in a green body suit complete with pointed hat, uses odd turns of phrase, and generally tries to help Link. Ostensibly. In a way.
But honestly in Wind Waker he’s just not right. He starts off in prison, for one thing. And after you free him (oh, Link, what have you done, what have you loosed upon the world) Link enters his cell to find skulls and a camera. What was he doing in there? What eldritch things did he summon and eat and take voretastic pictures of?
Ok, look, I’m sorry (about the pictures thing). But the rest of it? Like so many creepy things in Zelda, it’s plausible. Later in the game, you find Tingle ruthlessly slave driving three OTHER grown men dressed as Hyrule fairies as they power “Tingle Tower,” a windmill in the middle of the ocean while he lazily supervises. I’m just saying.
Replaying Wind Waker didn’t quite transport me to that magical winter, playing that and Super Mario Sunshine with not a care in the world. But it was just as good the second time around — sweet, funny, rich. There was a LOT to do in Wind Waker. I mostly stuck to the main story this time around, although I have fond memories of collecting pictures and feeding trees and searching weird, underground ships.
And it aged well. One of the best things about Nintendo games, particularly ones with the more cartoony graphics, is how well they age. This was of course a remaster, so the textures and colors were crisper, but so was Twilight Princess – and of the two, Wind Waker looked better to my modern eyes (see also: Paper Mario, which still looks great).
Wind Waker remains my favorite Zelda entry, trailed only slightly by The Adventure of Link. There’s no Tingle in that one.