Tag Archives: Nintendo

Ghost Pokémon


Nearly 18 years ago today, my brother and I set out to be the very best, like no one ever was.  Catching Pocket Monsters was our first real test, but to train them, aye, that was our cause.  Pokémon had hit the shelves not a week prior, and our parents graciously gifted both versions of the Game Boy classic to us.  My brother received Pokémon Blue, and became a great trainer of water-types, with a stately Blastoise at the helm of his troop.  I was given Pokémon Red, but I did not find my true calling in this game until I ventured into the tower at Lavender Town.  It was at this resting place for fallen Pokémon that I would catch my first Gastly, which cemented my destiny as a ghost-type trainer.


With each new journey into the world of Pokémon, Nintendo would increase the number of ghost-types to catch and raise.  As a young trainer, I delighted with each new phantom that became available; marveling over the new designs and attacks.  But once I grew older, I started to notice that my beloved ghost-types harbored a much darker nature.  With just a quick glance through my trusty Pokédex, I found stories of hauntings and torment; tales of restless spirits that prey on the souls of the living.  Just take a look at some of these examples below!


Haunter: Its tongue is made of gas. If licked, its victim starts shaking constantly until death eventually comes. In total darkness, where nothing is visible, Haunter lurks, silently stalking its next victim.


Gengar: To steal the life of its target, it slips into the prey’s shadow and silently waits for an opportunity. The leer that floats in darkness belongs to a Gengar delighting in casting curses on people.


Misdreavus: A Misdreavus frightens people with a creepy, sobbing cry. It apparently uses its red spheres to absorb the fear of foes as its nutrition. It likes playing mischievous tricks such as screaming and wailing to startle people at night.


Litwick: Litwick shines a light that absorbs the life energy of people and Pokémon, which becomes the fuel that it burns. While shining a light and pretending to be a guide, it leeches off the life force of any who follow it.


Banette: A doll that became a Pokémon over its grudge from being junked. It seeks the child that disowned it. Banette generates energy for laying strong curses by sticking pins into its own body. This Pokémon was originally a pitiful plush doll that was thrown away.


Duskull: Duskull wanders lost among the deep darkness of midnight. There is an oft-told admonishment given to misbehaving children that this Pokémon will spirit away bad children who earn scoldings from their mothers. It loves the crying of children. It startles bad kids by passing through walls and making them cry. Once this Pokémon chooses a target, it will pursue the intended victim until the break of dawn.


Mimikyu: This Pokémon lives its life completely covered by its cloth and is always hidden. People believe that anybody who sees its true form beneath the cloth will be stricken with a mysterious illness. This Pokémon is dreadfully lonely, and it thought it would be able to make friends with humans, if only it looked like Pikachu.


*Brrrr* That is some creepy stuff!  Little did I know that the most tragic and gruesome tale of all would lie with a normal-type Pokémon.  I am speaking of none other than Cubone, the sad little creature who wears the skull of its dead mother.  When it thinks of its mother, it cries, making the skull it wears rattle with a hollow sound.  Now, when you first look at this little monster, you may feel sorry for it and want to take it home to be your friend.  But put that situation in human terms, and the mood completely changes.  After all, would you be friends with someone who wears their mom’s skull as a hat?  I didn’t think so.

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Digital Draughts: The Ignition Factor with Jailbreak Brewing Company’s Welcome to Scoville Jalapeno IPA

As an adult with some modicum of disposable income, I have started to seek out games that I may have missed as a child.  Most of these titles are oddities from the 16- and 32-bit eras, when print magazines would preview too many games for me to directly experience. In a similar fashion, I have started to seek out brews that I may have missed in the last few years.  Most of these beers are eccentric concoctions from well-loved breweries that I passed over for more conventional offerings.

This is how I came to try an India Pale Ale brewed with jalapeno and cilantro alongside a Super Nintendo game about firefighting.


Officially opening their doors in 2014, Jailbreak Brewing Company is a relative newcomer on the craft beer scene.  Named after the owners’ escape from the “imprisonment” of dreary desk jobs, Jailbreak makes a point to use regional and fresh ingredients in their brewing process.  While some of their beers focus on more traditional styles, such as the Infinite Amber Ale and the Big Punisher Double IPA (both delicious), many of their brews are interesting intersections of beer and food.  For example, Jailbreak’s seasonal releases include a chocolate-coconut porter and a key lime pale ale (appropriately named Desserted and B.Limey).


In addition to these rather rich irregularities, Jailbreak offers a beer with savory ingredients on their year-round list.  Welcome to Scoville is an IPA that is brewed with garden fresh jalapeno peppers and cilantro.  Just like its container, this beer is a vibrant yellow-orange color with a goldenrod hues.  The nose is strong pepper spice with some herbal notes, reminiscent of a hot salsa with extra cilantro.

With such a powerful aroma, I was expecting an acidic scorcher with a bold citrus-hop finish.  Instead, I was surprised to find a floral hop start that gives way to a mild chili body.  It finishes very smooth, with no real bite to speak of and the lingering flavor of Mexican food.  Unlike other beers brewed with peppers that lean into the heat of their ingredients, Welcome to Scoville focuses more on the cilantro in its mix to provide a herbal brew that tastes like a meal.

While some folks may enjoy this rather foody beer, I did not care for Welcome to Scoville. The cilantro overpowers every sip with a herbal dryness that competes with the hops, which are underwhelming from the start.  Any potential heat from the jalapeno is also muted, which makes the finish more earthy vegetable than intense spice.  These characteristics make Welcome to Scoville stand out from other pepper-infused brews, but it ultimately fell flat for me.  How appropriate that The Ignition Factor would also leave me cold.


The 1990s were a time of rampant experimentation in video game development.  Both publishers and designers were eager to try out all sorts of unique gameplay and themes on the consoles of the day.  For example, the same issue of Nintendo Power (in this case, #70 from March 1995) provided maps/strategies for an excellent robot action-platformer, secret codes for a claymation fighting title, and coverage of a licensed basketball game featuring the Looney Toons.

Nestled in the same issue was a brief preview for The Ignition Factor, a game where players take control of a firefighter in various rescue situations.  This two-page spread featured just enough information to intrigue my younger self, but not enough coverage to move this game onto my “Must-Have” list (alongside Chrono Trigger and Donkey Kong Country 2).  To make matters worse, The Ignition Factor never showed up in my local rental store, so this title fell by the wayside until September 2015, when it magically appeared on the Wii-U Virtual Console.

Upon launching The Ignition Factor from my Wii-U Menu, I was treated to a title screen truly meant for 1994.  The game’s stone logo sat on a pitch black void, literally crackling with electricity in anticipation of a new player.  With a hit of the Start/+ button, the rocky letters exploded into a screen covered in debris and flames.  The drama of the ’90s was in full swing and I was ready to play this forgotten Super Nintendo classic.


Unfortunately, The Ignition Factor proved to be a lackluster game.  Mired with finicky controls and unintuitive navigation, trying to save people trapped in a fire was a frustrating exercise.  Each stage opened with such potential- I could choose which tools my digital firefighter would carry to assist his heroic journey.  However, carrying more than three items would weigh my avatar down and slow his progress to a sluggish crawl.  As the levels became more complex and demanded a greater variety of tools, I was stuck navigating back-and-forth to a minimal amount of NPCs spread across sprawling maps to swap items as needed.


This sort of purposeful strategic gameplay would not have been so bothersome if the actual firefighting was inherently fun.  The default fire extinguisher carried by the main character fired in a strange arc that meant the fires directly in front of him would not be quelled.  To make progress in any direction, I needed some space to maneuver and extinguish these respawning flames.  Couple this with a painfully long animation of catching fire whenever a flame is touched, and it makes for a less-than-engaging time.  Even worse, the spouts of fire would only be visible when the firefighter moves into a new room.  Mashing the fire extinguisher button became mandatory when traveling through doors, lest your plucky firefighter be caught aflame and launched backwards.  As a result, I came to rely quite heavily on save states to navigate this maddening experience.

While many people may attribute these frustrating elements to the limited design rules of 1994, it is worth noting that other oddball games succeeded at interesting top-down gameplay during this time.  Zombies Ate My Neighbors provided unique theming and fun mechanics with appropriate challenge, and it hit store shelves an entire year before The Ignition Factor.


In the end, both of these experiences left me disappointed.  I had hoped that The Ignition Factor and Welcome to Scoville were unique gems that I had somehow overlooked.  As it turns out, this frustrating game and overly herbal beer were just oddly shaped rocks that I happened to walk by on the road.  I would not recommend this combination.

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Great Gifts for Gamers: 8-Bit Jesus

Every family has their holiday music traditions. Many families enjoy hearing the original Alvin and the Chipmunks (not the computer animated abominations of today) sing joyful little ballads with their surrogate father, Dave.  At my parents’ house, John Denver and The Muppets: Christmas Together is a yearly staple. Every department store in America is playing some sort of pop music amalgam of seasonal messages. Truly, the sounds of Christmas are in the air no matter where you go.


So as you are deciding what music to play as you decorate, wrap, and basically eat yourself into a stupor, may I suggest 8-Bit Jesus for your holiday gatherings?


A fun interpretation of classic carols, 8-Bit Jesus is an album of Christmas songs which have been arranged in the style of excellent games from the early days of Nintendo. Doctor Octoroc (the creator of this wonderful mix) has done a great job putting a digital twist on these songs, with my favorites being “Carol of the Belmonts,” and “Have Yourself a Final Little Fantasy.”  There is a preview of the album on his website, so you can hear just how awesome it is before you decide to purchase the music for your friends and family.  So if you are looking for a nice video game twist to add to your holidays, check out this album!

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Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse – Prelude

Things are often lost in the translation from East to West.  This is certainly true of video games that were ported from the Famicom to the Nintendo Entertainment System.  Usually, it was the story elements and visuals of games that changed the most.  Japanese folklore and phrasing had to be converted for American audiences, along with censoring any sort of religious or potentially frightening content.

There were technological constraints that had to be considered as well.  Unlike its Japanese cousin, the NES could not support most coprocessors that game publishers would use to enhance their titles.  This included external sound chips like Konami’s VRC6.  Co-created by Hidenori Maezawa. this chip added two extra pulse-wave channels and a saw-wave channel to the Famicom’s initial set of five sound channels.  As the sound designer for Castlevania III, Maezawa used the VRC6 chip to create a soundtrack with richer music than many other games on the Famicom.


Unfortunately, the game’s soundtrack had to be downgraded to comply with the standard five sound channels of the NES.  As a result, songs that sounded like this for American audiences:

Originally sounded like this for Japanese audiences:

With the extra channels of the VRC6, Maezawa and his team of composers were able to synthesize a more complex sound.  The original version of Prelude has a stronger reverb than its American counterpart, along with fuller string section further reinforces the ominous opening of this spooky classic.


Konami wasn’t the only company that used special sound chips to enhance the soundtracks of Famicom games.  For some great examples of other composers’ use of these chips, be sure to check out Episode 75 of VGMpire, Fiddlin with the Famicom.  While you’re at it, you should take a listen to the rest of the VGMPire back catalog.  It’s a fantastic podcast that highlights some of the best music across video games.

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Super Mario RPG – The Dungeon is Full of Monsters

There are game releases that we as players could not have dreamed to ask for; those titles that bring together beloved series, creators, and companies to make a product that is greater than the sum of its parts.  For me, that game is Super Mario RPG.

On paper (or on screen, in this case), Super Mario RPG’s pedigree is mind-blowing.  A Squaresoft developed role-playing game, featuring Nintendo characters, written by Kensuke Tanabe (scenario writer of A Link to the Past and director of Super Mario Bros. 2), and produced by Shigeru Miyamoto.  As the delicious cherry on top of this fantastic digital sundae, the soundtrack was composed by the amazing Yoko Shimomura.


Super Mario RPG falls between Shimomura’s work at Capcom, where she wrote music for Final Fight and Street Fighter II, and her work at Square Enix, where she would create the soundtracks for games like Parasite Eve, Legend of Mana, and Kingdom Hearts.

For Super Mario RPG, Shimomura incorporated arrangements of beloved themes by Koji Kondo and Nobuo Uematsu, and wrote a variety of original music across 73 tracks.  For the dungeons of this game, Shimomura crafted a particularly ominous theme called The Dungeon is Full of Monsters.

Somewhere between a Super Mario Ghost House and a Final Fantasy cavern, the influence of Koji Kondo and Nobuo Uematsu can definitely be heard in this track.  Shimomura composed several other haunting tracks for Super Mario RPG, which enhance the moods of locations like the Sunken Ship and Bowser’s Castle.

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Fester’s Quest – Sewers

The music of the NES-era can easily be divided into categories by companies and composers.  For Capcom games, composers like Manami Matsumae and Takashi Tateishi wrote soundtracks that were filled with rolling percussion and inspiring techno ballads.  Regular Konami composers Miki Higashino and Kinuyo Yamashita produced songs with complex solo work and melodies, reminiscent of hard rock and classical music.  And over at Sunsoft, Naoki Kodaka and his team were using the NES sound chip to make music unlike anything else on the console.


Using the channel typically reserved for percussion, Kodaka and other sound designers at Sunsoft decided to run bass samples instead.  The resulting sound was unique to the many licensed games produced at this developer, and was colloquially known as the “Sunsoft Bass.”  A great example of this method can be heard in the rather oppressive Sewers theme from Fester’s Quest.

The heavy Sunsoft bass notes are present right from the start of this track, creating an ominous mood.  While the frustrating controls and absurd difficulty of Fester’s Quest already causes an atmosphere of tension, Kodaka’s soundtrack further enhances this feeling with its dark and constant bass sound.

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New Blog Announcement: Waking the Dreamer

“Do you know where dreams come from, Harry?  Acetylcholine neurons fire high voltage impulses into the forebrain. The impulses become pictures, the pictures become your dream. But no one knows why we choose these particular pictures.”

Special Agent Dale Cooper is deeply invested in his dreams.  He believes that dreams are coded truths, waiting to be broken and revealed.  In the waking world, this FBI agent encounters many bizarre situations and suspicious characters.  His experience with amazing violence and fantastic tragedy led him to the small town of Twin Peaks, where he felt compelled to solve an ominous mystery that could tear the tiny community apart.


As the investigation of Laura Palmer’s murder was airing on television in 1990, a similar story was being influenced by the events on screen.  A small group of designers at Nintendo were meeting after hours to develop a pet project on the recently released Game Boy.  What started as an experiment with the capability of the handheld became the most unrestrained entry into the beloved Legend of Zelda series.


Aptly titled Link’s Awakening, this game took the eponymous hero away from the familiar land of Hyrule to an uncharted island with a dark secret.  Amidst the sleepy villages and serene coastal environment, suspicious characters and horrible nightmares lurked.  As Link set out to find his way home, a singular question would occur again and again- Who is the Dreamer?  Like the parallel inquiry into who killed Laura Palmer, the answer is the least suspected and most tragic.

Waking the Dreamer is a new blog written by Chip of GIMMGP.  The site falls somewhere between a playthrough journal and a cultural analysis of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.  He will cover the interesting “afterschool club” development of this odd title, its connections to the cult classic Twin Peaks, and how this game’s unique mechanics would influence the structure of the Zelda series for years to come.

If you are a fan of the Legend of Zelda, Twin Peaks, or long form games writing, please be sure to check out Waking the Dreamer!

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Animal Crossing x Mario Kart 8 Mini-Review

Even though it wasn’t featured on either of our individual lists, Mario Kart 8 was easily GIMMGP’s Top Game of 2014.  This comes as no surprise to us, since Mario Kart was the reason we purchased a Wii-U.  From the moment we first raced at a friend’s apartment, we knew we had to have this fantastic game.

As Laura mentioned in our first Gateway Games post, Mario Kart is aesthetically interesting, technically manageable, and “not the least bit concerned with the proper physics of a dinosaur riding a motorcycle.”  The approachable gameplay and familiar Nintendo characters make Mario Kart 8 an ideal party activity.  The wide variety of tracks and vehicle options kept our attention for months, and a healthy amount of post-release downloadable content ensured we would come back for more.


There have been two packs of DLC released for Mario Kart 8 so far.  Each of these packs adds two grand prix cups (for a total of 8 new race tracks), three new characters, and four new vehicles.  The DLC also features plenty of crossovers and cameos from other beloved properties, like the Legend of Zelda, F-Zero, and Animal Crossing.

We eagerly downloaded the first pack when it released in 2014, and we have more recently purchased the second pack since its 2015 release.  Now that we have had plenty of time to digest the latest Mario Kart DLC, it’s time for a mini-GIMMGP review!

Favorite New Race Track: Big Blue


Chip is so pleased to see another F-Zero staple make an appearance in Mario Kart 8.  As much as we loved racing in Mute City in the first DLC pack, Big Blue is our preferred Formula Zero flavor. The track features plenty of nods to its parent series, including damage barriers, energy refill pads, and AMAZING music.  The soundtrack for Mario Kart already impressed us with its live band recording, so the dueling guitars and brass of Big Blue are especially exciting. We are also pleased to see another continuous track that is divided into sections rather than laps.

Runner up: Ribbon Road. It is delightful.

Loathed New Race Track: Cheese Land


We never played Mario Kart Super Circuit on the Game Boy Advance, so neither of us have any prior love for its tracks.  So when one of the retro-remake courses happens to come from Super Circuit instead of our beloved Mario Kart 64, we are less than enthused. Cheese Land is a lackluster track, filled with garish yellow tones, grating harsh turns, and obnoxious moving obstacles. At least it’s not another Rainbow Road.

Runner up: Neo Bowser City. It’s very pretty, we are just terrible at it.

Chip’s Favorite Racer: Animal Crossing Villager


It’s no secret that Laura and I loved Animal Crossing: New Leaf.  It was our mutual summer obsession in 2013.  I love the aesthetic of the Animal Crossing series, so I was eager to see its inclusion in Mario Kart.  The Villager fits my racing style quite well: a lightweight racer with solid turning skills.  Plus, the addition of the chic City Tripper moped makes my Villager look quite fashionable while she leaves other racers in the dust.

Laura’s Favorite Racer: Dry Bowser


I inadvertently picked Dry Bowser the first time we played this DLC. What started out as an accident turned out to be a beautiful moment of serendipity. Do you know the feeling of finding a character in a game that truly understands you? Sure, he is a particularly fast, but this goes deeper than that. We are soul mates. The way he bullies the other players on the track. The way he breathes fire when excited or angry. How ridiculous he looks riding tiny motorcycles. Truly, we were made for each other.

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Captain Falcon is a Hunter, Not a Racer.

Captain Falcon has become something of a meme hero these days, more iconic for his catchphrases and signature punch than his career of driving futuristic vehicles.  His current status as a cheesy action hero is mostly due to his inclusion in Super Smash Brothers, where his racing skills proved to have no correlation to knocking opponents off of various platforms.  But from the inception of the F-Zero series, Captain Falcon has been portrayed as more of a galaxy-renowned bounty hunter instead of a worlds-class racer.


When F-Zero was released alongside the Super Nintendo in November 1990, it came with a rather hefty instruction manual for a racing game.  This is to be expected, as F-Zero was the first racing game to use the Mode 7 technology built into the Super Nintendo, and the start of the futuristic racing subgenre.  However, there was more than just controller guides and gameplay mechanics featured in this manual.  There was also an 8-page comic that told, “The Story of Captain Falcon.”

Written and drawn by Takaya Imamura, the character designer for F-Zero and Star Fox, this comic showcased Captain Falcon’s prowess as an intergalactic bounty hunter.  Within these few pages, the Captain wins a laser pistol duel, defends his bounty from a rival hunter, and arrests a high-level crime boss.  All of these feats occur mere moments before his first race in the Knight League, the initial competition that players face in the game.


Since this initial glimpse into Captain Falcon’s life outside of the races, Nintendo has greatly expanded the universe of F-Zero through a 51-episode animated series and various bits of storytelling in game sequels and cameo appearances.  In spite of creating a rich science fiction world full of colorful characters and scenarios, there has not been an F-Zero game released since 2004.

Personally, I would love to see a F-Zero game with a combination of different gameplay styles.  Instead of just sticking to tournament races, there could be action portions where players can take control of Captain Falcon as he hunts down the scum of the universe.  The money earned through bounty hunting could be used to upgrade his signature racer, the Blue Falcon, as Captain Falcon tries to balance his careers as a renegade champion for justice and a Formula Zero racer.

As I continue to dream about a hybrid action/racing F-Zero game, be sure to check out the Video Game Art Archive, where “The Story of Captain Falcon” has been lovingly scanned and archived for your reading pleasure.  There is plenty of other amazing official video game artwork featured on this site, most recently including rare EarthBound and Kirby’s Dream Land 2 scans.  Please follow the Video Game Art Archive for plenty of gaming goodness, and if you’ve got a few bucks to spare, please support the VGAA through Patreon.  Great archival work deserves some support.

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The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Game: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Released: Nintendo EAD, March 24th, 2003
System: Nintendo GameCube
Game started: February 15th, 2015
Amount completed: Defeated Kalle Demos in the Forbidden Woods, explored a handful of random islands, picked up so many pigs.

Chip’s Thoughts

Wind Waker did not make a great first impression in 2001.  When a demo reel debuted at Nintendo’s Space World trade show, the internet-at-large took the game to task for its cartoon visuals.  Most of the complaints lodged against Wind Waker were based on a sense of deception.  After all, it was only one year prior at the same trade show that Nintendo unveiled a demo video of a mature-looking Link engaged in an epic sword fight with his nemesis, Ganondorf.  Instead of this gritty and realistic Legend of Zelda game, fans were outraged to see a childish Link parading around in a goofy cartoon world.


Of course, this feeling of betrayal was no more than a bloated sense of entitlement.  The cel shaded art of Wind Waker turned out to be a fresh change of pace and an intelligent design choice. Whereas other Zelda titles need to be remastered from the ground up to compete with the current market’s hyper-realistic graphics, Wind Waker’s aesthetic needs only a slight bump to HD to impress.  The cartoon visuals are timeless in the same way that classic Disney animated features are; bright colors and simple lines used to their fullest to craft a wondrous world full of fun characters.


The wide range of expressions that can cross Link’s goofball face still delight me to this day. Additionally, the exaggerated facial changes serve a second function as intuitive clues for the player.  When Link’s large eyes glanced somewhere off-screen and his mouth narrowed into an inquisitive pucker, we knew to look around the room for hidden switches or objects. This sort of interaction with the player is much more engaging than interrupting gameplay to have a nagging fairy explicitly explain where to look for a solution.

Unfortunately, no amount of timeless visuals can make up for poor design choices.  Wind Waker opens with a quaint island village to explore, the potential of a legend to be fulfilled, and a quest with lovable pirates to save your sister.  Then, the story screeches to a halt and all fun is temporarily sucked out of the game, thanks to a dungeon filled with crumby stealth sections.


Stealth is a gameplay mechanic that should NEVER be included in a game where stealth is not the focus.  It is already a challenge to pull off sneaking and silence as the central mechanic of a game, so adding it as an extra feature is a fool’s errand. Since Link made the transition to 3D, every game seems to feature some sort of frustrating stealth section that betrays the core concepts of Zelda gameplay.  Instead of learning to master his sword and delve into complex dungeons, Link has to slink unarmed in the shadows.  The penalty for being caught is equally frustrating- forcing the player back to the start of the dungeon as Link is automatically thrown into a jail cell every time he gets spotted.

Fortunately, this narrow stealth-based dungeon gives way to a huge ocean world covered in mysterious islands.  Exploring the waters of Wind Waker is a interesting alternative to the traditional Zelda adventure.  It’s easy to feel a sense of excitement as the wind picks up and Link hoists his sail.  The vast number of islands and environments to visit makes this seafaring journey seem epic in scale.  The game uses its cartoon visuals to reinforce a storybook aesthetic, providing the player with numerous colorful characters and scenarios with which to interact.


Wind Waker did not make a great first impression on us in 2015.  An initially fun game filled with potential quickly gave way to one of the most frustrating moments in Laura and my collective gaming history.  But once we powered through this stealth-based slump, Wind Waker proved that its cartoon visuals and vast ocean journey have stood the test of time.  The vibrant and expressive characters were a delight to see, encouraging us to raise the sails and take to the seas for adventure.

Laura’s Thoughts

My time with Wind Waker can be summarized with the following:


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