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Game Daze: 'The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker' & 'Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner'

Friday, April 04, 2003

By Cindi Lash, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

'The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker'

The trademark green elf suit is the same, but there's little else about Link that looks the same in this brilliantly hued, cel-shaded new addition to Nintendo's adventure franchise.

That's not a bad thing, once you get used to seeing Link in this cartoon incarnation (Nintendo; GameCube; $49.95; Rated for Everyone) that mixes oh-so-smooth animation, eye-popping colors and new gadgets to create an adventure that's terrific to look at and to play.

The decision to use cel shading to turn "The Wind Waker" into a Crayola-tinted cartoon fantasy has been controversial with longtime Zelda fans, many of whom would rather have seen Nintendo stick with a more realistic, computer-generated look. Even we weren't so sure about the idea, fearing at first that it might result in a game that looked more like a little kid's diversion than entertainment for all ages.

Once we saw "The Wind Waker," though, we were hooked. With his new, saucer-sized eyes and exaggerated features, Link is a more appealing hero than ever.

His island home is so lusciously drawn, so detail-packed with blades of windswept emerald grasses and swirling cerulean waves, that you almost want to book a one-way ticket and stake your own claim on that beach.

Animation is very good, giving lifelike movements and emotive faces to "Wind Waker's" characters -- although we could have done without the grossly runny nose on that kid who keeps chasing Link at the beginning. And we love the purple, art deco-style swirls of smoke that erupt when Link vanquishes an enemy.

Plot is standard adventure-game fare -- boy battles evil while embarking on quest to save his kidnapped sister. But it more than satisfies by cramming in plenty of battles, references to established Zelda lore and new gizmos such as the wand that allows Link to harness and control the wind.

'Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner'

Almost as good is this extremely fast-paced sequel to last year's mech-robot combat game that also uses cel shading, a Japanese anime style and breakneck battles to create an adventure that surpasses the original.

"The Second Runner" (PlayStation 2; Konami; $49.95; Rated Mature) doesn't rely on cel shading as extensively as "The Wind Waker" does. But it uses the technique effectively, drawing on a palette of soft gray and blue hues to sketch out snow or sand-shrouded landscapes and space station interiors that are alternately inviting and forbidding.

As in the original "Zone of the Enders," "The Second Runner" presents good and evil characters who battle in mechanized orbital frames, or giant robot suits on Jupiter, Mars and their surrounding moons. Early on, hero Dingo Egret discovers Jehuty, the giant robot featured in the first game, and straps himself inside to resume combat against evil invaders.

This time, though, Jehuty is a joy to operate, once you get accustomed to the hyper-speed moves that he and all the other robots employ. This is one fast-paced game, but Jehuty's controls have been so noticeably improved that it doesn't take long to make him do your bidding.

Graphics, too, are more detailed, showing all the tiny bumps and dings on the battle-scarred robots. Destructible environments allow you to knock down and grab anything around you -- walls, utility poles, even other orbital frames -- and use them as weapons against archenemy Anubis or in other boss battles.

But "The Second Runner" isn't just a mindless smash-'em-up. It also has a nicely developed story line, with characters who ruminate on war and the future. Yes, the dialogue is clunky at times. But still "The Second Runner" deserves points for striving to give us more than just a repertoire of fancy combat moves.

Click here for an archive of previous Interact articles

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