With sail and camera and Tingle Bottle in hand, Link leaves Windfall Island and heads south for Dragon Roost Island, where the King of Red Lions has told him that he can find something called Din’s Pearl. Link doesn’t have much of a choice in the matter, as the King of Red Lions is also his boat. If he tries to go anywhere besides Dragon Roost Island, the King of Red Lions won’t let him, telling him to get his ass back on course.
This is probably for the best, as the sheer size of the Great Sea can be overwhelming. There were open world games before Wind Waker, but they weren’t as common ten years ago as they are now, especially under the banner of such a high-profile franchise. I can therefore understand the developers’ decision to open the world of the game in stages, lest players go off course, get lost and die, and give up altogether.
On the way to Dragon Roost Island, Link can stop off at a small island called Paw Print Isle, which seems to have nothing but grass and a big mound of dirt. It’s easy to pass on by this tiny speck of land, but if Link cuts the grass he’ll expose a small tunnel carved into the base of the mound, which is hollow inside and covering a hole in the ground. Link can fall down the hole into an expansive cavern, which is overgrown with small plants and infested with jelly-like creatures called Chus.
The cave also contains treasure in the form of a heart piece, which will increase Link’s life energy if he collects enough of them. There are two lessons here: the first is that all of the islands on the Great Sea are worth exploring, and the second is that there are all sorts of secrets hiding under the surface of the ocean and its islands. Good to know.
Dragon Roost Island is the cone of an enormous volcano whose shoreside caverns are peopled by a tribe of birdpeople called the Rito. Link has already met a Rito named Quill, the flying postman who emotionally blackmailed Tetra into carrying him to the Forsaken Fortress back on Outset Island. Quill introduces Link to the Rito Chieftain, who says that he will help Link if Link will help him. The Rito’s guardian spirit, a dragon named Valoo, has been acting up lately. This is inconvenient, as Valoo bestows the scales that allow the Rito to develop wings. The chieftain’s son, Prince Komali, can’t complete his coming-of-age ceremony because Valoo has gone crazy, and he’s worried that this reflects poorly on him. The prince has sequestered himself in his room, and he refuses to come out or talk with anyone. His father gives Link a letter to deliver to Komali, hoping that Link’s upbeat nature will inspire the boy.
It doesn’t. Komali is a bit of a brat – but in his defense, he’s also quite young. He misses his mother (who is dead because this is a Zelda game), and he was already nervous about taking responsibility for his tribe even without its patron deity going apeshit immediately before he was set to ceremonially assume the role of the next tribal leader.
When Link leaves disappointed, he is approached by a girl named Medli, who is training to be one of Valoo’s attendants. Medli is a bit older than Komali, and she feels protective of him. She’s also headstrong and an adorable little badass. She therefore hatches a plan to go up the volcano and deal with Valoo herself.
Medli essentially invites Link to tackle the next dungeon; but, before he can start exploring, he needs her help. Valoo’s anger has caused the volcano to spew out lava and rocks, which have destroyed the bridge leading into the Dragon Roost Cavern dungeon.
Enter the game’s first wind-based puzzle! Link needs to pick up Medli, wait until the wind is blowing towards the dungeon entrance, and then toss her over the collapsed bridge. She’ll flap on over and then throw down a bottle. Link can use this bottle to scoop up water from a puddle around a boulder, take that water back up the hill, and use it to revive the dried-out bomb flowers on a cliff. Once they’re back to full health, Link can pick one up and use it to blow up the boulder blocking the water flow. Water fills the pit, and he can swim to the other side.
The Dragon Roost Cavern is a good starter dungeon that turns out to be more straightforward and much easier to navigate than the Forsaken Fortress. It’s fire themed, and many of its puzzles involve lighting sticks with torches and burning various things. This is also where Link comes into possession of the Grappling Hook, which is a cool and useful item that he can use to swing over gaps Tarzan-style. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s exactly what Link needs to scale the outer rim of the volcano.
At the top he encounters Valoo, who is apparently upset because his tail has been caught in the pincers of a giant arachnid called Gohma. Link defeats Gohma by swinging around the room like a monkey and causing Valoo to drop the creature into a pit of lava. Valoo immediately recovers his senses and tells Link to visit something called the Wind Shrine. The dragon speaks in Ancient Hylian, a language that Link can’t understand, but Medli is able to translate.
At this point Komali shows up, apologizes, and finally hands over Din’s Pearl. He fanboys over Link a bit, saying that he wishes he could be so brave. Don’t we all, kid. Don’t we all.
The Wind Shrine is on the other side of Dragon Roost Island, a stone platform that extends over the water. There’s a score carved into a giant rock. Link takes out his Wind Waker baton and conducts the score, causing the god of winds to appear. This god, who takes the form of a cloud-riding frog, informs Link that his name is Zephos and grants him the ability to control the direction of the wind.
Link is now “the Wind Waker,” and his new ability will help him better navigate the Great Sea.
( Header image by Onisuu on DeviantArt )