The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker debuted in 2003. It was the first Legend of Zelda game on the Gamecube and the ninth game in the series. It would probably be the greatest game ever if it didn't have so many stupid flaws.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker debuted in Japan in late 2002 and in America early 2003. It was the first of two Zelda games released for the Gamecube (the other being Twilight Princess, which was not intended to be released for the Wii. You should know this already). It used cel-shaded graphics, giving it a unique, anime-esque appearance. Of course, many fans interpreted "unique" as "stupid," "retarded," "kiddie," "shitty," and "insert-negative-adjective-here." This ended up being an unfortunate setback, as most fans of the series assumed that it was "for kids." Ironically, the game's story was quite deep and mature.
The game takes its name from the totally-not-phallic baton Link uses to controll the winds and other elements. It's basically the exact same thing as the Ocarina of Time from the games Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask, only this time it's a baton and is more annoying to use since it requires you to use both analogue sticks.
Also unique to the game was the sailing mechanic. The world Link inhabits is made up of small islands in an island, and he requires the aid of a talking boat called the King of Red lions to get from place to place. This is one of the most annoying parts of the game, as the sailing handles clumsily. When you're on the boat, you must keep the sail up in order to move. You must then change the direction the wind moves if you want to change directions. Yes, Nintendo, it's more realistic. But is it really necessary to include such an annoying "realistic" mechanic when we're on a boat that talks?
And turns into a king?
Also, when you are on the boat, you are limited in your weapons. You can either use a cannon that lowers your sail and is hard to aim, a weapon with relatively small range that you get later in the game, or a boomerang that takes its sweet fucking time coming back before you can throw it again. Also, when you get hit, you fall out of the boat, meaning you have to swim back before you drown, taking away your ability to just shrug off hits.
The game's soundtrack is one of the best in the series. In order to more accurately capture the feeling of the game's sailing-based setting, the songs are mostly light and airy, relying almost exclusively on wind and string instruments. That's not funny, but it's still pretty interesting and worth noting.
The Wind Waker has one of the better plots as far as Zelda games go. The game starts with a bunch of exposition confirming the fanboys' suspicions that there is a split timeline. Evidently, when Zelda sent Link back in time at the end, she ensured that Hyrule was effectively screwed when Ganon magically manages to be not quite dead, like in almost ever single Zelda game.
You play as Link, a boy living on Outset Island, which is part of totally-not-Hyrule, a series of islands on the Great Sea. When the actual game part starts, it is evidently your birthday, as your sister Aryll reminds you. Yes, you have a sister. You also have a grandmother. Worth noting is that this is the most family Link ever has in a game, and probably the closest as well.
Anyway, your grandma decides that, since it's your birthday and you have come "of age" (the exact age specifications are frustratingly left ambiguous), it's time for you to dress up in a green tunic and hat and run around with a sword. A pirate ship passes by the island, and a bird drops a girl from the ship into the nearby forest. Link decides to head into the forest and rescue her, ensuring that he gives the bird just enough time to find him a good birthday present. Unfortunately for Link, that present is kidnapping his sister. The pirate girl, whose name is Tetra, agrees to help him get her back. She takes you to where the bird is, and decides that the best way to get you in is to put you in a barrel and fire you from a cannon.
Yes, it is as funny as it sounds.
This idiotic move causes you to lose your sword, and you have to spend an infuriating amount of time sneaking around trying to find it. You find your sister, but right before you get to be a big damn hero, the bird that grabbed her grabs you, flies you up to a man whose face is not shown (even though everyone already knows it's Ganondorf), and then throws you into the water. You are rescued by a talking boat called the King of Red Lions, who makes you run around and find a bunch of MacGuffins. After three dungeons, he reveals the obligatory third-dungeon twist: that the ocean you've been sailing on this entire time is actually a flooded Hyrule! Almost nobody is surprised. Link picks up the Master Sword from this underwater Hyrule, which is magically not filled with water, and then goes to save Aryll from Ganondorf...or Ganon. There's a distinct difference, but not even the game itself is sure which this is. You save Aryll, but then Ganondorf violently informs you that your Master Sword sucks and that you can't beat him. The game then drops another twist on you: that Tetra is actually Princess Zelda! Again, everybody saw it coming. Oh, also, your boat is the king of Hyrule.
The next two dungeons require getting two people to a certain place so they can play a certain song so that your Master Sword doesn't suck anymore. They are both escort missions. I don't think I need to say anything else about this.
Link must then complete a piece of the Triforce, a magical wish-granting triangle that Ganondorf is after. To this, he has to visit our good friend Tingle, who makes you find a bunch of maps, charges you an obnoxiously large ammount of money to get them translated, and then makes you pick up your loot yourself. The maps are hard to get, and both the maps and Triforce shards are spread all throughout the world map. Note: This is not an optional sidequest. You have to do this to advance the plot. It is just as annoying as it sounds.
You're not making us like him any more, Nintendo.
it turns out that the Triforce piece you assemble picks Link as its bearer, surprising absolutely no one. Congratulations, Nintendo! Oh for three!
Zelda gets captured by Ganondorf (again), and Link chases after them. After beating a final dungeon and the biggest marionette ever built, Link faces Ganondorf, who beats the everloving crap out of him with his bare hands. He then manages to assemble the Triforce, deciding that, since the two kids he beat up are just barely conscious, it'd be okay to monologue for a little. However, the king decides that he won't stand for any of Ganondorf's shit and touches the Triforce while offscreen, meaning that Ganondorf can't make his wish. The king decides that the best wish he can make is to flood the underwater Hyrule, instead of just wishing Ganondorf away. This means that you still have to fight Ganondorf. Fortunately, Zelda actually does something for once during the battle, so you're not completely alone. You end the fight by plunging your sword right into Ganondorf's forehead, turning him into stone and cementing the cartoony Link as quite possibly the most badass one yet.
IT'S CARTOONY AND THEREFORE IT CAN'T POSSIBLY BE BADASS!
The king, no doubt punishing himself for the stupidity of his wish, sends Link and Zelda to the surface and remains behind to drown. Tetra/Zelda's pirates find the two of you and pick you up, and the credits roll. The game is over, but you can play it again, this time in your pajamas.
Yeah, there's, uh, really not much else to say about that.
Okay. So. This game was pretty controversial, mostly because fanboys are stupid. They automatically assumed that since the graphics looked all cartoony and anime-esque, the game must be "for kids," or, to put it into more fanboyish terms, "shit." People hated it because it didn't look like they wanted it to. Fans actually had some justification hating other games because they used a frustrating gameplay system (Adventure of Link and Majora's Mask) or gimmicky controls (Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks), but Wind Waker got hate just because it looked silly.
The reality was, though, that the graphical style allowed for a greater variety of expressions. While you can go on about how Twilight Princess had better graphics, the characters barely emoted and tended to fall into the deep end of the Uncanny Valley.
Just a few of Wind Waker Link's many facial expressions
Twilight Princess Link's only two expressions.
Now that the game has aged a bit, fans hold it in pretty high regards. In fact, it's often thought to be the second greatest game (after Ocarina of Time, which the fanboys still can't seem to stop drooling over). But even though it has finally gained respect, it certainly has problems. The sailing has been mentioned already, as has Tingle. There's also the fact that the game expects you to do a ton of exploring. I played through the game and only saw about half of the world.
A good percentage of the game.
Moral of the story? You can't please fanboys. No matter what you try to do with the series, people will find something to gripe about. It's unavoidable.