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The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Minigames

cudpug: (cudpug-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2013-03-28 10:58:33

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Minigames


The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker on the Nintendo Gamecube was hardly short of things to do. The amount of minigames alone could occupy a player's time for countless enjoyable hours. One of the best and most enjoyable minigames was the pirate-themed Sinking Ships game on Windfall Island. In this game, the player had to fire cannonballs in a parody of the famous Battleships game. What made it entertaining was Salvatore, the man who ran the game. He was a fascinating specimen of a man; a bipolar scallywag who seemed to sublimate his tired existence with that of a seafaring hero.

By observing him after entering Salvatore's home, he appears bored and inert. Sometimes he is sleeping, in fact, until the player wakes him up, and even then he seems to have woken up on the wrong side of the bed. He grunts a few garbled noises at Link and appears altogether unwelcoming. That is, at least, until he makes Link a proposition - he asks for money in exchange for a go on his game, the aforementioned Sinking Ships. If the player declines, Salvatore goes back to his boring desk job; a guy working nine-till-five, who once had big dreams but ended up stuck on a remote island with his best years behind him.

If the player pays up, however, then Salvatore's eyes light up. He stops slouching; he removes his chin from its lazy position resting against his clenched fist; and he pulls out a cardboard cut-out of a pirate - the pirate he once dreamed of being. He maintains his delusional reverie by adopting a French accent, talking to Link as if he is some sort of nautical authority. Salvatore is a tragic character in this regard - he desperately wished to be a seafarer but never made it a reality. Prior to wishing to be a sailor, his hope was to be a painter, but that dream didn't work out either. Now he is limited to tailoring amusing little games for children on desolate islands. And, when a child such as Link enters his store and pays the toll, all of the dreams Salvatore envisioned for himself he sees within Link. Link becomes the character Salvatore once wished to be, and, as a result, he receives a short burst of happiness. It is fleeting, but only during the time Link plays Sinking Ships can Salvatore be truly content.

During this time, Salvatore adopts the behaviour of his alter-ego, Admiral Dolvalski. He imagines himself as the protective bulwark of Windfall Island, defending it from swarms of giant squid. Dolvalski doesn't show much concern for the adults of the island: like him, they are lost souls stranded on a rocky outcrop, never to leave again. But he does show a profound interest in protecting the children of the island, suggesting once again that he sees children as being like him as a youngster: full of potential.

Sadly, Dolvalski is rather insane. Years of running his game has caused Salvatore to develop multiple personality disorder, and he talks to himself through a series of abstract soliloquies, during which time he adopts the persona not only of the ship's captain, but also of the sailors defending the ship. He is both master and servant in this transaction; a slave to the maritime machinations of his fragmented mind. As he watches Link play, he does so with noticeable rapture:

"Kaboom!" he exclaims when you land a direct hit.

"Sploooooosh..." he laments when your cannonball misses.

If you're victorious, he regresses to his youth where he used to watch dashing sea captains protecting the port of his homeland and dreamt of sailing off with them. He replaces the cardboard cut-out of Admiral Dolvalski with that of a child who is elated to have been saved from a shoal of squid. The child Salvatore keeps a Peace of Heart, representative of his own love for being a successful sailor, which he gives to the player for beating his game. It was all a test; a test in which Salvatore could deem your worthiness to become the hero of the ocean that he always wished to be.

Afterwards the character panels are thrown to the floor and Salvatore returns to his grumpy, 'normal' state. The adventurous glint in his eye has gone, and his monotonous tone returns. He only opens up again when the player scores well enough on the minigame to receive a treasure chart. At that point he is once again convinced that Link is the boy he could have been if only he had been more impulsive and adventurous as a kid. He wishes Link all the best in locating the treasure illustrated in the chart that his father undoubtedly passed down to him. It was his life goal to make his father proud and locate the treasure, but with Link as his trusted confidant, he can rest easy knowing that his father's legacy will not be forgotten, and that the treasure of the Dolvalski name can be unearthed once and for all.

When Link leaves, the player thinks that they have merely passed a couple of minutes in a tacked-on minigame designed to slightly increase the longevity of a game. But this is a cynical attitude; minigames are much more than that. To people like Salvatore Dolvalski, they are both a glimpse into the future and a throwback to the past. They are a way of revisiting old memories, blowing off the dust and ruminating on how things could have been. You would be forgiven for thinking that Sinking Ships, and the countless other minigames you have encountered in video games are barely worth your time, but you need look no further than Salvatore to see how important they truly are.

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