Part 1: Mysterious Maps

Posted By at 8:45 PM on Sunday January 12, 2014

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(A very special thanks to Gamma, member of The Wind Waker level viewer and editor project known as Wind Viewer. Without his encyclopedic knowledge of The Wind Waker and the numerous discoveries he has made within the game’s files, this article series would never have been possible!)


We know that Nintendo is no stranger to reusing elements that never made the cut in prior games. Examples include the early gold-hinged treasure chest first seen in prerelease screenshots for Ocarina of Time that later debuted in Majora’s Mask, or the Reed Whistle that went on to feature in Twilight Princess.

Nor is Nintendo unaccustomed to trying to adapt or recreate elements that existed in previous Zelda games. This includes plot staples such as the Three Ancient Relics, which debuted as the Pendants of Virtue in A Link to the Past, and were later reborn as the Spiritual Stones and Goddess Pearls in later incarnations of the series.

So what does that mean for The Wind Waker? Miyamoto himself stated that for a Zelda game launching on a new system, like the GameCube, a 4 year development period is the norm. A lot can change during that time! Using evidence taken from the inner workings of the game itself, let us take you on a journey to examine what The Wind Waker might have been.

Default Map

Let’s begin by taking a look at the default sea chart in The Wind Waker. This map of the Great Sea displays a number of islands that are important to the story. These include the Earth and Wind temples, the fire and ice mini-dungeons, the main habitations, and the Forsaken Fortress. I’ve added their names in for ease of identification.

The chart is also overlaid with a 7×7 square grid pattern, used to divide the ocean up into 49 sectors. Though they are not generally depicted on the map until Link discovers them, each square contains a defining geographical feature, such as an island or a man-made structure. Coloured lines of unknown purpose run diagonally across the map.

The default sea chart, however, is not the only map we have for the game.

Promo Map

(Click to Enlarge)

This map was released in the E3 2013 press kit for The Wind Waker HD. It was also incorporated into another promotional image.

While E3 2013 marked the first time that we’d seen this version of the map in full, we nonetheless have evidence that it existed since the time of the original game’s release. The promo map first appeared as the background to the introductory pages of The Wind Waker’s 2002 instruction booklet. It was also incorporated into this image, which appeared on the booklet’s cover.

While it is unclear when in development the promo map was created, it appears to have been drawn before the game’s details were finalized. You can see from my English translations of the Hylian that the text reveals one interesting difference that points towards this conclusion: The Japanese name of the Warship enemy is “Taihou Fune”, meaning Canon Ship. However, this enemy is captioned “Boko Bune”, or “Boko Boat”, on the map. This may be an earlier name for the enemy. After all, the prefix “boko-” is already used for a number of other objects and enemies in The Wind Waker.

The King of Red Lions’ design, while unlike the early design sketches for his character that have been leaked via Hyrule Historia and the Zelda Box guidebook, is nonetheless different from the final game. He is also called Red Lion, here, rather than The King of Red Lions.

The Forsaken Fortress’s treasure includes the necklace normally given to Link by Tetra.

While some of the islands are identifiable, such as Outset Island, the Forsaken Fortress, Headstone Island, and Forest Haven, others are unclear. The island in I2 looks closest to Windfall, which is normally positioned around E2. Tingle Island should be positioned around D3. (Compare with the final game’s map here.)

Most intriguingly, a fire-breathing sea dragon and toothy fish are shown to roam the ocean. Similar serpentine snakes illustrate the walls of Dragon Roost Cavern. In addition, we see a sunken ship, which never appears in the final game.

The map contains some artistic license on the part of the creator, as it is a 7×9 grid rather than the 7×7 grid of the final game, perhaps to make up for the fact that the islands are much larger than usual. (Outset Island spans 4 squares!) Are these unfamiliar illustrations and discrepancies the embellishments of an imaginative artist? Or are they remnants of scrapped concepts for The Wind Waker?

Globe Map

The next map we’ll examine is a texture found on globes scattered throughout The Wind Waker. It shares the the 7×7 grid and crisscrossing diagonal lines with the map of the final game, and the main islands are located in their usual positions. From this, we might assume that this image is based on an early version of the overworld map.

Because it is so small, however, this texture is difficult to examine. Fortunately, there are two better quality variations of this image found elsewhere in the game.

Mailroom Map

The second incarnation of this early map is found in the Rito tribe’s mailroom. The red lines depict postal routes from Dragon Roost Island to other locations around the Great Sea. Each inhabited island is marked by a symbol. Dragon Roost is a flame or wing, Windfall is a windmill, Forest Haven is a sprout, Greatfish is a fish, and the Forsaken Fortress is a demonic face.

Tingle is depicted as a Tingle Head, but his symbol is slapped unceremoniously on the uninhabited North Triangle Island, perhaps because his own island is not shown on the map. It also lacks a red line denoting a mail route.

The symbolism of Outset Island’s mark is unclear. Its mail route is also unusual, being that it passes through and peters out on a strange donut island where the Tower of the Gods should be, then continues onwards with a fresh line.

Larger versions of most of these markings appear on the mail sorting shelf in the same room. For some reason, Outset Island has no shelf.

Tetra’s Map

The final version of this map is a chart found on the wall of Tetra’s pirate ship cabin. Apart from its markings, it is a geographical duplicate of the two maps above, and the easiest to examine.

Unlike the plain, nondescript map of the final game, this chart is decorated with a smokey compass rose and a symbol resembling a half-sun. A fell wind blows from Forsaken Fortress, possibly revived as the dark clouds that encircle the island in The Wind Waker HD.

Like the other maps we’ve looked at so far, the surface is crisscrossed with multicoloured diagonal lines, and features some important story-related islands. These include Outset Island, the Forsaken Fortress, Dragon Roost Island, Forest Haven, Greatfish Isle, and Headstone Island. Compared to the final map, it is missing some landmasses, such as Gale Island, Fire Mountain, and Ice Ring Isle. However, it does feature the Mother & Child isles, where the Fairy Queen lives.

It also depicts some aesthetic differences with the final version of the Great Sea. In the released game, Outset is made up of two islands linked by bridges, as seen in the picture above. According to Tetra’s sea chart, however, it may have once been a single landmass.

That means the map must predate E3 2002, the earliest version of Outset Island found inside the game. The E3 version of Outset Island was playable 6 months before The Wind Waker’s Japanese release on December 13th, 2002, and features a number of differences from the final game. However, by that point, it had already been split into two separate islands linked by a bridge.

The most interesting difference between Tetra’s chart and the final overworld map is the inclusion of the Triangle Islands. While these islands are an important part of the story, the final map omits them entirely.

Not only that, but in the final game, setting the three Goddess Pearls in their statues on the Triangle Islands will cue a cutscene that depicts a Triforce stretching over the Great Sea to connect them. On Tetra’s map, however, the Triangle Islands only make up the inner triangle of the Triforce. The outer triangle has three additional islands at its points: Dragon Roost, Forest Haven, and Greatfish.

Could these three locations have had a greater role in summoning of the Tower of the Gods? And what of the donut-shaped island that sits in its place on Tetra’s chart?

Follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, or Twitter to get the scoop on the next instalment, when we’ll begin with a in-depth look at the first island in question: Dragon Roost!

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One Response

  1. Bobo says:

    Could Outset Island’s symbol in the mailroom be a jar? À la Jar Lady…?

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