Zelda Wind Waker
Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

Brace yourselves if you're already feeling old – you're about to feel a lot older because The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker is 20 years old today.

The game launched in Japan on December 13th, 2002 (North America didn't get it until March 2003, with poor old Europe having to wait until May), and while it has gone down as a stone-cold classic, it's hard to forget the incredibly divisive response it got when it was shown off at the 2001 Space World.

At the previous year's event, Nintendo had shown a visual demo containing a realistic Link facing off against a sinister-looking Ganon, and fans had naturally expected the next Zelda outing to retain this look.

Instead, they got a game that was quickly branded 'Celda', with some of the more critical voices attacking Nintendo for seemingly catering for the 'kiddy' market.

The reaction was so extreme that even Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto felt compelled to respond, telling IGN that he was "startled by the response we got from the press when we showed it off the first time".

He added:

They all said, 'Oh, so is Nintendo now taking Zelda and trying to aim it only at kids?' Because, really the whole concept we had behind it was that we thought it was a very creative and new way to show off Link. All the sudden it had been interpreted as Nintendo's new strategy, and that was a shock for us.

When it comes to Nintendo strategy, it's not that we want to make games for kids. It's that we want to make them creative while appealing to a wider audience. Obviously we see games as entertainment, and what we want to do is find the best way to make the gameplay experience entertaining for everyone.

Of course, once the game was actually in the hands of players, the reaction was very different. Wind Waker has a rating of 96 on the review aggregate site Metacritic, and our friends over at Nintendo Life gave it 9/10, saying:

Overall the Wind Waker is a huge achievement in every way, a must have title for your GameCube library. It provides a decent storyline, complemented by stunning visuals, beautiful melodies and a fantastic battle system. Despite this great combat system, fighting offers no real challenge at all, even the boss battles are too straightforward and simple. The large chunks of the game dedicated to collecting various items may also frustrate for the more impatient gamer. However, these flaws pale in comparison to the breathtakingly refreshing appeal the visuals have created.

When it was remastered for the Wii U in 2013, it gained a whole new generation of fans. Nintendo Life again awarded that version 9/10, saying:

Nintendo has done a valiant job of breathing new life into what was already an exceptional Legend of Zelda title. It has taken the game’s timeless art style and given it a glorious new sheen thanks to HD technology, while also making an extensive amount of worthwhile improvements to previously flawed aspects of the gameplay... This refined experience will appeal to newcomers and veterans alike, and we can only hope that the small, yet significant steps that Nintendo has taken with this wonderful remake are a promising sign of things to come with its upcoming, all-new entry in The Legend of Zelda series.

Still, it's important to remember that the Zelda fanbase was initially very cool on the title – proof that fans don't always know what they want, perhaps?