Electronic Gaming Monthly was an exclusively video games (i.e. no PC games) magazine that lasted from 1988 until 2009. Even though the title has come back under new ownership, it’s still remembered for the initial 21-year run, especially for some of their fan-favorite gimmicks. For example, a “member” of the staff named “Sushi X” would write a “rumors” column that would include anonymous tips and complete fabrications. The magazine also had a monthly contest where readers would be rewarded for recognizing Simpsons references printed in the magazine.
One of the more fan favorite traditions was an annual “April Fool’s Joke” in which they would completely fabricate a story for the magazine. Sometimes, those stories would evolve into urban legends that (before the popularity of the internet) would spread through arcades and school playgrounds.
The Real Wind Waker
When Nintendo first announced the GameCube, they showed off several demo videos that would give fans a glimpse of the tiny cubes power. One of them was the following Zelda demo from Space World 2000:
Several of the games depicted were released in a similar state. However, there’s also a preview of a realistically modeled Link from The Legend of Zelda series fighting the series’ villain, Ganon. Because of this demo, fans expected that the GameCube’s official Zelda game would look like this demo.
When Nintendo announced The Wind Waker in 2001 and showed that it had a hand-drawn, cel-shaded look, Zelda fans lost their minds. On an IGN message board called “Official Zelda Bitch Thread“, fans complained that they were lied to, that they wanted their “mature” Zelda game. In his reflection on that era, Stephen Totilo believes that the anxiety came from Nintendo fans worried that Nintendo was losing traction to Sony and Microsoft and that, by focusing on children, would end up folding like Sega’s Dreamcast had done earlier that year.
The Realistic Wind Waker
In an antagonistic move, EGM decided that, in anticipation of the new Nintendo Console, the Wii, and it’s release alongside a more realistic Zelda game, The Twilight Princess, they would reignite the flames and see what happened.
In their April 2005 issue, EGM wrote an article in their “Preview” section called “Changing Course” that hinted at a realistic version of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. According to the story, people who pre-ordered the Wii version of Twilight Princess would receive a copy for free.
While obviously a joke in hindsight, this article had a lot of reasons to be believed. After all, Nintendo had a track record of re-releasing games. In 2003, Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda: Collector’s Edition. This disc came with both NES Zelda games, both N64 Zelda games (The Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask), and a demo for The Wind Waker. Nintendo also packaged certain versions of The Wind Waker with a disc called “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Two-Game Bonus Disc!” It contained Ocarina as well as Ocarina of Time: Master Quest, which was a version designed for the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive, which only came out in Japan. Even though Nintendo ported these games and didn’t change any of the graphics, fans still angry for their supposed “betrayal” wouldn’t be blamed for believing the jest.
The most believable jokes are the ones that people want to believe. With the release of games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the desire for a realistic Wind Waker has faded. But the feelings of discovery and conjecture at what could be possible… those are as alive as ever.
To read more about EGM’s April Fool’s jokes, please check out this write-up by Cyril Lachel at Defunct Games.