More than a decade ago, Nintendo released its most controversial Zelda title thus far, and called it The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. It wasn’t the name or the design of the role-playing experience that caused uproar amongst a large group of gamers, but the title’s unique, cel-shaded art style. Fans were upset that the series, which had been moving in the direction of increased realism with every release, was switching to a cartoon-inspired look. Nevertheless, we all know that visuals don’t make a game. As such, the GameCube exclusive won over many with its great gameplay and sea-based change of pace.
Although we’re still awaiting the Wii U’s first (new) adventure starring hero Link and Princess Zelda, the touchscreen-focused console now has one Zelda game in its library. That would be Nintendo’s visually enhanced and slightly modified remaster of the aforementioned classic, dubbed The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD. Now, both returning fans and newcomers can experience the title in high-definition glory.
The game begins innocently enough, as a young man is celebrating a coming of age birthday on an idyllic island called Outset. As is customary within his hometown, he’s given a green tunic that mimics Link’s iconic clothing. You see the events of the previous games have turned into legend, as many, many years have passed since they took place. Still, they’re honoured appropriately and with obvious respect.
After going out to the watchtower to find his younger sister, Toon Link (as he’s now referred to within the industry) unexpectedly finds himself needing to play a heroic role. As it turns out, a gigantic bird is on the hunt for girls with long ears, and the young lass is taken away in its grasp. Luckily, the boat-less boy is able to team up with a colourful band of pirates, who help him begin his interesting, immersive and thoroughly enjoyable quest.
Expectedly, what seemed like a random kidnapping was far from that, as it’s quickly learned that evildoer Ganondorf has come back from the dead. Of course, his aim is yet another attempt at reuniting the three pieces of the series’ well-known Triforce – something that players must stop as they assume control of the game’s fledgling protagonist. Unsurprisingly, however, getting to the end takes between twenty to thirty hours, and there are lots of puzzles to solve, enemies to kill and secrets to find.
Though The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD takes place in an oceanic world, it’s still very much a Zelda game. Link must use music to change the wind’s direction, and must also conduct harmonies to complete other tasks, such as taking control of inanimate objects or living allies. Additionally, despite the fact that there aren’t a ton of dungeons to be found within the game, you’ll still find yourself spending a decent amount of time within their cavernous and puzzle-based depths. Still, with that said, a large part of the experience is based on travelling to and from different islands, while learning about the new world and its secrets; something that is aided by fish who will give hints whenever bait is dropped in front of them.
Back when I first got a GameCube, I purchased the original version of this title, and played through the majority of it. I did not finish it, though, for some reason, so this was my first time playing through the full thing. Honestly, I’m glad that I was given the chance to review this revamp, because it’s an exceptional release, and may just be the Wii U’s best game thus far. Sure, it’s not a true Wii U game in the sense that it’s an upgraded port, but the statement still stands. Even though a decade has passed since it first debuted on retail store shelves, Wind Waker lacks rust and doesn’t feel archaic at all. It’s also more user friendly, as Nintendo’s development team decided to take player complaints to heart, resulting in a harder difficulty option and a more streamlined version of the end of game Triforce shard quest line.
What’s so great about this particular franchise entry is that it’s fresh. By making Link the captain of his own talking boat, its developers struck a great chord, and created a unique world that is ripe for questing. Each square on the sea chart, which is shown on the GamePad and can be interacted with through touchscreen means like both inventory screens, features something different to explore, be it a town, a dungeon, a fairy’s lair or a minigame. Furthermore, the inclusion of the second screen design that Nintendo has been touting since its latest console was announced makes a very positive impact, lessening the slowdown that normally results from menu loading times.
If there was a better candidate for an HD revamp than Wind Waker, I can’t think of one. It was a gorgeous, artistic and extremely colourful experience to start with, and is even more striking now. Everything pops off the screen, showcasing art design that acts as another example of video games being art. However, there is a bit of slowdown to be found when a lot of enemies are on-screen, whether it’s during epic swordplay battles or bomb-based sea conflict, though it doesn’t mar the game at all. It’s there, but only appears scarcely.
The audio has also received a welcomed upgrade, and is very tough to fault. There’s no voice acting to be found, apart from gibberish, but the world still feels alive. All of the sound effects are great, mixing iconic Zelda tunes and chimes with new content, and the original score sounds fantastic.
If you’ve never played through this game before, or happen to be a big fan of it from years passed, you won’t regret picking up The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD. It’s an exceptional game, and a true classic, which doesn’t feel its age at all. Take note that little has changed, though, outside of the one reworked quest and the inclusion of a faster sail and Miiverse-based Tingle Bottle messages that players can leave for others.
This review is based on a physical copy of the Wii U exclusive, which was provided to us.
Nintendo has done great justice to one of its better games with The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, delivering an exceptional revamp of the 2003 RPG.