Remember when The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was first announced? It was way back in days of Nintendo’s 4th home console, the Nintendo GameCube at Space World 2001. Remember how nearly everyone hated it and thought it was a mockery to the Zelda name? How they all despised the new cel-shaded look and cartoony characters that Nintendo showcased, remember? Me? I’ll admit my hopes for a new Zelda were a little shaken that day it was revealed worldwide. I was one of the people that wanted the dark and gritty Zelda game that Nintendo had shown a tech demo of at Space World 2000, the year before Wind Waker, and was slightly let down. So many people -and the rest of the world for that matter- would be proven wrong in so many ways more than one!
Yet, part of me still had the hope that it would bring something new to the Zelda formula and the series as a whole. Boy oh boy, was the world sure in for a surprise. 10, 9, 10, 10, 5 out of 5, 9.5, 9.6, 9, 10. Scores rolled in from everywhere and were universally positive. Nintendo had done it once again, they made history with The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. All the haters, all the naysayers, and all the complaining was crushed with Wind Waker’s release. Wind Waker also holds the mighty honor of one of the highest rated games of all time with an average 96 out of 100, yes just 4 points shy of perfection. How’s that for your daily fun fact, eh?
The gameplay is largely the same as the original version of The Wind Waker on the GameCube. However, the game offers graphical modifications and various new features from the original. The Wii U GamePad’s touchscreen serves as a map and inventory, eliminating the need to toggle between gameplay and the menu interface. Players will also have the ability to use motion controls to use a variety of weapons, like the bow, can be aimed using the GamePad’s gyroscope, as in Ocarina of Time 3D on the Nintendo 3DS. One of the best features that I really took advantage of was the Off-TV Play funtion which enables the player to play the game in its entirety on the Wii U GamePad. The game can also be played on the Wii U Pro Controller as well, but I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to just use the GamePad the whole course of the game.
One of Wind Waker HD’s best features is its refined combat system. With a reliable and precise lock-on system and lots of offensive combat options at your disposal to counter, disorient, or disarm enemies easily, it’s easy how naturally good the game plays (or feels rather) with the Wii U GamePad. Throw in some great tools, weapons, memorable foes, and your fights will never get repetitive over the course of your journey. Combat is fast and frantic, utilizing a unique blend of audio and visual cues to enhance the users experience. The Wind Waker was the first game ever in the Zelda series to introduce the parry mechanic, which makes for more intense battles and those awesome nail biting, hair standing moments.
Now, I can’t ignore the fact that Nintendo did make some pretty drastic changes for the HD version compared to the original. The game now features a streamlined version of the Triforce Quest, which was a controversial aspect of the original game. In the original game players needed to collect a Triforce Chart for each shard of the Triforce of Courage, in the HD remake the player will be able to collect five Triforce of Courage shards directly from treasure chests and will only need three Triforce Charts to find shards hidden beneath the Great Sea. Additionally, the player begins the game with the ability to carry 500 rupees instead of 200, which completely eliminates the hassle of getting the next wallet upgrade from the Fairy’s Fountain and paying 300 rupees to decipher each map piece.
Another big change was the addition of the Swift Sail. After completing the Dragon Roost Cavern dungeon, players are able to purchase the Swift Sail at the Auction House on Windfall Island. This sail operates 50% more quickly than the regular sail. The Swift Sail automatically changes the direction of the wind so the player can sail at full speed all the time thus cutting travel time in half. This is intended to make sailing to small islands and salvage points more enjoyable. A shorter crane will also speed up time digging for treasure if you so choose to do so.
Lastly for the big changes, Hero Mode, a modified difficulty setting first featured in 2011’s The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, is available from the beginning of Wind Waker HD. In this mode there are certain differences in gameplay. Enemies do twice the regular damage and hearts will not appear anywhere in the game world (forcing players to use potions to heal). Hero Mode is available from the start of the game and does not require the player to complete Normal Mode like other titles of the series. It can also be toggled on or off at any point before entering the game which is a nice touch if Hero Mode proves to be a bit tougher for you.
One of the best things in Wind Waker’s arsenal is the signature begining dungeons of any Zelda game start out simple and build in complexity at a steady rate. Take the dungeon on Dragon Roost Isle (which mostly relies on the use of the grappling hook to travel) which is as simple as any opening Zelda dungeon can get. But by the time you have reached a key late-game dungeon, you will have to use nearly every item at your disposal. Boomerangs, bombs, bow & arrows, and hammers alike will be your necessary tools to be used together to move forward. Each room presents crafty puzzles that require careful observation, time, and consideration to make the right move. But that’s the fun in all Zelda games right?
Back in the day, Wind Waker’s cartoony style came under fire for being “too kiddy” and many even went as far as calling it an “abomination to the Zelda series”. Really guys? REALLY? At Least that’s what ran through my head at the time when all the haters started voicing their opinions. Why? Because it wasn’t an abomination, and by no means was it too kiddy. It had one of the darkest stories in Zelda history and the graphics went along nicely to tell its story. The graphics back on the original GameCube version of Wind Waker were some of the best for its time. Now here we are just over 10 years later of the original and Wind Waker has proven yet again that its graphics are some of the best around. Period.
Nintendo really hit the jackpot and completely found a way to breathe new life into an old gem. I thought the way Wind Waker looked 10 years ago was a phenomenal sucess and couldn’t really get that much better. Or could it? This is where Wind Waker really, really takes the cake and runs with it. If you have played the GameCube version of Wind Waker then you’ll have an idea of what to look forward to, and yes you may remember how things looked long ago. Now trust me on this, take everything you remember about it and toss it out because every single visual has been completely redone in glorious 1080p HD. In a sense Wind Waker HD could be classified as a completely new game from Nintendo that was built from the ground up.
Environments are lush and bursting with color at the seams, enemies are detailed down to the T, and dungeon exploring and puzzle solving never looked oh so good! Sailing on the open waters is absolutely stunning and character animations are wonderfully pleasing to the eye. One thing I adored was watching the many different facial animations that Link makes. They are all a wonder in their own throughout the game, and they give you a sense of connection to Link himself. From the anguish of getting new clothes for his birthday, the excitement of finding a new item, or the worry he shows for sister. It’s all relative and it all matters in Wind Waker. To put simply, it’s just one of those things you can’t fully find a way to articulate an explanation, but deep down you somehow just know it works.
Zelda games have always been about the music, aside from their stellar gameplay of course. You can play the 1989 Zelda theme and immediately know where it’s from. Wind Waker is no exception as you hear the title music, dungeons, boss battle and finding new items. You know it’s Zelda when you hear it, it’s so iconic like the simple Super Mario jingle that has been around since the beginning. I found myself being soothed from the musical score of Wind Waker more than once, so much so that I fell asleep a few times with the GamePad in my hands just listening to the background music. It’s music that is just that good and calming that you may just want to curl up and take a nap before saving the world.
None here! Single player all the way as are all Zelda games. Although, with the built in power of the Wii U’s Miiverse, you can pause the game at any time, take a screenshot, and share it on a whim for the whole world to see. So no, not really multiplayer but it is a nice way to keep things going in a “social media” kind of way. If you happen to pick up this game yourself then I have two words for you; Link Selfies. You’re welcome.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is definitely one of Nintendo’s greatest achievements of all time. They gave Wii U owners a reason to be proud of owning their system, they gave gamers a spectacular game the world world needed, and they gave me back a reason to never lose faith in them again. With it’s gorgeous HD face lift, refined combat controls, and nail biting dungeons, Wind Waker HD is the version you should be playing if you have fond memories of the original or are a newcomer to the world of Zelda games. Nintendo managed to capture all of my heart pieces over 10 years ago with their stylish new take on a Zelda game, and they managed to do it once more. All I have to say at the end of all this is: go play this game, if you don’t have a Wii U yet, then buy one for The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD and prepare your body for some good old Zelda awesomeness!
Score: A wonderfully deserved 9.5/10
Developer: Nintendo EAD, HexaDrive, DigitalScape
Release Dates: -Digital- September 20, 2013 (NA) -Physical- October 4, 2013 (NA/EU)
Price: $49.99 (NA), £49.99 (EU)
Platforms: Nintendo Wii U
Version Reviewed: Digital version from Nintendo eShop