It’s been over 10 years since The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker sailed onto the GameCube and ushered in the era of Toon Link. Despite a copious amount of controversy upon its release, the game managed to do well for Nintendo and was received well by critics. Some fans still herald it as the best Zelda to-date, so gamers were excited to learn that the Big N planned on re-releasing the classic in HD on the Wii U. Unsurprisingly, their excitement hasn’t been in vain, because The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is well worth revisiting.
The story hasn’t changed at all and still feels like a classic Zelda title, but the ocean dramatically changes the way players can traverse and interact with the environment when compared to other iterations. Forcing Link to team up with a band of pirates — eventually leading him to his own talking ship known as The King of Red Lions — the hero of time must complete several dangerous tasks to rescue his kidnapped sister from the evil Ganondorf. The narrative is enough to keep players engaged, but the visuals of the game itself are what’s truly enamoring.
Now rendered in glorious high-definition, the aesthetic of the remake has been upped significantly, and the end result makes The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD look gorgeous. Other than re-skinned items and characters, the developers have also implemented a lighting engine that does a great job at creating a convincing environment and adding a splash of realism to an immensely cartoony world. Anyone who experienced the original will appreciate the familiar and high-res land they now find themselves in.
While the game looks stellar, the gameplay itself doesn’t feel like it has aged a day since its release. Gameplay mechanics are just as fluid as fans will remember, and newcomers couldn’t be blamed for believing that this is an entirely new Zelda title if they aren’t already familiar with it. It’s actually surprising just how well the game has transferred over to the Wii U, but the trademark locking system and varied sword strikes/counter attacks all come together in a smooth and enjoyable fashion. The variety of enemies also keeps even the most skilled swordsmen on their toes, courtesy of the dynamic methods involved with taking down individual foes and bosses.
The only downside is the camera system which is controlled with the right joystick on the Wii U GamePad. Trying to get it a reasonable distance away from Link is easy enough, but time and time again it would zoom in too close or shift up for an unhelpful overhead view. There were never points where the camera gets caught behind scenery, but it’s not easy to get the exact angle right for play. It’s not a game-breaking issue, but it is irritating issue that pops up too often.
Despite this, the implementation of the GamePad is well done. The unique controller is capable of displaying Link’s inventory and maps, eradicating the need to jump in and out of menus. The ability to assign weapons without having to hit ‘Start’ keeps the overall flow of Wind Waker HD at a constant pace, and allows users to immerse themselves in the game. It also allows for Remote Play so players can continue the action exclusively on the GamePad screen in case someone else wants to use the television.
Nintendo has also done away with one of the biggest complaints that plagued the original game — the slow sail times. The new Swift Sail, something obtained through a side quest, allows players to speed up their boat and travel in whichever direction they want without having to change the flow of the wind with their patented Wind Waker. Sailing still takes a little too long, but it’s not nearly as time consuming. Players can also increase the difficulty with the game’s ‘Hero Mode’, where Link can’t find hearts scattered in grass or hidden in pots and baddies do double damage. It’s a difficult mode, but diehard Zelda fans will find the challenge more than worthwhile.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD can easily be considered a must-own on the Wii U, and could very well be a reason to own the console. Nintendo has done an admirable job implementing new features (such as MiiVerse functionality) to keep the experience feeling fresh. If there’s any reason that gamers missed out on the original Wind Waker for GameCube, now’s the time to rectify that oversight and boot up what can easily be considered one of the most beautiful and entertaining titles that Nintendo has ever released.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is available on the Wii U eShop now, with boxed copies scheduled to hit retailers this October 4th.
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