Preface: This review may be a little bit biased because Wind Waker is my favourite game of all time.
The Legend Of Zelda: Wind Waker HD is (what I consider to be) the best game ever made. It’s beautiful, clever, entertaining and, best of all, it fixes all the little niggles that the original game had.
The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (WiiU)
Developed by Nintendo EAD – Published by Nintendo
Some context, for if you’ve been living under a rock – Wind Waker was released in 2003 and was somewhat of a departure for the series. After the realistic-looking N64 games, and Majora’s Mask being a dark story about the inevitability of death, Wind Waker burst on to Gamecubes everywhere, its bright cartoonish aesthetic a far cry from the ultra-realistic Zelda tech demo Nintendo had shown off just a year before. However, appearances can be deceiving, and it turns out Wind Waker is as dark as its predecessor, with the game taking place in the last remnants of the Hyrule from Ocarina of Time: the peaks of its mountains. There are very few creatures that have survived since the world below flooded, and those that have cluster on but 4 islands in the vast ocean. Later, we’re taken to Greatfish isle, implied to have once been as bustling as Windfall Island, the game’s main town. By the time you get there, the whole island has been torn asunder by Ganondorf, with no survivors.
Appearances can be deceiving indeed.
One of my favourite things about Wind Waker is how Ganon isn’t an excuse villain. In most other games, he’s evil for the sake of it, but in Wind Waker, he has motive: he’s seen the world above the waves and knows that what came before was better. He’s still psychotic, but he wants the world to be better, for the people forced who live separated by the blue void to be together once more.
Let’s get on to the core of this remake, then: Wind Waker HD is gorgeous. People have been playing Wind Waker at 1080p for years via the Dolphin emulator, but this remake also restores the original full resolution art assets as textures, so the world looks less blurry than it does on Dolphin. There’s also some fancy schmancy new shaders in play that, when a model is really well lit, will make it look less like a cartoon character and more of a clay model. It’s an interesting effect that won’t be to everyone’s taste, but the only times you really see it are while opening a chest or when fighting a lot of enemies that have light sources as weapons. Otherwise, the art style is much the same as the original – and those of you put off by the ludicrous bloom in the trailers, rest assured that that effect has been toned down a lot in-game. The game is brighter, but not as blinding as it appears in the trailers
What else? Well, the much maligned Triforce Quest has been well and truly fixed – 5 of the 8 Triforce shards are now found directly, where their charts once were. The remaining three still have charts, but the new Swift Sail makes it quick and easy to locate them, especially if you’ve been updating your map every time you enter a new square. A few sidequests have been changed – for example, the Hero’s Charm, a mask that allows you to see enemy health bars, was once granted to you after you gave Windfall’s schoolteacher 40 Joy Pendants. Now, however, it is located at the bottom of the Savage Labyrinth, which is far, far harder than I remember it being. Similarly, the Deluxe Pictobox (i.e. the game’s colour camera) is granted to you immediately after finishing Lenzo the photographer’s challenges. Before, you had to fetch a special fairy from the Forest Haven and show it to him.
Hero Mode, a feature from Skyward Sword that has been lifted over wholesale, isn’t particularly great, however. Hero Mode, if you are unaware, doubles enemy damage and eliminates all heart drops in the game, so the only way you can possibly recover health is via fairies or potions. In Skyward Sword, you were able to get healing potions right from the start of the game, so the mode was balanced. In Wind Waker, however, you can’t get a potion until after the first dungeon. This makes the mode hugely frustrating, especially for Dragon’s Roost Cavern, where you only have 3 hearts and no way of healing yourself. I turned it off halfway through Dragon Roost, after dying a good ten times. Unless you know Wind Waker inside out, I’d recommend turning it off, because it kills a lot of the fun of the game.
Off-TV play, as ever, is a killer feature, as is the ability to change weapons on the fly using the touchscreen. I can’t imagine going back to using a Gamecube controller after playing WWHD, since having the ocean map available at any time without pausing feels so natural. The Tingle Tuner has been replaced with Tingle Bottles – this feature lets you receive messages from players all over the world using the WiiU’s Miiverse. I only got to try it yesterday and today as the functionality hadn’t been activated previously, but it’s really heartwarming finding a bottle on Outset Island beach, opening it on the Gamepad and seeing a player taking a selfie of Link with his Grandma.
The pictobox has also been upgraded for WWHD – it now stores 12 photos instead of 3 and has a selfie function with 9 different expressions that Link can make. I guess this is the year of the in-game selfie? Anyway, all photos you take can then be posted to Miiverse via a Tingle Bottle.
Everything else, really, is the same Wind Waker we know and love. There’s no extra dungeons, no major story changes, no boss rush mode (although you refight the bosses at the end of the game anyway) and no Master Quest. Some may say this visual upgrade and a handful of improvements aren’t worth £40, but considering Wind Waker wasn’t exactly popular in the first place, it could be worth picking up. If you played and enjoyed the original game, I heartily recommend giving HD a play, if only to see the beautiful world of The Great Sea again. If you’ve never played Wind Waker (and own a WiiU), definitely pick it up – it’s easily the best Zelda game in years and, depending who you ask, the best one full stop. If you don’t own a WiiU? If you’re in the market for one, pick up the special edition console, else I would say that a remake of a 10 year old game, no matter how good it is, isn’t a killer app.
But what do I know? Make your own decisions. But as a reference, if I were to score the original version of Wind Waker, it’d be a 9.