The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD Review

[As Read on GIO.]

Because of its artistic meets cartoon-ish style of characterization, I would have never thought Wind Waker would need an updated, high definition version- however, I couldn’t be more pleased with the final product. I am one of those gamers who, still to this day, plays Wind Waker, Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, and Twilight Princess- to name a few Zelda games. Frankly, I’m a huge fan of the series, and always have been, ever since its inception. Sure, we’ve hit a few rough patches along the way, but quite honestly (despite Zelda II) I don’t think we’ve really seen a bad Zelda game yet, and this high definition remake (or update, whichever you prefer) not only transcends the test of time, but continues that winning streak as well. Don’t be depressed simply because this HD version didn’t receive the perfect ten that the original Wind Waker did- in this review or Dan Ryckert’s. It is much the same experience, with some added things here and there, yet it is still- bear in mind, a game that is nearly eleven years old. For that reason alone, I’d say it’s doing pretty good to still handle this well. I decided to give the newer version of the game the same score as I gave the original back in the day, mainly because it has some updated features, but nothing so groundbreakingly new or changed as to give it that added oomph to boost it up or drop it down by any margin of points. For that reason, it remains the same score as before.

I guess you could place me in that group of fans that for some crazy reason have enjoyed The Wind Waker much more than any other Zelda game to date. Now, don’t get me wrong- I’ve enjoyed my fair share of Link’s more recent, and even older adventures- however, for whatever reason, Link’s watery adventure strikes me as a favorite. Of course, as with all games, it has its slow moments- namely, some tedious fetching and questing to the far reaches of the ocean kingdom in order to acquire certain map pieces and tools. However, it always more than makes up for it with its awesome dungeons- literally every single one is amazing, with even the weakest one being better than ninety percent of all of the ones in every handheld Zelda game to date. The game also features some of the most interesting and unique boss fights in a Zelda title to date- ranging from a giant robotic face to a demon bird to one of the scariest incarnations of the evil Gannon yet (step aside giant pig-Gannon!) Despite my initial griping about the lack of a need for a newer version of the game, I’m more than impressed with what Nintendo did manage to squeeze into the already pretty tight space left in this open world, but I couldn’t be more pleased with what is here now, and what’s since been remedied.

Even after the long decade it has been since its initial release, the game’s core gameplay is impeccable and on par with any new role-playing or action and adventure title released on the market by today’s standards. It’s still that good. I mean, when I whip out the good old faithful GameCube and play the original to compare the two, even the original’s controls still seem to respond excellently- and the seamless transfer to the Wii U is a testament to Nintendo’s hard work and dedication to fans as well. Even though you probably have since memorized the ways through each dungeon’s major puzzles and boss battles from multiple runthroughs of the original game, they seem as fresh and entertaining as ever this time around- which is great, because I was actually scared they would be quite stale after all this time, with nothing new to really add. Once more, you’re free to explore the full extent of the ocean kingdom’s boundaries- containing a vast multitude of islands, some of which I am almost positive were not in the previous game, which is an interesting new place to start some exploration I’d say… Although it was always intuitive and open to reaction in the GameCube version as well, swordplay has taken an almost Skyward Sword route and become even more almighty and amazing this time around- to the point where you will literally feel every parry and strike as if you had picked up a broad sword instead of a Wii remote. It’s just that flowing and good. Oh, and did I mention the drop-dead visuals? If you thought the original looked mighty fine with its art style, just wait until you see the awesome shading, shadowing, and lighting techniques this time around. And more dynamic cloud cover and breeze system. It rocks.

One of the few gameplay changing options and aspects available to players this time around, which I will be talking about, is the ability to have the Wind Waker conductor’s baton mapped to the d-pad instead of switching through your inventory every time you wish to utilize this fantastic item. Instead of having to pretty much memorize the song as you would in Ocarina of Time and the original Wind Waker, you can use the GamePad as a cheat sheet of sorts when necessary. Did I mention that you can also use this handy tablet device to manage your inventory stocks and view all of your special saves and other statuses? Well, take it from me- this is a godsend indeed. You can even choose to play through the game on a somewhat higher difficulty, if you find playing through the game a second or third time on the same old same old too tedious or boring for your tastes. In fact, feel free to get your brain bashed in by every common enemy out there, if that’s your thing. Hero Mode, as it is deemed, is actually a pretty hefty challenge to undertake, but made all the more bearable by each and every change that Nintendo has since implemented here this second time around.

This following piece of interesting information is going to be a major spoiler for those of you out there who are insane enough to have not played the game in the full ten years that its been out, so I apologize, but I don’t really mean it- because if you’ve managed to live under a rock for this amount of time, you’re either pretty awesome or pretty weird. Take that as you will, probably with a grain of salt somewhere in there. Near to the end of the original game, there was a pretty hefty and time-consuming fetch quest concerning several maps and tri-force shards. Suffice it to say, even though I enjoyed the opportunity to explore around the ocean and hunt these (for lack of a kinder word) bast**ds down, this was a pretty grueling task even for Hyrule’s finest. To make matters even better, you had to pay that little twerp Tingle, the one with that weird tuner thing (yes, him), an exorbitant amount of rupees- nearly four hundred to be exact, oh, and that’s per by the way. Thankfully, for the sake of sanity- as we know the definition of insanity to be doing the same thing twice, while expecting different results- Nintendo took pity on our hearts and souls, and has allowed players to find the first five shards without even having to use a chart at all. Not only does this significantly cut down wasted time spent hunting for the damned things, but it also manages to build tension better before the final, climatic battle with your archenemy- Gannon. Which is quite an excellent design fix, if I do say so.

Some other significant, or slightly less so changes include the addition of a wallet that knows your heart better than you do apparently- as it won’t let you open chests if they will exceed your rupee total and waste gems needlessly. Seeing as the original had an issue with capping out at nine hundred and ninety-nine gems, and then eating any others you might find in the chests across the land- this is a great improvement indeed. Now you can always come back to previously unopened chests, instead of opening every single available one in the world and being forced to cut grass or trawl in the ocean for hours on end to make any sort of decent money once you’ve spent your fair share. Also, instead of being forced to use the rudder to death or switch the direction of the wind every five seconds in order to get anywhere fast enough, you can now purchase the Swift Sail item which- as it sounds, allows you to sail much more swiftly than previously, and in fact doubles your speeds as well. The only semi-problematic issue is you can only get it from the auction house (not like Diablo 3’s mind you!) after completing the first dungeon, which is actually alright, seeing as you don’t really encounter the King of Red Lions boat until then anyhow. And, if you have enough rupees for it, the sail is all yours. But, alas, I’ve failed to mention the even better part of this mystical and awesome item! You need not ever alter the wind with the sail, as it seems to have some sort of magical ability to do so on its own, and to speed things up even when there is seemingly no wind at all. Awesome, right?

All in all, I couldn’t have been more pleased with the turnout of this high definition remastering of the original Wind Waker, and for what its worth (everything), I think it remedies all of the prior issues without adding any new ones, which is truly rare in any remake- even the best ones. Everything that Nintendo carries out here is executed perfectly, and despite that not being enough to merit the game a perfect score, this newfound classic is one of the best games I’ve played in years- even if you can’t say so for its uniqueness or originality. Not only does it take the original content into consideration, but it drastically changes and improves certain aspects for the better- which is never, ever a bad thing. In this case, I’d definitely say that new is indeed better. This game goes beyond being simply labeled as a “remake” or a second opinion- it is what the first game could and should have been, even if it might be receiving the same score for its definitely improved gimmicks and efforts.

Concept: Improve as much as can be possibly improve upon from Link’s watery, oceanic adventure a decade ago.

Graphics: If you thought the original had an art style to beat, prepare to be amazed and awestruck with the results of the new shadowing and visual lighting effects and animations. And not to mention the dynamic cloud cover and shift to night and day.

Sound: Between the calming, soothing sighing of the sea and the classic takes on the melodic themes, the soundplay is as phenomenal as should be expected.

Playability: It is open to as many controllers as can work with the Wii U, but managing your inventory from the GamePad and looking up your acquired songs is definitely the way to go.

Entertainment: What’s not to like in this department? I can only say good things about the gameplay and story, but then again, you’d just be listening to what I’ve carried on about throughout the entire review.

Replay Value: Moderately High.

Overall Score: 9.5

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