The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker was initially met with skepticism and disappointment by many fans of the franchise who felt that the cartoony take on their favourite hero was unfitting of the character and setting. However, once people actually played Wind Waker their minds started to change. The visuals were beautiful, and the gameplay, although it had its minor faults, was outstanding. Well now one of the best games of the Gamecube era has been reborn with The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD, and in addition to just bringing across the great game, it has been improved on in subtle, yet welcomed ways.
Through an accident, our unlikely hero, Link is forced to take up arms and combat the evil Ganon. This time, Link is a young boy on the small Outset Island in the south of the Great Sea. On Outset, it is said that when boys reach the age of the Hero of Legend, they will don his clothes for a special ceremony. On his birthday, Link’s sister is taken by a giant bird, and he vows to stop at nothing to stop her. As we progress through the game, Link evolves into the hero he was destined to be, and the world of Hyrule is saved from Ganon’s clutches, but not without a few hiccups along the way.
What makes Wind Waker’s story so memorable is firstly how it is tied strongly to the conclusion of Ocarina of Time. Following Ganon’s defeat, he was sealed away until a time where he broke free. Unfortunately there was no hero around at this time to seal him again, so the Goddesses had to intervene to stop his rampage. They did this by flooding Hyrule, with only the tips of the mountains remaining as the new island settlements for the people. Anyone who has played Ocarina will recognize some locations (Such as Death Mountain becoming Dragonroost Island).
The characters also make the story so great. We see how the residents of Hyrule were forced to evolve to adapt to their new environments, like the Kokiri becoming the nymph-like Koroks, and the Zora’s change into the bird-like Rito (which the Goddesses decreed was because they didn’t want anyone discovering the remains of Old Hyrule). In addition, the characters that Link meets along his way and help him are all wonderfully done, and you will likely remember them for years, even if you only played the game once.
The gameplay remains largely unchanged from the original, and follows a typical Zelda formula. You collect mystical objects to further unlock your power and potential as a hero in order to save the world from the clutches of Ganon. What separated Wind Waker from the other installments in the franchise was its location – You play across the oceans of the Great Sea, which is all that remains after the gods flooded Hyrule years ago. A lot of Zelda mainstay items have returned, and all function the same as they do in previous games. The game also makes great use of the Wii U Gamepad’s gyroscope to allow precision aiming of items such as the Bow, or the Camera.
The game also makes use of the Wii U Gamepad to keep track of your maps and inventory off-screen so you aren’t forced to pause everytime you want to change direction on the sea. Instead of pausing to check your bearings, a single glance at the Gamepad will tell you everything you need to know. It is the small improvements like these that keep the game flowing instead of constantly being broken up by switching items etc.
In the original, the boating was an almost tedious process that involved you manually adjusting the wind direction, and traveling at speeds that weren’t exactly lightning-fast. In this way, what made the game special and different from the others became tedious and boring. However, in Wind Waker HD, Nintendo have fixed this problem with the introduction of the Fast Sail. The Fast Sail is obtainable soon after the game’s first dungeon on Dragonroost Island through an Auction mini-game. The fast sail more than doubles the sailing speed, and also changes the wind direction so that you always have a favorable breeze behind you. This item absolutely eliminates the problems that were caused by sailing in the original, and makes the game a whole lot more fun, and quicker to boot.
Another tweak to the game from the original is through the Tingle Bottles. The original Wind Waker made use of the Gamecube’s GBA link cable to allow players to contact the annoying fairy Tingle for a variety of different items (typically additional bombs to help you clear out a room, etc). Since that is no longer an option, Wind Waker HD now takes advantage of MiiVerse by allowing players to take photos and add text which are then put into a bottle to be thrown out into the waters. Players all over the world can then pick up the bottles and read the messages inside. By and large it doesn’t add much to the gameplay, but it is a great way of integrating MiiVerse and keeping players connected.
The last big change from the original is the way that some Triforce Shards are collected. In the original you would find a chart, then have Tingle decipher them for an exorbitant fee before you head off into the oceans to track them down. While this is still the case, there are fewer charts, and instead some areas that previously contained the charts now simply contain a Triforce Shard, which eliminates a lot of the time of finding the chart and the rupees to have it deciphered.
There is also the addition of Hero’s Mode for those who want a real challenge. Hero’s Mode is far more difficult, and also has no random hearts dropping from enemies, requiring you to keep your health bar filled through fairies and potions. It adds a whole level of depth and intensity to the game, also adding to its replayability, especially if you have played the original before.
Wind Waker HD is to put it mildly; absolutely stunning. The cell-shaded art style of the original is really brought to life in HD, and the additional lighting effects really make this world come to life.
Link here is one of the most expressionate characters in gaming, with each expression not only being clear and distinct, but really provides a sense of character that we don’t usually get from this silent protagonist. We can see that although he is in a dire, dangerous situation, he really is just a kid, and we see all that from his face alone.
When sailing across the Great Sea, you will often see the shilouettes of islands on the horizon. This was not present in the original, and it really makes the game map feel more populated, and less barren. In the original Gamecube version you often wouldn’t be able to see another island until you were right up close to it. The increased draw distance and shilouettes also have the added effect of serving as a bearing for your travels.
The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker had by far one of my favourite soundtracks in all of gaming. From the moment you start up the game, and are met with the slow, orchestrated remix of the Zelda theme song, to the cheerful, voyage-inspiring music on the Great Sea, and the distinctive sounds of each major island, Wind Waker’s music was perfectly composed, perfectly placed and made the game really come alive.
In Wind Waker HD that hasn’t changed. The only thing that has changed is that the game now sounds better. You could sit there and listen to the music of the Great Sea for hours on end, and still not be sick of it, and that orchestrated opening sounds amazing with this update. If there is a downside to the audio, it is that the sound of Link screaming “Hiyaaa!” every few seconds can get a little grating on the ears, but luckily it is usually covered up by the sounds of his sword smashing into an enemy.
A lot of the monsters in Wind Waker don’t make a lot of noise aside from when they are getting hit, which adds a sense of imposition to their beings. This is an unusual feeling because of how brightly coloured everything is, but it still is pulled off to perfection.
The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD took a game that was (eventually) loved by many, and tweaked it subtly to make an absolute masterpiece. Whether you are along-time fan of the Zelda franchise, or looking for a game to play on your Wii U, you absolutely cannot go past this one. From its timeless gameplay, which has been tweaked and improved upon, to its stunning visuals, brilliant characters and unforgettable music, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD stands tall as one of the best games on the Wii U system to date.
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