With a fully fledged Zelda on still missing on the Wii U Nintendo turned their attentions to a Wind Waker and a HD remake. Originally released on the Gamecube, it’s not the most popular title in the series, but certainly one of the better looking thanks to the lovely cel shaded visuals. Years on, can a HD re-release on the Wii U breathe new life into title and ease the cravings of Zelda fans until a proper release? Read on to find out.
Game: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
Developer: Nintendo EAD Group No. 3, HexaDrive
The main pillars of the Zelda’s story haven’t changed much over the years. There is always one very obvious similarity – Evil is up to no good and quite possibly, Princess Zelda may need saving at the end of it. Simplistic, yes, but effective. You see, Zelda as a series is less about intricate plot points and elaborate twists like your typical Game of Thrones episode. Instead this is quite simply about making you feel like an adventurer.
As always, this is a new “Link” from a new era in new surroundings. Ganon has broken free from his godly prison and you are on a one man mission to stop him. On your way there you may even have time to help some of the worlds other inhabitants.
Let’s face it, Wind Waker was far from in need of a graphical make-over. This simplistic, yet elegant cell shaded design meant it had little trouble lasting the new age of HD wizardry, but here we are. The biggest graphical improvement on show comes in the form of lighting and by extension shadows. Everything now seems to pop of the screen and Link’s world seems even more vibrant and alive than before. Some of the more extreme environments look positively breath taking and only server to make each dungeon that more atmospheric.
It could be argued that this new lick of paint distorts the original versions aesthetic and if you are a purist, this may be a problem for you. The new lighting effects and textures definitely make the game look a little less cell shaded and brings it a little more in line with the upcoming “A Link Between Two Worlds”. This is more noticeable on Link himself in low light conditions. That beings said, it is hard to argue this is one beautiful game.
The upside for the purists, is that links expressive facial expressions are still in-tact. It’s wonderful to watch the character’s emotional state shift throughout the game and the best part is that it is written all over his large round head, literally!
Sound is the heart and soul of any Zelda game as any true fan will tell you. The visuals may impress you, but it is the music that captivates you and defines the experience and for good reason. You will rarely find the little green pigmy without an instrument at his side, and it is usually intricately tied into the main story.
The thematic crack that is the Wind Waker soundtrack has never filled me with more nostalgia and it is exactly as you would expect it. In fact I challenge any to play Wind Waker HD and not hum along to at least one tune.
Gameplay wise, with only six months in development, Link’s seafaring adventures are largely the same with most of the changes coming cosmetically. Expect to traverse elaborately crafted dungeons, while navigating the vast seas, and occasionally stopping off to do the fun, sometimes comical side quests. Zelda games usually have an assortment of tasks to do in your downtime, and with 49 islands to investigate you won’t be short on places to visit.
Changes to gameplay come in the form of social interaction with other like minded Zelda nerds believe it or not. No sea based adventure would be complete without the age old message in the bottle and that is exactly what you get. The ability to send messages across the seas that can end up on the shores of other players. There is an option to reject spoilers if you are new to the game, but I’m not entirely sure how this moderates the messages.
Surprisingly the other change is the shortening of a certain end game collection quest and to be honest it won’t be missed. The aforementioned quest is widely regarded as padding for the two dungeons that were removed due to development time constraints (very unlike Nintendo, we know!). What’s left is an endearing tale, that while comparatively short for the series it hits all the sweet spots.
For the speedrun lovers out there, Wind Waker HD can actually be completed in just over 4 hours, but for the rest of the general gaming populace the game will run from 10-13 hours. If you decide to go side mission and treasure hunting this figure can be bumped up into the 15-20 region if you are having a slow day.
From a personal standpoint, I’ve always felt slightly disappointed in Wind Waker, Like an expensive dessert it leaves you wanting more. It’s simple really – for a Zelda game it is simply too short! This comes as a disappointment, because it is such a beautifully realised game and world that deserves more content. It’s such a shame that we will never get to see those two removed dungeons in their original format, but nonetheless, if you have never played it, Wind Waker HD is a title you should own.