Starting off Zelda Month with a little Wind Waker hacking! Enjoy!
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
Genres: Action, Adventure
Developer: Nintendo EAD Group No. 3
Starting off Zelda Month with a little Wind Waker hacking! Enjoy!
The younger readers out there probably won’t remember this, but the design and look of The Wind Waker were despised by fans when it was first announced. Those who had grown to love the look of Link from Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask had a very negative outlook on the art direction. That displeasure lasted right up until the game hit the shelves, where it became an instant fan favorite, and became my personal top title for the series. Only with the recent release of Skyward Sword did The Wind Waker get knocked off the top of my Zelda chart, but with its re-release on Wii U, I had to wonder, could it reclaim its throne in my heart?
|PROS||Still a great game, Exceptionally pretty, Some nice improvements|
|CONS||Old flaws are more noticeable, Old frame rate and pop-up issues, Where is the Fast Sail?|
|WTF?!||Taking a selfie with Gannon’s mum|
To start with, the game is fantastically presented. I’m not talking the graphical wonders that I will talk about later, but the general controls and menu systems. Gone are the pause menus which have always been necessary, but have always been clunk and unintuitive. Instead, everything is displayed on a very neatly designed menu that is displayed on the Wii U GamePad’s lovely screen. Touch controls give players easy access to their equipment which can very simply be shifted into one of the 3 quick slots, which is a blessing in several of the dungeons where previously numerous trips to the menu screen where required.
The maps for both dungeons and the open ocean are also displayed on the GamePad by selecting the handy tab on the item screen. The greatest boon for this is when sailing out on the open ocean, you can compare you location to that on the pad while also displaying treasure maps in the bottom left of the controller’s screen.
These simple changes are more than welcome. It prevents the ludicrous amount of menu hopping the original contained. The option to pause while interacting with all these menus still exists, but I adored the break free experience offered due to the Wii U controller.
It must also be noted that the switch between playing the game on a TV and the Wii U GamePad is unbelievably fast. Several of the original Wii U titles to offer this optional screen service would require loading periods, but this function in Wind Waker is literally instantaneous upon the depression of the minus button.
The game itself is exactly what you would expect. No alterations have been made to the controls or gameplay, other than the reassignment of the buttons to better suit the controller and the camera being shifted onto the right stick. The game still plays exactly the same, with the odd addition like the Fast Sail, a much needed tweak to the sneaking section at the beginning, and new camera function which allows players to take selfies. At its core though, the game is still exactly the same.
That is to say, it is still fantastic. The Wind Waker is still has some of the coolest dungeons, the most excellent musical score, and easily the most charismatic Link. The game as a whole is far more forgiving than any other modern console Zelda, but the charm and character of the game is still as wonderful as it ever was. If you didn’t happen to buy a GameCube then this is certainly worth your time.
That said, like all Zelda games, this one shows its age. Aside from the obvious improvements to the core mechanics made in subsequent Zelda titles, The Wind Waker has deeper issues.
The watery world that Link inhabits has always been criticized for being a little sparse, and in the modern world of gaming this flaw as only become all the more egregious. When night time hits and the musical score fade away, the journey from one side of the map to the other is shockingly dull. The enemies encountered on the sea are not challenging, nor worth fighting as the reward is negligible in nearly every case. At times, there is simply nothing visually or audibly going on, and for a piece of entertainment, that’s a bad thing.
Assassin’s Creed IV, which I got my hands on just a week ago, shows how an open world naval adventure can create exciting situations even in a barren environment, and titles like that are what this restored classic must be compared against. This isn’t a matter of travel taking an extortionate amount of time, but instead an acknowledgement that when it comes down to it, Wind Waker can feel incredibly empty.
Of course, the developers have tried to remedy this with the inclusion of the Fast Sail, which does improve the situation considerably. However, having played the review copy for over a week now, I’ve only just discovered that it appears randomly in the auction house. This apparent fix for a complaint leveled against the game in 2002 isn’t actually a fix unless you happen to stumble across it or be told about it by a fantastically handsome game reviewer.
The Wind Waker also still suffers from the pop-up and frame rate issues that affected the original release. These never seem to happen when on land, but when sailing the open seas, locations in the distance will often pop into view, and very oddly, these are often destinations closer than islands that have already formed on the horizon. The frame rate tends to struggle during hectic events, also only on the water. When facing several enemy ships and trading cannon blows the action will often slow noticeably. This shouldn’t come as any surprise as I am yet to encounter an HD remake which tackles the frame rate issues from the original game, but is disappointing nevertheless.
If you can forgive these slight graphical discrepancies, you’ll be faced with what can only be described as the most lusciously scrumptious HD remake to be released to date. Just weeks ago I was raving about the superb job that Square Enix had done on Kingdom Hearts HD, but now I find myself playing a title that makes the work done on that PS2 classic look amateurish.
The Wind Waker has been treated to a full makeover, which includes new textures, lighting, and a ton of bloom. Nintendo has done such a superb job here that it’s almost impossible to tell that it made its debut on the GameCube. The way sun rays filter down, lighting up the characters faces, while the beautifully textured grass happily sways in the wind, can be breath taking. There are full blown FMV cutscenes in brand new titles released today that wish they were as pretty as this.
Wind Waker HD honestly looks like it was designed as a new game for the Wii U, and only with an experienced eye could you tell otherwise. It’s one of those games where you forget just how fantastic it looks at time, and then an event occurs to remind you to look at the fabulous visual treat offered up.
The Wind Waker doesn’t quite match up to my memory, but still remains one of the most charming titles I have ever played. The incredibly unique visual design has gathered a new lease on life which manages to make it magical all over again, and the core gameplay is still as fantastic as any Miyamoto title. The cracks have started to appear and the flaws that critics and fans alike uncovered when the title was originally released are only getting more noticeable, but there is still enough here to overshadow any complaints.
Would I recommend The Wind Waker HD over Skyward Sword? Probably not, but should you already have worked your way through Link’s latest outing, I highly suggest taking a journey back to a legend from the early 2000′s. It’s worth it for the view alone.
A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes and played for about 20 hours. The title is exclusive to the Wii U.
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