The sea gently jostles with the shore, crabs scurry across the sand, and the sun resplendently beams down on a young boy unaware of the quest he will soon face. There’s a playfully quaint charm to Outset Island, but this isn’t the first time that I’d idly marvelled at such surroundings.
I had been a latecomer to The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. That isn’t to say that I hadn’t been eager to play it at the time, but my rebellious teenage years saw me tantalised by Microsoft’s gallant stride into the gaming space, single-handedly betraying my Nintendo roots. That I came to it a few years late merely delayed the wondrous impact that the game’s seafaring escapades had on me.
Now widely regarded as among Nintendo’s finest, it hadn’t always been so rosy for the Zelda series tenth instalment. Having first shown a realistic Link and Ganondorf square off against one another in an early GameCube tech demo, Nintendo caught fans off-guard when they unveiled their new cel-shaded art direction a year later.
Critics mocked the game by penning it as “Celda,” there was a backlash response from fans who had anticipated a more mature art style, and Nintendo saw themselves criticised for seemingly targeting a far younger audience. Yet in what has seemingly become a trend for the company, once the game was in player’s hands such comments were silenced. Ten years later, we’re invited to remember why.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD has been openly positioned by Nintendo to bide time whilst they continue development of an entirely new Zelda Wii U, though typically no turn has been left unturned in truly reworking the GameCube classic for their new console. In short, The Wind Waker HD amounts to being the definitive experience, continuing a trend previously set by The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D.
Whilst such remakes have become far more common in recent years, this is Nintendo’s first effort to do so themselves internally. The result of which being a sublimely presented, intricately rewoven experience that goes above and beyond what is expected of such a rebirth.
Alongside the project’s reveal back in January, Iwata listed for cornerstones as to what they wanted to achieve: upgrade the graphics, tune up the overall game experience, grant Off-TV Play, and integrate Miiverse. All of these boxes find themselves firmly ticked.
1080p resolution graphics, updated textures and a new lightning engine sees The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD’s cartoonistic world simply look stunning, from the opening menu right through to the game’s climactic conclusion. Its whimsical nature has renewed appeal, and whilst it can be commended in entirety there are a few instances where particle effects can cause some framerate slowdown, although these are a rarity and will hopefully be addressed.
Addressing criticism for the game’s slow-paced traversal, you can bid to win a Fast Sail at Windfall Island’s Auction House to expedite your voyages across the Great Sea aboard your unnervingly talking sailboat, the King of Red Lions. Animations for the grappling hook have been shortened, optional gyroscopic controls see items such as the Boomerang and Bow become far more accessible to use, and Nintendo has reworked the Triforce quest to save you so much sailing.
Support for Off-TV Play is welcome, although serves to enforce just how useful the Wii U GamePad acts on the fly as an item and map interface. Dragging and dropping items onto corresponding buttons is quick, intuitive, and far simpler than countlessly opening menus – an affliction that still remains with competitor consoles. It worked for Ocarina of Time 3D, and it certainly benefits the player as much here.
Replacing that granted by the Game Boy Advance, saving Tingle from captivity on Windfall Island sees you rewarded with the Tingle Bottle. This allows you to post Miiverse messages as per normal, but integrated beyond this by allowing them to drift into other players games either drifting ashore on beaches or to be found bobbing along in the Great Sea. Such simple implementation, but it increases the sense of discovery wondrously.
Meanwhile, the Picto Box allows you to take photos of your surroundings, whilst also opening up for self-styled “selfie” shots of Link on your adventures, boosting the appeal of sharing creative shots through Miiverse. Whereas Tingle Statues return, and amassing figurines through submitting character and enemy snaps to the Nintendo Gallery remain for those looking to extend their playtime.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD really proves to be poetry in motion, the player deeply submerged within the world’s cartoon aesthetic. Ten years old and showing no signs of such age, this is a redefined adventure that Wii U owners should seize as soon as they can.
Version Tested: Wii U
Review copy provided by Nintendo