The excitement surrounding the release of Wind Waker HD couldnâ€™t be greater than the unveiling and lead-up that surrounded the originalâ€™s launch. There are a multitude of stylised games on the market these days, but 10 years ago the market was a completely different beast.
In 2000, three years before the launch of Wind Waker, Nintendo unveiled a handful of tech demos for their upcoming console, the GameCube. One showed a realistically styled duel between Link and Ganon. This sent the Zelda fans and critics into a craze. This is exactly what every fan of the series had wanted, and we looked to be getting it.
Nintendo kept quiet for a year, and at Space World 2001 unveiled the first proper look at the next Legend of Zelda title. Instead of seeing more of what was shown off a year before, gamers got this.
To say fans were enraged is an understatement. The internet blew up with critics and fans denying that this would be the actual Zelda game thatâ€™d be released. IGN even went as far as saying that surely thereâ€™d be a second Zelda title being worked on alongside this one. Denial everywhere.
Fast forward 10 years and that selfsame Wind Waker has become one of the most beloved titles of the series. Maybe the backlash Nintendo faced forced them to put everything they could into Wind Waker, or maybe they knew they were onto a winning formula early on. Either way, it was a classic.
I wasnâ€™t overly certain the title needed to be remade. Surely the 2003 release holds up fine today, right?
So that everyone finds out what they want to know, let me quickly break down what the Wind Waker HD has to offer for new comers, old fans, and for everyone.
The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker is a direct sequel to one of the best games ever created - The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. During the intro of Wind Waker we are retold the story of how the Hero of Time sealed away Ganon and was strangely never heard of again. Years passed and evil managed to find its way back to Hyrule, but this time the Hero of Time was nowhere to be found. Hyrule was lost to evil, and now, several hundred years later, no-one remembers the location of the kingdom. The only thing passed down was the heroic tale of that time that one kid in green defeated evil.
On Outset Island we find a young boy (letâ€™s call him Link shall we?) fast asleep in the sun atop a lookout. After being awoken by his sister (Aryll) heâ€™s informed that he needs to go see his Gran right away. You see, itâ€™s Linkâ€™s birthday and when young boys get to the age Link is now, they are given clothes that resemble that of the Hero of Time. Itâ€™s a one day thing, and Link isnâ€™t overly happy to have to wear them on a hot day like today.
Soon enough something exciting happens, and then in a terrible twist of fate, and a bad case of mistaken identity, Aryll is kidnapped and thus starts Linkâ€™s journey.
The gist of a Zelda game is as such: find a dungeon/temple, find the map so you can see how big the dungeon/temple is, find a compass to show you where all the treasure chests are, fight a mid-dungeon boss, get a fancy new weapon/tool, fight the end-dungeon boss with the new weapon/tool, back to the story, side-quests, and exploration until the new dungeon/temple. At no point does Wind Waker stray from this formula, but thereâ€™s something different thanks to the visual style. While that was a big enough change back in 2003, here in 2013 weâ€™ve all seen or played something that looks similar, and for the most part weâ€™ve already seen similar in HD.
Thankfully, Wind Waker HD is unlike any HD-remake done so far. Instead of settling for simply upping the resolution, Nintendo have used the original HD textures and midi-sounds created before they were down-sampled for the GameCube. Add on the touchscreen capabilities of the GamePad, the interactions with the Miiverse, and some slight adjustments to numerous other parts of the game and what you have is, for all intent and purposes, a title that easily competes with anything else being released this year.
For Old Fans
So, youâ€™ve played Wind Waker before, and you probably played it twice to ensure you collected all of the figurines in that one side-quest. Letâ€™s also assume that you then replayed it again when you found out that the GameCube/Wii emulator thatâ€™s out there can run it in HD and widescreen. Why would you want to spend another chunk of your cash on a game youâ€™ve already played 3 times? You wouldnâ€™t, thatâ€™d be ridiculous.
Luckily, Wind Waker HD isnâ€™t the same game youâ€™ve played before. Sure, it has all the same dungeons, it has all the same enemies, and it has all of the same weaponry, but itâ€™s not the same game. Wind Waker HD has so many changes, and enough small additions to make even a 4th playthrough feel fresh.
Youâ€™re probably well and truly sick of sailing across the ocean, so you can now buy a faster sail. Thereâ€™s no way youâ€™ll redo that figurine challenge since the Picto Box only holds 3 photos at a time . . . this time it holds 12. You found it too easy the second and third time, it just isnâ€™t a challenge anymore? Just switch to Skyward Swordâ€™s Hero Mode. Itâ€™s unlocked from the start, and it makes for one hell of a challenge. Enemies do double damage, and NOTHING drops hearts to replenish your health. Youâ€™ll need potions and fairies to make it through this time.
When it comes to changes, almost everything is for the better. Lighting looks fantastic, textures and sound are crisp, the touchpad menus are amazingly welcome, off-screen play, hero mode, pictograph, realtime shadows, Miiverse interaction, the list goes on and on.
The visual finesse wonâ€™t be for everyone, though. Unfortunately due to the new rendering system when Link, or any other character, finds themselves in a shaded area the 2D look disappears, and instead you find yourself looking at a clearly 3D shaded object. Itâ€™s amazing that this was allowed through to the final release as it really does come off as inconsistent. While this doesnâ€™t happen too often, youâ€™ll notice it each and every time.
Secondly, thereâ€™s a lot of bloom. Thereâ€™s no way Nintendo was going to jump into an HD experience without going through the same pains that most other devs felt 5 - 8 years ago. It definitely helps accentuate the over-saturated look of the game, but if youâ€™ve hated it in other titles, youâ€™ll hate it here as well.
Thirdly, and this was only something I noticed after comparing the GameCube version to this one, is that the depth of field that helped separate the foreground and background so well is completely absent. The game looks great enough as it is, but I canâ€™t help but wonder why this was removed.
As an aside, voice acting has not been added to the game. Youâ€™ve still got a lot of text to read, and every now and then youâ€™ll hear some kind of weird language coming from a few of the characters. Thereâ€™s something about Wind Waker HD that cries out for voice acting though. Itâ€™s probably just the fact that it looks like a 2013 title, and itâ€™s rare to not have voice acting these days. Itâ€™s painfully apparent that the next Zelda title to hit consoles needs to have it.
If youâ€™ve never played this game and you own a Wii U, you need to go and get this right away. There wonâ€™t be a new console Zelda title out for another few years, and if you enjoyed Skyward Sword youâ€™re in for one hell of a treat.
If you donâ€™t own a Wii U, then it may come as a surprise that a remake of a 10 year old game could be the very reason to go and pick one up. Whether this will be your first Zelda experience or not, it has the ability to become your most loved.
If youâ€™ve played the original, letâ€™s face it, Nintendo prices donâ€™t drop very quickly. You may as well just go and pick this up because you know you want to play it. This is easily the definitive version of Wind Waker and the best youâ€™ll ever play.