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The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD [Wii U] Review

Posted on September 30, 2013 AT 08:58pm

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been ten years since the Gamecube hit the console scene and stirred things up with its tiny discs and amazing games. The GCN was actually the first console I ever owned. Growing up, my parents were very anti-video games. They still are. When you live in a Catholic household you quickly learn Catholics practically invented the concept of “being stubborn as an a**”. Despite all that though, I somehow, by a miracle of science, convinced my parents to get me a Game Boy Color when I was 8, and then a Gamecube when I was 15. I have many fond memories of the GCN. Tales of Symphonia remains my favorite RPG of all time, and it kills me that the HD remake of the PS2 enhanced version will be a PS3 exclusive. YOU WIN THIS ROUND, SONY FANS. I still play some of the lesser-known RPGs such as Baten Kaitos on my Wii, and when Twilight Princess finally came out after more set-backs then necessary, I got it on the GCN because the damn game was designed for the Gamecube, damnit. But of all the Gamecube games I played, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker was my favorite… even though my little brother technically owned our copy. Technically.

As far as Zelda games go, Wind Waker, at the time, was by far one of the most controversial games in the series, among critics and fans alike. A large portion of the fanbase called the unique cell-shaded style of graphics to be “childish” and wrote the game off as being bad without even playing. Those who did play it, discovered the sailing mechanic, bitched and moaned about it taking too long to get places and also wrote off the game as being bad before finishing it. However, the few, the proud, the hardcore fans and critics who stuck it out to the end found a truly wonderful game immersed in an amazingly large world for the time with solid mechanics and an intriguing story to go along with it. Even better, it was one of few Zelda games to include a New Game +, allowing for plenty of replayability.

And so that brings us ten years later with the Wii U, Nintendo’s first HD system, and Wind Waker’s HD remake. Let’s be clear here, the remake has all the same story, mechanics and everything else from the original. Obviously key things were updated, some for the better, some not so much, but overall, it’s still the same game from ten years ago. I found that alone to be good enough reason to lay down the $50 and get it. With remakes such as this, it’s all well and good for things to change, so long as the game as whole is still the same game, just a little better.

Now I’m pretty sure most vets who are reading this are wondering if the sailing mechanic got fixed. First of all, I’m one of the three people in the world that honestly didn’t mind the sailing mechanic as it was. I figure the game designers took all this time to make a giant world filled with unique islands, so I might as well just enjoy the ride. Secondly, there’s a lot to say about the few improvements that were made, so we’ll save the best for last.

The first improvement made to WWHD was the graphics. Obviously. It’s an HD remake, such enhancements are to be expected. However as many fans pointed out when the game was first announced, the original game actually had amazing graphics, even by today’s standards. Which means, there really wasn’t a whole lot Nintendo could do to improve upon near-perfection. So all they did was add dynamic lighting to make the game pop more and be a lot less flat, lines created by the cell-shading are now much smoother and, of course, the game was converted to 16:9 goodness.

The next improvement comes with the controller options. The game can be played with either the Wii U’s signature Gamepad or the lesser-known Wii U Pro Controller. Personally, I think to get most out of the game, it’s best played on the Gamepad. With the Gamepad, the pause screen is displayed on the touch screen, allowing you to change out equips, save and check the map, all without having to pause the game. It’s extremely convenient. Obviously with a new controller, the controls have changed a little to match. For instance, L-Targeting, is now ZL-Targeting. Additionally, when using the Wind Waker, unlocked songs are displayed on the Gamepad touchscreen, so memorizing songs is no longer needed, though I still remembered all of them after ten years.

And then there’s the Earth and Wind temples. Fans of the original remember that those two dungeons had one very annoying mechanic: having to carry a reincarnated sage from room to room. In the original, the Sages would follow when called, however they could not go through doors unless being carried. It was a minor nuisance. In WWHD, however, this has finally been fixed and the sages will follow Link from room to room so long as the Call command is used.

Next is the Tingle Tuner. In the original, the Tingle Tuner was Nintendo’s excuse for including the GBA-GCN link cable to hook up a GBA to the GCN and have a friend tag along for the ride. Some people loved it. Others like me were pretty neutral about it. It was fun for a quick laugh and some interesting glitches, but all the items and help Tingle gave through Tuner required rupees. In WWHD, the Tuner has been replaced with the Tingle Bottle, which is Nintendo’s excuse to add Miiverse connectivity. Through the Bottle, you can create little messages, and provided you have the Pictobox, even include pictures for other players to check out. Additionally, the Pictobox item now allows for the creation of selfies, so Link can be a camera whore too, just like all the little 12-year old girls of the internet.

Next let’s talk about item equips. This was something I honestly didn’t expect Nintendo to fix, but they did and I’m glad they did. What they did was make the Wind Waker and Sail non-equipable. Instead, the Wind Waker is automatically equipped to the D-pad where it can be whipped out at any time without wasting an item slot. As for the Sail, whenever on the boat, you just press A to sail and A to put it away. Thus the Sail also doesn’t take an item slot either.

While on the subject of sailing, let us discuss how Nintendo improved the dreaded sailing mechanic. As was previously mentioned the firs thing they did was make the Sail no longer an equipable item so it doesn’t waste an item slot. Secondly, while at sea. the crane and cannon are both equipped to the D-pad so they don’t waste item slots either. Note that when in dungeons, the Grappling Hook and Bombs must still be equipped to be used. But by far the best thing Nintendo did was create the Swift Sail. The Swift Sail allows for faster sailing, and also auto-changes the wind direction to the direction you turn the L analog stick, you don’t have to constantly get out the Wind Waker. It’s super convient, and it makes sailing much more enjoyable, especially if you were among the many that despised it.

There is, however, a major problem, and that is the Swift Sail’s location. First of all, the Swift Sail is WWHD‘s best kept secret. No character ever even hints at its existence. It’s possible to go through several playthroughs without ever seeing it. In fact the only way you’d know it exists and where to find would be either if someone told you, you’re welcome by the way, or if by  some miracle of science you happened to be at the right place at the right time and got it. If you’re curious, the Swift Sail is in one of the worst possible hiding spots: the Auction House on Windfall Island. If you’ve never played the game, the Auction House is located in the rich guy’s place, and is only available at night. It is a place nobody bothers with unless they’re going for 100% completion because all that’s there is two treasure charts and a Piece of Heart. Which means for those like me that couldn’t give two s**ts about 100% a game, there is never any reason to go in the Auction House, unless you absolutely must have those treasure charts and Piece of Heart. And this is the place Nintendo decided hide the best improvement to Wind Waker, and not only that, it appears at random. Good luck with that.

To end things, let us talk about one last change Nintendo made: The Trifoce Shard Quest. Ten years ago, players had to scour the globe for 8 Trifoce Charts, then waste all their money to get Tingle to translate them, then scour the ocean once more to actually collect the Shards. Some people felt this was just a lame excuse to extend the gameplay since it really didn’t add anything to the game. I didn’t mind it a whole lot, but I did mind having to constantly collect rupees just wast them all on some odd little pedophile. To “fix” it, in the HD remake, the charts have been removed, with the exception of three. Nintendo just couldn’t let go the damn charts. With the exception of those three, all other shards are found where the Charts were in the original. For example, the notorious Ghost Ship now has a Triforce Shard instead of a Triforce Chart. You now battle you way through half of the Savage Labyrinth to get a Triforce Shard, and so on and so forth. I do admit it speeds things up a bit, but I also now see why people complained about it in the first place, because even still, it still felt like a half-assed excuse to extend the game-play.

So to wrap it all up, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD is pretty much just as it was originally on the Gamecube 10 years ago. It’s still adorable. It’s still visually impressive. And you still have to sail everywhere. But, Nintendo did take the time to improve many things, such as the graphics, the Triforce Shard Quest and much more. As such, if you own a Wii U, I highly recommend picking it up. At this time, WWHD is only available for download from the Wii U eShop. The retail version will be available on October 4th.

Summary: It’s freakn Wind Waker. IN HD.

  • Pros: Solid game mechanics, solid story, colorful characters and everything nice. Also many things players had previously complained about from the original were fixed, and having the pause screen and maps available on the Gamepad’s touch screen is amazingly convenient.
  • Cons: The number one thing players complained was the Sailing mechanic, and though it was somewhat fixed, Nintendo had the bright idea to hide the enhanced Sail in the one place nobody would ever look ever.

Grade: A-


James Conrad is a Pokemon fanboy, lover of the arts and is forever broke.
Tweets: @JRCnrd

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