The Legend of Zelda series is known for many things; including it's clever dungeons, colorful characters and huge overworlds. Wind Waker is no exception, though it does change things up a bit. Unlike most other games in the series, players won't be riding around Hyrule field on horseback. Instead, they'll have to traverse an enormous ocean in order to continue along their journey. This added an entirely new way of exploring when the original game was released for the Gamecube in 2003, and today's release of the HD remake has made exploring feel even better.
There's a lot of ground, or more accurately, water to cover as Link makes his way between destinations. Thankfully, there's plenty to see along the way. Enemies roam the briny blue, and there are more than a few islands to find scattered throughout. Some of these islands feature enemies or areas to explore, and several might not appear relevant the first time the player comes across them. Players who choose to go off the beaten path will have a lot to discover. For those who don't wish to go too far out on their own, there are several treasure maps to be found. Players can use these to guide them to spots where they can find hidden rupees or items. This makes Wind Waker's massive area feel much more active than, let's say, the gigantic fields of Twilight Princess.
Of course, where would the sense of adventure be if Wind Waker was nothing but blue skies and calm seas? The game features an active weather system that can lead to some rather violent storms. Players will have to face choppy waters, cyclones and the occasional whirlpool. These storms may even kick up a few other surprises. There is the option to stop at the nearest island and wait out the storm, but who has time for that?
If fans of the original had one complaint, it was that the sailing sections became tedious after a while. This has been rectified in the Wii U version. Players now have the option to purchase a swift sail from Windfall's auction house. This sail allows King to move much faster than before, and lets players go anywhere they'd like without the need to change the direction of the wind. For those who love exploring, but perhaps don't enjoy how long it takes to get from one treasure spot to the next, this is a must-have.
Calling exploration in a Legend of Zelda game a 'feature' feels a bit silly, but Wind Waker has one of the most interesting overworlds the series has seen. Fans who are eagerly awaiting an all-new Wii U title in the franchise should take some time to explore Wind Waker's ocean, as Director Aonuma has stated that the new title will draw inspiration from this game's sense of open exploration.
This views expressed in this feature are based on a review copy received from Nintendo.