Having been released a decade ago for the Nintendo Gamecube, the original release of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker's colorful visuals and cel-shaded graphics have held up remarkably well. That said, some fans may be skeptical about laying down $50 for a graphical makeover. Those fans can put their uncertainty to rest, as Wind Waker HD is well worth the rupees.
Immediately noticeable are the game's redone graphics. Wind Waker HD is Nintendo's first game to be rendered natively in 1080p, and it shows. The colors are more vibrant than ever and the textures have all been redone. Unlike many other HD remakes, Wind Waker seems to have undergone a complete graphical overhaul. Those who played and loved the original may find themselves stopping to look at the beautifully redone islands and vast seas. Those who haven't played much of the original may still find themselves taking time to breathe in the visuals. Seriously, this game is that gorgeous.
One thing that helps make these improvements more noticeable is the greater draw distance. Distant land masses used to pop into view rather suddenly, but now slowly fade into the player's vision. Players will also be able to see these objects from much further away, which is a tremendous help when trying to navigate the game's massive ocean, and gives locations a much greater sense of scope.
Of course, graphical improvements aren't the only additions that will help gamers on their journey. Like many other Wii U games, Wind Waker HD uses the gamepad's touchscreen to display the map and inventory. The game also supports the Wii U Pro controller, which players can use alongside the gamepad's touchscreen, saving them from having to constantly look down. As with other first party Wii U games, off TV mode can be activated with the push of a button.
Having a dedicated map screen is incredibly useful within dungeons, or when one is trying to find their way across the game's expansive overworld. Being able to cut down on the monotony by assigning items to buttons with the touchscreen was also a welcomed addition. It would have been nice if tapping an item would allow Link to use it on the spot, cutting out the need to assign buttons entirely, but the new system is still a plus.
Other improvements include a few sped up animations. Link now uses the grappling hook and is able to fish for treasure faster than in the original Gamecube version. While it may not seem like a big deal, these animations are ones that players will be seeing a lot, and the seconds quickly add up. The time it takes to fish for treasure, for example, has been cut in half. The time it takes to change the direction of the wind has also been decreased.
Speaking of speeding things up, Nintendo has included a second sail that allows players to move across the ocean at an accelerated rate, which clears up most of the complaints fans had with the original. While exploring the vast ocean is a lot of fun, it may eventually feel like a chore. This helps players who want to cut down on their travel time, and keeps the game flowing at a steady pace. A certain Triforce quest has also been made a bit more streamlined.
If we were to nitpick one issue with this release, it would be that, while the game usually runs at a steady 30fps, there were occasions where it dropped momentarily. These instances only lasted for a moment and mostly only occurred when a boss took damage or began a large animation. It never felt like these moments detracted from the overall experience and many players probably won't notice them at all.
For those who may have passed up the original, the story of Wind Waker follows the events of Ocarina of Time. In this timeline, Link had been sent back to when he was a child, disappearing from Hyrule forever. Ganondorf found a way to return, and with no hero to stop him, wreaked havoc upon the land. Generations later and the world has become a massive ocean. This Link's journey begins with the kidnapping of his sister, Aryll. There's also a talking boat, misfit pirates and enough whimsy to fill two Zelda titles.
Nintendo did an outstanding job with this HD remake, and fans of the original will find everything they loved about the Gamecube version made better on the Wii U. Those who haven't had a chance to check out Wind Waker, should certainly pick this up. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker will be available on the Nintendo eShop on September 20th, and can be found in stores on October 4th. Those who haven't found a reason to buy into Nintendo's latest console may also be interested in the limited Wind Waker HD bundle, which launches on the same day as the digital release.
The statements made in this review are based on a promotional copy received from Nintendo.