The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD

When it comes to HD, there is the good, the bad and the unnecessary. I was worried that Wind Waker fell into the ‘unnecessary’ category. However, when I was greeted by the sound of drums and rushing waves on a loading screen that overlaid subtle rainbow lighting over panels showing the Hero of Time, I started to abandon my doubts. When I actually started playing and saw how everything is smooth, colourful, sharp and detailed, I was sold.

The big draw of the HD update is the way that it looks, of course. Wind Waker’s cell-shaded style is distinctive and its cartoon feel, rather than making it seem ‘kiddie’ (one criticism levelled at it during its debut) is more charming than childish and updated it’s simply stunning. There’s an expressiveness to everything that you don’t get in other instalments only further enhanced by HD. Link’s face clearly shows his emotions and the enemies cleverly show personality through movement. The game also dates really well, almost shockingly so. The HD graphics only serve to make everything that much fresher, that much brighter. Sometimes almost too bright, like on the first island of the game where the sun shines so much that the glare on Link’s skin and clothes is almost painful. Still, it’s minor because, good grief, it’s gorgeous. Whether you’re among greenery, in the depths of a dark dungeon with a flickering torch, or sailing the open blue sea there are many things to admire. The beauty is almost on par with Okami HD, which set the bar in terms of aesthetic perfection.

Wind Waker’s cell-shaded style is distinctive; its cartoon feel is more charming than childish and updated it’s simply stunning.

Nintendo have been smart with the update, making improvements to the camera and even introducing a ‘swift sail’ to cut down the sailing time, another of the biggest complaints against the original game. You either love or hate the sailing, though. Personally, I love how it made the world feel huge and there are always things to explore and treasure to be found.

This game also has a versatility to the combat that means it never feels boring. Link has an array of gadgets. The grappling hook can steal things from opponents, or you can use the boomerang to stun enemies; fitting with the look and feel of the game, the Moblins comically fall on their bums and get stars over their heads for a short while if you do. If the enemies seem a bit too easy, you can opt for Hero Mode, which doubles the damage you receive and offers no replenishing hearts, leaving you to recharge your health through potions only.

The puzzles are still fun and immersive, the game careful to sow the seeds of ideas in classic Zelda style rather than laying out the answers. As your arsenal builds, puzzles will expand until at the end you’re using everything you own to get through some challenging dungeons. However you feel like you’re growing along with Link because by that time it’s all second nature. When it comes to the point where Link has to take on a great mission that he never really expected – after all, he only wanted to rescue his sister – you feel every bit a hero, an explorer, a true adventurer. That’s what makes this game really special.

Playing on the Wii U does what it should do – enhances rather than destroys the experience. You have the option to play using the Game Pad, or the Pro Controller. Using the Pro Controller feels lighter and more natural than the Game Pad, which can become uncomfortable to hold after long periods of time. In both cases however, you use the Game Pad as your map and inventory, infinitely useful, natural and satisfying – it’s satisfying being able to see your completed sea chart at a glance. If someone hogs the tv you can also switch to the Game Pad and play the whole game on it, a useful novelty and a nice touch, something that the Wii U prided itself on from the start.

I love Wind Waker the best out of the 3D Zeldas – yes, even over Ocarina (although that will always have a special place in my heart). It has the most original sidequests (taking photographs and using them to make a collection of figures being the best), the most appealing cast of characters and a story with real heart and soul at its core even as it covers all of the familiar Zelda ground. This HD update does perfect justice to a wonderful game. If you haven’t yet experienced the joy that is Wind Waker, then this is by far the best way to do so.






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