It’s clear that no other Zelda game from years gone by would look this good in glorious HD. Originally released on the Gamecube, Wind Waker had something of a rocky time at first. A complete revamp of the graphical style, it was met with scorn, ridicule and general hatred from the more vocal of Zelda’s fans. It was an amusing and downright sad turn of events. Those who were able to overlook this ‘kiddy’ aesthetic were then treated to one of the best games in the series. An opinion that remains unchanged ten years later.
Once again the story of Link battling the forces of evil who hope to obtain the Triforce, what Wind Waker lacks in an original setup it makes up for on this new land you’re able to explore. Gone are the green fields and high mountains of Hyrule, and in its place is the Great Sea. A massive ocean populated by a number of islands you’re able to traverse and explore. Riding along Hyrule Field on Epona may have been a great moment in Ocarina of Time, but there’s something even better about Wind Waker and travelling around the sea on your boat The King of Red Lions. Just travelling along the ocean and seeing the islands in the distance get closer and closer before you arrive makes this on par with any other open-world game. The only scar on this otherwise beautiful moment being the disappointingly high amount of pop-up you’ll encounter. Not to mention the occasional framerate hiccups that occurs when the action heats up. Seeing as this is, at its heart, a Gamecube game makes it disappointing that technically it’s not on par with its graphical enhancements.
More than just a straight up port, Nintendo has put in some effort in ironing out the issues people had with the original. Some animations have been improved, getting hit no longer sends you flying off your boat and there is now a new, faster sail where the wind is always behind you. Meaning there’s no more need to use the Wind Waker to change wind direction constantly. That is if you find this new sail. Instead of being given to you as part of the main quest, it’s found during a side mission, something that can easily be missed. Which is surprising considering this was one of the main improvements that people seemed to really get behind.
Aside from the gameplay enhancements control has been seamlessly translated over to the gamepad. The second screen essentially acting as a pause menu where you can access your items or the map. Dragging each item to a button in order to equip. First person items also being able to be controlled using motion control if you so choose.
Wind Waker is probably one of the few Zelda games where the overworld is more interesting to explore than the dungeons are to conquer. That’s not to say the dungeons are bad, far from it, it’s just that each square of the wide world holds so many secrets that the main story becomes secondary to exploration. With each new item becomes a whole new way of finding hidden areas, usually containing heart pieces or treasure charts. The charts revealing hidden items on the sea floor that can be pulled up to your boat. While dungeons may feel like they’re taking a backseat, they still offer enjoyable moments. They may not revolutionise the design (if you’ve played a Zelda game before most of the puzzles will feel familiar), but they are still fun to explore and offer a decent challenge.
The wonderful world of Wind Waker is probably why the latter section of the game was never really an issue. Without spoiling, it requires a lot of travelling across the Great Sea. Obviously aware that this was people’s least favourite part of the game, Nintendo have now streamlined this section of the game, taking less time than it did before. This could be considered a welcome addition or not, depending on your opinion of the original.
Wind Waker HD may not be the Wii U debut fans were hoping for, many people possibly would’ve preferred an all new adventure. But what it does show is that nobody makes games quite like Nintendo. After ten years Wind Waker is still as magical as it was when it was first released. The Wii U is all of a sudden looking like a console worth considering.