Zelda: The Wind Waker HD Review

Wind Waker HD Review
4.5 out of 5
Cut out Fat. Rub on Butter.

Any Zelda fan remembers that big moment in history. That tech demo prior to the Gamecube’s launch featuring an epic battle between a “fully realized” and “mature” Ganondorf and Link in a dark cathedral. What they remember even more vividly is the haunting realization a year later that the next Zelda game would in fact be a departure from the norm.

Fans were given The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and it created a division in the thought process of what made a Zelda game a “Zelda game.”

Here we are ten years later, and The Wind Waker is more polished than ever? Should you buy The Wind Waker HD if you already played the original? Find out.

Divisive Zelda remains divisive

There are a lot of improvements to the core gameplay of the Wind Waker that will be detailed later, but the Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is still the Wind Waker and is still a Zelda game.

Most core gameplay elements and visual stylings have not veered greatly from the original.

If you were a hater of Wind Waker, the HD version will not change your mind in the least. I think, aside from maybe Majora’s Mask, this remains the most divisive title in the series. It is a GOOD game, but it is under-appreciated by many due to it’s art style and sailing mechanic.

I for one, am a fan.

HD Graphics

Nintendo put a bit of extra care into the remake of the Wind Waker with graphics. It has been optimized for high-definition televisions as noted in the title of the game. The extra horsepower of the WiiU has been harnessed to provide detailed lighting and shading effects and nice wind physics.

Strangely, other graphical elements were not overhauled. Character models and buildings looked like they were ripped right out of the Gamecube version (hint: THEY WERE!). Dungeons still look drab and uninspired.

Ten years later, I still can’t figure out why the dungeons in this game look so miserable. Nintendo had so much creative liberty with the cel-shaded art style and yet decided to restrict their stymy all of it into basic caves and stony walled-fortresses. Even the Wind Temple looks like a boring stone tower… just greener…

Improvements and Enhancements

Where Wind Waker HD did not make full use of the new graphical capabilities of the WiiU, they did provide a host of updates to the core gameplay to make it more accessible and fun.

While I have always loved the idea of the sailing mechanic in Wind Waker, I too felt that it sometimes dragged. Changing wind direction by pulling out the instrument and playing a song was also tedious. Nintendo addressed all of this with the “Swift Sail.” The swift sail makes sailing about twice as fast AND automatically sets the wind direction to the direction the ship is traveling.

How to get the swift sail in the Wind Waker HD

The swift sail is not just given to you, so here is how to get the swift sail in the Wind Waker HD.

You have to participate in the auction at the auction house at night on Windfall Island. Eventually, the Swift Sail will be the item on auction. Win the auction and the sail is yours!

Nerfing the Triforce fetch quest

The other elephant in the room with the original Wind Waker game was the cripplingly long Triforce fetch quest. Don’t know what that is? Good. You won’t have to with the Wind Waker HD.

The Triforce fetch quest has been shortened quite a good deal, so it doesn’t feel like a major portion of the game. Additionally, I believe that the new speed of the Swift Sail makes it faster to find all of the pieces and also encourages exploration. Many players will be happy to find pieces of the Triforce PRIOR to when they need to find them to proceed.

All of these new elements of the game, combined with smaller tweaks (like the Wind Waker’s animation being shortened on repeated plays) make it a much more enjoyable and streamlined experience.

Music

One of the most commonly debated questions among Zelda fans is which game has the best music.

Most will quickly point to Ocarina of Time as the game of choice or go back in time to Link to the Past with such hits like the Kakariko Village theme and Dark World theme as highlights.

While I personally think the overall quality of music is best in Ocarina of Time, I have always firmly believed that the Wind Waker had the most “fitting” music in the series. Everything sounds as you would write it. If I was sailing the ocean seas, exploring an uncharted dungeon, or climbing the side of a mountainous island populated by winged creatures, I would want the soundtrack to be something similar to what is featured in the Wind Waker.

The HD version is no different. The music has not changed because it does not need to change. If you have never played the original version and are experiencing it for the first time on the WiiU, you are in for a treat.

Brevity of the game

One thing that Wind Waker HD did not improve was game length. While there are lots of side quests to complete and plenty of water-logged areas to explore, the length has not improved at all.

In fact, the HD version of the game is EVEN SHORTER than the original with the removal of certain Triforce fetch quests, the speed of the sail, and the shortening of the wind waker instrument animations.

The game feels like it is over before it begins with a small number of dungeons and very few key islands to visit.

After ten years, Nintendo could have at least added that infamous missing dungeon to the game to give a bit of extra content. Instead, we still just visit a giant whale in the back of the island who just blatantly GIVES us the third and final stone.

REALLY?!

Should you buy the Wind Waker HD?

It feels bizarre to be recommending an HD remake of a game that doesn’t really need it. But the Wind Waker HD does look pretty and is a definite must-buy for anyone with a Wii U who has not played the original Wind Waker.

That being said, I cannot think of too many Wii U owners — save maybe the really little ones — who haven’t played the original game. The Wii U has sold so poorly at this point that it seems as if only hardcore Mario and Zelda fans are throwing in their dollar.

It is difficult to recommend this game to seasoned Nintendo fans with experience in the world of Hyrule. But if you need SOMETHING to add to your starved Wii U collection or want to relive the memories of the Great Ocean, you could do worse than this polished — if unnecessary — entry in the Zelda pantheon.

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