HD remakes are some of the most polarizing releases in the current gaming climate. On one side, you have fans who are clamoring for more of the thing they love, so much so that they don’t even care if it’s a near identical re-release. On the other, you have gamers who want developers to try new and innovative things over re-hashing the same ideas on a constant basis, arguing that it curbs the fostering of new ideas and concepts.
Honestly, I’m somewhere in the middle, because at the end of the day, I just like great videogames. But whatever side of the fence you’re on, one thing is for sure — Wind Waker HD is a fantastic remake, and I sincerely hope Nintendo pursues more of them.
There’s not much I can say about Wind Waker that hasn’t been said a million times over — the game is incredible, and one of the best Zeldas of all time, not to mention one of the best action-adventure romps ever. It’s practically flawless, and manages to effortlessly convey a sense of adventure and freedom that many games can’t create. From a narrative standpoint it also keeps things interesting with a fresh cast of likeable characters and mindblowing locales that will inspire you to see more and more. There are some twists and turns that relate to the core series in a huge way, cementing this as one of the biggest must play games in the franchise.
While one could argue that the original game doesn’t need an HD facelift because it’s drop-dead gorgeous already, I’m even more impressed with the visuals on the Wii U. The particle effects, the water, even minute details like the lava on Dragon Roost Island — all of them look absolutely breathtaking in HD.
When I said the original experience was “practically” flawless, I’m referring to one particular flaw in the GameCube game’s questline — the Triforce collection arc. In the original Wind Waker, you had to seek out eight Triforce maps, go to Tingle, and pay him to decipher him to find the eight pieces of the Triforce — this was required to beat the game. The problem wasn’t so much that you had to actually adventure around (as it is an adventure game after all), it was that you had to grind out Rupees if you didn’t have enough to simply beat the game.
Thankfully, you now only have to pay Tingle to decipher three Triforce charts, as the remaining five can just be found at their locations. While some say argue that not finding the other five charts takes away from the game, I’m somewhere in the middle in thinking the ideal design is to not charge any money to read the charts, but make the players find all eight. As it stands, I much prefer the HD remake’s way of going about it, and will replay this version in the future over the original because of it.
But even though the original controls were pretty spot on, Wind Waker HD feels like it was made for the Wii U GamePad for multiple reasons. For instance, just like Ocarina of Time 3D, you can easily equip and view items from the touchscreen, which is great for the particularly puzzling dungeons that require tons of item switching at any given moment. Remote play is 100% supported, and if you want, you can play the game entirely GamePad free with the Wii U Pro Controller and your TV screen. Given the large amount of motion-forced Zelda games lately, I can’t tell you how much of a relief this is to have the option to play the game you want, just like the original without any shoehorned mechanics. Having said that, I did use the GamePad by choice with all motion controls (mostly just aiming) turned off, because it was that good.
The GamePad works in ways I didn’t even think of, like displaying the game’s requiems/songs on the lower half of the pad, so you don’t have to remember all of them. While you’re sailing and traversing dungeons, maps are easily accessible on the pad as well, even while you’re in motion. This is especially useful when sailing, as you can change your course at will without having to pause the game to get your bearings.
But those are just cosmetic upgrades, really. In terms of new content, the updated Triforce questline isn’t the only thing that’s enhanced with Wind Waker HD. There’s also a Swift Sail item you can purchase from the Windfall Auction House that lets you sail much quicker than the standard method, and it always allows you to have the wind behind you so you don’t have to change it constantly. If this was in by default I would argue that it would detract from the exploration elements of the game, but considering it’s completely optional I have no qualms.
Hero Mode is also a new thing, and this new difficulty not only increases the damage you take, but it also turns off any recovery hearts from appearing at any point. Unlike most Hero Modes in prior Zelda games, you do not have to beat the game to unlock it — it can be toggled at any time on any save file, so you can turn it on and off as you wish, which is a really nice touch.
The Game Boy Advance-centric Tingle Tuner has been replaced by the Tingle Bottle, which allows you to communicate with other users through the Miiverse by way of a cute in-game method. The Picto-box camera can also store up to 12 photographs now, which is great news for aspiring Hyrule shutterbugs. These additions aren’t earth-shattering, but they help augment the experience in small little ways that add up eventually.
Although it maybe could have stood to add a little more content with some meat on its bones (maybe a new dungeon, or the areas that were cut from the original release), Wind Waker HD is one of the Wii U’s “must buy” titles without question. If you haven’t experienced Wind Waker before, you absolutely need to. Heck, even if you have played it, you should probably get it too.
This review is based on a digital copy of the Wii U game The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD.