The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker was my first Zelda game. It’s also my favorite of the franchise thus far and one I did not hesitate to return to with the HD re-release. Is my favorite Legend of Zelda game heavily influenced by the fact that it was my first? Very likely but I’ve seen the praise from long time fans telling me that my adoration for this game isn’t misplaced. The game isn’t without its faults but with re-releases like this, Nintendo have righted numerous annoyances from the original game. Couple those changes with the prettification of the visuals, it’s the Wind Waker of my mind’s eye.
“It’s like playing a cartoon.” It was a divisive description of Wind Waker that was uttered many times when the game debuted in 2003. I recall the hoopla surrounding it and I wasn’t following video game news like I do today. I didn’t even own a GameCube at the time and since I never played a Zelda game before, I couldn’t comprehend why the game was so divisive. I had to experience it for myself and got my chance when I finally purchased a GameCube a couple of years later. I recall the visuals being immaculate and the game running silky smooth at the time. Wind Waker HD was a visual manifestation of those memories and then some.
There were numerous changes made in Wind Waker HD. Chief among them was the sailing. Wind Waker HD gives us a taste of the slow methodical pace of the original release but thankfully Nintendo introduced opportunities to acquire a faster means of travel rather rather quickly. Unfortunately, the keyword is “opportunities” because it is very possible for new comers to miss those cues and go on playing with that excruciatingly slow sailing. I’m not saying that they should outright give you the faster mode of travel but Nintendo could have made those opportunities to acquire faster travel a little more prominent. I don’t blame people for giving up on Wind Waker because of the sailing. I usually played Wind Waker HD towards the end of the night and there were more than a handful of times when I actually nodded off while sailing in the early stages.
I was also a big fan of using the Wii U Gamepad for inventory management, map manipulation and displaying other pertinent information. I liked it so much, I had the Wii U Gamepad beside me for the entire time despite the fact that I was playing with Pro Controller.
Overall, I thought Nintendo modernized Wind Waker well but there were a handful of notable issues.
I appreciated the bump to 60 FPS despite the handful of notable dips in framerate when there were too many pirate ships on the screen. I cringed when I ran into those moments but they didn’t dramatically affect the gameplay.
There were also two key gameplay issues that they didn’t address; both related to Hero bow. The first were the cumbersome first person arrow controls. It was unusually finicky in a game where everything else is elegant. And the second issue was with the final boss encounter where the boss’ weak point was mysteriously immune to lock on. Keep in mind that I just went through all the game’s bosses again Megaman style where a sand creature’s tongue was targetable. I spent 20 minutes pondering what I was missing before I reluctantly shot at his tail with the Hero Bow in the first person. That set off a boss battle that was wrought with cumbersome first person arrow shooting.
But in the end, I got to stab Ganon in the face with the Master Sword, so I guess it was worth it.
I left Hero Mode for the eventual future replay of Wind Waker HD. I also left a handful of heart pieces untouched and gave up completing all those damn slide puzzles. (Seriously, who thought it was a good idea to put that backlight?) I wanted to leave it with pleasant memories and I did. Despite the faults, Wind Waker HD was a wonderful remastering effort. Nintendo showed an attention to detail and enough restraint to keep the original’s vision intact while smoothing over old annoyances. It’s efforts like this that make these kinds of releases more than a quick cash grab.
For more information on The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD, visit the official website.