The Legend of Zelda continues to be one of the franchises I cannot mention without sparking a sense of nostalgia. The music blasts through my head, and I remember the first time the Light World became the Dark World in Link to the Past. Wind Waker HD is a testament to the series’ ability to withstand the test of time. This high-definition remaster feels at home alongside modern games, in both its looks and its density. It has been ten years since I sailed these familiar seas, and my love for this entry has not wavered one bit.
Wind Waker still stands out amongst the crop of Zelda titles mainly for its visual style. This new version reminds me just how amazing that game looked ten years ago. Sure it is mostly just a texture pack and some fancy new lighting, but it jumps off my TV screen in the same way the original did. When I did a side-by-side comparison, the difference really shines. The world is vibrant and beautiful, just like I remembered it. This is one fine looking game, and in HD it really showcases the unique art style.
One of the most amazing things about Wind Waker HD is how well it holds up today. The gameplay is fine-tuned to near perfection, showcasing some of the best sword combat in the series. Focusing on horizontal and vertical attacks, combined with dodge and parry, taking down foes is easy and fun. Dungeons are littered with clever puzzles that were fun to rediscover. The intricacy of their design has always been one of the highlights of the series. Bosses are also a highlight, sticking with the traditional Zelda formula, each one is dispensed cleverly by the dungeon’s obtained item, and each one is bigger, and more impressive than the last.
The opening few hours definitely feel like an extended tutorial, but that is pretty standard with Zelda games. Anyone coming in fresh should note that until Dragon Roost Island is introduced, and sailing begins, it definitely takes some time to get moving.
When Wind Waker was originally released, it had a few drawbacks that players to this daystill can’t get over. The biggest is the massive fetch quest at the end of the game that forces Link to find eight treasure charts throughout the world. Not only that, but he then had to pay Tingle (the charming side character in the game) 398 rupees to decipher each one. It took way too long, and actually prevented me from finishing the game initially. With Wind Waker HD this has been remedied. Five of the eight pieces are found without maps, which speed up the process substantially, and makes the endgame portion much more bearable.
The other drawback to the original was the sailing. While it starts out novel and fun, it quickly becomes tiresome due to the fact that Link has to play a magical tune on his Wind Waker to change the direction of the wind. In this version however, I purchased a new item immediately after the first dungeon called the Swift Sail. This allows Link to changed direction without the Wind Waker, and also increases the speed of travel by a noticeable margin. This makes travelling around the world of Hyrule much, much quicker.
The rest of the changes are less impactful, but still extremely helpful. Little tweaks like a larger wallet from the outset made opening chests and cutting bushes early on more useful. The Wind Waker is now mapped to the d-pad, making it take up one less space on my items bar. Inventory management is also now done on the gamepad, granted I wasn’t playing with the Pro Controller. This makes swapping out what I need quicker, and more efficient, and of course the map can be accessed from the gamepad as well. Almost every gripe about the original has been fixed or tweaked, making this feel like much more than a visual upgrade.
I don’t think I have to mention also just how massive this game is. For anyone who has never played Wind Waker, there is a glorious amount of content here just waiting to be discovered. Those that are returning for a second dose will be thrilled with the improvements, making it worth returning, especially after all of these years. For anyone that owns a Wii U this game is a must-have. This is much more than just a visual upgrade, this new version brings back one of the last great Zelda games to not focus on motion control. The art style may be polarizing, but the gameplay is undeniable. This is one of the most memorable experiences in the history of gaming, and it is a shame if anyone misses out on it.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.