I was a bit late to the party, relative to my friends. I was a PC gamer for the longest time, and only made the foray into “console-ness” years after I graduated from university when I bought a Playstation. Shortly after, I ended up grabbing a GameCube, and I picked up my first Legend of Zelda game. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was a fantastic videogame experience for me. The art style, the game-play, the story – everything about this game captivated me; and I didn’t stop playing it until I finished it. My GameCube has long since disappeared, replaced by the Wii and eventually the Wii U.
I still have a handful of GameCube games on my shelf, and I was perusing them them a few months ago when my hand came to rest on the case of my copy of Wind Waker. I wondered if the kids of today would ever be able to enjoy the simple beauty of a game like Wind Waker in a landscape full of hyper-realistic, violent mayhem. The answer? Yes – thanks to Nintendo’s publishing of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD for the Wii U. What’s old is new – and awesome.
Bar none, Wind Waker is still my favourite game in the whole series. The heart-warming story is delivered with a charming art style and an easy-to-grasp control system, making it a highly accessible and fun title for general consumption. Wind Waker HD is a true upgrade from the existing GameCube title, and not only does it successfully carry forward the original goodness – it adds to it. Sure, the original was not the perfect game – but it was pretty close, and it’s definitely one of the best games that anyone can play. And now? Well, now it is even better.
This guy is really hungry for noodles.
The game takes place on a massive ocean (the Great Sea), which happens to support a number of islands. Long after the events of Ocarina of Time (centuries, in fact), legends are still circulating about the defeat of Ganon, a great evil who was subdued by a boy wielding a magic sword. Eventually, Ganon reappeared and attacked the kingdom once again – but the boy was not around, and nobody knows what became of the kingdom. In the present day, on Outset Island, a young boy named Link is celebrating his birthday. Suddenly a giant bird drops a girl named Tetra onto the island, and makes off with Link’s younger sister Aryll. What follows is an adventure that is familiar to those who know the previous games – yet new; and it will have you constantly “playing for just another ten minutes”. I hate spoiling stories, so I’m going to cut off the plot description there. Suffice to say, if you like grand adventures and endearing characters, this is definitely a title that you should play.
I wasn’t sure how much a simple cel-shaded title like Wind Waker could be updated – until I saw the title sequence. I deliberately avoided looking at the graphical comparisons between the GameCube and the Wii U versions that were posted on other sites (before I checked it out for myself), so I was pretty blown away the first time I watched the title sequence. The level of improvement is startling, and everything really pops on the new console. The incredibly sharp image and vivid colours give this the feel of a big-budget animated film. For the most part, the original character models hold up (although, truthfully, some look slightly dated – in a good way). At times the game stutters (almost imperceptibly) – but rarely will you have so much going on that this happens.
Streamlining the game-play means that you can actually enjoy doing this.
Top billing goes to the integration of the Game-Pad as the main controller for this title. Sticks and buttons are available for the normal movement and interaction bits, and the touch-screen is a very handy way to access the bits that you need without taking away from the game. Getting at your inventory is a cinch with the touch-screen. The world map is also displayed on the touch-screen, making it one of the most handy reasons to grab this title, even if you played the original; it helps you to chart your way across the trackless seas, encountering uncharted islands, pirates and scouring the sea bottom for treasures. Controlling your green-clad hero is an intuitive affair, thanks to intelligent mapping of the buttons and a cool gyroscope-based aiming mechanism for ranged attacks.
Overall, the game feels a little bit easier. That’s not to say that the combat and boss battles have lost their edge – on the contrary! What I mean by “easier” is that a majority of the tedium has been removed from the game with faster ship travel (once you attain a particular item), streamlined quests, the ability to carry more money right from the start of the game, and Hero Mode (ie: DIFFICULT), which is available to play right from the first time you boot up the game (instead of grinding through Normal Mode first). There also is heavy integration with the Wii U’s Miiverse, allowing you to send “messages in bottles” for help (and receive answers – once you receive the “Tingle Bottle”), as well as post “photos” using the Picto Box (an in-game item). Finally, the usual away-from-TV mechanism has been implemented, so you can take Wind Waker HD away from your couch, in case someone else wants to use the television for another reason.
Have giant kickass sword – will travel.
When I first received the game, I was a bit sad that there was no option to import my old GameCube saved game (I had completed the original, after all). At the Nintendo Holiday Preview Event, I jokingly offered Matt Ryan (or as I like to call him, Sir Ninty) a billion dollars to have this feature implemented. He laughed, knowing full well that I am a few dollars short; but I think he was feeling the same way as I was. Mind you, if there is any game that would be worth playing twice, it’s The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.
Nintendo has taken an old classic, and impossibly improved it for modern times. Fantastic graphics and great sound enhancements make this a beautiful game to behold, while the Game-Pad integration improves the game-play of the original GameCube title. Streamlined game-play makes for better story-telling and more incentive to really take your boat around and check out everything there is to see about the game, increasing the accessibility and overall fun! So? If you own a Wii U and you have some spare pennies, you should make sure that this game is in your game library. And if you don’t have a few pennies? Maybe you can blow the dust off that old treasure map and go salvage a treasure chest or two to ensure that you don’t miss out on playing this title.