For my first review at PlaySomeVideoGames.com, I have chosen my favorite game of all time.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is a remake of the beloved 2003 GameCube classic. While it is, in fact, a remake of an older game, one must point out that not all remakes are created equal. Remakes in the form of popular HD Collections (inFamous, God of War, and Metal Gear) are mostly old games with higher resolution images and textures; whereas, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, I argue, is a complete overhaul, both visually and mechanically. If you played the 2003 original version on GameCube and decided not to check out the remake, I firmly believe you made a major mistake.
Announced at E3 2013 (the 1st E3 Nintendo Direct), the HD re-release of Wind Waker was a complete surprise. It accomplished something the Wii U desperately needed by getting a major Zelda title on the struggling Wii U console. A contentious release in 2003 on GameCube for an art style that was easily dismissed by an audience looking for a more realistic art-style in wake of Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, the Wind Waker has forever had a polarizing effect on Zelda’s fanbase. Those who dared to conquer Wind Waker in light of its poor reception encountered an amazing journey and an absolute all-time classic in video gaming. The HD re-release does absolutely nothing to tarnish that legacy and improves upon every one of the original’s shortcomings.
What’s So Good?
The cell shaded approach in 2003 was a drastic turn for the Zelda series and, at the time, it was poorly received; however, that doesn’t mean the visuals weren’t amazing. Zelda the Wind Waker in 2003 was a benchmark for impressive visual design regardless of if you enjoyed its “cartoonish” look or not. Advance technology 10 years, and the remade higher resolution graphics visually “POP” with lovely colors. Without question, Zelda the Wind Waker HD will be one of the prettiest games you’ll ever get to see on your flat screen at home. I find it fitting that Wind Waker will forever be known as the first high definition Zelda game. The art style is a personal favorite and I can assure you that there are few games that will look better on your HD flat-screen TV than Zelda: The Wind Waker HD.
Wind Waker offers an incredibly entertaining musical score to accompany you throughout the journey. One complaint with the GameCube installment was the use of the “Wind Waker” to control songs and wind direction. In the Wii U version, this mechanism is improved with both a quick display guide on the game pad to show you the song combinations (notes), as well as an easier timing mechanic using the dual sticks. The result is an experience with less tedium than its earlier release.
Wind Waker is my favorite Zelda game because of its amazing combat system. It is, hands, down the most gratifying combat you will have in a Zelda game. Wind Waker introduces fun and intuitive combat combinations that rely on timing, plus great defensive/strategic mechanisms to allow you do much more than press the sword slash button as much as possible. Additionally, the enemies and bosses in Wind Waker all have different defenses that requires the player to dive into the depth of Link’s new move set. If you enjoy kicking ass in the Arkham games, I think you’ll find a lot of fun and familiarity in Wind Waker.
Nobody enjoys pointlessly grinding. Wind Waker’s 2003 installment had perhaps the most boring fetch quest of all time: The Triforce Quest. This was the reason during my first time through with the GameCube game, I quit and never finished. Luckily, and purposefully, Nintendo improved this chapter of Wind Waker by cutting the GameCube’s 8 Triforce pieces into just 5. The original quest also required a chart for each of the 8 pieces. Wind Waker HD only requires a chart for 3 of the 5 remaining pieces. Further streamlining the game is the inclusion of the Swift Sail which doubles sailing speed. One benefit from this alteration is the joy when exploring the the Great Sea. I definitely went out of my way to check out smaller islands than I did with the GameCube version simply because it wasn’t a chore to get around. The Wind Waker might still feel like a grind when compared to other linear adventure games, but it is now much improved when compared to its original release.
Wind Waker steers off the beaten path when it comes to a Zelda story-line. Without spoilers, the typical Zelda template is altered slightly here in Wind Waker. Yes, you are going to play as Link- a boy who’s out to save the day, but not in the same manner you might expect. Many side characters bring added charisma and sub-plots, to include Link’s family. Aryll (Link’s Sister), as well as his Grandma, both ground the plot, making the cartoon Link feel more like an actual boy and less like a super hero. These aren’t the first times Link has had family members, but they are the most important family roles in the series.
Playing a seafaring pirate traveling to tropical islands is unlike the experience offered in many games out there. Sure, Assassins Creed Black Flag starred a Pirate who could traverse the sea, but the setting and islands found in Black Flag didn’t have the diversity found in Wind Waker. If you’re tired of the “Zelda archetype,” Wind Waker is definitely the game to try.
Zelda: the Wind Waker HD is one of the best implementations of the Wii U’s gamepad to-date. Zelda is the is ultimate “dual-screen” game, and changing weapons and items on the fly during combat is very rewarding. The touchscreen also means the player no longer must pause to change items or reference a map while playing the game. The Wii U’s gamepad touchscreen doubles for the following as you play the game:
- Hookshot and Boomerang aiming;
- Island / Dungeon maps as well as sea charts; and
- Inventory management;
What’s Not So Good?
I wish obtaining the Swift Sale wasn’t such a difficult process. Having to go to the Auction House at nighttime on Windfall Island and then wait for it to come up for auction is something that could be completely missed by those playing the game for the first time. Considering how much it improves upon the experience of the game, I would much rather have it just be the normal mode of travel for the King of Red Lions.
While I believe its important to judge a game based on its merit, I think it is equally important to judge any product in relation to the market to provide a full appreciation for the customer.
Since its release in 2013, Zelda: The Wind Waker can be grabbed on Amazon for roughly $30.00-$40.00 used, depending on how much you value condition. A nice copy and case will run you closer to $40.00, with a brand new version at the price of $50.00. Nintendo released a bundle including a download code for Zelda: the Wind Waker, and many of these download codes can be purchased on eBay for $25.00-$35.00.
Yeah yeah yeah, I know. But Donnie, you’re a Zelda fanatic. That’s true. But what’s the point of starting a fan site if you can’t geek out over why you’re a fan in the first place?
The Wind Waker holds a special place in my soul. The adventure of a boy out to save his family and subsequently the world from evil is a tried and true storyline. But Nintendo executed on that story line with brilliant gameplay, absolutely stunning visuals (now in HD on Wii U), and a game design that just has it all. This is the true must own for Wii U owners.