Review by benoit489
"An adventure worth taking"
When the original Wind Waker released in 2003, it just about tore the Zelda fan base in half. The most jarring issue with the new Wind Waker was its cel-shaded art style. Fans had expected something more realistic along the lines of Nintendo's Zelda demo from Space World 2000. Years have passed since that great cataclysm and Wind Waker tends to be looked back upon fondly with most adoration aimed at its beautiful art style and solid combat.
2013 is the 10 year anniversary of the original games release. Nintendo decided after play testing this game with their new lighting engine from the Zelda Wii U E3 demo that it was time to give Wind Waker a full HD treatment. Now it's here, just in time to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the original and spark some life back into the Wii U.
First and foremost, I would like to address the graphics. The new lighting engine brings a whole new life to this HD upgrade. Everything now casts a nice, crisp shadow and you can really feel the warmth of the sun as you sail and explore the islands found on the great ocean. While bloom was a tad overbearing when the game was first shown, it would appear Nintendo has scaled it back a bit and currently it looks quite natural. Reworked HD textures also greatly benefit the aesthetic of the game.
New gameplay additions such as the swift sail and reimagined Triforce quest help with the pacing issues that plagued the first game. The swift sail is the best addition to the game, allowing you to travel twice as fast while keeping the wind continually at your back. It was so convenient that by the end of the game when I needed to use the Wind's Requiem I had forgotten the melody entirely! Revamping the Triforce quest was a much needed change to the game. You no longer have to find 8 Triforce Charts, get them all translated by Tingle, and then go find the 8 associated Triforce Shards. While the process was not entirely removed, you now need only to find 3 charts and the remaining 5 shards can be found directly. While it does not entirely fix the pacing issue at the end of the game, it is a welcome revision.
The dark horse of this update is the newly added Tingle Bottle item. You can now send out messages for friends or other players (depending on your settings) that they will find in the form of bottles floating along the ocean. What makes this added feature so special is the ability to save pictographs sent in a bottle for use on your Pictograph quest. You no longer have to fear missing a pictograph because you can always receive the missed picture from a friend.
Wind Waker takes place in the timeline where Link was not around to save Hyrule and the goddesses had to flood it in order to keep Ganon from gaining control over the entire land. Fast forward 100 years and Hyrule now lies at the bottom of the Great Sea. The Kokiri have become Koroks, taking on stubbier, wooden forms rather than resembling children like they did in Ocarina of Time. The Zora have been turned into the Rito, a race of bird-like people that inhabit Dragon Roost Island. The rest of the Hyrulians have been left unaltered, and you occasionally run into some travelling Goron, although we do not find out much about them.
Now that I've laid the groundwork, it is time to introduce the villain: Ganondorf! Although we've seen him in many forms over the years, this unique take on him is my favorite. He is still power hungry and dangerous, but he is much older (and possibly wiser) in this iteration. There are multiple instances where Ganondorf has the opportunity to kill Link but decides not to. In fact, he makes a point to let Link and Tetra know that he wishes no harm to them, just that they would stay out of his business. Of course, you cannot let that happen, so you fight against him by repowering the Master Sword and chasing him down for one last confrontation. This is Ganondorf's most humanizing moment. He tells Link about the suffering of his people, and that he envied the good fortune of the Hylians. Ganondorf is not trying to take over Hyrule because he wants complete dominance over all living things; he just wants to offer his people a better life than they had before. Touching, but his methods are inhumane (kidnapping little girls?) so Link must do what he does best, stick the Master Sword into Ganondorf and call it a day.
Wind Waker has always been the best Zelda for me when it comes to gameplay. Sure the newer entries added more RPG elements and better controls, but Wind Waker is the best at completely nailing its gameplay to its atmosphere. You get a Link that is full of expression, both in and out of cut scenes. His big, cat-like eyes track any object of interest, which is quite helpful when stuck on a puzzle. You also get the wonderful animation of the enemies in Wind Waker; slash a moblin from behind and watch him prance around in pain, grabbing his bottom while tears pour out of his eyes. Not done teasing the moblin? Try smacking him with your boomerang to knock him dizzy for a bit while you pick up his gigantic spear and proceed to harass him with it. The moblin isn't the only enemy you can play with like this, just about all bipedal enemies have different reactions and emotions depending on how you fight them. It is all wonderful, cartoony, and vibrant; a complete marriage of gameplay to atmosphere.
Sailing and exploring seem to be the main themes of Wind Waker. About a quarter of the way through the game the entire map opens up for exploration, and it is highly encouraged you do so! While I wish there were more islands like Windfall, the reality of the fact is only a few people escaped the great flood that sealed Hyrule. Most islands are devoid of friendly life, only housing random baddies, puzzles, and lots of treasure charts. Collecting all of the treasure charts and their related treasure can be quite overwhelming for a completionist, but it is very doable if you take time to explore throughout the course of the game rather than progress the story as quickly as possible. Finding treasure has been made immeasurably easier now that we have the map on the gamepad screen.
There is one area in Wind Waker that is lacking: dungeons. The main attraction in Zelda games are its many dungeons. There are some we remember fondly, and some we wish had never been thought of. Wind Waker's dungeons seem to tread that middle ground. While the boss fights are certainly entertaining, the dungeons themselves seem to be rather easy. This is further compounded by the fact that enemies do hardly any damage so there's no sense of danger around the next corner. It would have been nice if Nintendo had worked in one of the dungeons they originally left out of the GameCube version, but it would seem they had neither the time nor manpower. Oh well, I suppose you could argue that it is better to have easy dungeons than frustrating ones at least it gets back out to the Great Sea quicker!
The original's controls were near perfect, Nintendo did a great job of building the game around the GameCube controller. The transition to the Wii U has led to similar results with a few bonuses. You now have the ability to aim using the gamepad's gyro controls. I rarely used it, but it was a nice addition nonetheless. The gamepad also allows you to switch items without having to pause. The feature can be handy at times when you are not in combat, but whenever I was in combat I had to run away from the enemy so that I could tear my eyes away from the screen to look down at the gamepad without risking dying. Control improvements seemed to range from beneficial to nice to have the majority of the time.
Although it may not be the system seller Nintendo was hoping it would be, Wind Waker HD is a solid addition to the Wii U catalogue. It takes one of the best GameCube games and brings to life in glorious full HD. The original Wind Waker looked great for its time, but now it looks absolutely amazing. The game's true beauty (both graphics and gameplay) shine on the Wii U and I highly encourage any Wii U owner (present or future) to pick up this game right away. It is an adventure worth taking.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 10/29/13
Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (GameStop Limited Edition) (US, 10/04/13)
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