Game/Action-Adventure/Wii U

 4/5 Stars

“The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker” stirred its fan base when initially announced in 2001 because it differed in every way from the initially dark concept footage shown in 1999. This created a rift between fans that wanted a successor to the N64-style games versus fans that looked forward to the new cel-shaded take on the series. Upon release, The Wind Waker had much fanfare but still dissent from some fans. Years later, the game having aged better than its successor Twilight Princess, most fans have warmed up to the game. Some even cite it in the “games are art” debate.

“The Wind Waker HD” is a remaster of an already classic game, done strategically so there are more games in the Wii U’s holiday lineup. The result is a game with a high definition polish, optimized controls and a streamlined quest late game. Needless to say, it’s impressive how much has been improved in only a six-month development cycle.

The first thing many will notice is the slick graphical update. While some fans might have been apprehensive about the addition of higher resolution textures and lighting, they have nothing to fear about the past aesthetic being compromised. The HD facelift is a balanced mix of old and new, almost rendering the game’s characters and set pieces like clay. It’s actually quite refreshing for someone who has played the original many times. I also like that they’ve updated areas like a part of the second dungeon, changing it to daytime rather than the grim lighting from before. Although sometimes rendering of certain shadows might appear out of place, overall this was a nice overhaul.

Gameplay, as you might expect from a remaster, is mostly the same as before but with a few improvements. The addition of the Swift Sail item has made exploring the Great Sea significantly faster and hence more fun. Being able to sail in any direction without the hassle of pulling out the Wind Waker is a huge plus to this game. Other streamlined features include faster animations for actions such as grappling or conducting with the titular baton, faster text and the reduction of Triforce charts to find in order to make it to the end game.

I would say the biggest change made to this game that has affected how I play is the implementation of the community sourced social application Miiverse in-game. Admittedly I was skeptical of the feature, especially since they gave Link the ability to take selfies with the Picto Box, the amount of player interaction that occurs with this feature is remarkable. I’ve found myself taking several screen caps in game to show off the weird, strange or just beautiful moments you will find while adventuring.

Overall this is a great time to jump on the Wind Waker vessel. Various enhancements make the game appealing to play for newbies as well as nostalgic for veterans. I will say despite improvements, there are some minor downsides to this version of the game. While gorgeous to play both on TV and with the Gamepad, the game will on a rare occasion stutter when encountering too many enemies on the high seas.

This game might also be a tough sale for other fans who might have expected more content from this re-release of a ten-year-old game. Although the inclusion of a difficult Hero mode is nice, it’s not very challenging for a veteran who has played before and remembers the locations of key items. Some players might have to settle for playing with self-imposed challenges such as a three-heart run.

Besides these slight issues, “The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD” is still a great title in the series and is worth it for those still holding out for the next iteration.

For fans of:

Darksiders, Okami, The Legend of Zelda