Over a decade after its original Japanese release, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker still remains one of the most beautiful games to have graced the Nintendo GameCube. Its cel-shaded graphics made it timeless, while many other more realistically-designed games from the GameCube era have not aged particularly well. Nintendo knows very well how Wind Waker’s cartoon-like style made it stand out above the rest, and has decided to bring it to the new generation of video games with a high definition re-release, revamping the graphics and some of the game’s elements to make the definitive Wind Waker experience in glorious 1080p resolution. Recently, Nintendo gave me the chance to play various upcoming Wii U titles, and Wind Waker HD was definitely one of the most interesting ones.
In its transition to the Wii U, Wind Waker has hardly changed, and that’s a great thing, considering it was already a wonderful game. The developers at Nintendo have kept its best elements intact, while simply changing some of the more questionable aspects of the game, such as the notorious Triforce fetch quest which easily hurt the game’s pacing. Other than a faster boat and travel, the game remains largely the same, with a few more features being altered to better fit the new console.
Items like the pictograph box, bow and arrow, or grappling hook now utilize the Wii U GamePad’s motion capabilities. It feels natural enough when you use the pictograph box, as you hold the GamePad like a camera, but using the motion for other items felt a bit more uncomfortable. Perhaps it was also because I was sitting a bit low and to the side of the Wii U’s sensor bar, but moving the GamePad to use the bow and arrow and grappling hook felt very strange as I had no idea how to position the GamePad, and it was just a bit confusing. Every time I switched to first-person to use any of the aforementioned items, the camera would get a little finicky, but once I moved the GamePad around awkwardly, I found my bearings and was able to take pictures and shoot arrows with ease.
The only time I felt especially uncomfortable with the new mechanics was during the boss battle against the Helmaroc King where you have to swiftly climb a spiral tower by quickly using your grappling hook to swing from platform to platform. While I had this giant terrifying bird trying to kill me, I was moving the GamePad around trying to aim at the wooden posts to swing from with a little more difficulty than is desired. It should be noted once again, however, that this may not have happened had I been parallel to the television and motion sensor. My bad. Also, for the record, I was told that Wind Waker HD will have Wii U Pro controller support for those who want the more traditional experience, so fret not if these motion controls sound unappealing to you.
Aside from its new gyroscopic exploits, Wind Waker HD has also been given a brand new feature called the Tingle Bottle. While on Outset Island, I came across a little green bottle on the beach. Inside of the bottle was a pretty little drawing of Tetra (or was it Medli?); the Tingle Bottle is essentially a regular message in a bottle. Anything you write or draw will wash ashore or appear in a dungeon in someone else’s game somewhere across the Miiverse, the Wii U’s online community, so players can expect a plethora of delightful drawings and maybe even hints scattered throughout the game. Anything considered obscene or offensive can be reported though, so try your best to keep the disturbing images of Link and his Master Sword to yourself. Conversely, pictures can also be given a thumbs-up of sorts, but I don’t know what effect that has yet. If there was a leaderboard though, I assure you, the picture below would skyrocket to the top.
Above all else, the biggest visible change in Wind Waker HD for the Wii U is definitely the updated graphics. At first, I figured it looks pretty much the same and that this HD re-release was wholly unnecessary. It took me seeing it up close and personal to tell that there is a substantial difference now, simply because of the magic worked by the 1080p resolution, a new glow effect, and improved shadows. However, I still think The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess would have benefited more from an HD re-release, as its realistic graphics are bound to look dated much more quickly than Wind Waker’s. I’m sure its time will come though.
Overall, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is more or less exactly what you would expect from a rejuvenated classic. Based on the two levels I played, Outset Island and the boss battle against the Helmaroc King, the game has remained mostly identical to the original GameCube title. Still, for people who never got the chance to play the original Wind Waker, now would be as good a time as any to experience it; especially with the new, gorgeous, enhanced graphics. Plus, it’s never too late to indulge in a Legend of Zelda game for that matter.
You can look forward to The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD coming to the Wii U catalog in October 2013.