The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD Review

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Since launch, the Wii U has struggled to find its place.  Low console sales have led to low software sales which, in turn, means a lower amount of games are being produced for Nintendo’s home console.  Nintendo needed an ace to generate more interest in the console and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD may just do that.  Nintendo upgraded this port of the original 2003 Nintendo GameCube game by including updated visuals, game mechanics, and functionality; this inevitably led to a marvelous re-release that brings out everything the original had plus more.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD takes place several hundred years after the events of Ocarina of Time when Hyrule is trapped under the Great Sea.  We’re introduced to a new Link, no connection to the Hero of Time, who goes on a quest to save his little sister after she’s kidnapped by a giant bird–it mistakes her for the pirate Tetra (later revealed to be Princess Zelda).  Throughout Link’s travels he has to fight many enemies and face difficult challenges, along with taking on the main antagonist Ganondorf.  The story is fantastic and constantly makes you yearn for more–it’s innocent, at times, yet charming.  Story aside, the graphics are what make this game memorable.

The first you’ll notice is how beautiful the world looks.  While the cell-shaded look of the original has an ageless look, the updated textures are breathtaking and led to further immersion within the game’s world.  From the Great Sea to Windfall Island to the boss battles nothing looks wonky or out-of-place–it truly sets the standard for how to make HD ports.  A problem I encountered is the HUD which ends up cluttering the main screen.  I can’t help but feel that the map, item display, and health could have been contained to the gamepad screen.  This would have allowed the visuals to stand out even more and be more immersive–much like Ocarina of Time 3D. Like the updated visuals, the soundtrack bit rate has also increased.  The music is crisp and clear and sounds much nicer than the original, though including an orchestrated version of this soundtrack would have been nice.  Though the soundtrack still sounds great, the voices leave much to be desired.  For the most part they sound okay but they are of low quality and sound almost out-of-place at times, thankfully there’s not much.  Luckily, nothing detracts from the, still excellent, gameplay.

The gameplay remains mostly unchanged from the original, yet feels and controls nicer (due to the upgraded frame rate).  Though not much has changed, Nintendo added three new gameplay mechanics: the Swift Sail, Tingle Bottle, and gyroscope controls.  The Swift Sail allows Link to travel at faster speeds in the King of Red Lions without changing the direction of the wind.  This significantly decreases the time it takes to get from point A to point B.  The Tingle Bottle, on the other hand, replaces the Tingle Tuner mechanic in the original (it allowed a second to link a GameBoy Advance to the GameCube to bomb enemies or help with puzzles.  Tingle Bottles can be found anywhere in the Great Sea and are essentially MiiVerse posts from the game.  It’s rather underwhelming and I feel that 3DS connectivity would have worked better.  One the upside, the gyroscope controls feel natural and work better than using the right analog stick to aim; they allow for quick, responsive attacks.  Another cool feature is that the Wind Waker is no longer an equip item as it’s set to the D-pad.  This reduces time searching through items, though you can also select items in real time as well.  Another new addition to the game is Hero Mode which removes all hearts and fairy recovery while all enemies are twice as strong.  It’s no Master Quest but it’s worth the investment for a greater challenge.  Overall the gameplay is satisfying and feels better than the original in every way.

Is this HD re-release worth your hard-earned money?  Heck yes!  This is truly the definitive version and represents why The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is one of the best Zelda games developed, if not the best 3D Zelda.  If you played the original then check out this version.  If you never played a Zelda game before then now is the best time to dive into the series.  With The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds only two months away, this Zelda makes for quite the appetizer.