It’s been 10 years since the original release and yet I find myself playing The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker again. It feels just like I remember, but it doesn’t look the same.
I knew I was going to play The Wind Waker HD at E3 so to ensure I had a point of reference I fired up my old GameCube copy before leaving for the US. That way I would know just how impressed or unimpressed to be when playing the updated version. Simply put it looks absolutely beautiful. Just from the short previews I played it’s obvious a lot of work has gone into painstakingly updating the game to HD. The cel-shading is eye-popping – particularly the character models — as the much improved shadowing effect dances across Link’s face and through the surrounding village. The best thing about this “update” is that it looks so much better while playing exactly as I remember.
Several new features have been added and chief among them the option to sail your ship at a much faster rate than the original. This is presumably for those gamers who grew tired of forever traversing the seemingly endless seas at an embarrassingly slow pace. This is a smart move on Nintendo’s behalf for the simple reason that gamers now just don’t care how big a world map is unless it’s something ridiculous. For instance, upcoming racer The Crew features the entire United States, but with The Wind Waker HD being able to travel that bit faster to see all the points of interest a little sooner will ensure new players to the game will stick with it. The new and speedier boat is many orders of magnitude faster than before; in fact it’s almost like Link has strapped some NOS to his little wooden boat and is ready for some Fast & Furious: Hyrule Drift.
GamePad integration allows players to view maps and slide items from their inventory and onto an allocated button which will then trigger them. Want your bow mapped to your Y button? Just drag the bow icon onto the Y button on the GamePad screen and you’re set. The GamePad screen is also the place where you can read messages and view screenshots from other players washed up on shore in bottles having been sent from the Miiverse. This was a neat feature that I was particularly impressed with, making a single player environment feel a little less lonely if you choose to collect the bottles. I was told in the full game that you will be able to record your own thoughts and pictures and hurl them into the vast ocean symbolically when near the shore.
Other than these few new features and the stunning cel-shading in HD there aren’t many changes, which is a very good thing. The Wind Waker was one of the finest Zelda games ever made and by not tinkering too much Nintendo are preserving that experience. Although this isn’t the next big 3D Zelda game it should definitely help to “tide” fans over until it’s ready.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD will be available exclusively for Wii U in October.