Up Up Down Down: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is one of the most beloved Zelda games of all time. Though you could argue that it is or isn't the best game in the series, the fact remains that it's certainly one of the most, if not the most unique. Nintendo really took a chance with the new graphical style and ocean-based gameplay, and in the end, it really paid off. Months and months of people whining about the original's cel-shaded visual style resulted in those same people being put in their place by what is easily the most charming Zelda title to date.
For Wii U owners who want to relive the classic tale, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD offers a chance to do exactly that. Admittedly, this is one of my personal favorite games of all time, Zelda or otherwise, but even then, I can see that not all of it is perfect. On this edition of Up Up Down Down, we're going to take a look at everything that makes Wind Waker HD so magnificent, as well as painstakingly point out a few things that maybe aren't all that incredible.
Up Up: Those cel-shaded graphics are even more stunning in HD
The original Wind Waker on the GameCube was one of the finer looking titles throughout the course of that console's lifecycle. Even now, it still looks really great. That said, the HD upgrade on the Wii U looks absolutely gorgeous. This is the best a Zelda game has ever looked, and it's clear exactly why Nintendo chose to revive this particular adventure. Games like Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword all had a nice look to them when they first launched, but the Wind Waker is easily the best of the bunch as far as visuals are concerned, and its HD cel-shaded graphics are truly a sight to behold.
Down Down: A few minor graphical inconsistencies
Maybe it's because Wind Waker HD looks so freakin' amazing, but I was able to pinpoint a couple of miniscule graphical quirks. For starters, a lot of shadows appear to be low quality, with jagged edges that stick out like a sore thumb and are impossible to ignore. In addition, there's some minor clipping — seriously, Link's hat goes through everything! These aren't major issues, and they don't really take away from the graphical luster of the game, but they're noticeable nonetheless.
Up Up: Still one of the most unique Zelda games ever
The entire time I was playing Wind Waker HD, I couldn't help but think about just how unique it is. Sure, its influence is rooted in the entries that came before it, but there's just something completely refreshing about Link's quest across the Great Sea. You uncover different islands, you discover the secrets of the Triforce and Hyrule itself, and you meet so many great characters along the way. When you're not actively exploring dungeons, you're out at sea, finding new leads and hunting down weapons and items to help you on your adventure.
There's something incredibly different about guiding Link across a massive ocean instead of a sprawling countryside. Sure, maybe the sailing gets a bit repetitive, but even then, Nintendo was trying something new with this endeavor, and the result was a great quest in one of the most unique settings in all of Zelda history. And yes, the Great Sea still tops Skyloft.
Down Down: It's pretty easy and has very few dungeons
Impressive ingenuity notwithstanding, Wind Waker HD is a fairly easy game. In fact, this is easily one of the easiest games in the Zelda series. Thankfully, you can toggle the optional Hero Mode, which beefs the enemies up and makes health items scarce. Even then, though, you still have to deal with the fact that there are very few dungeons. Obviously, this is due to Nintendo's previous statements that some content was left out of the original. Case in point: Two of the main items are acquired in single-room areas instead of the regular-sized dungeons in which you'd normally find Link's equipment.
Up Up: Good story with perfectly placed Ocarina of Time references
The Zelda series isn't often lauded for its narrative hooks. After all, almost every entry tells a similar tale about a young boy saving a princess from the clutches of a power-hungry force. Wind Waker HD, however, is a story about the flooding of an entire land, which is quite dark. Additionally, several references are made to Ocarina of Time and, to an extent, Majora's Mask. Wind Waker HD takes place several hundred years after the events in Ocarina of Time, a long time after the legendary hero saved Hyrule and subsequently embarked on a new journey (in Termina), causing the evil Ganondorf to rain down terror once more.
Ultimately, it all goes back to the whole save-the-princess thing, but even then, the setup is surprisingly good and pleasantly nostalgic.
Down Down: Inconsistent soundtrack
Music has always been a huge part of the Zelda games. In Wind Waker HD, you use the titular Wind Waker baton to conduct different melodies. These quick tunes are generally good, and there are some really standout tracks in the game, but there are also a few duds. Specifically, the music heard in the dungeons just isn't very good. It's a shame that sailing across the Great Sea, visiting towns, and encountering sages rewards you with beautiful themes, only for dungeons to feature lackluster songs that are easily forgettable. Considering that this game was originally released following Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask, that's kind of unacceptable.
Up Up: Exploring the ocean can be fun
After guiding Link on horseback across grassy lands and hot deserts, it's nice to be able to take to the sea and sail. There are a bunch of islands to discover, each holding different treasures. Speaking of which, there are chests scattered all over the Great Sea, each with varying rewards. There's a real sense of discovery in Wind Waker HD, and it's hard to stay on course when you come across an uncharted island. You may have a destination you need to get to, but it's difficult to continue when you think about the secrets a newly discovered island might hold.
Down Down: All of the sailing will bore some players
Unfortunately, while sailing in Wind Waker HD is undoubtedly novel, it's also the source of much frustration and boredom for a lot of players. Personally, I enjoy exploring the ocean, but I can also see how some folks may grow tired of having to sail long stretches just to get to a specific island. You eventually get to fast travel, and there's even a Swift Sail that increases your speed and puts wind direction in your favor, but even then, if you're fatigued with sailing, nothing will make even the smaller distances enjoyable.
Up Up: Brand new Wii U features are great
It's impossible to talk about Wind Waker HD without mentioning the impressive Wii U-centric features. Inventory management is handled right on the touchscreen, which means you can seamlessly equip different items without having to pause the game. In addition, your map and various sea charts can all be seen on the GamePad's screen. You can also send messages for other players to check out through Miiverse. These messages are sent out via special bottles that appear on shore and in the middle of the ocean, and it's surprisingly addictive snagging any bottles you come across and seeing what people have to say about their adventures.
Down Down: A lot of people's bottled messages just say "hi"
Seriously, people, stop sending messages if all you're going to say is "hi." Instead, why don't you send a fun message, maybe make a comment about your progress (a lot of folks eat up that kind of thing), share in-game screenshots, or draw some pictures? See, all of that makes for great, bottle-worthy messages. Just, please, stop with the "hi" messages. It's obnoxious and dumb, and no one likes you for doing that.
Left Right Left Right: The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD is a must-play classic
The pros outweigh the cons in a huge way as far as Wind Waker HD is concerned. In fact, if you couldn't tell, the things I singled out as negatives are really only nitpick-worthy, and even then it was tough for me to find things wrong with this game. There's nothing that I outright hate or even dislike about this experience. A few jaggies, low difficulty, some forgettable songs, sailing that I find enjoyable while others don't, and lame messages from some users — those are more like minor gripes than actual flaws. Hell, the sailing thing doesn't even apply to me!
This game is a lovingly crafted oceanic adventure. Now, it features an HD coat of paint and gameplay that withstood the test of time. This isn't only one of the most entertaining Zelda titles in the entire history of the series, but it's arguably the most unique, and it's definitely the most charming. It's also worth mentioning that this is easily the greatest-looking HD remake ever. Call it hyperbole, but I dare you to find an HD remake that looks this impressive. But I digress. If you have a penchant for adventure, Wind Waker HD is a wonder to play and an absolute must.
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