It's hard to believe that it's been one decade since The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker first landed on the GameCube. It isn't because of that old cliché about how time goes by ever so swiftly, though. It's because this lovingly crafted adventure is still as amazing today as it was back when it first set sail in 2003. Nintendo has made a few fitting adjustments in transitioning this classic over to the Wii U, and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is ultimately a product that deserves to be played, enjoyed, and cherished for years to come.
The original Wind Waker still looks quite pretty these days, standard definition woes be damned. Wind Waker HD, however, looks notches more gorgeous. Islands are filled with lush trees, tall buildings, and wondrous landmarks. The whole thing is quite a sight, and witnessing how everything has been remastered is truly breathtaking. My first few hours playing Wind Waker HD were filled with awe and amazement, and I couldn't help but gawk at certain areas due to how fantastic they looked. Characters have a great look, too, and manage to be more charming than ever.
Funnily enough, charm is one of the greatest assets of Wind Waker HD. As if the cel-shaded art style wasn't already enough to slap a wide-eyed, disgustingly happy look on your face, the way various characters are animated is also bound to bring loads of joy. Link's celebratory jumps whenever he accomplishes something add an innocent vibe to the adventure — you're always aware that Link is still a kid, in spite of the fact that he's undertaking some massive, life-threatening feats. Other characters like Medli the bird girl and the Korok forest sprites simply add more flavor to the cheery style of the game.
Despite the colorful coat of paint, the story of Wind Waker HD is actually quite dark, and it's among the best in the series. Having wreaked havoc across Hyrule — which was subsequently flooded by the gods as a last ditch effort to rid the land of evil — Ganondorf returns and again attempts to garner great power and captures Link's kid sister. He almost appears elderly, yet still clings to the idea that he must rule over all the land. Several nods are made to Ocarina of Time in both text and in imagery, connecting the tales brilliantly.
Complimenting the hypnotic graphics and intriguing tale is a gameplay system that's truly stellar. Combat isn't all that deep, but it's fluid and intuitive. It's the puzzles that really stand out, though. Each dungeon in Wind Waker HD is loaded with fun tasks that require you to utilize your items, abilities, and wits. The game begins simple enough, but later dungeons grow more complex and rewarding. Overall, Wind Waker HD never gets too difficult — it's one of the easier Zelda games — but you're constantly on the move, completing different tasks and moving forward rapidly.
If you stick with the Wii U Pro Controller, you'll experience Wind Waker HD in much the same way that most people experienced the original on the GameCube. Utilizing the GamePad, however, is much more useful as your entire inventory management can be handled directly on the touchscreen. You can seamlessly select which items to use and check your maps without having to pause the game, making for an organic transition between the actual game and the menu systems.
Elements that were once considered tedious in the original have also been streamlined. The new Swift Sale, for example, can be obtained early in the game and helps to speed up the sailing sequences. Back in 2003, a lot of people weren't too fond of the sailing gameplay, and while I thoroughly enjoyed going across the massive ocean and discovering islands, I can see why some folks didn't welcome such a time-consuming mechanic. Unfortunately for those players, while the the Swift Sail is a major improvement, it doesn't exactly provide fast enough travel.
Speaking of sailing, a lot of oceanic traveling had to be done in 2003 to uncover the Triforce shards. That requirement has since been tweaked. Without spoiling anything, you no longer need to invest loads upon loads of time seeking out the Triforce at sea. I recall having a blast setting out into the big, blue ocean and searching for the powerful artifacts that would grant Link the courage to slay Ganondorf, but those who didn't should be pleased with the changes.
While Wind Waker HD may not be overly challenging as far as the main quest is concerned, a new Hero Mode has been included that beefs enemies up and makes health items a rarity. For players who want an ample challenge, this is the mode to stick with. The best part is that it's available right from the start, and you can switch between Normal and Hero at any point prior to loading up your save file.
I've long considered this particular game to be one of the greatest Zelda adventures of all time. I still feel that way, though I could certainly find a few things to be totally nitpicky over. For starters, while Wind Waker HD is gorgeous, I did encounter some ugly jagged edges in a lot of the shadows. Additionally, even though the game controls great, sometimes the camera can get stuck in places. This isn't common, but I did happen across this issue a handful of times. Lastly, though there's certainly great music in this quest, the dungeons don't really have any memorable themes, which is a shame.
It's funny to think that so many people were upset when they first saw the visual style of Wind Waker, because this game has clearly withstood the test of time and can very easily be considered among the best in the series. There's just no denying that Wind Waker HD is a heavenly game, deserving of the utmost praise and worthy of being played by anyone who owns a Wii U.
It's been 10 years since we first set sail with Link on the GameCube, yet Wind Waker HD proves that this adventure across a flooded land is truly timeless. It's a beauty to behold, it's breathtaking to witness, and it's awe-inspiring to experience.
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