Back in 2003, The Legend of Zelda was more despised than e-tolling. After all, how dare Nintendo go and dress one of the greatest franchises of all time up in some kid-friendly visuals and inject a lighter story into it as well? Turns out that that very Zelda game went on to become one of the very best titles in the franchise.
And ten years later, it still is.
It’s a tale as old as time. You’re a young lad, garbed in green to celebrate your birthday and you sister has been snatched up by a gigantic bird and taken away to a sea fortress, leaving you to team up with a ragtag band of pirates and set off to rescue her.
Ok, that may have been a lie about the story being so old, but it’s still unmistakeably a Legend of Zelda title. Much like the rest of the game, which carries a formula and legacy that no other franchise has been able to replicate.
It’s hard to actually realise that Wind Waker is now a decade old. Crisp and visually striking, Nintendo has done a bang-up job upgrading the hero in green from a 4:3 aspect ratio to the now more standard widescreen of 16:9 high definition.
Wind Waker hasn’t lost its charm through this process, and Link will still pull several facial expressions that help players along the way. For a feature that relies on a few emotions and eyeballing, it’s remarkable just how much is actually conveyed and showing just how far ahead of its time Wind Waker really was.
There’s something timeless about the visuals of this game, and mark my words, in another ten years it’ll still be one of the prettiest games that Nintendo has ever released. The controls are something else though, and several older gameplay mechanics have not survived the HD transition too well.
Movement can feel a tad responsive, and after a couple of years of playing third-person action games that have continued to evolve, combat can be clumsy and awkward at times. Not in a game-breaking manner though, but in a way where you have to rewind your gaming instincts back to a simpler age.
Thankfully though, Wind Waker is also a game that won’t force you to use the Wii U GamePad. The GamePad brings with it some other features that I’ll get into later, but if that you’re still not used to that input device, then you can switch to the more precise pro controller.
Wind Waker feels far more at home on that controller, and easily makes up for some of the more annoying shortcomings of the older gameplay that manifest on the GamePad. That’s not to say that the GamePad doesn’t have some interesting ideas tucked away in Wind Waker.
Selecting items and hot-keying them is obviously far more responsive, while using them adds more to the game itself until you tire of it. It’s fun to use the GamePad to aim items and weapons, but like all novelty bits of gameplay, it’ll grow old quickly and have players wanting to switch to a more traditional way of playing. At least with this scenario, Nintendo made the right choice by giving gamers that option.
But as a method to not have to pause and swap equipment around the whole time while providing a better way to map your surroundings and off-screen play? I kind of dig the GamePad, so pick your controller poison when you play the game.
It’s still a joy to sail the open seas once you acquire your boat and sails, and while tedious at times due to the vast scope of the ocean before you, there’s always something to do on that journey. You’re still getting ripped off by that damn travelling salesman, you’re still collecting various items for your quest and there’s still a fish waiting for some grub and a chance to call you a small fry.
Enemies are still goofy yet dangerous, and the puzzle action of the various dungeons that you have to navigate will test the grey matter of anyone who takes them on. And through it all, Wind Waker remains a game where progression is tied towards climatic boss battles, making that long journey feel worthwhile.
And that wonderful music! It was an overlooked feature back in 2003, but it was intrinsically tied to the game when Link first got his little hands on the Wind Waker baton. Like a maestro conducting an orchestra, that was the signature part of the game.
And it’s been preserved beautifully. Hell, i don’t even need to look at the screen, as my timing and rhythm for that gameplay mechanic has been etched into my memory, as I whipped up all manner of winds.
So what else has been added to the game? Veterans will get a chance to flex their muscle in the new Hero Mode that’ll test the metal of your Master Sword, storyline streaming that trims the fat from several quests, first-person gameplay and sending messages to the MiiVerse via bottles that’ll pop up in the games of other people.
Tingle on the other hand, is still a damn menace in green tights who’ll make you question the sanity of Japanese game developers. Wind Waker comes from a simpler time in game development, where games were brighter and more optimistic, instead of drab and gritty.
That’s an archaic sentiment that has been preserved in this HD version, and while the game occasionally shows its age in several departments, it more than makes up for it by crafting one of the finest Zelda adventures ever made and being irresistibly charming.