The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker HD
The Wii U has been in dire need of some outstanding first party releases in order to boost unit sales; there have been a few decent ones recently but none have had a huge impact and Nintendo fans have been left wanting. Only a new Mario or Zelda title would really do what needs to be done and now we have one. Well… it’s actually an old one with an HD makeover but it’s better than nothing.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was a GameCube title, released back in 2002. It had some bold new features, not seen in previous games in the series; some of which, didn’t go down that well with some fans (I’ll get back to that later). Although it wasn’t as celebrated as much as Ocarina of Time, it was still a game vital to the Zelda series. I can see why this was chosen to be remade for the Wii U; it’s graphical style has helped it age very well.Due to the GameCube version having functionality using a second screen( it had connectivity with the Game Boy Advance as an optional extra), it was perfect for use with the GamePad.
Most HD remakes are nothing more than a graphical update on the original title, but TWW HD goes a bit further than that. Let’s have a look at some of the new features this version has:
Remastered Graphics in HD
The biggest feature is obviously the graphical update; the resolution has been upgraded to 1080p and other improvements, such as new lighting effects and textures have also been added. I have to say it looks pretty amazing; the graphics hold up better today than any other HD remake I’ve played. It uses a cell-shaded style, giving it a cartoon-like quality. I thought this was great but it put some fans off the GC version, as they perceived it as an indication that that the series was dumbing down so it could appeal to younger and more casual players. They were wrong though and it’s proved to be a style, which appears to age much better than a more “realistic” one.
As I said before, the original version had some connectivity with a second screen; players could use the GBA to act as the screen for the Tingle Tuner as an in-game item. This could be used to display dungeon maps and also order bomb-support in certain situations. This has however been pulled out of the Wii U version, which surprised me a bit as it could have worked pretty well, especially with the touch-screen capability of the GamePad. I also thought that some of the combat or the musical sections may have used the touch screen but they unfortunately don’t.
Instead, they’ve made the game more user friendly rather than using it for such gimmickry. The GamePad is now used to display the menu screens, so browsing the inventory or viewing the map is so much easier now and touch-screen controls have been incorporated into these; you can drag and drop items to assign them to the control buttons and zoom in and out of maps. The first person view modes are also controlled by the GamePad gyroscope so you can look around you using it. This others more precise aiming when using items such as the hookshoot, bow and pictobox.
Also, it can also be played solely on the GamePad, meaning you can still get your Zelda fix when someone else is using the TV. The drawbacks are that the resolution is lower and you will need to pause in order to browse through the menus so I wouldn’t recommend playing like this all the time but it’s a handy feature all the same.
Now you can send and receive messages to the Miiverse via a message in a bottle. You can use the pictobox to take a screen-shot and send it via the bottle, with a comment to share with others online. Bottles can be found washed up on the shores of some locations; these can contain pictures, tips or other messages sent by other players. It doesn’t really add anything to the gameplay but it’s not a bad feature to bring the game up-to-date a bit.
Improvements to Sailing
Sailing is a big part of the game and was another feature which wasn’t received that well on the GC version. It was great to have something a bit different to just a mass of land and some horse-riding and it also added much more of a free-roaming element to it. The problem was though, in practice it was pretty dull. The boat was slow and you were required to use the Wind Waker conductor’s baton to play a song, in order to change the wind direction to the one you needed to sail in; as you had to change course quite regularly, this was something you needed to do a lot and became annoying very quickly. Also, the game forced you to travel around various islands, looking for essential items, for long periods of time between the main story quests; it was certainly my least favourite part of the game.
However, Nintendo have improved this element by adding a new item, known as the “Swift Sail.” Not only does this allow you to travel faster by sea, you no longer need to change the wind direction, making the sailing a more pleasant experience; you can also switch back to the normal sail at any time, which helps on shorter journeys. However, it’s an item you need to both buy and complete a mini-game to get. I didn’t find any in-game advice on how to get it, so I had to look it up online and I’d played through at least half of the game with the normal, slower sail, before I acquired it.
It’s not just the speed though, it’s the length of time you need to spend sailing in-between story quests and dungeons. This part has been improved slightly (which I’ll get to shortly), but not that much. I spent several hours at a time, not doing much but sailing and didn’t feel I was progressing in the game that much during this time.
For those who are masters of the Zelda games, or have completed it and want to add a greater challenge, then Hero mode may be for you. It’s essentially just a higher difficulty mode but not only are enemies harder to beat, your health doesn’t regenerate until you either acquire a piece of heart or a find a fairy. I think that this a great feature as the combat on “Normal” mode isn’t that difficult; I didn’t die once, throughout the play-through; however, I think the challenge really comes from the puzzles and finding the enemy’s weaknesses.
Gameplay Tweaks and Streamlining
There are also a few, more subtle tweaks; like faster scrolling text, better camera controls and improvements to the swing mechanic, but some of the quests have also been altered or taken out to make the experience more enjoyable. I noticed this particularly when collecting the Tri-force shards near the end of the game; on the GC version you needed to collect a chart for each of the eight pieces, which involved completing fairly challenging puzzles or long, convoluted side-quests, getting the chart, paying to get it deciphered and then searching for the shard in the sea. This was quite an arduous task but now there are only three charts to find; the other five Tri-force shards are now obtained where you used to be just given the charts. This helps cut down down on the sailing a bit; it still takes several hours to do but it does take the pain out of it somewhat.
The Core Game
So now I’ve told you all about the new features, let me tell you a little bit about the core game, in case you’ve never played TWW before; Firstly, it’s probably got the most charm of any of the series, in my opinion. The cartoon style is a big part of that as it really brings the characters’ personality out; Link’s facial animations really help him be more expressive than ever. There is also a whole array of quirky new characters, some with really funny dialogue ( even one of the very minor ones is unforgettable to me; that’s the kid with a constant giant drop of snot hanging from his nose – brilliant!) The boat has even been personified as a talking Viking dragon vessel, who not only takes you across the seas but also gives you advice and informs you of the next task. There are new enemies as well as classic ones; all look a bit too cute to kill.
I think I’ve told you enough about how great it looks, but I can tall you that it sounds pretty good too. There are many of the classic songs and sound effects from the series as well as some original ones; all of which are great and will probably have you humming along to them.
The puzzles are great as always; the thing I love about Zelda and Nintendo’s games in general is how well thought out they are; the design is impeccable. Even though you are free to explore the map at any-time and there’s so much to do, you can only access certain things when the game wants you to, there’s not really any short-cuts. There are also lots of optional puzzles, enabling you to unlock secrets too. What I like about the dungeons in this game in particular, is there are a couple, where you are accompanied by an AI controlled character, who you can command and work with to complete fairly complex problems. In short, it’s all very solid and most importantly, always fun.
All of the usual items are there, the bow, boomarang and grappling hook, but one is exclusive to TWW, the Deku Leaf; this can be used to glide through the air when reaching far away platforms and can also use wind to gain height.
The only thing I didn’t like that much, aside from the long sailing quests of course, is the controls can be a bit on the fiddly side, particularly when trying to perform third-person actions as I found the accuracy a bit tricky in this view with some and certain items, like the mirror shield were ready difficult to control when trying to reflect light from it and on to other objects or enemies. Also, the targeting button could occasionally be a bit infuriating, especially when confronted by multiple enemies; sometimes I found myself better off not targeting at all.
The game is pretty big and although you could probably complete it within 20 hours, if you stick with the story quests you wouldn’t really get the most out of it and also you may not find the last few quests as easy without taking the time to collect extra hearts and special items. This game really needs exploring and taking time over so I’m sure you could get many more hours game-time out of this, and Hero mode may give you a reason to replay it in addition to the features unlocked on a second playthrough.
It may not be a brand new Zelda game, but it’s both a beautiful and fun game and with the new features, it’s been brought bang up-to-date. It should keep you busy while you wait for Link’s next adventure . If you’ve never played TWW before, you must play this; if you have, I’m sure you’ll have fun revisiting it and may even be blown away by the visuals as much as you were 11 years ago.