WiiU

North America

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD

by Neal Ronaghan - September 18, 2013, 10:01 am PDT
Total comments: 20

10

Waking the winds never felt this good.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is the second substantial Zelda remake in the past three years, and while the other one, 2011’s Ocarina of Time 3D, is a fine port of a classic, Wind Waker HD does more than just port over the already fantastic experience of Wind Waker on GameCube. Instead, it fine tunes the whole experience, streamlining it and making it flow more organically. Wind Waker HD is the definitive version of an already amazing game.

For the uninformed, Wind Waker, the original 2003 GameCube release, is a celebrated Zelda game that is a slightly different experience than most entries in the series. It’s not as dungeon heavy, but it makes up for that with some of the finest exploration, emboldened by a vast sea filled with areas to explore and secrets to uncover. It also tells the best story in the franchise that will pull on your nostalgic Ocarina of Time heartstrings until they plunge into some enemy’s head. Even before this HD remake, Wind Waker was in contention for the “Best Zelda Game Ever” and this lovingly crafted Wii U version makes an even better case for the esteemed title.

The little things are what make Wind Waker HD work so well. While the whole game can be played using the Wii U Pro Controller, you’d be missing out on the delightful enhancements that the two-screen setup employs if you choose not to use the GamePad. Similar to Ocarina of Time 3D, all of the menu screens are on the GamePad. You can easily drag and drop your items around, shifting what is active. You can do this in the middle of gameplay in a similar manner as Skyward Sword’s item menu. It’s wonderfully smooth and intuitive.

All the maps are also displayed on the GamePad, making it easier to figure out where to go without slowing down gameplay. Throw that in with the new Swift Sail, which doesn’t require you to change wind direction to move around, and sailing is brisker than ever. You can be sailing in one direction as you check the map around you to see where you want to go next. It removes the barriers that held up the rewarding exploration in the past. However, the Swift Sail is quite obtuse to get, and unless you know exactly when it’s available, you could still be faced with several hours of old-school slow sailing. It is mentioned by one of the lovable Fishmen if you take the time to explore, but hiding one of the game’s greatest solutions to its most controversial mechanic seems peculiar. So ProTip: Go to the Auction House after the Dragon Roost Cavern.

Adding to the gameplay efficiency, a lot of key items don’t even need to be equipped. The titular Wind Waker is just permanently mapped to the D-pad, and while sailing, the grappling hook and the bombs are also always on the D-pad. The sail, which would have to be equipped and raised up while sailing in the past, is now activated by the press of a button while in the boat. Additionally, you can use the GamePad’s motion controls to aim your arrows, grappling hooks, etc. in conjunction with an analog stick. It’s wonderful for adjusting your aim right before firing. It is a little disorienting when you’re playing just on the GamePad, though. None of this is earth-shattering; they are just really smart tweaks that make playing the game even better.

Wind Waker HD’s second act does have a bit of an earth-shattering change, though. The maligned Triforce shard hunt is vastly reduced. Instead of having to find eight charts that require a whopping 398 rupees each to translate, you only need to find three charts. None of the adventuring to find the shards is all that different, though. Basically, instead of having to find the chart and then go to a specific point in the sea to pull up the shard, you just find them where you would find the chart. It makes a padded, drawn-out late-game quest still feel fulfilling, just not as arduous.

The combat isn’t too deep, but it has a very rewarding feel to it. Part of that is courtesy of the musical flourishes, which build up as you attack enemies into a satisfying crescendo. Also, the parry system, which is no more difficult than timing a button press, makes you feel like a complete and total bad ass every single time you use it. Combat isn’t as deep or creative as it is in sequels, Twilight Princess or Skyward Sword, but Wind Waker’s fighting doesn’t feel like it’s missing anything. It might be simple, but it sure is fun, especially when the enemies make goofy noises and die in a puff of smoke.

Wind Waker HD is an excellent remake of an awesome game. It takes the best and worst parts of the experience and makes them both better. It makes a game that is already spectacular and improves on it. That’s not an easy feat, but Nintendo’s first HD remake sticks the landing so well that you’ll leave it wanting them to do remakes in this vein for every one of their classic games. If you’ve never played Wind Waker before, drop everything and play this game. It’s not substantially different enough to be a requirement to play if you’ve enjoyed it before, but if you ever have the urge to replay it, your warm, fuzzy memories will still be intact if you play Wind Waker HD.

Summary

Pros
  • Many small improvements make the game even better
  • Memorable characters and story
  • Simple yet fun combat
  • Vastly improved pacing
  • Wondrous exploration and secrets
Cons
  • Swift Sail obtuse to obtain

Talkback

Leo13September 18, 2013

You jerk! You just made my wallet $50 lighter. I was on the border about this game (I’ve never played it before) but after reading your review I’ll be downloading tomorrow it at 10pm (I love how the digital releases are midnight eastern and 10pm for me!!!)

Do you still have to sit there and watch your boat sail across the ocean for five minutes at a stretch? I understand the Swift Sail, but my goodness was that some terrible design in the original game.

Leo13September 18, 2013

Jon it was my understanding that in the Gamecube version you didn't sail any faster because that's as fast as the Gamecube could load the content without having a loading screen. So with increased performance of Wii U you can now sail faster.

Swift Sail makes sailing way faster. Actually...

Quote:

Throw that in with the new Swift Sail, which doesn’t require you to change wind direction to move around, and sailing is brisker than ever. You can be sailing in one direction as you check the map around you to see where you want to go next. It removes the barriers that held up the rewarding exploration in the past.

SorenSeptember 18, 2013

There's a video on YouTube. I can't find it on my phone but It's way faster. Sailing from one end of the map to the other with the wind at your favor takes 3:50 with the Swift Sail while doing the same on the Gamecube took 7 minutes or more. Add not having to change wind direction every time you make a turn and sailing times should be way down this time around.

iDraTionSeptember 18, 2013

Can NWR just coin and retire the word "obtuse" in the gaming context and move on from it?  EVERY game has something that's obtuse to you guys.

I will make a sincere effort to not use "obtuse" in the near future. A quick Google search shows I seem to have a crush on the term over the past year or two. Don't lump the rest of the site in when I've used the word to describe obtuse things in 4 of the 80+ reviews I've written between Steel Diver and Wind Waker HD.

ShyGuySeptember 18, 2013

Re-releases of Zelda titles are usually immune to the Zelda Cycle, right?

NintendadSeptember 19, 2013

Do you still have to beat the game before the picture taking and figurines become available? I like that feature but will not play through twice to experience it.

The Pictograph Box and figurine gallery were available in the first playthrough of the original.
The one that was hardest to get, Link riding on the King of Red Lions, was obtained by completing the entire gallery and most people missed it the first time around because they unlocked the gallery after beating a few once-off enemies.

That said, it was still possible to complete the entire gallery in a first-play of the game as well, I've done it twice.

MagicCow64September 19, 2013

Man, the Triforce hunt really gets dumped on like the game was literally pulling out your fingernails. I thought it worked okay as a part of the extremely ocean heavy nature of the game, and also gave rupees a real use, which happens in almost no other modern Zelda game. But then again I'm also weirdly fixated on Tingle and wish Nintendo didn't treat him like their Jar Jar Binks.

AdrockSeptember 19, 2013

The Triforce hunt is ill-timed and way too time consuming to be fun. Coupled with the way sailing required constantly changing wind directions, traveling to different parts of the sea was a chore at that point in the game (even with teleporting). Sailing lost its sense of wonder with so little left of the world to discover that I just wanted to get on with the rest of the game. The last dungeon, from what I remember, was excellent as were the gauntlet of bosses leading up to Ganondorf which makes the Triforce hunt even more of a hassle in hindsight. One of the best parts of the game is delayed for hours to collect "triumph forks." Fetch quests just aren't that fun in any game.

And if this was the best way Nintendo could think of to justify Rupee use, they seriously need to go back to the drawing board.

JRokujuushiSeptember 20, 2013

There were some secrets in the original game that could only be found using the Tingle Tuner. Since the Tuner has been replaced with the Bottle in the HD edition, is there an alternate way to access those secrets, or have they been removed entirely?

Ian SaneSeptember 20, 2013

The Triforce hunt is just blatant padding.  In the old days it isn't like games would just halt and make you do something completely unrelated to the rest of the game before you could continue.  On the Gamecube Nintendo suddenly got really scared about game length so Wind Waker and Metroid Prime both have out-of-nowhere fetch quests towards the end.  It's the gameplay equivalent of having an 8 minute "experimental" song on an album to fill the CD.  It's better to just have a slightly shorter game with better pacing.  What good is a longer game if the extra time is spent doing boring busywork?

Of course what made the padding more annoying in Wind Waker is that there were clearly dungeons cut from the game.  If Nintendo had kept those dungeons in then the game length might have reached their goal without padding so we realistically traded those dungeons for a fetch quest (and, to be fair, an earlier release date).

Rubber Band AISeptember 20, 2013

I always find it jarring when I read complaints about this game. If you hate padding or things that take time, then you must LOATHE Skyward Sword.

I could only possibly find sailing a pain if you are in a rush to just finish the game. I found it pure joy for escapist adventure and exploration.


Same with that last fetch quest - I didn't notice how much time or effort it took because I was enjoying exploring the game so much.

AdrockSeptember 20, 2013

As a matter of fact, I loathed Skyward Sword. I only finished it out of principle since I spent $70 on it. I won't go as far as to say that the game was bad or poorly made. It was mainly just "not for me." Too many things I. The game absolutely pissed me off. For brevity's sake, I won't list them all. However, I will say that it has the absolute most infuriating and impossible heart piece to attain in the entire series. Seriously, fuck you, Fun Fun Island. I never got it, but the prize of a single heart piece isn't even worth trouble. For that nonsense, the prize should have been Samus' arm cannon with the hyper beam which one-shots every enemy in the game, including the final boss.

MagicCow64September 20, 2013

Quote from: Rubber

I always find it jarring when I read complaints about this game. If you hate padding or things that take time, then you must LOATHE Skyward Sword.

I could only possibly find sailing a pain if you are in a rush to just finish the game. I found it pure joy for escapist adventure and exploration.


Same with that last fetch quest - I didn't notice how much time or effort it took because I was enjoying exploring the game so much.

This is basically my position. Granted, I was younger when I played it and might not have the patience anymore, but I loved sailing and treasuring hunting. The high cost also made keeping up with the treasure maps worth it the entire game (if in retrospect).

Leo13September 20, 2013

I never played this game because I was that guy that hated the art style and utterly refused (remember I was in Jr. High so my abililty to think and reason wasn't that great) The more I read about the slow sailing and the tri-force hunt the more I think I would have hated both. However it sounds like they were both fixed for this remake so I downloaded the game last night. I plan to start right after work today

PhilPhillip Stortzum, September 20, 2013

I've only played through the GameCube original once, and that was around release. It seems like a no-brainer to pick up this enhanced version for Wii U.

Ian SaneSeptember 20, 2013

Quote from: Rubber

I always find it jarring when I read complaints about this game. If you hate padding or things that take time, then you must LOATHE Skyward Sword.

Skyward Sword is rough.  While I wouldn't call either title a bad game, Wind Waker is the better title.  But then it shouldn't get a free pass because Nintendo made a Zelda with even MORE padding.

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The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD Box Art

Genre Action
Developer Nintendo

Worldwide Releases

na: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
Release Sep 20, 2013
PublisherNintendo
RatingEveryone 10+
jpn: Zelda no Densetsu: Kaze no Takuto
Release Sep 26, 2013
PublisherNintendo
RatingAll Ages
eu: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
Release Oct 04, 2013
PublisherNintendo
aus: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
Release Oct 05, 2013
PublisherNintendo
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