The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD review

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD for the Wii U shows that even decade-old games can still play great and look amazing with some graphical tweaks.
Photo of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD

Good games don’t get old, they just get graphical upgrades. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker for the Nintendo Gamecube is one of the most beloved games in the series (next to Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time), and its cartoonish graphical style is certainly the most striking. Nintendo has brought it back as a way to show off what the Wii U can do with The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD. This $49.99 (direct) remake takes a title that still plays great and gives its bright, colorful graphics a high-definition makeover. The result is a game that not only holds up, but stands as one of the best titles on the Wii U.

High-Definition Art
The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker was always a visually striking game, but in high definition on the Wii U it looks downright gorgeous. The cell-shaded, cartoonish art style works perfectly in HD, making every frame look like a colorful painting. It doesn’t have quite the sense of creating world with brushstrokes like Okami HD (a game that explicitly based its aesthetics off of Japanese sumi-e painting techniques), but it manages to be every bit as striking in its own style. Nintendo might not have flexed the Wii U’s graphical muscle with realistic graphics yet, but between Wind Waker HD and Wonderful 101 it’s proven that its first high-definition system can put out some great-looking games.

You can play with the Wii U Gamepad or the Wii U Pro Controller. The optional Pro Controller offers the most conventional, Gamecube-like experience, while the Wii U Gamepad uses the touch screen and motion sensors for some useful tricks. By default, the game appears on your HDTV while the Wii U Gamepad touch screen shows your item menu or a map of sea or the dungeon you’re exploring. The – (minus) button switches between other modes, including one that shows the entire game on the touch screen so you can play it without the HDTV connected (which is handy if you want to keep playing while someone wants to watch Breaking Bad or My Little Pony).

Just Like the Original
The game is mostly untouched from the Gamecube version in design and controls. You use your sword and three assigned items out of many you collect on your adventures to fight through dungeons, solve puzzles, and explore the seas. While you can use the Wii U Gamepad’s motion sensors to aim weapons like the grappling hook, boomerang, and bow (and frame photos with the Pictobox), the action, dungeon design, story, layout, and basically every major detail of the game is the same as it was nearly 11 years ago. Wind Waker was excellent back then, and considering a game from the system generation before, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, is not only still held as one of the best Zelda games but was rereleased on the Nintendo 3DS and still holds up to this day, Wind Waker’s decade-old mechanics and challenges are still satisfying.

Nintendo made the tedious Triforce quest in the game a bit easier by putting most of the pieces on the islands and only forcing you to search the seas for a handful of them. However, navigating the ocean is still fairly boring, especially early in the game. Sailing the King of Red Lions can be soothing and there are plenty of little things scattered around the seas to discover, but going between major islands is still a minor chore of waiting and lazily dodging enemies. It’s the nature of the game and its world; the seas simply can’t be as convenient or densely packed with detail like land can. It’s not a total loss, though; the sea still has plenty of hidden treasures, and sailing can be a nice, calming punctuation to the adventure and action of the islands if it doesn’t wear out its welcome. With dungeons, islands, and the ocean to explore, Wind Waker HD can easily take a solid 20 hours to complete even without collecting everything.

Hero Mode and Conclusion
If the game is too easy for you, you can set “Hero Mode” at any time from the loading screen. This mode doubles the damage enemies deal and removes all recovery hearts from the game, so you’ll have to rely on fairies and potions to heal you. This isn’t as ornate as the Master Quest or mirror modes of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, but it’s still a nice boost in challenge. Best of all, you can use it at the start, without needing to beat the game, and you can turn it off any time if it gets too hard.

It’s strange to think that a remake of a game from two console generations ago is one of the best titles available on the Wii U, but that’s what The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD is. It isn’t a condemnation of the Wii U’s library, but a testament to how some Zelda games truly stand up over time. Like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Wind Waker HD shows that some games aren’t ever truly past their prime, and can still give deep, compelling, enjoyable experiences. It looks great with new graphics and it plays great with old design. This is a remake that stands as a must-have title.

Specifications
Genre Action Games
Platform Nintendo Wii U
ESRB Rating E for Everybody

Verdict
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD for the Wii U shows that even decade-old games can still play great and look amazing with some graphical tweaks.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc