The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD is a perfect example of how to take an already great game and further improve upon what makes the Zelda franchise so amazing. However there exists some minor issues that persists which become more apparent due to the older nature of the game in terms of its design which was rectified in later Zelda entries.
*Skip ahead to the Improvement part if you already played Wind Waker before
Wind Waker takes place in the “Adult Link” timeline in the Legend of Zelda Universe. “Adult Link” sealed Gannon in Ocarina of Time, but, due to the fact that it was actually “Child Link” going into the future to do the deed in the “Adult Link” timeline, once Gannon was sealed “Child Link-as-Adult Link” returned to his “Child” self when going back in time. This left a gap where no hero was present and Gannon was revived again. As a result, the gods, in an effort to keep Gannon away from the Tri-Force, flooded Hyrule. All that is left of Hyrule is tall mountains that have become islands due to the flood with your adventure beginning on Outset Island where Link’s sister is stolen by a mysterious bird and you must go on an adventure to rescue her.
As you might expect this handles much like any other Zelda game, you have a sword, you have a shield, and you have a princess that needs saving. One of the new additions for combat that was introduced in this Zelda when it first launched was a counter-attack system where pressing A at the correct time would result in you usually spinning around the enemy and attacking them from the back. While this is a generally nice mechanic (as it added another layer of complexity to fighting), it does slow the combat down as a fair amount of enemies require you to counter attack to even damage them, so this results in a lot of “HURRY UP ALREADY” moments when playing. Which speaks to one of the few problems that exist with Wind Waker: its far too easy. Enemies never seem to truly challenge you , even when they are presented in large numbers they topple over with a few swings of your sword. The hardest enemies are ones that require a special item simply due to the fact that you have to equip the item, however that has been made easier with the gamepad. Puzzles tend to be very simplistic barring a few exceptions that only seem to be difficult due to newer mechanics introduced in Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword
BUT (and this is a big BUT), easy is not always a bad thing. Sometimes it’s just enjoyable to go along for the ride and not over-think something and that’s what Wind Waker does great; you hop on the ride and have a good time. Most of the difficulty that is present in Wind Waker revolves around the exploration of the open seas, and trying to remember what each island is called when you have a treasure map that vaguely shows you where to go. This is streamlined, though, due to the Wii U Gamepad allowing you to keep the sea chart open the whole time. Overall the gameplay is just as smooth as before with minor improvements in the control department which makes everything smooth sailing (see what i did there).
The Zelda franchise has always been known for its iconic atmosphere since the inception of Ocarina of Time. Wind Waker takes the old settings and adds a whole new twist where the sea is the majority of the world. The new settings open up new issues, however, that were not present in other Zelda titles. For one thing, side quests seem to have lost their worth due to three main factors: first, the sea is big, and many side quests are spread out through the whole world and take a fair amount of time to complete; second, is the fact that Wind Waker is on the easier side, devaluing side quests by making the rewards not as essential; third, the rewards are somewhat uninteresting, because (for the most part) every reward you receive is a heart piece and in a game where there is not much difficulty, having a bigger health bar just isn’t much of a benefit anymore. Now there are a few improvements that are worth the effort, though these are SUPER easy to obtain making the others seem like even more of a chore.
But the sea is a lovely looking place with the graphics overhaul, so it will likely take the edge off of some of the boring sidequests if you do decide to complete them.
It is key to remember that this is simply an HD version of a game, this is not a remake! I cant express how many times people fail to grasp the difference between the two, so lets break it down quickly:
- HD version should mostly be polish with minor improvements. To use a car analogy, you applied a new set of paint and a tuneup.
- Remakes involve changing core mechanics of the game. In terms of a car, it would be keeping the body and look while changing out major components.
So lets take a look at the improvements. The biggest and most noticeable is the graphics, as you can see they really improved upon the originals which were already extremely stylistic. The best way to describe the graphic overhaul is everything now “pops” in that most things are brighter and more vibrant. Suffice it to say, the game looks gorgeous. Now if you remember the original you would fondly remember that sailing was a slow process… a very slow process until you gained the ability to use cyclones to teleport. To help speed things up, the addition of the swift sail helps you go faster while removing the need to change wind directions (such a tedious process). Unfortunately but the only way to acquire it is by a night-only auction that you have you go to two times prior before the swift sale is made available. Such a major addition to this HD version should be in a much more prominent area that players will actually stumble across rather then hidden in a small area with limited access conditions.
Other changes such as the improved tri force collection quest have been streamlined by having less steps. Simple things such as shorter times to play the Wind Waker and the added ability to access your inventory quickly and easily from the gamepad help to improve this HD version over the original.
One added bonus is the addition of hero mode to help quell the problem of it being easy by making heart replenishment only gained from potions. While it is a nice addition, the fact that you have to complete the game to access it is asinine for a game that you know others have played before. It was disappointing to know that hero mode didn’t go to the length that Master’s Quest did in Ocarina of Time, not just by making things hit harder but making puzzles harder and slightly reworking dungeons.
Wind Waker HD is a great game to pick up if you’re a Zelda fan or never had a chance to play Wind Waker as it streamlines much of the game to make it more enjoyable. However, if you managed to play the original Wind Waker, the amount of changes made simply can’t justify the current price tag and it would be best to wait for a sale.