The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD Review

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 *This games was originally reviewed on October 7, 2013.

Developers – Nintendo EAD, Hexadrive (Graphics Reworking)

Publisher – Nintendo


Platform – Wii U


Price – $49.99


The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD has finally hit the Wii U—making it the first Zelda game to be released on Nintendo’s newest home console. I have a long history with The Wind Waker. It was the game that I would play everyday as a kid and ultimately, it was the game that made me a Zelda fan, so you could probably imagine how I felt when Nintendo announced The Wind Waker HD during a Nintendo Direct at the beginning of the year. I was overwhelmed with excitement by the thought of playing The Wind Waker in glorious HD, but at the same time, I was wondering how would Nintendo approach this remake. Luckily, Nintendo did take a smart approach with this remastered version of The Wind Waker, but is The Wind Waker HD the definitive version of the game? And how much did it really improve from the original GameCube game? 

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The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is a Zelda game, meaning the game’s story revolves around rescuing Zelda, but unlike other Zelda titles, The Wind Waker starts off with a completely different motive. Link embarks on his journey with the sole purpose to rescue his younger sister Aryll, who was kidnapped by the Helmaroc King right after Link saved a young sassy pirate named Tetra. Throughout the game Link meets an array of colorful characters who help him out on his grand adventure. One of these characters is The King of Red Lions, who is a talking boat. After meeting Link, The King of Red Lions becomes Link’s companion throughout the whole game. As you progress through the game, Link will acquire an item that’s used to control the direction of the wind called the Wind Waker. The Wind Waker can also be used to do more than just control the direction wind, but for the sake of this review, I won’t spoil anything. Since this is a Zelda game, you can expect to find new items to use throughout the game. Some of these items include the Boomerang and the Grappling Hook. These items are found early in the game and are very useful. 

The Wind Waker has amazing dungeons and bosses. The dungeons are really imaginative and the puzzles really creative. They’re not difficult in any way, but they are really challenging. The Wind Waker features three of the best dungeons that I’ve seen in any Zelda game; The Tower of Gods, The Earth Temple, and The Wind Temple. These dungeons really do stand out from the rest with creative ways to solve puzzles and amazing bosses. Although, The Earth and Wind Temple are by far the best dungeons in the game. Both of these dungeons feature a companion throughout the whole dungeon and this makes the puzzles solving possibilities even more challenging than before. I wish there could’ve been more areas like this in the game, they are extremely creative and fun in every way.

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The Wind Waker is known for having a few dungeons, so the thought in everyone’s mind when Nintendo announced The Wind Waker HD was: are they going to add new dungeons? Sadly, they didn’t. The Wind Waker HD still has the same dungeons that the original has, but now in HD. This isn’t a real set back to the overall experience of the game, but it sure would’ve been nice to have new areas to explore.  

The Wind Waker has the best combat system in any Zelda game. There are many different ways to engage in battle in this game. You can go the classic way with the sword and shield or just mess around by picking up enemy weapons and using them against them. You could also use the items that you collect throughout the game. Personally, I like to mess around with enemies by stealing their loot with the grappling hook and then finishing them off with arrows or the sword.

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What makes The Wind Waker’s sword combat fun and intuitive is the ability to parry. Parry is Link’s counter attack that can be used when you lock-on to enemy and is about to attack you. I can’t begin to explain how satisfying it feels to successfully parry an enemy. This is something that one has to try out for themselves.

The Zelda series is known for having amazing and immersive worlds, and The Wind Waker HD is no exception. Hyrule has been completely flooded and it’s now a massive ocean known as The Great Sea. Although the thought of sailing a massive sea might sound somewhat boring, it really isn’t. There’s a lot of stuff to do in The Great Sea. This includes: finding treasure, exploring small islands, encountering a couple of mini-games, solving puzzles, doing side-quests, and a lot more. Like all Zelda games, The Wind Waker has a huge amount of replay value.

In The Wind Waker Hyrule has been completely flooded, so you spend most of the game sailing through The Great Sea. The original game suffered pacing issues due to the slow sailing—it would take quite some time to sail to and from an island—but now in this version, the slow sailing have been resolved. The Wind Waker HD features an item called the Swift Sail, an item that allows you sail twice as fast and changes the wind direction when you turn. This means you no longer have to bring up the Wind Waker to change the wind’s direction. This is a huge improvement from the original game. It makes the game much more enjoyable for new and old Wind Waker players.

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The sailing wasn’t the only thing that was improved from the original GameCube game. The Wind Waker HD also features a streamlined Triforce Quest. The Triforce quest was also one of the original game’s pacing problems. Luckily Nintendo noticed how bothersome this quest was in the original game and decided to improve it for this version. This is yet another huge improvement from the GameCube game.  

One new feature that veteran Wind Waker players will appreciate is the new difficulty mode called Hero Mode. While playing The Wind Waker HD in Hero Mode, Link will take double damage and hearts will no longer appear during the game; making it so that the player will rely more on fairies and potions to heal. Hero Mode can be turned on and off before you start up your save file. I personally love the inclusion of Hero Mode in The Wind Waker HD. It makes the game much harder and more strategic than ever.

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The Wind Waker HD also has a few small and quite noticeable improvements from the GameCube game.  First off, the item animations have been improved. For Example, in the original Wind Waker, Link about three seconds to start swinging when he used the Grappling Hook. In The Wind Waker HD, it it only takes about one second. Another small improvement is that the Wind Waker is no longer a separate item. In the Wii U version, the Wind Waker is designated to the D-pad, along with the Bomb Cannon and Grappling Hook. This is a small change, but if you’ve played the Wind Waker on the GameCube, you’ll really appreciate this. Other improvements are the ability to move while Link is in first-person, faster text speed, gyro-sensor functionality, and the ability to take selfies with the Picto Box.

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Yes, you can now take selfies in The Wind Waker HD. I honestly love this new feature. I spent most of my first playthrough messing around taking selfies and posting them on Miiverse with the Tingle Bottle. The Tingle Bottle is an item thatreplaces the Tingle Tuner that was part of the GameCube game. The Tingle Bottle can be used to post directly on Miiverse. The Tingle Bottle is really easy to use, all really have to do is write something on it. After it has been sent, your bottle will then appear in someone else’s game and on The Wind Waker HD Miiverse community. This is a neat addition to the game and it’s nice how Nintendo integrated the ability to communicate with other players in a single-player centric game.

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The Wind Waker HD can be played with the GamePad or with a Wii U Pro Controller. Although it’s nice to have the option to choose what controller you want to use to play the game, but this game was clearly designed to be played with the GamePad. Playing with the GamePad lets you multitask; it allows the player to change items on the fly, and you can view the entire map on it. This clears the UI of the game. Just like most Wii U games, The Wind Waker HD can be played directly on the GamePad. This is a great feature, but since you lose the ability to multitask while playing it on the GamePad, it’s not really recommended. Using the Wii U Pro Controller feels great, but you also lose the multitasking feature that the Wii U GamePad provides.

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The Wind Waker HD looks absolutely gorgeous. The game runs smoothly in 1080p and at 30 frames per second. It’s currently one of the few games that actually runs in 1080p. The character models look great and Link has never looked better. Sailing through The Great Sea feels more epic than ever. The Wind Waker HD looks more vibrant and the original. This version also features bloom lighting that give a sense of uncanny realism. It just looks beautiful. It’s definitely the best looking game on the Wii U.

I honestly was surprised when Nintendo announced they were working on an HD remake of The Wind Waker. The original game still looks amazing today with its cel-shaded art style. It remains one of the few games with an art style that looks like it hasn’t aged a day. It was hard to me to imagine how The Wind Waker was going to look in HD. I was worried that they would shamelessly up res the graphics like most of the this past generation’s HD remakes did, but I was completely wrong. Nintendo actually outdid themselves with this remastered version of The Wind Waker.

Music always plays an important part in Zelda games. Every game in the series has memorable music including The Wind Waker. The Wind Waker soundtrack is amazing, it’s one of the best in the series. Every soundtrack sets the mood perfectly; For example The Great Sea theme gives out the sense of adventure and Grandma’s theme sets a mood of hopefulness. 
 
The Wind Waker HD features a remastered version of the soundtrack. It isn’t anything fancy like the orchestrated soundtrack that Skyward Sword had, but it’s an improvement from the GameCube game that I really appreciate.

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The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is an amazing game and it’s the best game that the Wii U has to offer right now. It doesn’t feel much like a remake, it feels like new experience—keep in mind that this is coming from someone who has played The Wind Waker on GameCube a lot of times. For those who’ve played The Wind Waker on GameCube, this version offers a lot of new features that justify revisiting this game, one of them is Hero Mode, something that veteran Wind Waker players will enjoy. It would’ve been nice to have new areas to explore, but overall it has enough improvements from the original that makes The Wind Waker HD the definitive version. The Wind Waker HD is a game that shouldn’t be missed.  If you own a Wii U, you owe it to yourself to experience this amazing game.

Written by: Armando Orona

Aspiring journalist, College student with a dream of writing about video games for a living.