The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD aims to take one of the most expansive Zelda titles and rehaul it for the Wii U. The original Gamecube game holds up remarkably well, but I would not hesitate to recommend it over this new version. Wind Waker’s remake allows players to turn off the UI, manage their entire inventory on the Gamepad without interrupting the game, and of course, experience a vast world littered with secrets and treasure to find. Playing Wind Waker HD on the Gamepad feels great, although the Wii U Pro Controller is also an option. Personally, I found the experience to be best by using the Pro controller but keeping the Gamepad close by to serve as a map at all times.
As you can tell by the game’s title, this version of Wind Waker features updated textures from the original and you can notice a difference by viewing even a single screenshot. While the cel-shading that the game uses looks great no matter the hardware it is on, the update textures make it looks even better, and it is by far the best looking game I have seen on the Wii U yet, especially when sailing around. The draw distance seems to have been much improved, helping you dive deeper into Wind Waker’s world. Unfortunately, the graphics seem to put too much of strain on the Wii U in some areas, causing frame drops in a few places. Although the framerate drops are few and far between, they still interrupt the flow of combat when they occur, although they never really hindered my progress through the game.
Most of the mechanics from Wind Waker return, such as filling out your sea chart and collecting figurines. Not many things have been added to this HD remake mechanics wise, although I do not really feel like it needed anything extra. The few things that have been added are exactly what I could ask for, the most notable example being the Swift Sail. After completing the first dungeon, you can go to the auction house on Windfall Island at night and bid on the Swift Sail. Once you acquire it, you will never go back to the original sail. When using the Swift Sail, the wind is automatically placed behind the sail, and the sail just causes the King of Red Lions to go faster in general. This made sailing much less of a chore than in the first game, and actually turned it into one of the most rewarding experiences I have had in a Zelda game.
As it was in the original, the combat in Wind Waker HD is still my personal favorite in any Zelda game. Every time you strike an enemy, a tense music note plays with the background music, and the combos that Link can perform with simple button presses are often powerful and rewarding. Also, when enemies are defeated, they have a chance of dropping a crystal ball that when struck will release several different treasures ranging from rupees to unique quest items. Slashing these reward crystals is a very satisfying feeling when it comes to adventure games in general, and Wind Waker HD does not stop there. Scattered across the Great Sea are little puddles and beams of light that when the boat’s grapple hook is lowered in to them, it will return with a treasure chest that often include heart pieces or large rupee rewards. While some of these are tied to treasure charts that you find throughout the world, many of them are random, and you can be surprised by them at any moment. While Wind Waker has a great story to tell, simply roaming around and hunting for treasures was my favorite part of playing Wind Waker.
If you are even the slightest Zelda fan, you cannot go wrong with this improved version of one of the most ambitious titles in the entire series. The game has a massive amount of replay value and is definitely worth the $50 purchase. While the journey may seem familiar, this experience should not be passed up.