BADGP Reviews: Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD

BADGP Reviews: Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD (Nintendo)

Released: September 20, 2013

December 17, 2013

Nick Weiss

There are few franchises in gaming as revered and cherished as The Legend of Zelda.  At the dawn of the high-definition gaming age, few would have expected Link’s first foray into the world of HD to be rehash of a game that originally debuted with much controversy on the lowly Gamecube.  Surprising as this is and as outlandish as it would have appeared eight years ago, it seems fitting.  If games are about experiences that lead to lasting, beautiful memories, I can think of few games better suited to that task than The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD.  Indeed with Link’s latest console adventure, age and beauty go hand in hand.

Painting with the Colors of the Wind

Wind Waker isn’t a “new” game; in fact it’s been roughly eleven years since its initial release.  The intervening years have been very, very kind, as the game looks as sharp and charming as ever.  The thoughtful touches and stunning visuals from 2002’s release have been greatly improved upon, making the decade old game feel vibrant and new while still retaining the familiar feel you would expect from an HD remake.  The color palette has been retouched and I can’t help but think that the way the game looks now is how it must have looked in the minds of the designers at the time of this Zelda’s initial development.  The point is that The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is an impressive visual feat.  This was true in 2002 and is doubly so today.

The art style, once so maligned and controversy ridden, stands out as one of the most endearing features of the game’s visuals.  Cartoony already in 2002, the retouches given to the title in preparation of the re-release are nothing short of amazing.  Characters and objects seem crisper and better defined this time around.  Details that were once muddled standout vividly and it is hard to find an environment that doesn’t look as though it were lovingly and painstakingly crafted.   From time to time, however, there will be instances where Link’s crisp, cartoony look will give way to something more like a Claymation figure due to the conflict of the character model and how light is cast on it (i.e. when Link approaches a torch in a dungeon).  This is, of course, a pretty minor complaint and doesn’t really detract from the experience in a meaningful way.

Getting Your Sea Legs

One of my initial misgivings was that the gamepad would feel awkward and clunky to use.  Obviously, Nintendo’s controller is a pretty significant departure from the established orthodoxy most recently validated by the PS4 and Xbox One.  Thankfully, these fears were overblown.  The gamepad is surprisingly comfortable to use.  Admittedly, the giant LCD screen doesn’t add a ton of new functionality but it does simplify curating items and assigning them to specific buttons and also makes referencing a map much quicker and less of a hassle.  The second screen, therefore, serves primarily to make life easier even if it doesn’t revolutionize the world and, for this game at least, that’s perfectly fine.

The second screen is useful should you need to play the game while somebody else wants to use the TV for another purpose, like watching a show or movie.  A simple press of the minus button will slide the action to the gamepad and while some of the vividness gets lost in translation, the game still looks great.  Applications like this show why Sony is essentially copying the feature with its Vita integration to the PS4 and Nintendo deserves credit for pioneering this.

Treasure

The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker stands apart for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the charm the game exudes at every turn.  While most games are crafted with great care, it isn’t everyday that one gets a sense of just how much care went into the finished product.  Admittedly there’s a degree of accessibility and whimsy that some later Zeldas have arguably lacked and maybe this game is remembered more fondly as a result.  Hypothesizing aside, The Wind Waker is still a truly enjoyable experience that will mold many, many great memories and will perhaps continue to set a stylistic bar that will persist for another decade or two more.

Score: 9

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