The Legend of Zelda as a franchise, let’s be fair, lacks in many areas when compared to other games. It is not the prettiest or most graphically refined, nor does it have the most original story or gameplay. Heck, each game is basically the same thing over and over again. The games, for the most part, don’t appear to occur in any particular order, and if one tries to tie them together, there are discrepancies galore. Despite this, the Legend of Zelda is probably one of my favorite video game series.
The games have a certain charm about them. They have that certain something that not only keeps you entertained while you’re playing, but also keeps you wanting more when they’re over. Nintendo seems to have found the perfect balance between story, action, and puzzles that keep people coming back. The only changing variable between the games within the franchise is the tone that that basic story is told in. This is perhaps what truly keeps the games fresh.
The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker is one of the more notable entries in regards to this. It followed one of the most critically acclaimed games ever made at the time, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and dared to change just about every aspect that people loved about it. Instead of being dark and more realistic like its predecessor, Wind Waker went in the complete opposite direction, choosing to be bright, colorful, and very cartoony.
Originally released on the Nintendo Gamecube in 2003, the game is based in an open sea full of little islands, and not much else. The player plays as the reincarnated Hero of Time, who, despite being a child, discovers that he has to stop the evil intentions of the resurrected Ganon and rescue the descendant of princess Zelda. Its slightly changed-up story is by far one of the most interesting in the series, but its departure from its darker predecessor to its new bright and cartoony style was met with a lot of criticism, not least of which came from me.
I played the game when it was first released, and enjoyed it, but longed for the return of the old, darker look. That being said, Wind Waker has grown on me over the years, and after playing its HD remastered version, I find myself appreciating it in ways my 12-year-old self probably couldn’t have.
First and foremost, in regards to The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD, the new updated graphics must be mentioned. They are absolutely stunning! Nintendo adjusted the color gamut and the lighting, changed some of the effects, altered the appearance of the clouds and sunlight, and DANG does it look pretty. I found myself sometimes just looking at the screen, not even caring to play. It was like a work of art. It has an effect that more realistic games just can’t compete with. It has style! It is a 100% improvement over the old version of the game, and the graphics alone, in all of their cartoony glory, make it worth playing.
Its art style aside, Wind Waker also had some of the best gameplay in the series, perfecting the auto-targeting system that its predecessor introduced, and adding gameplay mechanics that the series never had before. Puzzles and dungeons however, for the most part, aren’t the best or most memorable compared to other Zelda games, and the game is by far one of the easiest titles to beat in the series.
One of the biggest drags on the game is the sailing required to get from one island to the next. The act of sailing can easily take up a good third or quarter of the time spent in the game, and aside from dodging the occasional shark, mine, or octopus, there really isn’t much to do while you are traveling. Added to that, if you want to go in another direction, you have to change the direction of the wind, which involves playing a song and can be a bit time-consuming. The HD version does address this, however, adding an extra, optional item called the Swift Sail, which allows you to sail twice as fast and eliminates the need to change the wind’s direction as it does it for you automatically.
Another item that was added to the HD version is the selfie camera. In the original version, you could find a camera hidden on one of the islands, and use it to complete some of the side quests in the game. In the newer version, you can now turn the camera back on your character and have him make faces over whatever happens to be behind you. You can then upload those onto Nintendo’s social network and have people Like and comment on it.
I can’t tell you how many selfies I took with bosses and clever (I thought) captions in the background. Of all the additions Nintendo added to this game, this one was by far the best. I’d be surprised if more games don’t have this Twitter-esk function in the future. It was a blast to use!
As I said before, the dungeons in the game are not as memorable or difficult as some of the others in the series. There also seemed to be fewer of them as well. The final dungeon, however, is an exception. It, along with the final showdown with Ganon is actually one of the best finales of any game I’ve played. I don’t want to spoil anything, so all I’ll say is that it was pretty dang epic.
Some people are now calling this game a masterpiece. I wouldn’t go that far, although it may be close. There are certainly things that could be better about it. The sailing was tedious, despite being a novel idea when the game was first introduced, and the dungeons could definitely have been more difficult. It leaves something to be said of a game that can be played ten years after its release and not feel outdated. By the nature of hardware limitations and changes in storytelling trends, such games are extremely rare. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker is definitely one of those games. Even its graphics, updated to HD or not, thanks to its heavy cartoon style, hold up better than even some of the newer entries in the series.
Overall, I give this game a 9 out of 10.
What do you guys think? Comment below!