by Kevin Willingham

Back when Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was first revealed for the Gamecube it led to a lot of people feeling disappointed. Nintendo originally talked about and showed a much more realistic Legend of Zelda game for the Gamecube to follow up the N64 smash hit that was Ocarina of Time. Of course what they got was Wind Waker, with its cell shaded graphics and very cartoonish style of art like you might find in a children’s story book. It also got rid of the imagery of an adult Link as a master knight and savior of a kingdom and instead we got a very young Link who had to sail vast open seas on a talking boat.

Over the years, Wind Waker has not only become more accepted, it’s become a fan favorite.Now with the Wii U in its infancy, Nintendo has given Wind Waker the HD re-release treatment.Unlike many classic games that have been re-released on the PS3 and XB360, Wind Waker wasn’t just upscaled but also has had a lot of polish added to the already timeless cell shaded artwork. In addition, some new features were added to keep the game feeling more modern and to fully utilize the Wii U Gamepad.

Story-wise it is still the same game and nothing really plays out any differently from the original.  The only point that has really changed is that infamous Triforce hunt that comes towards the end of the title has been minimized in order to allow for a less tedious journey around the oceans. This leaves a lot more time and room for the other side quests; many of which already have a good number of steps as well. Nothing new was really added–  no extra dungeons or bonus quests; but in my opinion Wind Waker doesn’t really need anything like that.

Graphically the game feels the same but there are some big differences once you pay attention. I’m personally glad that they worked at making the game feel the same at first glance but also polished it up enough to make a difference. The characters and lines pop more– feeling much more solid– but still retain their cell shaded look. Though they are much more smooth you can still see their original polygonal composition. Of course it is in widescreen (1080p) and fills your entire screen as any full HD game would making the world feel that much more vibrant and large. A lot of work was done to increase the “bloom” of the lighting; aka making the sun and sparkle much heavier, creating more of an “island” feeling. You can also remove the button prompts and UI from the TV screen to allow for a much more cinematic experience; long-time fans of the game will probably enjoy that the most.

The gameplay isn’t much different either but you get some added features thanks to the Wii U Gamepad. You can now aim weapons using the motion control of the Gamepad and your entire inventory is displayed on the screen so you can manage it on the fly instead of pausing. The motion control for aiming your arrows and boomerang takes some getting use, but as I adapted I found myself using it without thinking. The inventory being displayed on the Gamepad screen is a great feature and is what allows for you to remove the UI on your main screen. It also has tabs to look at your world and dungeon maps and one for your MiiVerse social integration. Later in the game, you can get an item that can speed up and make sailing easier– this is a welcome option to add. Everything else about Wind Waker plays just like the original, as it should.

 The MiiVerse integration is a really nice feature and different from other games so far since it actually plays off the theme of Wind Waker, a vast explorable ocean with islands. Now you can use something called a Tingle Bottle and the camera (PictoBox) that was available in the original to send out messages in the bottle with a picture included if you so desire. These bottles then float around in the ocean and appear in other people’s games and of course you’ll find ones in your game as well. It is a cute feature and I enjoyed finding a bottle on the beach of whatever island I’m on with some picture of someone’s journey through the game. As an added bonus the new PictoBox can take self portraits with Link able to make several expressions, allowing for fun narratives to be made when coming up against a boss or just a good part of the story.

Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD is a great re-release of a classic Gamecube title. It keeps the original intact while adding new features and a very well done new coat of paint. The game still has plenty to do just as it did originally and is just as enjoyable as it was when it first came out. Plus it still has one of the best soundtracks from any Legend of Zelda game. It is a perfect Wii U game for a fan of the original or someone looking to try Wind Waker for the first time.As a special release and with such work done to it it is priced a bit higher than most HD re-releases at $49.99, but it is worth every penny.