Right now we are in the age of HD remakes; or as I like to call it, the “Catch Up Era.” Many companies are producing and releasing remastered versions of older games for newcomers and longtime fans while they wait for the next new installment of their favorite franchise. With Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds coming out in a few days and more info on Zelda WiiU to come soon, Nintendo decided to treat fans and try to attract new ones with the latest remake, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD.
Believe it or not, I actually missed this one when it originally came out. I did not have a Gamecube to play it on and was eventually given the opportunity to play the Gamecube version on my Wii. Unfortunately, I never ended up finishing it or getting very far. This was my opportunity to finally play through it and see what all the fuss was about
When you start the game you are given the choice to use either the Gamepad or the Wii U Classic Controller Pro. I used the Gamepad for my playthrough and I am happy to report that it worked really well. Link controls like a charm. However, be sure to map items that enable Link to go into first-person to the R button (more on this later). If you use the Gamepad, you can transfer the game to the touchscreen by pressing (-). I found it really fascinating to see the entire game running on that small screen, and the graphics do not seem to have been compromised much! If you play on the TV, the Gamepad will be used for maps and for your inventory. You can use the stylus and touchscreen to swap weapons on the fly without pausing your game. Of course, if that proves to be too annoying you can still do it the old-fashioned way by pausing your game.
When you select a file, you are also given a choice of difficulty: Normal or Hero mode. This was my first full playthrough of Wind Waker, so I decided to play it on Hero Mode! Hero Mode is an all new mode for this version of the game. No hearts appear in the game at all and enemies inflict double damage on poor little Link. I know what everyone is thinking: Why in the world would I do that to myself? I have played and owned several Zelda games in the past, my first one being Link’s Awakening on the Gameboy Pocket back in the day. I came into this game wanting a different experience from what I was used to. I know many players will feel intimidated by this mode, but I highly encourage fans of the series or those who want a challenge to try it out. It is definitely a different experience from the norm. Zelda games are known to always give the player many hearts, allowing lots of room for error, but not having this luxury urges the player to be a lot more careful with his/her actions. Besides, if you find the game too difficult you can change it back to Normal Mode at any time.
You will be surprised how quickly and easily you can lose the three hearts you begin the game with. It does get a bit easier later on in the game because you can still obtain fairies and keep them in bottles along with potions. One thing that is nice about the dungeons in this game is that they feature warp pots. Thanks to this, you can get back to where you were relatively quickly if Link bites the dust.
Speaking of Link, this is the game that introduced us to the Toon Link style. I have to say, Toon Link may be my favorite Link. He has so much emotion and character that other incarnations of Link lack. Throughout the game, you will see Link make many silly and funny faces as he interacts with the NPCs and environment. Another new addition to this version is the ability for Link to take selfies (hey, it’s a real word now!). When you get access to the Pictograph at Windfall Island, Link can take a picture of himself and upload them to Facebo-I mean, the Miiverse for other players to see and ‘yeah’ (the equivalent of a Facebook ‘like’). While taking the picture, you can control and choose Link’s facial expression with the analog stick. You can put these pictures in what is called a Tingle Bottle and send them to other players’ games. Expect to see some very creative ones. I once received one that contained a picture of Link in front of a boss! These bottles will appear on the field or in the ocean, and if picked up their contents will appear on the gamepad screen or the status screen. There is an option to filter out pictures that may have spoilers, which is a clever feature! The Tingle Bottles replace the GameCube version’s Tingle Tuner, a device that allowed a second player to control Tingle and help Link find some special items.
The game takes place after the events of Ocarina of Time. Hyrule has sunken deep underwater, and now people live on several islands spread across the vast ocean. The game begins on this incarnation of Link’s 10th birthday. It is customary for select kids on the island to wear a green tunic when they turn 10, to commemorate the accomplishments of the Link from Ocarina of Time. This game introduces a parry as a new mechanic. Based on your position and timing, if an enemy attacks you a certain way the (A) button will appear on the bottom of the screen. Should you press it, Link will dodge and counter the enemy. This is very useful for some of the enemies you encounter later on. You can also use your shield to knock an enemy’s weapon away, pick it up and use it. Eventually, after giving the player time to get used to the controls and talk to some of the NPCs, a giant bird kidnaps Link’s little sister and takes her to the Forsaken Fortress. Link sets out to go rescue her.
A couple hours into the game you are introduced to the King of Red Lions, who is a talking boat! This is going to be your main means of travel across the giant ocean. You also gain access to the Wind Waker, which is this game’s obligatory musical device. With it you can conduct the wind, allowing you to change which direction the wind blows. This affects how fast you can sail your ship, and the effectiveness of certain items. This leads us to one of the main criticisms of the original game: the sailing. Many complained that sailing was boring and that there was not enough in the actual ocean considering how much time you spend on it. Also, some gamers were not a fan of constantly having to change the direction of the wind. Wind Waker HD remedies this somewhat by giving the player access to the Swift Sail. With the upgraded sail equipped, the wind will always blow in the direction the ship is facing, allowing Link to travel much faster. While it is definitely a nice addition, it makes the song that allowed you to change the wind relatively useless except for certain situations.
To be honest, I actually enjoyed sailing. The Great Sea is massive, containing many ships that are not afraid to attack, metal sharks to dodge, giant squid mini-bosses, treasure chests to find, enemy bases and several islands to explore. All of this is happening under the incredibly bright and blue sky. Watching sunset in this game is truly a sight to behold. Also, the draw distance, or how far you can actually see in the ocean or on land, is very impressive! Seriously, few games are able to pull this off without having some sort of lag. You have to see it to believe it.
Which brings me to my next point: the graphics. The original game was known for and criticized for its heavy usage of cel shading, which made it look like a cartoon. This game changes that a bit by adding several lighting and shading effects which add more depth to the models and more defined shadows. I’m sure the purists will rage at this, but in my opinion the game never looked better. These graphics are also accompanied by a fantastic soundtrack, but it’s far from the best the series has to offer. Each boss has their own theme, which is really nice, and one boss fight in particular is a mashup of previous themes from the series. I really like the theme for the Helmaroc King because it sounded really heroic. After all, that was the bird that stole Link’s sister in the beginning of the game, so it’s only fitting for him to get an epic theme. Molgera’s theme is also really catchy and was featured in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. The bosses are not terribly difficult, but if you are playing on Hero Mode like I was, some of them have moves that can be very devastating and take up a large amount of your hearts.
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