Float On: Wind Waker HD: First Impressions

Float On: Wind Waker HD: First Impressions

I can’t believe 10 years have passed, since the first time I sat down with Wind Waker. Like many other Zelda games, I’ve played it many times since, but this is besides the point. Taking the extra second of acknowledgement, that the game is almost half as old as I am is, in some ways a revelation. The Gamecube seems grom an era gone by, and really, one that almost belongs in the ranks of the retro at this point, but I digress. Nintendo has given extra special attention, to remind Wii U owners why the Wind Waker was such a winner back in the day, and why it still has the Winds of Fate on its side.

I’ll start off with one more acknowledgement, with full awareness I missed the boat on speedy topicality in covering the HD release. The digital copy has been available for a couple of weeks, and the physical disc has been out for an entire week. In internet years, I come bearing relevant interests as old as fossils. I jest only slight of course, if Nintendo thinks a decade year old game is still relevant, then I’m not wrong in thinking the same a week after release. This is neither a traditional preview, nor a review by any stretch of the imagination. These are merely candid thoughts, from one gamer to another.

I had heard countless times from various sources, that the game really had to be seen to be believed. In gaming, simply looking at a screenshot will give you an idea, but seeing in a video game, happens more effectively through your fingers than eyes. So while I had “seen” Wind Waker before hand, this being a re-release and all, the act of merely existing on Outset Isle was far more cathartic than I once imagined, or ever knew. Not as if my eyes were completely irrelevant in this interaction, the game looks gorgeous, and I believe most players upon seeing the title screen for the first time, will share the very same first impression: Wow.

The 1080p HD overhaul does wonders for the game’s vibrancy, the culmination of crisp environment effects and vivid colors, will have no problems drawing you in. A funny after effect of all of this, will trigger a false amnesia of sorts, and will take place when within the world of Wind Waker long enough. After some time, the graphics will seem so agreeable and familiar, you’ll even forget how drab, by comparative standards, the original looked on the Cube.

Which is saying something, as they represented a new level of artistry within the use of cel-shading way back when.

The soundtrack mimics the visuals almost to a T, every tune is ridiculously memorable. From the grand approach of the sailing music, to the quaintness of Windfall Island, you might be amazed these songs ever slipped from your memory to begin with. All of the music combines this weird sense of atmosphere with simplistic tones, as if the music isn’t once removed from the area you’re currently in. The audio and visuals energize each other, and you by extension. The mood of the Wind Waker was always irresistibly inviting, and the HD presence will remind you of the very same.

The controls were never an issue in the original, and they’ve only found benefit on the Wii U gamepad. The entire menu and inventory system are bound to the gamepad, and the touch screen management is as savvy as it is functional. You can opt out of the touch screen stuff, if you’re a less? hands on kind of guy, the gamer who wouldn’t give up that fun thumb feedback for anything in the world.

You can even play on the regular Pro Controller if you wish, but the gamepad adds so much to the experience, I’m not sure why you’d want to. With the gamepad, not only can you switch items on the fly (without pausing), but decluttering the main screen of  UI elements, or any superfluous HUD, keeps the focus front and center on the splendid visuals.

Speaking of gamepad, off screen play is available, which means you can play the entire adventure on the big screen, or take it with you around the house on your gamepad…or in case someone wants to watch some TV of their own. The ease of access in switching is the literal push of a button, and about a one second wait time. While the visuals on the gamepad are not as vibrant, you lose little else in the translation. Off screen play for the Wii U seems like a foreign concept to many without the system, but the versatility in being able to do so, can be a far more worth while game play mechanic than most realize.

Hero Mode is unlocked from the get go, which means any Zelda player seeking more of a challenge, ask and ye shall receive. I appreciate the mode’s inclusion from moment one, as Zelda for the longest time, represented a great challenge to look forward to, something the series moved away from as time went on. In hero mode, you will take double damage, and hearts will no longer be found in the likes of flora or fauna. This doesn’t sound like much with a casual mention, but being there, fighting your way to victory, will be a different story.

The lack of hearts Hero Mode enforces, will make you far more self-conscious in your battles, and will regulate your sense of lazy stupidity. A cool repercussion of the difficulties inclusion, and one that many Zelda fans will likely jump for joy over.

Others will shy away from the challenge, which is fine. Not everyone get their jollies from such death defying thrills.

The gameplay has been left largely untouched, though it was the most polished part of the original experience. I’ve read a few things have been expanded upon later on, like faster sailing and the Triforce fetch quest being smoothed out, but I simply arrived at Dragon Roost in my first couple of hours, divorcing me from such improvements. The basic actions I did engage in, the little things, like discovering treasure by crawling through a hidden opening, parrying enemies to deliver the satisfying coup de grace, or stealthing around in a barrel ala Solid Snake at the Forsaken Fortress, are all just as fantastically engaging as they were ten years ago.

I still believe the Forsaken Fortress is one of the best introduction levels in Zelda history, and for good reason. Both the setting and gameplay elements are once removed, feeling foreign but not forced. This alienation the Fortress embodies, almost has that similar sense of threatening the beginning of Mega Man X does. You remember what it once was like to feel bad ass, but that was once upon a time. After some small success and an iota of confidence is built, your efforts in the face of adversity are in vein, and your ability to survive is almost completely futile.

You barely escape death, due to such vile circumstances.

A wonderfully macabre misdirection, and one that strengthens the sunny optimism of both Outset and Windfall Isle as one powerful interjection. My time with the game was brief, but oh so relaxing. I do believe Nintendo would have done well to hold back the launch of the Wii U another year, so games like Wind Waker HD, could have wowed Wii U fans from day one. Irrelevant in regards to the now, and not a detraction in the slightest for people curious about trying out this engrossing HD release. The Wii U may have had it’s fair share of problems, but a game like Wind Waker HD, is a major reason why the Wii U is becoming relevant.

My brief time with the title, disallows me out-rightly recomending an entire system for purchase, but I can’t ignore my gut feeling. Wind Waker HD, from my first impressions, represents a major reason you should seriously consider picking a Wii U up, so that you may have a chance to once again enjoy sailing The Great Sea with all of it’s warm invitation.

And if that didn’t seal the deal for you, give me one more chance, and pose one last question. What’s more fun than Link taking selfies of himself, and then sending them to your friends for all to see?

The answer is nothing.


Article from Gamersyndrome.com


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About the Author

avatar Managing Editor at gamersyndome.com, freelance journalist, and avid gamer extraordinaire. Pashford has been gaming for over two decades. With several years of writing experience under his belt, he seeks to inform and entertain with his unique insights on the gaming industry. You can find more of his rants and raves at http://activetimeevent.wordpress.com/ or follow him on Twitter @PashfordMurano