Legend Of Zelda: Wind Waker HD Review: Wii U Gets A Blast From The Past

The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is a revamped re-release of the classic Nintendo Gamecube adventure RPG. It's out on the Wii U on 20 September (via eShop) and 4 October (physical release).

The Pitch:

"As the definitive version of the game, you will experience The Legend of Zelda™: The Wind Waker HD in gorgeous, fully remastered 1080p graphics. Enjoy high-definition cell-shaded brilliance on your TV or entirely on the Wii U GamePad controller."

New Features:

  • Remastered HD graphics
  • Streamlined interface - complete with Wii U Gamepad integration
  • Faster sailing
  • 'Tingle Bottle' allows you to share messages over MiiVerse
  • First-person aiming via the Gamepad gyroscope
  • New 'Hero Mode' with no in-game health pickups


High-Definition remakes of old video games are usually a terrible idea. So-called 'retro' graphics almost always look better in your memory than when they're jerking around on screen, even when 're-mastered'. Clunky mechanics, once forgotten, are no longer forgiven. And then there's the over-arching flaw - common to all forms of nostalgia: things always seem more perfect when they're gone.

Which is why the first hour or so of The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is such a joy. Because the game doesn't just look as good as you remember - it looks far, far better.

The cell-shaded cartoony design - Wind Waker was always regarded as one of the best-looking Zelda games - remains essentially the same, but everything is polished dramatically, upgraded into a widescreen, 1080p experience with an all-new lighting system. It's like someone lifted a plastic film off the 2002 original, and showed the game how it was meant to be seen all along. It still looks 'old school' - but old school how you want to remember it. In its way, it looks better than most games out there - it wears its graphical cheer as a badge of pride, just as it should.

The lack of graphical flaws means that the story, character and crisp humour of the original script can shine just as it did more than 10 years ago. And despite being regarded as one of the weaker Zelda games in some quarters, it's still more approachable, enjoyable and family-friendly than any other comparable series.

In 'Wind Waker', you play a version of Link living centuries after the hero of the original game saved Hyrule (here's a helpful timeline). The world is now flooded, dotted only by a few small islands, one of which is your childhood home. But after your little sister is captured you have to don the green tunic, take to the seas and sail around in a mad quest to defeat the evil so-and-so who took her, and restore peace to Outset Island.

In effect the structure is about the same as most Zelda games - explore the world, delve into deep puzzle-laden dungeons and fight a bunch of monsters on the way, with the help of your sword, bombs, a boomerang and a variety of other weapons and items. It's a very varied and creative mix, as ever, with a gentle focus on stealth and more complex combat, and it's impossible to get bored as the adventure rolls forwards with its own zany momentum.

What the HD remake doesn't do is add any new content to the title - beyond a few basic features, Gamepad integration (you can play off-TV, and use the pad as your inventory) and a new 'Hero' mode. A supposedly long-lost dungeon, cut from the game's final few acts late in development, does not make a reappearance, and none of the original's perceived flaws are conclusively fixed. Sailing is helpfully made easier with a new speedy sail, but that's your lot. Given that at least one major feature - the Tingle Tuner, with which you could play a companion game on the GameBoy Advance - has actually been cut from the game, that's a shame.

The game is also pretty expensive - with a listed price of £49.99 - which for an old game is not great value. And yes, it does feel like a stop-gap boost to the Wii U's library, at a time when the console really deserves better.

Despite that, 'Wind Waker' is really worthy of your time. Just like the 3DS remake of Ocarina of Time, this is an excellent, involving, funny and sweet classic of a game, and it's never looked better.

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