Nintendo hasn't made a habit of performing HD re-releases of their past games, but they finally decided to wet their feet with the free-sailing Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD. Wind Waker's initial release was met with some hesitation from fans, who didn't care for the cartoony style, but eventually most grew to like this colorful aesthetic. The question is: does that style, and the game it came with, still hold up when upgraded to HD?
Before you ever get started playing, the first thing you're going to notice is that it's jaw-droppingly, mind-blowingly, OMGROFLBBQ pretty. There just aren't enough Os to describe how goooooorgeous this game is. Fans resisted Wind Waker's style when it came out all those years ago, but there's no denying that the HD treatment has treated this title kindly. The sweeping winds, crystal blue skies, and flowing waters are among the many luscious sights you'll be treated to when adventuring across water-logged Hyrule. The audio's received a bit of an upgrade, too, with enhanced music and sound effects to complete the experience. You'll hunt for items, complete puzzles, and take down monsters while surrounded by the lushest audio and visuals imaginable.
Whether you play this with the pro pad or the Wii U Gamepad, everything just works. The Gamepad is especially effective, allowing you to do things like swap out your items or check your map in real time. You can also use the Gamepad's gyroscope to aim when in first-person, adding a bit of immersion through the motion controls.
If you've ever played The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, or any other Zelda title, you'll know what you're in for. The HD rerelease of Wind Waker is largely unchanged from the original, though the much maligned Triforce hunt of the endgame and sailing have both been streamlined. Rather than hunting for the seemingly endless pieces of Triforce and associated treasure charts, you only need to track down three, and there's a point in the game where you can purchase an upgraded sail that makes for faster travel, although it's hidden within an auction mini-game that some players may not stumble across naturally. Both are nice additions, but aren't quite what players were hoping for.
Several dungeons were cut from the original Wind Waker's release, and this HD remake would have been the perfect time to reinstate them. No such luck. The addition of Tingle's message bottle makes for some amusing, optional, social action, and the upgraded Picto Box has more room for pictures and allows for selfies, which is a fun diversion. As far as the core gameplay goes, this is probably the most open of the Zelda games, but it takes a long time for the game to stop holding your hand. Link's home island is still kind of a drag. Forsaken Fortress' somewhat confusing layout and stealth elements still suck. Once you get past the initial sluggishness, however, you'll find a game that's jam-packed with secrets to hunt and adventures to discover.
Though it would have been nice for Nintendo to make some additions to the core experience, Wind Waker is still one of the best games around, and the high-definition aesthetics will please the eyes and ears from start to finish. If you've never experienced this seafaring adventure, or haven't experienced it in a while, you owe it to yourself to get out there and start sailing.
This review is based on a digital copy of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD.