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Jul 12th

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD Preview

Platform: Wii U
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Genre: Action Adventure

The Legendary Hero Redux

I’ll nail my colours to the mast right away: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker holds a profound, personal significance for me. From the moment I set foot on Outset Island, mouth agape as I marveled at Link in all his cel-shaded, cartoony glory, I was immediately overcome with giddy excitement at the breadth of adventure that awaited and was certain Link’s latest escapade would stay with me throughout the ages.

And I was right.

Wind Waker was, and still is, one of the finest video games to ever grace my fingertips, dazzle my pupils and soothe my ears in equal measure. Charting the expansive Great Sea with the King of Red Lions was an exhilarating, unparalleled experience. Each maiden voyage was filled with a genuine sense of freedom, the thrill of exploration and a strong gust of intrigue as you careered into unknown territory with the wind as your guide. Add in the delightfully nautical soundtrack as the game’s dynamic backdrop, and it’s no wonder I look upon remote, idyllic islands with an innate urge to plunder.

Yes, despite its turbulent beginnings (who could forget the outrage over Link’s reimagined appearance?), Wind Waker successfully weathered the storm, swashbuckled its way to acceptance, and proceeded to drop anchor in the homes of GameCube owners the world over.

Incredibly, as a fitting homecoming to those who continue to cherish Wind Waker as the pinnacle of The Legend of Zelda franchise, Wii U owners can relive Link’s epic voyage this October in glorious 1080p high-definition – with a couple of fancy new features and welcomed tweaks to boot. And I for one cannot contain my excitement.

The Legend of Zelda Wind Waker HD Link pose

Don’t give me that look, Link.

The Eyes Have It

When Wind Waker pulled into shore back in 2003, the console generation was evenly matched in terms of technical capabilities and specs. Now, however, Link is sailing head first into the tides of change, ushered in by the graphical grunt of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It’s understandable, then, that Wind Waker’s picturesque visuals and timeless, evocative art style could be in danger of being overshadowed by the beefier, power-hungry rivals’ upcoming games.

Don’t count on it.

I’m happy to report that Wind Waker’s transition to high-definition is an eye-popping reminder of what Nintendo achieved all those years to go. While many HD remakes have been highly questionable and well below par in their overall execution, Wind Waker has always been an exceptional candidate for a modern makeover. And boy does it show.

Whether it’s the searing candy-coated colours that appear edible to today’s sugar-fuelled children, the incidental splendour of the lush islands and tropical flora, or the crisp, clear welcoming waves of the magnificent Great Sea, Wind Waker remains a superbly crafted display of cartoon merriment. If I was pressed to pinpoint one key aspect of the game’s glorious graphical overhaul (let’s imagine I’ve got the point of a cutlass pressed against my back as I teeter awkwardly on the edge of a plank, shall we?), then I’d most likely blurt out, “LINK’S FACE! It’s his adorable, expressive face okay?!” in a fit of desperate sobs.

As it was in Wind Waker, our courageous hero’s face says it all. Link’s expressions indicate when he’s scared, angry, curious or happy, and it was, and probably still is, the closest emotional tie players have ever had with the fair haired swordsman. The added fidelity of high-definition resolution does more than just sweeten up an already delectable dish, it lets you see Link’s reactions all the more clearer, strengthening the bond between player and character. Funnily enough, I found myself fixated on rediscovering Link’s array of facial animations during my agonisingly short playthrough. Predictably, the lad’s still as charming as ever.

Message In A Bottle

Cruelly, my time with Wind Waker HD was hindered by an invisible timer and a restrictive wall which kept me enclosed on Outset Island and the surrounding shore line, but nothing could dampened my adventurous spirit. (Though whether frantically rolling around the sandy beaches, slashing through clumps of overgrown grass and harassing pigs like a possessed madman constitutes adventuring is definitely up for debate.)

Once I got my head around the GamePad’s reassigned button layout, which offers more hot swap item options than the GameCube original, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD offers a bevy of additional treasures that enhance and complement an already accomplished product. The most prominent of which is the GamePad controller itself. Players can look forward to using the GamePad’s accelerometers to fine-tune their aim when using a bow an arrow for example, or display a handy map with a tap of the touchscreen. It isn’t groundbreaking by any means; instead, it continues the GamePad’s crusade as a device that provides welcomed convenience above anything else. Being able to play the game entirely on the GamePad is another fine example.

Where the GamePad does truly sparkle, however, is how it transforms Wind Waker into a sociable wonderland with the ‘message in a bottle’ Miiverse integration. It may sound insignificant, but it opens up the single-player Wind Waker universe to further discovery as you pick up discarded bottles and view the messages or drawings on the GamePad’s display.

Making Me Tingle

And the sense of discovery sums up my hands-on time with The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD: I can’t wait to relive every facet of this particular chapter of fabled Hyrule Historia from a fresh perspective. And, when you factor in the many improvements that have been made across the board, which will be touched upon more extensively during our review, it’s hard not to break out into a merry, sailor’s jig.

Oh what the hell, I guess no one’s looking….

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