Link's no stranger to remasters and remakes. For what are his adventures but repeat tales of a young boy awakening old magics, or restoring swords to their former glory? Okay, so Zelda producer, Eiji Aonuma, didn't collect three magic orbs/metals/songs in order to port Wind Waker to Wii U (at least, we don't think he did), but there's no denying that the act of revisiting is a very 'Zelda' thing to do.
Of course, with lesser publishers dirtying the 'HD' tag in pursuit of a quick buck, you're right to be suspicious. Too many treat the process like a facelift, stretching tired CRT skin taut across a 1080p telly. Nintendo's approach mimics the museum curator's: gently massaging in lighting, textures and revamped controls until Link's digital bones are ready to be put on display.
Wind Waker needn't hide its age. Stepping onto Outset Island - home to Link's loving granny and the usual tutorials disguised as chores - we're struck by how little has changed... and how little it needed to. Instead of balking at well-trodden ground, we gawp at the pristine blue waves lapping its shoreline or the richly detailed oddballs going about their daily lives.
Reading Hyrule Historia prior to this review it strikes us that no other Zelda game came this close to bringing its concept art to life - a fact amplified in sharp 1080p. Just on Outset Island alone you appreciate the gooeyness of a young boy's snot bubble, the ornate patterning on a scuttling crab's back (a flat blur on 2002's tellies) or the furnishings upon dear ol' granny's wall.
Other areas show clear improvements over the original game. When Link finally hits the ocean - following a two-hour mini-adventure involving kidnapped sisters, pirates and spooky fortresses - Wii U struts its stuff. No longer contained in its 4:3 fish tank the Great Sea is free to flood our wider screens with its full majesty. Wii U is able to render more of the horizon, giving us an even grander stretch of undulating blue to carve through. Simply sublime.
Just as important as the water below is the sun up above, its beams casting shadows where none fell before. Watching Windfall Island's windmill stroke the town with shady fingers may not sound cutting edge, but it helps sell the idea of playing in a solid, 3D world. Light and shadow conjure atmosphere only imagined on GameCube - the way light dapples Link as he explores under a forest canopy, for example, or the ominous glow of a volcano's belly.
Taken purely on looks, Wind Waker is staggeringly pretty - embarrassingly so, considering its relative age and the relative ugliness of other Wii U software. Vitally, it doesn't feel as if it's trading on nostalgia. Where galloping across Ocarina Of Time 3D's Hyrule Field reminded us of the original wonder felt in 1998 without being wondrous in itself (come on, it's a thousand acres of smeary grass texture), Wind Waker HD regularly takes your breath away.
The presentation rarely falters. The framerate hiccups when multiple explosions are going off (and during some of the boss fights), jarring with the silky 60fps elsewhere. It's also disappointing to hear synth parps of the original SD soundtrack in this HD world. These themes would sound majestic played with armpit farts, but having heard them performed by the Zelda Symphony orchestra our ears feel robbed of a reprisal.