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The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD review

Link's nautical adventure is a (HD) port in a storm

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.

Click to view larger image
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.

Hyrule Definition

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.

Click to view larger image
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.

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  1. olrodlegacy Thursday 3rd Oct 2013 at 15:36

    First things first. Wind Waker is the best game of all time.

    But the omission of the Tingle Tuner is unforgivable, especially given the nature of the GamePad. One player could control Link on the Pro controller, and the support player could take the GamePad and be Tingle. It's not even lazy developing, it's purely and simply a wrong decision. And I'm also an advocate of the Triforce Hunt.

    But I can't wait to play Wind Waker again.

  2. glen44 Thursday 3rd Oct 2013 at 16:03

    Cant wait to playthis game as it is a new Zelda for me cos i was too young to enjoy it when it first came out :D

  3. 9 Times Thursday 3rd Oct 2013 at 16:08

    Wind Waker HD = 92%
    Ocarina of Time 3D = 98%

    ...HUH?!?

    I'm not saying Wind Waker deserved a BETTER mark than Oot 3D in your eyes, but why are the scores so...drastically different? I know the reviews scores have become much more balanced and critical in ONM since the re-design, which I think is a great decision, but I think you should edit your previous review scores on the website too, in case you give people the wrong idea that Wind Waker HD is worse than, say, Phantom Hourglass. 92% Is a magnificent score, but you know, if this game came out in 2012 it would have gotten probably around 95% to 97%.

    Anyways, enough of me ranting, this was a great review, :) and i'm glad it didn't fall back like the previous HD remake of Ducktales.

  4. MatthewONM Thursday 3rd Oct 2013 at 16:31

    I'm not saying Wind Waker deserved a BETTER mark than Oot 3D in your eyes, but why are the scores so...drastically different? I know the reviews scores have become much more balanced and critical in ONM since the re-design, which I think is a great decision, but I think you should edit your previous review scores on the website too, in case you give people the wrong idea that Wind Waker HD is worse than, say, Phantom Hourglass. 92% Is a magnificent score, but you know, if this game came out in 2012 it would have gotten probably around 95% to 97%.


    Here's the thing: when we redesigned the magazine we decided to draw a line under the scores of old, enshrining them. Who are we to come along and start saying that those 'old' scores were wrong and our 'new' scores are right. Needless to say, I score entirely within the bubble of our current scores. I wouldn't give Ocarina 3D a 98, so I don't feel inclined to squeeze my score to fit with it.

    There's also a more general problem with re-releases that I tried to address towards the end - returning games mean different things to different people. If you are discovering Wind Waker for the first time you're going to have a better time with it - no Zelda is ever as good as the first time you play it - while returning players will never be able to get that thrill back. I judged, fairly, I think, that the majority of our readers will have experienced Wind Waker and scored it accordingly. 92 is still a cracking score (it's the second best Wii U game, if you're going on our numbers), and I'm sure everyone will have fun with it. I'm just reserving the 93+ scores for when Nintendo do something *really* special.

  5. DarkLink76 Thursday 3rd Oct 2013 at 17:03

    Given how well nintendo handle remakes, and how well received and profitable they are, how difficult would it be to release ocarina of time 3ds (minus the 3d obviously) on the wii u?
    Essentially the wii u is a bigger hd 3ds with the pad replicating the touch screen, seems to me like it'd be a good way to increase the wii u's game library and bring the game to as many people as possible.
    I for one would buy it (again) while waiting for new zelda and the inevitable majoras mask remake, I know I'll be waiting up till midnight tonight to download the wind waker even though the gamecube version sits in a cupboard with my faithful old cube.

  6. Negatron99 Thursday 3rd Oct 2013 at 18:27

    Thank you... I think you are the first reviewer to point out the problem with the "magic" sail. Barely anyone seems to realise that the game is based around sailing... It is a very lazy way to play it, effectively turning what is a sailing boat, into a speedboat. I really enjoyed the pace of the original game, even if they just limited how much you could use the sail would have been enough for me, but doesn't appear so.
    Don't point out that "You don't have to use it" it's part of the mechanics now, and don't say just stay with the GameCube version... The Wind Waker is my favourite game of all time, the the extent that there was a massive flood of (tearful) emotion when it was announced.

  7. Binba442 Thursday 3rd Oct 2013 at 18:44

    The problem with reviews, is in the end, there's only one score.

    If there were multiple scores, it'd probably be like this.

    First time: 95%

    Played Gamecube: 80%

    Like zelda? <70%

    Don't like Zelda? >70%

    And so on.

  8. Rickybhoy Thursday 3rd Oct 2013 at 19:32

    What's with the flickering at 1:40 - 1:47? Not a lot happening there but it stutters quite bad.
    Anyone else get that or is it just me?

  9. starman292 Thursday 3rd Oct 2013 at 23:30

    I too loved the sailing, for me it was one of the best things about it and if they ever did a console sequel I would be ecstatic if they used just as much sailing as the original! But I can't wait to pick up my copy tomorrow :D and there was a lot of complaints about sailing speed, so I think Nintendo did really well to address it in a way you can optionally gain more speed. I do hope this means they haven't cut down on the treasure finding elsewhere :/ I loved all the little side quests and it lengthened the game massively.

  10. liveswired Thursday 3rd Oct 2013 at 23:46

    I'm not saying Wind Waker deserved a BETTER mark than Oot 3D in your eyes, but why are the scores so...drastically different? I know the reviews scores have become much more balanced and critical in ONM since the re-design, which I think is a great decision, but I think you should edit your previous review scores on the website too, in case you give people the wrong idea that Wind Waker HD is worse than, say, Phantom Hourglass. 92% Is a magnificent score, but you know, if this game came out in 2012 it would have gotten probably around 95% to 97%.


    Here's the thing: when we redesigned the magazine we decided to draw a line under the scores of old, enshrining them. Who are we to come along and start saying that those 'old' scores were wrong and our 'new' scores are right. Needless to say, I score entirely within the bubble of our current scores. I wouldn't give Ocarina 3D a 98, so I don't feel inclined to squeeze my score to fit with it.

    There's also a more general problem with re-releases that I tried to address towards the end - returning games mean different things to different people. If you are discovering Wind Waker for the first time you're going to have a better time with it - no Zelda is ever as good as the first time you play it - while returning players will never be able to get that thrill back. I judged, fairly, I think, that the majority of our readers will have experienced Wind Waker and scored it accordingly. 92 is still a cracking score (it's the second best Wii U game, if you're going on our numbers), and I'm sure everyone will have fun with it. I'm just reserving the 93+ scores for when Nintendo do something *really* special.

    92% is a fantastic score.

  11. MatthewONM Friday 4th Oct 2013 at 07:52

    Don't point out that "You don't have to use it" it's part of the mechanics now, and don't say just stay with the GameCube version... The Wind Waker is my favourite game of all time, the the extent that there was a massive flood of (tearful) emotion when it was announced.


    Actually, the fast sail is *reasonably* well hidden. It's quite possible to get from start to finish without ever encountering it. In fact, I'd be willing to be that most newcomers won't find it without someone telling them where it is. As such, it's not woven into the mechanics, so it's quite possible to not use it!

  12. FoxMcCloud Friday 4th Oct 2013 at 09:10

    Downloaded Wind Waker this morning before work. I was shocked to find its only around 1.7 GB in size!! How is it this small, I was expecting 7 to 10 Gb. Pikmin 3 was only 4GB as well, that surprised me too. Anyway shock aside, WW downloaded and installed before I left for work, so it's good to go for this evening, I can't wait, stupid bloody work getting in the way! :-)

  13. MatthewONM Friday 4th Oct 2013 at 09:20

    Downloaded Wind Waker this morning before work. I was shocked to find its only around 1.7 GB in size!! How is it this small, I was expecting 7 to 10 Gb. Pikmin 3 was only 4GB as well, that surprised me too. Anyway shock aside, WW downloaded and installed before I left for work, so it's good to go for this evening, I can't wait, stupid bloody work getting in the way! :-)


    Gah! That's the worst. I remember when the original Wind Waker came out I had to work a Friday night shift at Homebase that evening, with a copy sitting in my rucksack waiting to be played. Longest four hours of paint mixing I've ever had!

  14. DaleBiederbeck Friday 4th Oct 2013 at 09:23

    Wind Waker HD = 92%
    Ocarina of Time 3D = 98%

    ...HUH?!?

    I'm not saying Wind Waker deserved a BETTER mark than Oot 3D in your eyes, but why are the scores so...drastically different? I know the reviews scores have become much more balanced and critical in ONM since the re-design, which I think is a great decision, but I think you should edit your previous review scores on the website too, in case you give people the wrong idea that Wind Waker HD is worse than, say, Phantom Hourglass. 92% Is a magnificent score, but you know, if this game came out in 2012 it would have gotten probably around 95% to 97%.

    Anyways, enough of me ranting, this was a great review, :) and i'm glad it didn't fall back like the previous HD remake of Ducktales.

    Of course Wind Waker HD deserved a better score than Ocarina 3D. Wind Waker was always the better game.

  15. DstryrEU Friday 4th Oct 2013 at 09:40

    The postman delivered my limited edition today just before I was leaving for work (the Ganon figure is pretty damn good, much bigger than I thought it would be!). I ALMOST put the game in but had to resist the urge of a possible 'sick day'.

    Really looking forward to it, I never played the original and with the non motion controls that I can't stand of recent times (Skyward Sword + TP on Wii) this looks like the perfect game to sink some time into over the weekend.

    Bah this day is dragging and its only 10:40am, just 7 hours left of work....

  16. tomonm Friday 4th Oct 2013 at 09:58

    Wind Waker HD = 92%
    Ocarina of Time 3D = 98%

    ...HUH?!?

    I'm not saying Wind Waker deserved a BETTER mark than Oot 3D in your eyes, but why are the scores so...drastically different? I know the reviews scores have become much more balanced and critical in ONM since the re-design, which I think is a great decision, but I think you should edit your previous review scores on the website too, in case you give people the wrong idea that Wind Waker HD is worse than, say, Phantom Hourglass. 92% Is a magnificent score, but you know, if this game came out in 2012 it would have gotten probably around 95% to 97%.

    Anyways, enough of me ranting, this was a great review, :) and i'm glad it didn't fall back like the previous HD remake of Ducktales.

    Editing our previous review scores? Nice idea but unfeasible. We'd have to go back and play the games again to see if they're worth the same score today and then re-review them. You couldn't just alter the number on OOT 3D as you'd have to change the text to reflect the score.

    Don't forget personal opinion, too. I liked the Ocarina remake more than Matthew. Probably wouldn't have gone for 98 but Matthew might not have even scored it in the 90s.

  17. FoxMcCloud Friday 4th Oct 2013 at 10:41

    Downloaded Wind Waker this morning before work. I was shocked to find its only around 1.7 GB in size!! How is it this small, I was expecting 7 to 10 Gb. Pikmin 3 was only 4GB as well, that surprised me too. Anyway shock aside, WW downloaded and installed before I left for work, so it's good to go for this evening, I can't wait, stupid bloody work getting in the way! :-)


    Gah! That's the worst. I remember when the original Wind Waker came out I had to work a Friday night shift at Homebase that evening, with a copy sitting in my rucksack waiting to be played. Longest four hours of paint mixing I've ever had!

    Anyone ever ask for Link Green or Triforce Gold paint? :-) Today will drag but I usually spend most of my day on my iPhone flitting between ONM and CVG(Take that Boss Man!), so it's not too bad! :-) I started WW on GC back in May to celebrate the 10th Anniversary and had to stop myself when I got to DragonRoost Island so I wouldn't spoil the HD version. I've managed to restrain myself since then so a few more hours is not gonna make a difference! :-)

  18. tim453 Friday 4th Oct 2013 at 12:30

    The issue with this game is the price. 45 for a ten year old game that has had a make over rather than a complete re working.

    The reason for the high price, apart from Nintendo wanting to recoups profit, is to make the Zelda Wii U bundle seem more attractive. 249 for a Wii U; but a free game worth 45 is included. A Wii U for just over 200.

    Of course us folk who own a Wii U are being ripped off by Nintendo, or we would be if we buy the game. The low sales in Japan seem to acknowledge this.

  19. Donkey Kong Jr. Friday 4th Oct 2013 at 15:34

    The issue with this game is the price. 45 for a ten year old game that has had a make over rather than a complete re working.

    The reason for the high price, apart from Nintendo wanting to recoups profit, is to make the Zelda Wii U bundle seem more attractive. 249 for a Wii U; but a free game worth 45 is included. A Wii U for just over 200.

    Of course us folk who own a Wii U are being ripped off by Nintendo, or we would be if we buy the game. The low sales in Japan seem to acknowledge this.

    Definitely. I will not be buying this until it goes down in price because I already own it on the Gamecube.

  20. BattleGooseUK Friday 4th Oct 2013 at 21:56

    As great as this remake is... they've really messed up by not having inverted camera controls, it's really spoiling my experience playing it. Back in the day it was fine, dual analogue sticks were new and there wasn't an option to change which way the camera went on games like Wind Waker or Mario Sunshine so it felt natural, but after all these years of playing countless 3rd person and 1st person games I'm fluent in inverted camera controls... so not including them even though they've addressed a lot of the other little issues seems very foolhardy, this isn't 2002 anymore, people NEED options.
    Aside from that, this game is pretty much a perfect remake, it looks stunning and I hope Mario Sunshine gets the same treatment as I think that game would also benefit GREATLY from HD visuals... But without inverted 3rd person camera controls I probably wouldn't buy it. :(

  21. Blue blur Monday 7th Oct 2013 at 20:01

    As great as this remake is... they've really messed up by not having inverted camera controls, it's really spoiling my experience playing it. Back in the day it was fine, dual analogue sticks were new and there wasn't an option to change which way the camera went on games like Wind Waker or Mario Sunshine so it felt natural, but after all these years of playing countless 3rd person and 1st person games I'm fluent in inverted camera controls... so not including them even though they've addressed a lot of the other little issues seems very foolhardy, this isn't 2002 anymore, people NEED options.
    Aside from that, this game is pretty much a perfect remake, it looks stunning and I hope Mario Sunshine gets the same treatment as I think that game would also benefit GREATLY from HD visuals... But without inverted 3rd person camera controls I probably wouldn't buy it. :(

    You can invert both the x and y axis of the camera in the options

  22. Brawlftw Sunday 27th Oct 2013 at 01:01

    First things first. Wind Waker is the best game of all time.

    But the omission of the Tingle Tuner is unforgivable, especially given the nature of the GamePad. One player could control Link on the Pro controller, and the support player could take the GamePad and be Tingle. It's not even lazy developing, it's purely and simply a wrong decision. And I'm also an advocate of the Triforce Hunt.

    But I can't wait to play Wind Waker again.

    Wind Waker isn't anywhere near the best game of all time. It would barely get into the top 3 games on the GC, let alone on any console ever.

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