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Review: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD

Updated on May 31, 2015

In the April 2003 issue of Game Informer, the reviewer stated that The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker for the Nintendo GameCube "Blows every Zelda game out of the water and stands as the video game event of a lifetime." Talk about being right on the money. In the decade since the release of that classic game, the Zelda series has seen about eight more games within the canonical timeline(s), including The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

None of those games are quite like The Wind Waker. Which is not to say that those games aren't as good as The Wind Waker, but there hasn't been a Zelda game that gave you a sense of all-encompassing scope that The Wind Waker had in 2003. Nothing bolsters the spirit of exploration like manning a sailboat across the rough seas as you did in this game. There were so many things to do, so many islands to discover, and so many foes to vanquish that for anyone that didn't complete everything the first time around, Nintendo gave them another chance with The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD for the Nintendo Wii U.

The basic plot in this game involves Link attempting to rescue his sister, Aryll, after a giant bird steals her away thinking she was someone else. In order to get to the fortress where his sister is being held, Link joins a ragtag group of pirates commandeered by the Tetra, the gutsy pirate queen. As dusk turns to night the pirates reach their destination, the Forsaken Fortress, and decide to catapult Link into the stronghold. Link sneaks his way up the fortress and manages to find his sister before being caught by the giant bird, a.k.a. The Helmaroc King. The bird carries Link to a shadowy and dark figure who orders the bird to throw Link into the open seas. The Helmaroc King follows the orders.

When Link wakes up he is in the middle of the ocean, but he is not alone. He is greeted by the King of Red Lions, a magical sailboat that can talk! Link learns that he is involved in something much greater than he originally thought. With the stakes raised higher than ever, Link begins sailing from island to island in order to save the denizens from the plans of darkness taking place as well as to gain the right tools to take down the treacherous villain and his devious plot.

Much of what went into the 2003 version of The Wind Waker remained the same in this updated version. There is a noticeable graphical upgrade in the Wii U version, where everything seems brighter, bolder and sharper than ever. The basic gameplay mechanics are unchanged. Link can still sail the rolling waves of The Great Sea, which can be subject to sudden thunderstorms and cyclones. On clear days you can spot shadowy islands that dot The Great Sea. If you see an island in the distance you can sail to it, just change the wind's direction with the Wind Waker item. The actual Wind Waker item is a baton that can change the direction of the wind, among other things. In time you'll also learn how to do things with the baton like control inanimate objects and instantly turn day into night and vice versa. This becomes even easier with the Wii U Gamepad, which displays all of the baton movements you've learned the minute you begin using the Wind Waker baton.

Wii U Gamepad is also used as a way to manage items you've acquired on your adventure. Never again will you need to pause the game to change weapons or switch items as it can been done instantly on the GamePad touchscreen. Also, certain items take advantage of the Gamepad's gyroscope, which allows you to aim wherever you'd like by changing the position of the controller. Another use for the GamePad is to view and play the entire game on the GamePad screen if by chance the television is being used for something else. Plus you can send your thoughts about the game with the Tingle Bottle function, as well as see what other's are thinking from the Miiverse network. Despite all that can be done on the GamePad, you also have the choice of using the Wii U Pro Controller instead if you want.

Some players thought that essential plot lines might change building up to the release of the updated version of The Wind Waker. It's been clear for some time now that some dungeons were cut from the original GameCube game because of time constraints the developers were dealing with. This new game received no added dungeons and no change in storyline, and maybe that's for the better. I, for one, kind of liked the events that took place of the missing dungeon(s), namely the Triforce quest. It shook up the basic formula of Link going from dungeon to dungeon, and instead gave us more variety of quests and missions in a Zelda adventure. It helped make The Wind Waker for the GameCube that much more of a unique game.

When the original The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was teased to video gamers in the early 2000s, some mocked the cartooney look versus the realistic vision that originally seemed possible. No one would have thought that it would become a landmark game in the Zelda series. We know better now. The Wind Waker for the GameCube is a classic that was fun to play as much as it was influential. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD for the Nintendo Wii U is the game that reminds us of that, ten years later.

5 stars for The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD on the Wii U boasts upgraded graphics and widescreen support, but how much improved are they versus the original GameCube version? How is the music comparable between the two games? What cool things have they added to the HD version to just make life easier? 

If you are curious about all of the new changes, check out the videos via GameXplain below. There are head-to-head comparisons for graphics, music, animation and sailing. There is also a video detailing the difference between using the Wii U GamePad and the Wii U Pro Controller and videos that offer helpful hints and tips. "The Changes You Didn't Know" and "Cool Bits" videos are must sees if you want to maximize the amount of fun you want out of this game.

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