|System: Wii U|
|Release: September 20, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence|
by Jenni Lada
I've never been at sea before. I've never cast caution to the wind, boarded an anthropomorphic boat, grabbed a magical baton, and set out to save my sibling who's been captured by a bird. I realize, as an owner of every Nintendo console, this comes across as both a surprise and something of a sin, but until now, I'd never sought the glory that comes from being the Hero of Winds. I'm glad; because it means my first experience is with The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, and I can't imagine a better place to start.
See, my prior experiences with Link and Zelda's adventures have always been in the form of sprite-based or almost-realistic worlds. I'm familiar with the Links of Twilight Princess, The Minish Cap, The Oracle of Ages, and, of course, The Legend of Zelda. I somehow missed his other, cartoonish incarnations, which means The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is my first encounter with toon Link.
It is glorious.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is unbelievably gorgeous and vibrant, with unexpected details and personality embodying even the most pedestrian areas. Each location has heart, and its uniqueness is captivating. I didn't truly realize how amazing it was until I was wandering around Dragon Roost and happened to stop on a drawbridge because I was fascinated by a lava plume. Yes, I stopped to watch lava. Then I quickly had to start moving because (oh em gee) there were fire bats, but still. It was the first of many moments where I really had to stop and appreciate my surroundings. The Great Sea is a magical world.
Still, having a pretty face is nothing if there's no substance behind it, and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD delivers. The story gives young Link a chance to shine. Despite only just coming of age, and getting a replica of the Hero of Time's outfit to prove it, he begins the adventure with the courage to face all odds if it means he can rescue his kidnapped sister, Aryll. Of all The Legend of Zelda games I've played, it's only with Wind Waker that I've gotten the sense from the very beginning that Link is made of the stuff of legends.
As I played, I got the feeling that I wasn't the only one. At Windfall Island, two fathers whose daughters were kidnapped by the Helmaroc King look to this child to save their precious girls even though Link hasn't even accomplished any notable feats. Though Link is mostly left as a blank slate (as usual), these two characters seem to recognize his determination and strength.
Speaking of the supporting cast, I am pleased to report that most every character has a vivid personality. This includes the standard NPCs, ones that some players may even ignore as they go about their adventure. I'll admit, there are times in RPGs when I hit my threshold of bland characters. I don't talk to anyone without a unique character model or portrait because I'm just ready to power through and keep going. This didn't happen when I played The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD because I was genuinely interested in what everyone had to say, even though it often would have absolutely nothing to do with Link's affairs or the task at hand.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD encourages the idea of getting sidetracked. Yes, there's a wonderful, strong story, but the fact that Link is sailing the Great Sea in the King of Red Lions (his boat) means you're going to stumble upon other, optional destinations while on the way to the next big event. It's only natural, and it’s even relaxing. Though the fate of the world does, ultimately, rest in Link's hands, there's no need to rush. It's okay to sightsee along the way. For those who don't want to dally, they can use the Wind Waker baton to change the course of the winds, so the boat speeds towards the next destination.
Or, better yet, stop by Windfall's auction house after Dragon's Roost to get the Swift Sail. With this sail in place, pressing A on the world map sends the King of Red Lions racing in any direction without altering the wind. Personally, I preferred to go as the wind took me, enjoying the ride, but as I've said, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is new to me. I was savoring every moment. Those looking to do speed runs, or who've played before and know where they're going, will find the Swift Sail a welcome addition.
These same people are probably going to want to jump into Hero Mode right away. Upon starting The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, players will find the opportunity to choose between two different difficulty levels. One is the one everyone is familiar with, and the other tests people to see if they are worthy of being called Hero of Winds. It takes away all recovery hearts and doubles the damage that enemies deal. That may not sound too intimidating, but when I decided to give it a try for research purposes, I quickly found out, about halfway through the first dungeon, that it wasn't happening. I saved, exited, reloaded, and turned off Hero Mode. I know my limits.