Thanks to both a slew of physical releases and digital titles availabvle via the eShop or Switch Online classic game collections, the Nintendo Switch has one of the most comprehensive libraries of Zelda titles of any Nintendo console. Still, there are some highlights from the series that are mysteriously absent on the platform. Perhaps the two most likely candidates for Zelda games to come to the Switch that, for whatever reason, have not yet are the Wii U HD remasters of both Twilight Princess and The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. And, in terms of which of these continues to hold up the best more than a decade after its release, Wind Waker takes the cake
With the Switch receiving both a complete ground up remake of Link’s Awakening and an HD port of the criminally underrated Skyward Sword, it’s honestly a bit shocking that Wind Waker has not made its way to the console in some form. Some theorize that the Switch Online service will eventually get a library of GameCube titles in the Classic Game Collections as part of its premium tier, but the propensity of Nintendo to port its other Wii U titles to the Switch makes it a conundrum as to why Wind Waker HD has yet to come to the platform. If and/or when it does, there’s still the question over whether Nintendo should simply port the game or completely remake it for a modern audience.
The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker – Controversial Entry to Timeless Classic
Before considering what form a Wind Waker Switch release might take, it’s worth looking at how player perception around the title has changed in the last 20 years. The initial reveal of Wind Waker was pretty controversial for its time, especially after Zelda fans felt Nintendo had pulled the collective wool from over their eyes following a 2000 E3 tech demo for the GameCube featuring a darker, more adult take on The Legend of Zelda. Still, fans knew they could expect a quality title in Wind Waker, as Nintendo rarely (if ever) misses with their first-party exclusives). Sure enough, Wind Waker was a massive critical and commercial darling.
In the time since its release, players now look back on Wind Waker as one of the more timeless games in the series thanks to the very thing that ostracized it upon release: its art style. The charming, cel-shaded look to Wind Waker helps the game to hold up stronger when compared to other contemporary games from the 6th console generation, and it’s incredible how well the game looks even today in a modern context. The HD version of the game for Wii U only adds to the visual charm of the title, making a straight-up port of the Wii U remaster to the Switch seem like a no brainer.
The History of Wind Waker Releases & Remasters
The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker released for the Nintendo GameCube in 2002, with a handful of versions coming shortly thereafter. In addition to the standard release of the game, there is a special promotional edition that includes a GameCube port of Ocarina of Time as well as the Ocarina of Time Master Quest, previously only available on the cancelled 64DD peripheral. Later, special editions of the GameCube would feature a pack-in version of Wind Waker included with the console.
The first actual remaster of Wind Waker (and only remaster) comes courtest of the 2013 release of Wind Waker HD on the Wii U. After discovering that player perception toward Wind Waker had shifted in the game’s favor in the intervening years since its release, Miyamoto greenlit an HD remaster of the game for the Wii U as a way for the Zelda team at Nintendo to test the capabilities of the console for the next mainline game in the series. In addition to improving the game’s lighting, visuals, and HD textures, the Wii U version of Wind Waker updates several features of the adventure for modern audiences, including faster sailing and more streamlined navigation using the Wii U GamePad.
Pros and Cons of a Wind Waker Remake
The release of Link’s Awakening on the Nintendo Switch makes a compelling case for other classic games in the Zelda franchise to get their own ground-up remakes, but that also begs the question over whether certain games in the series necessarily need a remake. After all, most fans consider several games in the Zelda series to be practically flawless experiences, making a remake a moot point. Still, there are some potential bonuses to a remake of Wind Waker, despite it holding up well after all these years.
|Using modern hardware to better render the game’s art style
|Wind Waker already has arguably timeless visuals
|Implementation of Switch features like gyro controls
|Requiring motion controls may turn some players off
|Streamlining the game’s sailing and treasure hunting sections
|Sailing takes up a bulk of the gameplay, changing it may potentially trivialize the adventure
|Implementation of amiibo
|amiibo functionality could be added into a simple remaster/port of Wind Waker HD
|Adding more context to the game’s story
|The original’s story is already great as-is
|Being able to connect Wind Waker more directly to the official Zelda timeline
|Adding in new dungeons
|Including gameplay mechanics from open-world Zelda titles
|Disruption of “classic” Zelda mechanics in favor of drawing in BotW or TotK fans
Why a Wind Waker HD Port Makes the Most Sense
While a ground-up remake of Wind Waker is an enticing prospect, especially when considering the potential for it to serve as a blending of “classic” and “new” Zelda gameplay, it doesn’t make much sense with how much the original Wind Waker still holds up. In both its visuals and its gameplay, Wind Waker is an incredibly solid entry in the Zelda franchise that feels like a complete experience and perfectly paced. To alter that formula might somehow disrupt what makes the game so special in the first place. Looking at how many other Wii U games are on the Switch, the most likely candidate is a port of Wind Waker HD, and it’s arguably the best route to go given the game’s legacy.