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Review

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed:
  • WIIU

A lovingly updated version of a timeless, though flawed, adventure.

It's strange to think how the elegance of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker's bold, thick strokes, endearingly stumpy protagonist, and lusciously saturated palette ever caused so much controversy back in 2003, but even a decade later, the game's legacy remains defined by its visuals.

In hindsight, The Wind Waker's distinctive, cel-shaded visuals have retained their allure, even as other, more recent, Zelda games have started to lose lustre. In bringing the game to the Wii U, Nintendo has updated it to run in 1080p widescreen, but has also reworked the lighting and shadows. The Wind Waker HD is no mere upscaling, then, and Nintendo further alters the look of the game by adding thick, foggy layers of bloom and a slightly adjusted colour palette. While the choppy expanses of ocean look untouched, for instance, the sky loses some of its shine and the clouds are blurred, creating a more realistic look.

This is an undeniably beautiful adaptation, but fans of the GameCube original will find themselves reaching for their TV's contrast setting, especially when fighting bosses in enclosed spaces. The electric, pillowy blasts of Gohdan used to bathe the room in a piercing yellow, but no more, and the rich orange and red hues of Gohma have been disappointingly dimmed to shades far closer to brown.

Yet The Wind Waker HD's occasionally muted palette does little to diminish the powerful effect of revisiting its fresh take on the series' ubiquitous mountains, temples, and villages, and a decade of ballooning real estate in the open-world genre doesn't make the game's oceanic overworld feel any smaller. Link may have later taken to the clouds in Skyward Sword, but sending him to the open seas still feels like a fresh way for Nintendo to keep players' feet off the ever-familiar Hyrule Field.

It's the way The Wind Waker's vibrant art is intertwined with its evocative soundtrack and cast of characters, notably the boyish Link with his humongous, expressive eyes, and the stern weariness of The King of the Red Lions, his talking boat companion, that propels the adventure and exploration. The oceans, sunken treasures, and pirate galleys take the series away from its more traditional fantasy setting and place it into fresh water, its swashbuckling theme completed by the addition of a ghost ship that appears on the horizon at night.

Structurally, however, The Wind Waker was, and still is, trapped in the shadow of the seminal Ocarina of Time, and plays out in the series' classic fashion as opposed to the broad experimentation of its predecessor Majora's Mask. There's no new content in the HD update, so The Wind Waker still moves to the same rhythm as before: its first half is an adventure of thundering and thrilling pace, but an underweight second half stretches itself thin with an exasperating fetch quest that requires deep pockets and a cast-iron level of perseverance.

Map maker Tingle's infamously pricy and tedious fetch quest has been, thankfully, made easier, with only three (of the original eight) triforce maps now requiring deciphering. The game also starts you off with a wallet that can hold 500 rupees, as opposed to the original's 200. Even with the tweaks, the quest still feels enormously unwelcome, forcing you to ferret around the game's periphery side quests as opposed to letting you discover these bonus areas naturally.

Another new addition is the Swift Sail enhancement, obtained through the auction house in the game's wonderful, character-packed Windfall Island, a winding locale rich with dotty locals, hidden treasures, and a massively disgruntled game operator who allows you to part with your money to play an intentionally underwhelming game of Battleship. The Swift Sail boosts your speed on the open seas by 50 percent, and also automatically repositions the wind to always be behind you, alleviating the problem of constantly having to conduct aboard your ship using the Wind Waker, the magical baton which never conjured up the same sense of wonder as Link's time-shifting ocarina.

The Wind Waker is perhaps a little too simplistic, failing to tax you in its dungeon puzzles, boss encounters, or regular swordplay. To compensate for this, Nintendo has added the Hero mode first seen in Skyward Sword, which makes enemies do double damage and removes health recovery outside of potions and fairies. Hero mode adds a fair amount of challenge to the game, forcing you to remain wary of the occasional stray hit as opposed to simply shrugging it off. The Tingle Tuner from the original game, which required you to attach a Game Boy Advance to the GameCube, has also been replaced by the Tingle Bottle, which lets you tap into Miiverse to randomly dot messages around the shores of others players' islands. The Picto Box has also been upgraded to allow for 12 photographs, and adds the ability for Link to take his very own selfies.

These minor additions slot nicely into game's core rhythm of unfolding item unlocks--such as a boomerang, grappling hook, bombs, and of course the classic hookshoot--which allows players to slowly, satisfyingly chip away and discover the secrets of its seven main dungeons. That sense of exploration is only enhanced by the Great Sea, a 7x7 grid of open ocean with a point of interest dotted in each square. Off the beaten path lies valuable secret items, lucrative galleys to plunder, and powerful, ancient forces to win over to your quest. Like all Zelda games, The Wind Waker is a weave of puzzle solving, combat, and discovery, with each main dungeon involving a puzzle-laden search for a key that allows you to square off against each of the game's imposing boss monsters.

There's the chore of Tingle to overcome before you can get to The Wind Waker's best bits, but the game is a small and well-formed adventure, albeit one with both crisp blue skies and sudden murky storms. Some of the series' most impressive moments are here: an ancient city preserved in time under the sea, a battle with a giant bird on top of a collapsing fortress, and a moment of reunion with an aging, worried grandmother in a sequence that evokes genuine sadness.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is a loving restoration of a bold and beautiful adventure, with Nintendo shifting some elements of the original game's aesthetic, and streamlining the pace where it had occasionally sagged. The Wind Waker is a game about a young hero saving the world from the past actions of old men, but its HD update reaffirms that Nintendo's most colorful Zelda game remains timeless.

This review was amended on September 19, 2013, after the original text incorrectly stated that The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD ran at 60 frames per second. GameSpot apologises for the error.

The Good
The new aesthetic is different but still beautiful
An evocative soundtrack
Fantastic cast of characters
Filled with great moments
Puzzle-packed dungeons
The Bad
The second half of the game still drags
Tingle's quest is irredeemably boring
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

About the Author

Martin remembers the excitement of preordering the original GameCube version back in 2003. Art from the game has regularly featured up as his desktop wallpaper over the past decade.

Discussion

1200 comments
stevie456
stevie456

This review shows a lot of inconsistency in Gamespot's reviews. The GC version of this game received a 9.3 back in 2003, which is a score that I agree with. I've beaten the GC version 3 times, and every time was a blast.

This version of the game has changes to the game that are an improvement in every conceivable way. IGN's review has nothing but praise for these changes, and I agree with their review (I just think their score is a tiny bit too high).

Giving this game an 8 was an amateur mistake. Most of the reviews on metacritic are higher, and the game deserves a higher score, too. Heck, the user score on metacritic is 8.9 right now, and we all know how low the user scores can be there!

Even though I'm no critic, I think that this game deserves at least a 9/10, and my recommendation is to go out and buy a copy of Mario Kart 8 so that you can get this excellent game for free (I think this offer ends 7/31/2014, so do it soon).

IMHO, if you own the GC version, it's not worth spending $50 for this version, as the changes are pretty small. It is worth it if you've never played it or if you also want MK8 (2 games for $50).

mr_gibberish
mr_gibberish

Now, I have a Gamecube and am thinking I may get a Wii U at some point, not now but when the price drops, if ever. Should I wait and buy this on the Wii U or just grab it now for the Gamecube?

matthova
matthova

THis is an excellent game, and not a shabby remake. Its better than Spirit tracks and that obsurd Phantom Hourglass

Lykanthropie
Lykanthropie

the first half of the game is a bit more for everyone, the seoncd half forces the player a bit to much to explore the world of the wind waker, which isnt so much interesing like in the bigger zelda games, but its not that bad and still a enjoyable part of the game,

iowastate
iowastate

Wind Waker was a great game and now is just as good with improved graphics.   I hesitate to replay the old favourites if they are in the original format because now we are spoiled by the improvments in gaming and they no longer live up to our memories.  For instance I just got the original Lost in the Dark and while I enjoyed it when it first came out.....when compared to what we have now......lol.

but as far as the fetching quests in Wind Waker - there are quite a few of us who like to explore every little corner of the world in a game which makes these type of quests much less painful.

DiscGuru101
DiscGuru101

I liked the old review format better. If they do a Resident Evil HD remake, I will buy the Wii U for that and Wind Waker.

intrepidpooch
intrepidpooch

I'm so ready for an Ocarina of Time remake, that is if they decide to do another Zelda remake.  I think that the biggest hit yet in Nintendo history would be if they did a Legend of Zelda reboot, taking all the material and general design concepts for levels/overworld/enemies from the original 8 bit NES classic into a brand new 3D game with all the polish of Skyward Sword (a good compromise between the Windwaker cartoony look and the realism of Twilight Princess).  IMHO that would be the greatest Nintendo release ever!!!!!!

intrepidpooch
intrepidpooch

Come on GameSpot, an 8.0?????  It doesn't make sense that the exact same game that you gave a 9.3 to in its original GameCube incarnation would receive a much lower score after having corrected and improved upon the issues that you criticized in your original review.  GameSpot is definitely in the minority, the consensus among all the other marquis gaming websites and magazines is that WIndwaker HD deserves a score of 9.0-10.  It'd would be nice to see a second look review from the original GameSpot writer.

LJELLZ
LJELLZ

Best game on Wii U in my opinion. I own all the exclusives released so far. The new LOZ Wii U is going to be awesome!

myrepose
myrepose

I bought the WindWaker Wii U console package, this weekend. I loved this game on the Gamecube, but like some others never finished it.  It is a brilliant upgrade to HD, I'm loving playing it. Lots to look forward to on the WII U with up coming releases also.


lledz
lledz

Why Nintendo chose Wind Waker(the WORST in the series in my opinion) is beyond me.With lagging Wii U sales if they had re-vamped Ocarina of Time(voted best video game of all time) alot of people would have purchased the Wii U system so they could re-visit the classic Ocarina of Time in HD including myself..I am so glad i dumped my Nintendo shares about a year ago cause i think we all know where there going.....

ohjtbehaaave
ohjtbehaaave

I never finished this on Gamecube... and I'm now realizing the errors of my ways and loving this game big time.  Looks great in HD... and those annoying sailing trips from the gamecube version have been remedied.  The Zelda Wii U bundle is the deal to jump on if you were on the fence like I was.  Nintendo games in HD is stellar.

Markurius16
Markurius16

and so over the years gamespot went to hell.

vgsak2005
vgsak2005

I really enjoyed playing through this remake since it was such a long time since I last played Wind Waker. However, the things that drove me crazy about the original still drives me crazy this time around. Many of which the reviewer here points out. I'd add to the list the wind temple which I found frustrating for reasons it should not have been and the final battle with ganon's puppet forms. The triforce fetch quest, while improved, is still an annoyance.  Still, I could actually go for another Zelda made with the same style and visual look of this HD remake. It's definitely very charming.

EXxile
EXxile

I'm actually extremely impressed with how great the game still looks considering its age. I know they added new lighting to it, but it's still very impressive.

blackpikachu911
blackpikachu911

WTF? The Wind Waker is one of the best games ever made. 10/10 fuck you gamespot!

EricShadow366
EricShadow366

I got my Zelda Wii U Bundle. And I'm loving every moment of it!

Rat_King
Rat_King

Surprised they'd make a Wind Waker HD before a Majora's Mask HD. Both great games though...

uglypinkmoose
uglypinkmoose

the original still looks beautiful.... This wasn't a very necessary release but I'd like to play it 

penpusher
penpusher

For people bitching because you don't agree with the score, try reading the review instead of looking at the score. The score is meaningless aside from providing meta critic with something to rank the reviews.

Mardil
Mardil

Excelent and very well written review.

Shanks_D_Chop
Shanks_D_Chop

As others have already said, if you own a Wii U and DIDN'T play this the first time around then it's most definitely worth a look-in, absolutely enchanting little adventure. Myself... Well, I've still got my original copy and my Gamecube sat in my room somewhere. I think many of the more "Ninty-oriented" gamers are the same. I don't think this will reach quite as many gamers as Nintendo may be hoping for.

JoeGamer1234
JoeGamer1234

I love Wind Waker and I cannot wait to get my hands on a Wii U to revisit this classic in HD. I  WILL be getting this. Now... for some new info on the new Zelda, and some more info on Smash Bros. Come on Nintendo, don't hold back! You can redeem yourself, but you have to give us what we want.

R4gn4r0k
R4gn4r0k

@intrepidpooch They already remade it for 3DS. I doubt they'll remake it again any time soon.

stevie456
stevie456

@intrepidpooch These clowns also gave DKC: Tropical Freeze a 6. How are we supposed to take their reviews seriously?

kamikazeespleen
kamikazeespleen

@intrepidpooch He is comparing it to games today whereas back then, it was being compared to games of its day.

Back when I first played it, I would probably give the original Driver a 9/10 but if it just had an HD remake, I garuntee it would get no more than a 7/8 due to its gameplay limitations in comparison to todays standard of open world.

FYI, 8 is a damn good score still for only an HD remake.

stevie456
stevie456

@myrepose I got stuck on the triforce charts / pieces. I think I bought a strategy guide way back in 2003. :) The new game is MUCH more clear and drops lots of hints about where to go (feed the fish!).

DoomglooM
DoomglooM

@flax174 you're the little shitter.!. well I didn't read it much after shitendo...but, did Nintendo love you and leave you??

intrepidpooch
intrepidpooch

@EricShadow366 Nice!!!!  I wish I waited for the Wii U Windwaker bundle too!  Oh well, guess I only spent $50 more!

stevie456
stevie456

@penpusher I wouldn't care so much if it wasn't for the fact that the unimproved version from way back in 2003 got a much higher score. There is no reason why it should drop from 9.3 to 8, when the game itself has been improved so much.

Coren_Larken
Coren_Larken

@R4gn4r0k @intrepidpooch I don't do handheld games. Never really have. I'm glad it is successful for Nintendo; however, it's grossly frustrating. I still haven't picked up a WiiU. Probably will soon for Zelda HD, but I'm really wanting another console Animal Crossing.

DoomglooM
DoomglooM

@kamikazeespleen well most videogames nowadays SUCK...I hate where the game industry is heading...along with everything else nowaday

penpusher
penpusher

@DoomglooM Sorry dude I can't read, I had to get my mummy to read it for me :(

DoomglooM
DoomglooM

@Shanks_D_Chop although I'm one of the lucky ones to have the pleasure of playing this Vonderful game

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker More Info

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  • First Released
    • GameCube
    • Wii U
    The Wind Waker is a strong achievement in every way, from its stunning graphical presentation to its tight control and interesting story line.
    9.2
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    Developed by:
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    Genres:
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    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
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    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
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    Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence