Saturday, 19 October 2013

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD - Wii U

When it comes to repackaging its past, no one does it quite like Nintendo. They have repeatedly blown the dust from old game carts from previous consoles and released them on various formats, especially titles from the NES, SNES and N64 era - although, infuriatingly, still no sign of Pilotwings 64.

The company has also been castigated for retreading familiar ground from some quarters, regurgitating updated versions of popular first-party tiles such as Mario Kart, Smash Bros, Donkey Kong, Animal Crossing, Pikmin, Mario platformers and Zelda. But Nintendo always manage to pull out the stops to make these core titles worth investigating and it's this quality which draws people to Nintendo's consoles. And that leads us neatly to Nintendo's most recent first-party reboot - a remake of GameCube classic The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker HD.

At its release back in 2003, there was a great deal of negative reaction to the game's visuals - a criticism I never personally understood. Perhaps people were expecting more realism from a new Zelda game and The Wind Waker's cell-shaded visual style jarred with their expectations. However, because of the decision to go with a highly stylised look a decade ago, time has been incredibly kind to this splendid adventure - especially as the game is now presented in glorious pin-sharp high definition.

While Zelda games are known for their devious dungeon designs, familiar weapons and hulking great bosses, it is impossible to go any further without talking a bit more about The Wind Waker's graphics. The visuals are enchanting, boasting rich and vibrant colours, spellbinding lighting effects and wonderful animation - it is quite incredible and one of the most attractive game worlds you'll ever find yourself in. Thankfully, The Wind Waker has much more going for it that just an eye-popping visual charm - underneath the glorious fresh paint job is a classic Zelda adventure which, in my opinion, stands side-by-side with anything else from the Zelda series.

The dungeons and their puzzles have been wonderfully devised and there are several stand-out moments for the series woven into the fabric of the game. But it's the decision to have Link traverse this vast and beautifully realised world by boat which really stands out and is one of the game's crowning glories.

There's something magical about heading out to sea with Link at the helm of the mysterious King of Red Lions, swiftly cutting through the waves and continuously moving ever onwards on the quest for adventure. There are plenty of islands to explore and as new items unlock as you spend more time with the game, returning to areas peppered across the archipelago throws up an abundance of mysterious charms. Splashing about in the salty sea spray and sailing away from the main quest also throws up a galleon-full of wonderful secrets and a beguiling collection of charismatic characters to converse with, making this chapter of Link's adventures one of the very best.

The threat from adversaries is never far away, but The Wind Waker's combat is rather good, making these bouts of hack and slashing highly enjoyable. While going toe-to-toe with enemies could never be described as complex, with Link's ever growing arsenal of weapons - including some old favourites - it is rarely boring. Add to that the use of handy button prompts which allow our green-clad hero to dodge, weave and hurdle opponents opening up weak points, and these frequent scraps are allowed to flow perfectly.

The Wii U control pad is used to great effect and although simple, it allows the player to swap items on the fly, while also acting as a handy map - both in dungeons and while cutting a swathe through the expansive seas. It can't be underestimated how this small change affects gameplay as there's now no need to pause the game to fuddle about with inventory management.

Despite its age, The Wind Waker looks and feels like a completely new game. Those who played and loved the original will warm to this beautiful version, while newcomers are in for a treat as they are blown gently through this quite incredible game.

Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is quite simply one of the most magical and beautiful video games ever created and a game everyone should experience first-hand.

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