Soapbox: Why We Should Expect More From The Legend Of Zelda: Wind Waker HD

Rory Cocker gets on his high Hyrulian horse about Nintendo's remaster

The Zelda community is almost infamously inflammatory and prone to knee-jerk reactions. I should know; I’m part of it. From my brief stint at this site, though, I’ve noticed that the Nintendo Life readership – that’s your fine selves – is a bit more level headed and accepting of criticism aimed at Nintendo. With that in mind, I urge you to fully read this article in its entirety before drafting out your hate mail and throwing your rotten fruit in my general direction.

Now, before I raise my flame shield, let me just clear something up. If you know anything about me: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is my favourite game of all time. So with that being the case, it’s only natural that my views on any possible remake would be fairly strong, one way or the other. Still, I must say that I’m really quite disappointed with what I’ve seen of the upcoming HD remaster so far.

These are fears that stemmed right from the initial announcement, right up until when I actually got to go hands-on with the game. Obviously the game isn’t out yet, and I should probably reserve final judgment until I’ve played the end product — but I don’t generally get to review games for Nintendo Life, so this may be my only opportunity to vent.

The phrase ‘half-arsed’ is practically synonymous with remakes and remasters, but to me, that’s exactly what Wind Waker HD feels like. After watching the trailers, I was worried that the game was going to be little more than a quick up-res, and the time I spent with the game did nothing to alleviate my concerns.

Before I crack on with the negatives, let me just acknowledge the improvements that Nintendo is making to the game:

  • Full 1080p
  • Miiverse integration
  • Off-TV Play
  • Faster sailing

OK, that’s that. Now here are the reasons that make me think Nintendo are perhaps being a little bit lazy with this port, in ascending order of offensiveness.

Personal tastes aside, Wind Waker is one of the most visually arresting video games ever produced — there’s no denying that — and its art style really pops and comes to life in high definition. The trouble is, if you asked me which 3D Zelda game most needs an HD remake, Wind Waker would be the last game I’d pick. It already looks great in standard definition. I honestly think Nintendo got their Zelda remakes the wrong way around; Wind Waker should have been on the 3DS, whilst the Wii U probably should have received a fully-fledged remake of Ocarina of Time. That would potentially have sold hundreds of thousands of systems.

Due to, shall we say, not strictly official methods, Zelda fans have actually been able to play Wind Waker in HD for the best part of three years now. And it arguably looks better via emulation, as it can be rendered at twice the resolution that Wind Waker HD for Wii U will ship in, with an added injection of anti-aliasing for good measure.

When Nintendo first showed the game off back in January, they promised to ‘tune up the overall game experience’. But what did that mean, exactly? New dungeons? Refined combat? An easier and less infuriating way to change the direction of the wind? Again, Wind Waker is my favourite game of all time, but even I recognise that, mechanically speaking, it’s not a perfect game, and it seemed like Nintendo could have changed any number of things. And what did they actually do? They made the boat go a bit faster.

They honestly couldn’t have implemented the Wind Waker on the touch screen in some capacity to make navigating the sea that bit more enjoyable? I’m not saying get rid of the rhythm mini-game entirely; you could still have it for changing the time of day and for fast travel, but having to stop to change the wind direction every 30 seconds wasn’t my idea of fun. Like the iron boots in the water temple in the Ocarina of Time 3DS remake, I thought for sure this was something Nintendo would have fixed.

I know that The Wind Waker can be played by using touch gestures instead of using the analog sticks, but that’s not the same; drawing a line on the GamePad to seamlessly change the wind direction without having to stop would have been fantastic, and something that I feel would be fairly easy to implement.

Now, it’s all well and good saying “we wanted to stay true to the original game”, but that excuse doesn’t fly with me. If I want to play the original game, I’ll go and play the original game. I’ve got a GameCube, I’ve got a WaveBird and I’ve got an original copy of The Wind Waker. The excuse for not including the cut dungeons was also disappointing. They got used in future games? OK, so make new ones! Although it hasn't been confirmed yet, this will almost certainly be a full-price retail title, just as the 3DS version of Ocarina of Time was. We may not see it as a ‘new game’, but Nintendo clearly does. This is one of the Wii U’s biggest titles going into the Holiday period, so is a new dungeon or two really so much to ask for? Are we being unrealistic by actually expecting some new content? Again, this isn’t some pocket change, eShop download; it’s a full price purchase.

I’m not one of these people who subscribes to the idea that Nintendo milks their franchises more than any other publisher; lazy HD remasters aren’t exactly a new thing to the industry. In fact, one of my most treasured possessions is the ICO & Shadow of the Colossus HD Collection for PlayStation 3, a package which also offered very little in the way of new content. However, I feel there are a few key distinctions to make here.

1. ICO & Shadow of the Colossus HD Collection was a budget release. It launched at $40 in the US, and you can pick it up in the UK now for around £15. Not only that, but Sony actually put it up as one of the games in the PlayStation Plus library, meaning it was free to anyone who was a member during the month of June.

2. It’s two games, not one. True, they’re shorter games than Wind Waker, but in the eyes of many players, they’re arguably just as good.

3. ICO may have been critically acclaimed, but it posted average numbers at retail. On the PS2, ICO sold less than 500,000 units worldwide. It’s obvious that the collection was a way of getting more people to experience the game — something which I recommend every single one of you do immediately, by the way.

An ICO HD remaster probably wouldn’t have sold too hot, either, explaining the decision to bundle it with Shadow of the Colossus, which is arguably Japan Studio’s most well-known and revered game. Either way, it’s a win-win for the consumer. Wind Waker, on the other hand, sold over 4.5 million copies, so I don’t think Nintendo can justify the release in this way. Of course, I’m not saying Nintendo needs to ‘justify’ its releases to me; I know I’m not that important, and I know that most Nintendo fans are going to lap this game up regardless because, hey, it’s ‘new’ Zelda. I just think that there’s a certain standard and a certain precedent that we’ve come to expect from Nintendo, and in particular, The Legend of Zelda.

I’ve completed the original game countless times, and when when I watched the first trailer for the HD remake, I could instantly tell that every single frame of animation was identical to how it was on the GameCube. The scene where the two Bokoblins drop down atop Outset Island, right at the start of the game, is as wooden as ever. That’s fine; I don’t expect Nintendo to build a brand new engine for a remaster.

What’s not fine, though, is the fact that Wind Waker HD is still using the exact same combat system that it was in 2003. Say what you want about Twilight Princess, but its combat system was arguably the best in the series. The way that you could freely initiate shield bashes, helm splitters and the back slice was such a step up from Wind Waker’s wait-until-your-controller-vibrates-and-then-press-‘A’, that using this system again is going to feel like such a backwards step. I’m not even asking for motion controls, just something a bit more involved than hitting the A button whenever there’s an on-screen prompt.

Perhaps the biggest offense, though, is Nintendo’s insistence once again to use MIDI for the soundtrack. You can’t release an orchestral CD for Zelda’s 25th anniversary, with stunningly arranged compositions from Wind Waker, and then do the remake in MIDI. You just can’t do that. Wind Waker has arguably some of the best music in any Zelda game, and by extension, some of the best music in any video game ever created. To not take advantage of that is almost criminal. The Wii U uses optical discs with 25GB of capacity. For crying out loud, Nintendo, use it!

When all’s said and done, new Zelda is new Zelda, and I’ve been looking for an excuse to play through The Wind Waker again for a while now. Maybe I’m part of the problem; I’ll buy it, I’ll play it and I’ll probably love it, but at the back of my mind, it’s going to be hard to shake off the thought of what could have been, had Nintendo just invested a little more time, and maybe taken a little more initiative. I can see the counter-arguments now: if I don’t like it, don’t buy it, right? Frankly, that attitude doesn't help anything, and it’s one that Nintendo really can’t afford to have right now. HD remasters are clearly a good thing, but when you're talking about a game as seminal as Wind Waker — and expecting people to pay top dollar — then just upscaling the visuals isn't enough, in my humble opinion.

Do you agree with Rory's stance on Wind Waker HD? (448 votes)

Yes, Wind Waker HD feels like a lazy port to me

35%

No, this is a legendary game and I'd pay twice the price to enjoy it in HD

23%

I didn't play the game on GameCube so I don't share his misgivings

21%

I'll be picking it up but I don't really have a strong opinion on the matter

18%

I won't be buying Wind Waker so I couldn't care less

2%

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