The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (Wii U) Preview

By Jorge Ba-oh 29.06.2013

Review for The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD on Wii U

There's something quite special about a Legend of Zelda game, with the series cementing itself as one of the leaders of the adventure realm over two and a half decades. From the deep dungeons to the epic skies, The Legend of Zelda has offered majestic worlds and memorable characters quite like no other. Up until the release of The Wind Waker over ten years ago, the adventure series had been enclosed and bound to fields and mountains, but Nintendo decided to embark on a far bigger adventure in the seas.

Now to celebrate the game's tenth anniversary and to act as a succulent starter before the brand new Wii U Legend of Zelda game, Nintendo are releasing The Wind Waker in HD this year. Just how is the enhanced port shaping up on new hardware?

Like many Nintendo diversions, The Wind Waker was met with a mixed reception when first announced. Nintendo has shown a realistic GameCube battle between Link and series antagonist Ganondorf to critical acclaim, but opted for something far different and more experimental a year later. Enter the cell shaded world of The Wind Waker, where the cast and wide open world are bathed in a scrumptious, simplified palette. Despite some of the reservations to the next look following on from Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask, the game was met with lifelong fans and is now considered one of the better titles in the iconic series.

As a treat for fans and to introduce newcomers to the game, Nintendo are bringing back The Wind Waker as a stylish port to try and recapture the game in HD for a more current audience. Trying some sort sequences in a post-E3 demo, the game essentially feels just as it did on the GameCube. At its core The Wind Waker HD remains practically unchanged from the original formula: Link is still as expressive as ever, sailing invokes a sense of triumphant and boundless exploration, with a cast of memorable, expressive NPCs.

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD on Wii U

What is immediately apparent though is just how gorgeous the game looks and runs on the more current hardware. From opening the doors to his home and stepping out into the warm sand and prickly grass in his home turf, there's an instant sense of realism even within a cartoon world. The feeling of heat, ocean breeze is realised through the shaper, more detailed textures and stunning lighting/shadow work. Likewise ascending the Forsaken Fortress shows a very different side, a moodier and tenser setting, bathed in deep shadows and flickering wall lighting. The magic of The Legend of Zelda seems to be captured in a more magnificent way, slipping into Disney territory with timeless charm.

That's not to say that the original game lacked something or was as dull as a Ganondorf soliloquy , Nintendo had the GameCube version running alongside the Wii U demos, but by comparison the original release was perhaps a more saturated and subdued affair. The boost in lighting and brightening the whole look is perhaps not to everyone's tastes, but from what we've sampled so far, The Wind Waker HD has gotten the presentation angle just spot on.

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD on Wii U

The first of two sections of the E3 demo was a tour around Outset Island, home to our protagonist, with the small village still brimming with its delightful locale and serving as an introduction to the controls and Legend of Zelda mechanics. The demo offered a slightly revised storyline to fit in with the nature of a quick hands-on, letting players tackle a sword fighting lesson, explore the island with a telescope and sample some of the items already included in Link's inventory. For the most part, the game handles in an almost identical way; however a few additional tweaks have improved the handling and offered a more streamlined way of traversing the large open world. Items can be mapped to practically every button on the GamePad by dragging to a corresponding button without disrupting the gameplay. It can be a little tricky to handle during a boss battle, for instance, but the additional level of control did feel just right for a game like The Legend of Zelda, and a wise way of bringing the GamePad into the mix.

Nintendo are also introducing a dollop of motion control for those who want, perhaps, a more interactive way of using Link's tools. For example, with the bow or grappling hook there's the option to use the GamePad's motion sensors to aim and the analogue stick to move about. However, traditional/analogue aiming is still very much there for those reluctant to swing the controller about to pelt a handful of arrows into a baddie.

Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD on Wii U

Another addition is the inclusion of small Miiverse bottles scattered about that contain Miiverse comments, and of course the ability to draw/write new messages for other Wind Waker players. There were a few littered on Outset Island for us to pop open, each containing mock-up of just what to expect. It's a nifty little addition that invites a more community driven and almost multiplayer feeling to what would have traditionally been a very much solo affair. It'll certainly be interesting to see what Zelda players will rustle up when the game goes live in October.

After skimming water and cruising around the island in Link's boat, the King of Red Lions, it was down to a quick and dirty boss battle - the fearsome Helmaroc King encounter in the Forsaken Fortress. Initially a run and dodge then a hammer pounding climax, the sequence remains generally unchanged, sticking true to the original. Motion control in this instance was perhaps a little tricky given the pace of the battle, so in these sequences it's likely preferable to stick to more traditional aiming.

Off TV play is another feature being touted by Nintendo, and it generally works - shrinking down the gorgeous experience into the portable domain for those wanting to continue the Zelda adventure in a perhaps more intimate setting.

One thing we are hoping for before the final release is orchestrated or at least re-sampled music to add to the presentation improvements. In the E3 demo the music was still very much as it were in the original. Some may argue that reworking music could drain the composition of its charismatic sound, but a re-recorded score would certainly spruce up the experience somewhat.


Screenshot for The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD on Wii U

Final Thoughts

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker has always been one of the Cubed3 favourites, and noted as one of the more unique chapters in the series history. The move to HD and a port is no surprise, but does offer a slick fresh of contemporary high definition paint, more streamlined controls and nifty extras to enhance the experience. It may not be new to most, but is a worthy adventure to play fresh or tackle once more when sailing onto Wii U shores this year.






Action Adventure



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10 (8 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


I am beyond hyped for this game especially after seeing all the improvements made that will keep the game as good as it was and maybe even better

I think it looks just lovely in motion,. really beautiful Smilie  Wish they could have added more in the way of dungeons, but still a great purchase methinks!

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer


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