With timeless visuals in full glory of high-definition and an adventure to be remembered, Wind Waker is a gem.
I might be a minority here but I don't remember freaking out on Zelda's new style back in the beginning of the 2000's. I remember waiting for the magazine that contained all the information of the game that was about to be released, I came home from the bookstore reading it and getting amazed at each picture I saw, each word used to describe it. When it was announced I didn't give it much thought, I guess I was way too sure Nintendo wouldn't screw things up. At that time, they really didn't.
People were going crazy because Majora's Mask wasn't the grand adventure everyone expected, even if the original idea of a 7-day cicle came to become the game we have today it wouldn't have the same overall style as Ocarina had. Who knows, maybe it would even be even more macabre than it already is. I for one loved Majora for what it was, maybe more than Ocarina. Sometimes I get too busy enjoying the game for what it was than what I wanted it to be.
Bold as it was for Nintendo to stray away from something that seemed to have grown with Ocarina and add so many new stuff that made the game much more of a gamble than just give the fans a second Ocarina following every step of its predecessor and staying safe, Nintendo took this bet to astronomical levels with Wind Waker.
Some things just can't be changed, the reliance on defined dungeons that offered the true leveled experience within the confines of the story unfolding in an overworld that tried to be as pulsating with life and inviting as it could be stayed true to the formula. The item mechanics had gone through different paths between Ocarina and Majora and it was only logical to improve upon some of them while adding new features to previous versions found in the new 3D iterations.
What was in question here wasn't how the mechanics would have changed, it was pretty obvious that Nintendo didn't have much problem with changes when they released Majora, what caught the eye was the visuals. New at the time, the cel-shading style became famous after Wind Waker successful use of it. The visuals were less mature and took form of a cartoony style in spite of taking itself way too serious.
If you think about it, Link has always been somewhat of a blank sheet of paper, it had its "oohhh"'s and "ahhh"'s at specific times but his reactions lacked any organic idiosyncrasy to showcase any type of real emotion toward Nintendo's most treasured attempts at some kind of meaningful story. Nintendo games were never about stories, they were about gameplay and we all knew that, still, Zelda tried so hard but Link couldn't be par with they had been achieving.
Right at the beginning of Wind Waker you realize why they chose to draw Link with that fully expressing face of his, his quest begins when a malign gigantic flying bird drops a stray pirate girl at the forest of his home island, Outset Island. The pirates had been chasing this bird down up to that point when the girl end up in the forest. Link goes to the location to try to rescue the person in distress but she seems to have managed herself pretty well. She meets up with another pirate friend and leaves.
Upon leaving the forest they have to cross a bridge to reach the other side and standing there on the other end of the bridge is none other than Link's sister who lives in the island with him. At that moment she waves her hand at her brother and he returns back the waving with a big nice smile. That moment of happiness and bond between the two siblings is pretty brief but so important for the immersion of the player because right after that, before they could meet up crossing the bridge the evil bird returns and snatches his beloved sister.
Link is desperately heartbroken and decides to go after her. After striking a deal with the pirates to help him out they sail away to the horizon. The story unfolds nicely when after reaching the forsaken fortress and failing to successfully rescue his sister he is rescued by a talking boat named King of the Red Lions. That's when the adventure really takes form and the evil that lurks that strange place seems far more sinister than just a kidnap.
Wind Waker takes its time with the player, I remember back in the day reaching to a conclusion that it would take close to 15 minutes to cross diagonally the Great Sea from one end to the other. Quite a long time will be spent in the sea and the distances from one island to another aren't really inviting, but unlike the DS version of sailing the Great Sea seems much better suited to get lost within its confines. Most of the islands at the beginning demand items that only later in the game you'll have access so they remain clouded in mystery for a while while you're running along with the main adventure.
The high definition format made Wind Waker shine brighter than ever, a game can hardly be 15 years old and still look absolutely amazing, all thanks to the change of style. No overhaul was needed to make it one of the best looking games ever, just the higher resolution and horizontal/vertical rate tuned according to newer TV models. The timeless visuals do all the work, pulsating with vibrant, vivacious display of scenery.
The controls were ported nicely. The tablet isn't just an emulated useless screen like in other releases, it actually helps keeping the menu in fully functional even in action. You can change to view the map or item selection screen for example. The wider range of options available in the Wii U's controller allow for a better, yet quite complex, set of controls.
There's also a new feature that lets people write messages and embed pictographs -- in-game photographs -- within a bottle and throw in the sea. The message is send through the network and if another player find your bottle and opens it he'll be able to read your message and save your photo. Something similar happens in New Super Mario Bros. U. Unlike in Mario, which could have used an online multiplayer, Wind Waker's system is just and added bonus that shouldn't get in the way of people who just don't care.
If there is one tiny complaint I'd have with how things were done regarding the controls and the bottled message system is that you can't really do some stuff while sailing. If you're going to spend so much time sailing a boat basically doing nothing but trying to spot treasures to take them off the bottom of the ocean, and even that particular thing gets old pretty fast, it would be nice to not have to stop sailing to manage messages in bottles to pass the time. It would be an ideal method of making the long journeys between islands less tedious for some.
There's also quite a lot to do in terms of side-quests, like the Nintendo gallery where you go around the world taking pictures of living things and the numerous people that are bound to make outrageous demands for the poor Link and his boat. By the way, the two make up for a great team. It actually goes right to the list of revamped stuff, gladly. To complete Nintendo gallery Link had to take pictures of people and monsters along the way and show to the figurine maker. We didn't have any indication that the shot was good to go
Nothing major was changed from the original but a few tweaks made the game much more pleasing. At a certain point you come across a Swift Sail that will double the speed of sailing and even better, the wind will automatically change to whichever direction you're facing. Not having to keep constantly conducting the wind song to change direction and sailing at sluggish speeds certainly brings joy to anyone who has spend hours upon hours sailing in the original.
The aforementioned Nintendo Gallery actually goes right to the list of revamped stuff that used to make us suffer but now doesn't as much, gladly. To complete Nintendo gallery in the past Link had to take pictures of people and monsters along the way and show to the figurine maker. We didn't have any indication that the shot was good to go. Now we have, a yellow thingy will show the picture is acceptable to be transformed into a figurine. It also used to take a whole day for it to be done and the maker only made one each time. Needless to say the extreme grinding of the song to skip the day/night was unbearable. Still there was more, only 3 photos could be taken each time, which made the long travels between places and the figurine isle such a hassle. Not to mention the ones that had to be taken before the character/monster was gone for good or had the need for the long-gone Game Boy Advance-GameCube connection. Unfortunately the former remains a problem.
Video-game redone in glorious high definition. Though most wont see much reason to pick this one up again it still stands as one of the most well-suited games to stand the test of times graphically and its adventure is as lively as no other Zelda could match until this very day. A timeless experience nonetheless, whether you feel like reliving all over again is debatable, but the greatness of this game is not.