‘The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD’ Review

Platform: Wii U

Genre: Third-Person Action

Developer: Nintendo

Publisher: Nintendo

When I first booted up The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD on my Wii U, I held two feelings. The first, and expected one, was excitement while the other was jealousy.

“Jealousy? Why in the world are you feeling that,” asks a random reader.

Well, it’s sort of like when you watch a movie with an amazing plot twist you wouldn’t see coming no matter how many eons you’re given to figure it out. The second time around, it’ll still be an enjoyable view, but it won’t have the same oomph it did when you had little to no ideas of the curve ball the plot would throw at you.

To those playing Wind Waker for the first time via this HD iteration; I am jealous of you because of the wonderful experience you will undergo playing it as a new game with no expectations of where your next destination takes you. Wind Waker still holds up incredibly well even by today’s standards, and it’s a title made even better thanks to its small, but highly appreciate tweaks in addition to enhanced visuals.

Wind Waker HD starts us off on Outset Island, one of many places to visit in the game’s world known as the Great Sea. It’s Link’s (or Toon Link as he is often called) birthday, and as he is celebrating, a series of events unfold leading to his younger sister getting kidnapped by a giant bird and taken to an evil place known as the Forsaken Fortress. Link then takes it upon himself to rescue his sister, but eventually, the story evolves into something other than a simple rescue mission.

Overall, it’s still the series’ typical princess-gets-kidnapped-now-go-rescue-her formula, but it’s great to see the story branch out a little bit. Making it further enjoyable is Toon Link as the game’s acting protagonist. I’m certainly a fan of the Ocarina’s Link – the first one I ever knew – and always will be, but he’s never had much of a personality.

Toon Link, on the other hand, is a character of many facial expressions, body movements and humorous vocal sounds. He’s also more relatable because looking at him, he doesn’t have the physical features of an atypical hero, but once the story’s curtains close, Toon Link develops from a boy who barely knew the art of combat to a master of the blade.

Much of Toon Link’s emotions and reactions are made effective thanks to the game’s gorgeous cartoon visuals. Die-hard fans of yesteryear’s Wind Waker have argued Wind Waker HD’s added aesthetics such as increased lighting and shaders make the game lose a bit of its charming appeal. First off, CRT TVs will not last forever, if much longer, and let’s face it; older consoles simply don’t transition well on high definition settings. Second, even if it doesn’t replicate the original to the teeth, it’s an HD remake. Would you really want it to look exactly the same? Either way, Wind Waker HD is beautiful whether you’re sailing on the high seas in the middle of the day, inside a lava pit with explosive fires or exploring the darkest of dungeons.

In a typical Zelda fashion, you will venture through dungeons and temples to eradicate the evil within using items you acquire from each level as you solve your way through them. Like the game’s visuals, the puzzle elements to Wind Waker still hold up incredibly well. I remember the game’s story and which items are in which dungeons/temples, but solving the puzzles was mostly a fresh playthrough for me since the last time I picked up the game was several years ago. Whether it’s part of the story’s dungeons or the dozens of other islands in the Great Sea, Wind Waker encourages you to scour every inch of land and experiment things in an unfamiliar fashion, and it’s yet another way the game shines.

Outside of the game’s 20-plus hour story, there are tons of sidequests for you to choose from. You can explore the variety of islands you may have scanned in passing, search for treasure with the assortment of Treasure Charts you’ll stumble upon or talk to one of the residents of the populated Windfall Island, as someone always has something for you to do there. No matter what you choose to do, you will easily be occupied for dozens of hours, making the game worth its weight in Rupees.

Thankfully, Wind Waker HD does more than just adding prettier graphics, which makes sidequests and trekking the Great Sea all the merrier. Nintendo included some extra upgrades to ease newcomers into the game while simultaneously making veterans thank the gaming gods.

For starters, Nintendo, I just want to take this time to say thank you for finally making a game where using the GamePad is not mandatory in some way. Don’t get me wrong. I actually really enjoy playing with the GamePad, but I’ve had little to no opportunity to try out my Pro Controller. For a brief review, the Pro Controller is a wonderful option in games. It’s comfortable to hold, the triggers – though a little odd at first – feel fine after a while and the button placements work well. As a veteran Wind Waker player, having the ability to switch between the GamePad and Pro Controller is highly, highly appreciated.

Aside from controller options, the general sped-up upgrades are welcomed. The Swift Sail, which can be purchased at the auction house on Windfall Island, grants players 50 percent faster speed while travelling the Great Sea and the ability to travel in any direction without stopping to change the wind’s direction.

Though it doesn’t add any significant improvements, Nintendo has also thrown in Tingle Bottles and Toon Link selfies as fun extras. Once you meet Tingle later in the game, he will give you the Tingle Bottle, allowing you – if you have an internet connection – to send other players messages that randomly show up throughout their Great Sea. You may also receive these bottles, and there are always plenty of them drifting about. With the Picto Box, an item primarily used for a sidequest, you can take hilarious “selfies” of Toon Link and send the pictures in a Tingle Bottle. It’s always funny to pick up a bottle in the ocean and have it containing a ridiculous picture of Toon Link’s selfie.

Veteran players, remember how each time you play a song from the Wind Waker, it would always repeat again right after you conducted it? Now it only does it once when you reboot the game each time. Newbies; you have no idea how much this improvement is appreciated, especially when you have to use one specific song multiple times in short spurts to control characters in the game’s later segments.

For players who wished for more challenge back in the day, there is now an optional difficulty called Hero Mode, which can be activated at any time from the game’s opening menu. Enemies do double the damage, and the only way to recover health is through potions. It’s a great way to re-experience the game if you already know it backwards and forwards. Trust me when I say it can be brutal, but rewarding.

Finally, I would’ve been perfectly fine if they had put in the original soundtrack from the Gamecube days, but it seems each song has been updated to an orchestrated version, and it sounds delightful. Every song, no matter which situation you’re in, always fits the scene like a glove.


People who have been skeptical about purchasing a Wii U may finally have a reason to pick one up. Whether you want re-experience every moment of Wind Waker in a prettier-looking fashion, jump into the series for the first time or play it because you haven’t gotten around to it yet, Wind Waker HD will do more than satisfy your gaming craves. The third-person gameplay elements from combat to puzzle-solving still hold up well. The simple, yet welcoming additions make this the definitive version of Wind Waker. The cartoonish visuals are simply marvelous as well, making it one of the best-looking games I’ve ever seen. Simply put: you need to pick up Wind Waker HD.


+ Small improvements and new additions smoothen an already-amazing experience

+ Enhanced visuals look fantastic in HD

+ Gameplay elements still hold up well

+ Toon Link

+ Plenty to do outside the lengthy story


– Edges on character models and shadows sometimes distractingly jagged

– Occasional framerate drop in bigger sea battles

Score: 9.7