Supposedly, a remake often tries to correct the wrongs of its forbears…at least in video game terms. The developers of the original, either seeing the necessity to fix it or (more likely) a golden calf to be milked, they decide to re-release to hopefully hook a new audience into a new franchise. The Wind Waker, at least, seems somewhat deserving of this honor. Unduly shunned by the majority of people who want an “adult” Zelda, the decade or so since its release hasn’t dulled how beautiful the game looks or how snappy it plays in comparison to its stolen “Ocarina of Time on the high seas” formula.
The changes so far in Wind Waker HD, however, strike the repeat player as curious. For full disclosure, there’s a very precise reason why I keep replaying The Wind Waker and never seeming to finish it: the Triforce hunt. Basically, the game forces the player, upon finishing the majority of the dungeons, to sail around looking for various pieces of the Triforce on islands around the sea, which will unlock the gate to the last Ganondorf-themed dungeon. All well and good, right? Unfortunately, I don’t play Zelda games for tedious scavenger hunts, so when I find that I must discover 8 (COUNT’EM, LADIES AND GENTS) pieces of the Triforce, I often just up and quit.
I probably should detail the horrific, HORRIFIC specifics of this quest. First, you need to find a Triforce chart, one of eight. You’d need to travel there via boat, go through a mini-dungeon, combat, mini-game, or whatnot to find it. Second, you needed to pay Tingle a hefty Rupee sums (398 rupees) to actually read the chart. Nintendo, where do I grind money? Can you tell me? Because I don’t know even now! Then, you would sail to the location of the Triforce piece, use the salvage arm crane to take it off the sea floor, and THEN you needed to do this seven more times. Yes, you can travel to parts of the map via the Wind Waker to reduce the travel time, but you can’t imagine how unbelievably boring and tedious this all is. Sailing takes a LONG time, and no way exists to really speed that part up. The exhilarating, unique elements of this Zelda game suddenly turn boring. There’s no special reward or fun in this quest other than the vague thrill of discovery.
Some liken it to a treasure hunt; I call it the sign of an unfinished product with a hastily assembled last part. You see, Wind Waker’s actually the shortest of the 3D Zelda games when you actually count the content in it. Sure, there’s tons of things to explore, but these exist as intangibles. Counting all the dungeons up, I’d say Wind Waker contains about 6, including the last one. The Triforce Hunt functions as the perfect disguised padding – clearly, they wanted to release it to focus on development of the next “real” Zelda game (Twilight Princess), and so they hurried development with the abomination of Triforce hunting. Sadly, this ruins the end of the game, forcing players to complete arbitrary tasks to resolve a cliffhanger – what thrilling book could ever get away with hours upon hours of content unrelated to the story in every way?
I get so caught up in that one minute aspect, but that hunt sullies the rest of the game’s good qualities to such a degree that I can’t go without mentioning it in excruciating detail. One fatal design decision prevented me from completing it more than once, and I find that an absolute shame. Besides that, The Wind Waker represents the best of 3D Zelda. It has lots of personality, a pretty unique story hook, and pacing that drives things along with rigorous pacing and an absolute lack of hand-holding. The little improvements to Ocarina (such as combat, which now contains counterattacks and snappy movements) really show Nintendo’s ability to iterate on their mechanics, broken or not. It is, of course, far too easy (even on Hero mode), but 3D Zelda games will always attempt to appeal to a massive audience so I don’t mind that so much. I just enjoy the world, see the 3D Zeldas for what it is, and enjoy them.
So, what does The Wind Waker HD actually do with the Triforce Hunt, and the rest of the game for that matter? Surprisingly, it changes very little; however, the details add up. The graphics definitely received a strange, not totally satisfying overhaul, which replaces the cel-shaded flat look of the original with a strange compromise more akin to a cartoonish Skyward Sword. The amount of bloom actually hurts my eyes when white and yellow contrast on the screen, and I don’t know whether they intended for that to happen. Either way, I imagine that element comes down to aesthetics; it does recreate one’s nostalgia, if anything.
Second, I LOVE the GamePad in this game, and I hate the GamePad. Inventory management suddenly became incredibly easy; just touch and drag the item to one of the three face buttons, and you can immediately use it! 3D Zelda games long had this fixation with making you go to the menu, scroll through other menus, find the item, equip it, and then finally exit the menu – it takes forever, slows down the pacing (read: Iron Boots in the Water Temple), and generally felt tedious. Here, you just look down, point and drag, and it works! They also made the aiming of various items like the Grappling Hook and Arrows much tighther; the motion controls of the GamePad work perfectly in quickly aiming and throwing something out, almost like second nature. Heck, these were problems with most 3D Zelda games, and the GamePad simply solve them with no muss or fuss.
They also changed minor things in the introduction, as the stealth sequence at the beginning does not punish you nearly as much as before (since it, you know, warns you if you’re about to be discovered). Sailing now has a fast forward feature, and you never need to carry the sail as a separate inventory item anymore (again, remember the inventory issues above and this is a huge improvement). Contextual actions still seem a bit fussy, and Hero mode still does not function correctly with a model this finicky for high-paced action (so I get no hearts, but any puzzles I solve remain solved when I die? Ok, I guess that means I’ll just throw myself at the puzzles until I win). Still, the vast majority of the changes make sense.
EXCEPT FOR THE TRIFORCE HUNT