In fact, we'd go so far as to say that this is the best-looking game in this art style we've ever seen. Given the closest competitor - that Wind Waker has beat - is Studio Ghibli and Namco Bandai collaboration Ni no Kuni, that's high praise indeed.
Improved art style is definitely the headline for this HD remake of the Zelda adventure originally released on GameCube back in 2002. What was muted then has been born out: the cel-shaded paint job really is timeless. Shame that's not true of everything else in the game.
You can't ignore Wind Waker was a product of its time. There's the occasional camera issue, which was as best as it could be back then, but in present day it falls below Nintendo's usually flawless polish. You can accept that and a few other tiny niggles. But not everything.
While previous entries were trend-setters, this marked the first time you could see Nintendo heavily apply someone else's ideas into their work. The pseudo-stealth sections (gameplay mechanics in vogue at the time) still sit awkwardly, and as they're heavily emphasised for the game's opening dungeon, as was then is true now: Wind Waker opens with a rare stumble in the series and takes a few hours to find its feet.
Coming after the critically-acclaimed The Ocarina of Time (and its sequel Majora's Mask), Wind Waker had to find something new to bring to the sprawling world that'd become the franchise's 3D calling card. So Nintendo tried something different, but still had to hit the beats that made Zelda, well, Zelda. Whether it's us being unwilling to accept change, or them delivering a weak opening trio of dungeons and the time between them, it's not until the game's story syncs up with its predecessor in a brilliant (and surprisingly emotional) way, and you're drawn into the wider mythos of the series that everything begins to click.
The game follows the same rough series structure. Smaller quest with easy dungeons with enemies and environmental puzzles opens up to a larger, harder, quest. There's plenty of adventure off the beaten path, but you've got to sail to find it.
The world map is one near-endless ocean (well, at least a 7 by 7 square grid version of it). Locations are only accessible by sailing, and these range from tiny islands to larger towns, dungeons. Nintendo try and spice up travel with race-like mini-games, as well as deadly sea life between islands, but there's still times when sailing is a slog. In this instance, the GamePad's extra screen proves useful.
You no longer have to pause the game to check your map. It may only save seconds, but they build up over time. On land, mapping weapons to the three attack buttons with a couple of taps on the screen lessens the pain of multi-tasking through menus come dungeons. Yet Nintendo have missed out by not letting you scribble notes on sea charts.
You've three weapon buttons to customise. Yet whether you favour GamePad or Pro Controller, (though the Pro offers a much better in-built vibration) weapons that need aiming with the right stick have to go on the shoulder button, due to the right stick and face button layouts. You can use the GamePad's gyro-sensor to centre your gaze instead, but that the aim view isn't mirrored on its screen for more precise shots seems an oversight. You can flip the game screen onto the GamePad, but the colours are muted: you'll favour big screen sheen over portability.
Nintendo offer some tweaks. The Hero Mode - which nicely can be toggled on and off at any point - doubles enemy damage, and drops any additional heart collection. However, the need to manually alter the wind direction while sailing (though it's hard to see how to negate it as it's part of a core gameplay mechanic) is still here, and is still annoying.
Just try and sail round an island in a loop without renegotiating with the wind. There's a similar issue with having to switch between cannon and sail during sea fights, but again, this'd require a major overhaul, something not on the agenda with this HD update.
Like Mario, Zelda titles are still in a class of their own, and as such their only true competitors are each other, and time's passage. In the rich tapestry of 3D Zeldas, Wind Waker has remained one of the most graphically iconic. With time's passing though, it's arguable whether it's the series' finest hour.
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