Dunno why but I’ve been on a big Zelda kick lately, replaying games I haven’t touched in years and giving a second chance to ones I didn’t like. Skyward Sword is exempt from this because it is still fresh in my memory and my fury hasn’t died down enough yet to bother giving it another shot. My hatred of motion controls is as strong as it ever was. Anyway, in the process I’ve given a second chance to the other Zelda game I didn’t like and that is Wind Waker, which as you are no doubt aware is getting an HD remake for the Wii U.
At the time it came out I wasn’t too wild about Wind Waker for a myriad of reasons. I didn’t care for the art style but NOT because I don’t like I don’t like cartoons, quite the contrary on that one. But rather because I thought most of the characters looked really cheap, particularly the townsfolk. That and as a landlubber living in a landlocked state that’s frequently frozen I’m not that wild about sailing the sea which seems to make up the bulk of the game. When I played it the first time that’s the first thing I remember, just how annoying the constant wind direction changing and poorly placed warp points were. But I’ve grown old and opinions refined and have forced myself to actually finish it this time since last time I gave up midway through hunting the Triforce for Tingle, which if you’ve played the game before you would swear that Tingle possessed the secret 4th piece of the Trifoce: Tedium.
Back on point, while I’m not going to proclaim that Wind Waker is the greatest Zelda or my new favorite I will grant that I was wrong about it and I appreciate it more. The graphics work out great and still look good after all these years. I do wonder if the style allowed for the game to maintain its 60 frames per second that make it feel so nice. Sailing looks good but is sadly still as slow and time consuming as I remember. And while I still think that the townsfolk look like something out of a 1950’s cartoon the style allows for the actual characters to express an amazing amount of emotion, that is when they are allowed. Link is still a blank protagonist but when you do get to see his face he’s very expressive and reacts to the world around him. Hell, even that crazy jerk Beedle expresses sadness when you leave his shop by simply looking downward. Very subtle, but adds so much to the atmosphere. The graphic style also allowed for moments where the game would rain down a swarm of weak enemies for you to awesomely chop through. One on one those enemies were nothing but in a swarm they were a pain in the ass, like those little devil imp guys that beeped.
Combat in Wind Waker was a big step up from the old days with the situational prompt of the A button for special attacks. That was one of the things I really liked the first time played, and fortunately it was back in Twilight Princess with more additions. Also there were larger enemies who dropped their weapons that you could then use, not for long of course but it mixed things up. Darksiders 2 would touch on this a little with its secondary weapons and honestly it’s a great idea.
For some reason it feels like Wind Waker has fewer items of equipment than other Zelda games but what it think it actually is is that all the items are frequently used. This was a problem with Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword. In those the items generally just had use in their respective dungeon if at all, other than series staples like the bow and hookshot, and in Skyward Sword the remote beetle. All the items in Wind Waker feel like they are used frequently enough for them to make sense. Only one that doesn’t quite seem to get enough use is the Skull Hammer since its not that great for combat since you always have your sword. Still, it does a good job of making you use the items you get, not much feels unnecessary.
I think I would have liked to see the sailing a bit more refined or something. Something like having a sail upgrade to go faster or better warp points. That one island you can warp to in the northwest that is just a puddle in a closed in island that you can’t sail out of is a really stupid decision. Also things like trying to fight things while on the boat has yet to really click with me. The cannon never works out that well since the pirates shoot me as soon as I stop or whip out the cannon and aiming it is really goofy, especially at something fast like sharks. And god forbid you find yourself at one of those rocky areas where the big birds attack you, felt like I was getting stunlocked! Other than that its just little complaints, like the giant squid map not checking off the ones you’ve killed, or the treasure maps. They need to learn that you don’t need a slow unskippable explanation of things like Treasure maps each time you get one when you already have several, same with Joy Pendants.
Other than that the only spots I hated before that I still hated were the mail sorting mini-game and Battleship mini-game. Both seem to rely way too much on random chance. What made the game a bit more interesting this time was that I actually have a GBA cable to hook up to the system and use the Tingle Tuner, which made things like farming money and doing that leaf gliding mini-game comically easy to the point where it felt like cheating. Going to assume right now that the Tingle Tuner will be back on the WiiU in the form of the touch screen pad.
I guess by giving it a second chance years later I was able to see the game a bit more clearly for what it is. Wind Waker is a solid game and a worthy entry to the Zelda franchise. It’s still not my favorite but I’m willing to admit that I was wrong about it.
Kimo is a contemptuous old coot. With experience in video games dating back to 1988 and a schizophrenic range of games he boasts an impressive range of knowledge of gamings best, and worst. Dwelling in the desolate wastes of the American Midwest he brings to Z1Gaming a perspective that looks for positive qualities in even the worst games.