Platforms: Wii U
When I gave Ocarina of Time 3D a score of 9/10 in our review of the game two years ago, it was a score that ignored Nintendo's desperation in rehashing a fourteen year old game to plug a hole in a release schedule that had tumbleweed rolling across its empty expanse. It was arguably The Greatest Game of All Time suddenly in the palms of our hands, in stereoscopic 3D, with added gyroscopic motion controls that added subtle, nuanced improvements. We'd never been able to play Ocarina of Time on the go before, and now we could.
I'll be honest, back in the heyday of the Gamecube (if there was one), I was one of those people who viewed the aesthetic leap from OOT to The Wind Waker with no small displeasure. The former had been an epic adventure for all to enjoy, something aspirational for the young lad I was. As a teenager I wanted more adult role model, not fictional kids having more fun than I was. There was a darkness to Ocarina of Time that appealled to me, whereas Wind Waker seemed too bright, too cheerful, too Saturday morning cartoon.
Then I played it, fell in love with it, and delighted in the nuances in expression and animation that the cel-shaded graphics could offer that game.
And now Nintendo want Wind Waker to do for the Wii U what Ocarina of Time did for the 3DS: give them breathing room.
It's actually a pretty good idea. If the major criticism of The Wind Waker was that skewed a little too young, well that's not really a problem on the successor to the "family friendly" console that was the Wii. And everyone who complained? Well, we know better now.
The truth is that as much as one might have disliked the visuals on some sort of principal, the game looked gorgeous and, rendered in HD with some meaty graphical updates, it's absolutely stunning. Graphics aren't the most important thing when it comes to a great game, but it's hard not to be charmed by this game. So often, the games that we remember prove to be a little disappointing if we play them after a decade's hiatus. This isn't really their fault -- technology moves on, times change, and our expectations grow. But Wind Waker HD looks just like our rose-tinted spectacles of nostalgia would have us believe.
Nintendo haven't just upgraded the textures, though, it's a brand new engine running underneath the pixel-perfect visual icing. As such, cartoon Link has never felt more responsive, the animations, hardly an issue before, are smoother than ever. The devil is in the details, from the tiny seagulls that adorn Link's telescope to the superb lighting that casts moody, dynamic shadows across the walls of the Forsaken Fortress. Really, though, the new engine is more exciting with regard to future possibilities, as Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto has already stated that it's likely to be deployed in another capacity.
We started at Outset Island, before moving onto a boss battle with the Helmaroc King atop the battlements of the Forsaken Fortress in our demo. The King of Red Lions -- Link's ship -- has gotten himself a bit of an upgrade, with two speed modes, and much faster crane meaning that sailing around the map and foraging for sunken treasure aren't nearly the tedious affairs that they used to be. Nintendo have leveraged the Wii U's unique capabilities rather subtly, and in much the same fashion as Ocarina of Time 3D did with the 3DS. Gyroscopic motion control has been added in as an optional extra, there's swift inventory management to be had via the second screen, and Nintendo were touting the off-screen play for this title rather heavily. As with most games that can be shrunk down onto the GamePad's screen, Wind Waker looked beautiful.
It's clear that Nintendo have been taking a few cues from Demon Souls and its sequel of all places, too. Obtaining the Tingle Bottle will allow players to tap into comments from the wider virtual community, and players are gifted the ability to leave little notes for other gamers that pass through. It's a pleasant little fourth-wall breaking feature, even if the framework of this means it doesn't quite have the effect it does in Dark Souls for example, where dangers lie around every corner. Nonetheless, we're looking forward to seeing what the community comes up with this October.
There's not much else to say: it's The Wind Waker. In HD. And it looks and plays just like your rose-tinted specs remember, which is pretty great. Whether it's enough to boost the Wii U in a month that will be filled to the brim with current gen blockbusters, however, is another matter entirely.