Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD journal - entry one

I received Wind Waker HD as a gift for purchasing Mario Kart 8 within its ‘early adopter’ window, and then subsequently set it aside for a rainy day. It’s not that I don’t like The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, far from it – it’s my fifth favorite Zelda title, only tailing slightly behind Majora’s Mask, Skyward Sword, the Oracle titles, and Ocarina of Time (numbers four to one, in that order). But I did last replay Wind Waker about two years ago, and felt I should wait a while before tackling this remastered edition at the risk of my experience feeling too much of a mundane retread. That said, I am not certain if this will be one of my earlier reviews on 2015, or if I will tackle it in spurts and give priority to The Wonderful 101 and Watch Dogs.

The great thing about Wind Waker, at least for the sake of this replay and upcoming review, is that it has a relatively quick main storyline. I am, however, very much interested in seeing what all of the reworked gameplay elements are and how different their offerings are from the original Gamecube version. As of right now, I’ve just purchased the sail on Windfall Island, and I have a few key points I wanted to hit on.

First off, the graphics and art style are not as big of an improvement as I had expected. Wind Waker’s cel-shaded direction has led it to be, from a visual perspective at least, the Zelda title that has simply aged the best. The gameplay is a different beast entirely, but when Wind Waker HD was first announced, I thought it an exceptionally odd pick for that very reason. With the Wii U’s significantly improved graphical capabilities over its predecessor consoles, Majora’s Mask, even Twilight Princess could have received major facelifts while finding new and fun things to do with the Gamepad. But Wind Waker HD only has a few notable trumps over its Gamecube counterpart that I have come across thus far – the lighting is superb, and some of the environment textures have been cleaned up.

It’s far from enough to make me feel like this is a whole new spin on an old classic. The cel-shaded character models look almost exactly the same as they did back in 2003, and the blocky/angular portions of environments look outdated. I know they might keep well with the cartoony style of the game, but with the updates Nintendo did perform on this Zelda title, they look a bit out of place, as well as more so dated than most of the game’s other visual components.

Secondly, the few new mechanics I have come across are merely optional control schemes for pre-existing items, or replacements for tech that was effectively impossible to replicate on the Wii U (such as the Tingle Bottle replacing the GBA-connected Tingle Tuner). The gamepad’s gyroscope can be used to aim the telescope, and I would assume the Pictobox as well, though I couldn’t say for certain, as I turned the gyroscope’s finicky sensitivity off after my first use of the telescope. The touch screen can be used to slide items to the X, Y, and R buttons, but it doesn’t really save any significant time over the typical button and joystick combo of the old Gamecube controller. I appreciate the game being a gift, as prior to receiving it, I did not have any intent of purchasing Wind Waker HD, but now that I have it, I’m finding the majority of the updates underwhelming. That said, there is still plenty of game left ahead of me, so perhaps the Great Ocean still has some surprises in store.

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