What I'm Playing - No. 177
Welcome back to another weekly wrap-up of the games I’ve been playing over the past week!
Click a title to skip to that section. Games contained within this post:
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (Wii U)
I still think of this HD version of Wind Waker as a new game, but it came out in 2013 so it’s actually almost 10 years old as of the writing of this post…wow.
When Wind Waker HD came out, I didn’t own a Wii U, so I missed out on it completely. Now nearly 10 years later, I still don’t own a Wii U, but after after watching a Wind Waker randomizer video, I got the itch to play it again. So, of course I thought about just playing through the GameCube version again. It’s the version I grew up with, it’s familiar. But after a little Googling and asking my Wii U owning friend about the differences between the two version, I decided it was time to play through Wind Waker HD for the first time.
I was always a bit skeptical of the visual changes made in this version. The GameCube original has such a timeless, iconic look, and I think it still holds up. But playing Wind Waker HD, it really does look great. I still missed the original graphics sometimes, but I ended up liking the HD visuals too. In terms of gameplay tweaks, HD is so much nicer to play. Updated grappling hook controls allowing you to change direction without stopping first, streamlined PictoBox DX acquisition and figurine crafting, the list goes on and on, but there’s one thing that’s probably the #1 improvement for a lot of people: the Swift Sail. It’s an optional item that was added to the auction on Windfall Island, and once you get it you can toggle Fast Sailing by pressing A whenever you’re at sea. Fast Sailing is about twice as fast as regular sailing, and it automatically sets the wind direction at your back, making sailing so much more streamlined. I can see how some purists might scoff at this idea, and I myself find the default sailing speed incredibly relaxing at times, but the thing is that the Swift Sail is optional. If you don’t like it, you don’t even have to pick it up! Or, you can just keep playing GameCube Wind Waker.
I forgot how much of a little gremlin Link is in this game. He makes the funniest facial expressions, it’s great. This has easily got to be the funniest Zelda game thanks to this little guy. But aside from Link, the other characters are really memorable too. The Rito and Korok races are very distinctive, and the character designs in general for the human characters stay stuck in your mind too. I might not know that snot-nosed kid’s name from Outset Island, but I will never forget him.
Prior to this, the last Zelda game I’d been playing was Ocarina of Time, so adjusting to Wind Waker’s combat again was a little jarring. I kept trying to power crouch stab everything, but that’s not a thing in Wind Waker. I like Wind Waker’s combat though. It feels much more cinematic than Ocarina of Time’s with the way the musical stings come in when you hit an enemy, and the dramatic counterattack animations. The bosses in Wind Waker are incredible spectacles too, the way they tower over Link is really cool.
The dungeons in Wind Waker are pretty good. I don’t think they’re the best in the series, but they’re well-designed and it was fun going through them all again. I definitely remember the first three the most clearly, I must’ve played through those a bunch of times as a kid and then started a new save file or something. Those first two are definitely my favorites, there’s just something about them that I can’t quite put my finger on. I do like how all the dungeons in this game require Big Keys, especially when your path through the dungeon takes you past the Boss Door before you get the Big Key, like in Dragon Roost Cavern. I love it when the dungeons are designed to loop you back around like that, it scratches the metroidvania-loving part of my brain.
I didn’t plan on doing many side quests, and for the most part I didn’t do a lot of side stuff here. But I was surprised at a few of the side objectives I completed simply because it had been so long since I played Wind Waker and did those things, and I wanted to complete them and see if they were more streamlined in the HD version. As a kid, I thought watering all the Korok saplings was a nightmare. I’m pretty sure I did it like once, or maybe I never even finished it because I didn’t have a guide and couldn’t find the last one. I’m not sure, but this time I had seen several of the Koroks as I sailed around the seas, and after a trip to Forest Haven to make some figurines (which is one of my favorite things in the game, by the way), I was like “eh, I’m here, might as well grab some Forest Water and go for it.” This time I used a guide for the Korok locations, and I’m glad I did or I never would’ve found some of the Koroks in time. The combination of the Swift Sail and the increased Forest Water time limit (from 20 minutes in the original to 30 minutes in HD) made finishing this side quest completely painless, but it is pretty annoying that the only reward you get for finishing this pretty involved, timed side quest that takes you all over the world map is…a Heart Piece.
Playing through the Wind Waker for the first time in so long was a wonderful experience packed with nostalgia. The original is one of the games I grew up with, so it holds a special place in my heart. Even after all these years, Wind Waker holds up extremely well, especially the HD version. It’s not a difficult game by any stretch of the imagination, but that’s okay. It’s a fun game, with a sense of adventure in sailing its wide open seas that feels unique to the series, with the exception of maybe Phantom Hourglass on the DS. It’s been a long time since I played that game too, but I don’t think it captures quite the same feeling as its home console predecessor. If you’ve never played The Wind Waker, I definitely recommend giving it a try. Original or HD, I don’t think you can go wrong, but the quality-of-life improvements in HD go a long way. My final time was 17 hours, 30 minutes.