IT is testament to the beauty of the world constructed by Eiju Aonuma that the passing of a decade cannot dull its lustre. When Wind Waker arrived on the Gamecube in the autumn of 2003, its charismatic art style proved divisive, with some fans of the series accusing Nintendo of sacrilege. In time, Twilight Princess ensured the complainants had their way, but hindsight reveals their argument to be misplaced.
Even now, Wind Waker remains one of the company’s crowning glories, and an example to all aspiring games developers of how design and technique can complement one another. It is a title with imagination aplenty, but also romance and sentiment, qualities rarely found in its medium. Yes, it was a brisk affair with an occasionally uninspired dungeon design, but as a statement of intent, the nautical adventure ranked alongside Shigeru Miyamoto’s best games as a thing of wonder, combining the classic tenets of Zelda with sparks of originality.
Courtesy of this release, the game is even more glorious to behold in HD This is not so much a remake as an enhanced celebration of the original. The graphical updates have been sensitively executed, and the world has not been torn down and rebuilt, but given flickers of light and shade. Whereas many games look their best in static screenshots, Wind Waker excels in motion, when the cell-shaded scenes flow and seduce the senses.
Somehow, the clarity of the revamped visuals complements every other feature of the game. The soundtrack, for example, seems more lush and responsive, even if it remains unchanged. Some aspects, such as the deceptively simple swordplay, have thankfully remained unaltered. Where more obvious surgery has taken place, it is cannily done, and actively improves the overall experience. The Swift Sail mechanic, for example, will please those who found Link’s sea-faring escapades a chore, and the Wii U touchscreen is sensibly employed as an inventory-cum-map. Furthermore, Nintendo has not been afraid to make substantial differences to the actual plot; anyone discouraged by the grinding Triforce quest on the Gamecube will be relieved to learn it has been pruned back and streamlined for this generation.
Superb in its own right, the game whets the appetite for what will come next in Nintendo’s most accomplished series. Only last week, Aonuma hinted at a desire to pursue something new n the future. “Why does it have to be traditional?” he said. “That’s the question I’ve been asking myself. If we don’t change that, we can’t make something new.” Ten years after the flurry of anger which greeted Wind Waker, his faith in innovation and risk taking has been justified. Whatever he decides upon, he should not be cowed by those who fear change.