The Legend of Zelda – Windwaker HD

or How I learned to stop saying I hated all 3D Zelda games…

So, let’s kick this off with a combination of both content AND malcontent.  Those who know me may have heard me rail previously about my distaste for the 3D Zelda games.  While I did beat Ocarina of Time on the N64 back when it was released, it marks the only of the 3D Zelda games I have ever beaten.  Even so, though nostalgia may color my memory in attempt to convince me that it was a good game, attempting to play through the game recently made me realize that it really isn’t that engaging of a Zelda game.  I never beat Majora’s Mask, couldn’t get too into Windwaker on GameCube, despised Twilight Princess with a flaming passion, and cannot even express in written word the level of distaste I have developed for Skyward Sword.

Let’s take these one at a time:

  • The Legend of Zelda – Majora’s Mask (N64)

I really don’t know where to start with this one.  It’s a fan favorite, has garnered good reviews, and most people that I talk with tell me they love it.  All I know is that there’s a clock in the top right hand corner counting down to something, and I can only play for like an hour before it bores me to the point that watching paint dry would be more interesting.  I suppose I can’t really say this game is terrible, more specifically that it just bored me and I couldn’t get into it.  Moving on…

  • The Legend of Zelda – Twilight Princess (GameCube/Wii)

Look, fuck this game.  Fuck this game in its stupid fucking face.  This is the absolute dumbest 3D Zelda game they ever made (not counting the two abortions on DS, Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks, they really are the worst Zelda has to offer unless you happen to have the Philips CDI).  Are you shitting me?  You turned Link into a werewolf?  Fuck this.  Nevermind the fact that they had to mirror the entire game to make Link right-handed, solely to support the waggle-tastic Wiimote controls.  Don’t believe me?  Read about it for yourself.  I think I got an hour into this before realizing that playing as a werewolf was FUCKING STUPID, and turned it the fuck off.

  • The Legend of Zelda – Skyward Sword (Wii)

I truly don’t know how so many people could have gotten this one so fucking wrong.  If you ask just about any Zelda player, they’ll go on for hours about how this is the best Zelda game in the history of mankind, about how it is a shining achievement of Zelda in our lives and nothing will ever beat it.  I have tried to play this stupid fucking game no less than 9 times.  I bought the stupid Motion Plus dongle, and that didn’t work for shit, so then I bought the Wiimote Plus — SOLELY to be able to try and play this stupid game.  Imagine my surprise when the first 90 minutes of the game is running around in a forest, pushing logs in some ridiculously arbitrary and stupid puzzle.  I’m not against puzzles in Zelda games, it’s one of the core mechanics — however, I am averse to puzzles with absolutely no tie to the game, especially ones with completely arbitrary solutions that are not logical, counter-intuitive, and in some cases seemingly random.  People also want to gush about how every single enemy in the game has a unique method to kill — e.g., you have to swing the wiimote to spin a spider and then thrust the wiimote to stab them.  Did I mention how much I fucking hate bullshit waggle controls?  Because I really, really fucking hate bullshit waggle controls.  So, fuck this stupid game and the stupid birds and its blatant attempt to try and copy Windwaker’s open world, exploration friendly style.  This game sucks and I hate it, and frankly you should to unless you have no idea what you’re talking about.

This brings me to the Pièce de résistance, as it were—

  • The Legend of Zelda – The Windwaker (GameCube/WiiU)

Now, let me first start by saying that this game isn’t perfect.  Link makes way too fucking much noise, which is one of my common complaints with most of the Zelda games made past a Link to the Past.  Just push the ‘roll’ button or ‘sword’ button a few times to see what I mean.  Link is goddamned INCAPABLE of doing a single fucking thing without an obligatory ‘hah’ ‘hyeah’ ‘huh’ ‘ho’ ‘yah’.  Just shut the fuck up, Link.  Shut your goddamned mouth for just a second.  I really don’t need to hear you shout every time I push a goddamned button.  Anyways, moving on…  I tried to play this game on GameCube, got past about two levels (forest haven/deku tree and forsaken fortress, maybe one more level, it was so long ago whatever) and pretty much put it down, never to pick it up again.  Partly this was because I was in the camp of people who initially thought the cel-shaded style was kiddie and silly (especially after Nintendo teased us with the ridiculously good looking Zelda demo at the GameCube’s launch), and partly it was because I hadn’t yet realized how epic in scope Windwaker was (though still admittedly a short game, as Zelda games go), so I moved on to another game and called it a wash.

Flash foward to a few weeks ago, when Nintendo released the HD remake of Windwaker on the Nintendo store.  I downloaded it (the HD looked really good, and even though I was ho-hum on the GameCube version, I have really been trying to find a good Zelda game to play ever since I realized Skyward Sword was the stupidest piece of shit this side of Shaq-Fu) and dug in.  It didn’t take me long to pass where I had gotten in the GameCube version, and I noticed while playing that I was really enjoying the game — the gameplay is solid, the graphics are great, the music is iconic and nostalgic, the sailing is epic, the world is huge, and the puzzles are intuitive and topical.  At the end of the first play session I was further in the game than I’d ever been before, and it wasn’t long after that I realized that Windwaker is the one 3D Zelda game that ACTUALLY gets what a Zelda game is, and executed on that concept near flawlessly.  Here’s the rundown, starting with easy and obvious and then digging deeper:

    • Graphics:  Yes, it’s true.  The cel-shaded look was very polarizing when it came out and that still remains to be true.  While I do think that it makes Link look very childish, the concept of Cel Shading makes for a much cleaner art style that contributes to immersion.  If the game was attempting to look ultra-realistic, it would be jarring when things weren’t perfect.  As it’s artistically styled, the graphics paint an overall aesthetic that is never broken throughout the entire game.  Gorgeous to look at, and very pretty in 1080p, my only qualm here is the few times that the game dips below 30fps (even on the WiiU, that’s kind of silly!)
    • Sound:  I already mentioned it, there’s not too much to say.  They did a great job with the sound design in this game (minus Link’s over-zealous shouting and noise making).  The music is great and catchy, the sound effects are weighty and topical, the orchestral combat is a very nice touch, and the context-sensitive music (day/night/location) makes for a grand sweeping score that varies into and out of focus as needed throughout the game.  Very well done with some memorable pieces.
    • Control:  The WiiU gamepad solves the item-juggling problem from the GameCube (there were more useful items at any given point in time than spots to hold useful items, so you were constantly switching to the item screen to swap them around), and I can’t stress this enough — IT  DOESN’T USE BULLSHIT WAGGLE WIIMOTE CONTROLS.  IT USES FUCKING THUMBSTICKS AND BUTTONS, LIKE A GODDAMNED ZELDA GAME SHOULD.  LET ME NOT GLOSS OVER THIS POINT AS I FIND IT TO BE VERY IMPORTANT.  Fuck the stupid Wiimote, and fuck waggle controls, fuck them in their stupid fucking IR sensors and gyroscopes, I’m so over the waggle bullshit it’s not even funny.
    • World Design:  The world in Windwaker (while not extremely large, overall) is presented in unmatched epic scope.  The water-filled world of Hyrule seems vast and expansive from the confines of your small boat as you navigate the dangerous seas and island hop.  The only complaint I would have here is the overall size of the world really isn’t that large, considering how large it actually feels.  Windwaker is one of the shortest Zelda games from a temple/level perspective and this kind of shows in the overworld.  Though explained in the story, something like 90% of the overworld is water.  This does contribute to the ‘epic’ feel of the scope in the game, as sailing from island to island really does feel like you are exploring the open seas, sailing from location to location with nothing but your sea chart to guide you.  Compare this to the bullshit from Skyward Sword where you had a bird that could only drop you onto open areas through the clouds and you can appreciate the Linear vs. Exploration focus that I feel epitomizes Zelda.
    • Side Quests / Mini Games:  Even though the world is 90% water, they cram an awful lot into that remaining 10%.  Whether it be the forest water / Deku Tree side-quests, the pictograph side-quests, treasure maps, tingle maps, etc., there is something hidden behind, under, or around everything you do in the game.  The game rewards you in many ways for exploring — be it a wallet upgrade here, the ability to carry more bombs there, a piece of heart, etc.  Rarely do you feel like time has been wasted, as even just exploring the ocean can net you hundreds of rupees.  As such, it is a very compelling world to explore — you continually get rewarded for peeking behind things and being observant.
So, what I’m saying here is this:  If you’re one of the 4 other people in the USA who bought a WiiU, and you don’t already own Windwaker HD, you’re an idiot.  That’s pretty much all there is to it.  The absolute paragon of 3D Zelda games has been digitally remastered for 1080p.  Gameplay has been tweaked for accessibility.  Complaints and qualms from the GameCube version have been addressed.  This is the shining example of what Zelda games should be, and if you don’t own it, Nintendo will probably keep making bullshit waggle-tastic Zelda pieces of shit for years to come.  Let’s not let them do that.  Positive reinforcement, it works!

Now go away.