The Legend of Zelda, The Wind Waker HD
The Legend of Zelda, the Wind Waker HD is an outstanding, unique entry in the already well-loved Legend of Zelda video game series. This time, our courageous hero, Link, lives with his sister, Aryll, and kindly grandmother on peaceful and remote Outset Island. Great floods have submerged the once mighty kingdom of Hyrule and left only small, scattered islands in an endless ocean. One day, as Link and his sister are out exploring, Aryll is snatched and carried off by an enormous, malevolent bird. Link must brave the vast ocean with the help of his talking boat, a crew of dastardly pirates, and the legendary Wind Waker to save her.
The Wind Waker was originally released in 2003 on the Nintendo Gamecube. The HD remaster, released a decade later for the Wii U, only improves an already great video game. One of the most significant changes is an item that increases your sailing speed - something the original sorely needed. Sailing the ocean with the wind at your back–discovering new islands, new inhabitants, and new puzzles–is one of the great joys of the game, and making the process less time-consuming and onerous removes its most common critique. The Wii U gamepad can be used to show your map and items, removing the need to pause frequently, and other changes include similar but more minor conveniences that create a smoother and more enjoyable experience.
Graphically, it's gorgeous to look at–even more so with the HD updates. The cartoonish cell-shading used, something I was suspicious of when the game first came out, matches the whimsical tone and has allowed it to age very well. The game's cheerful, adventurous soundtrack, combined with the vibrant blues and greens make it seem cartoonish, but, like many Zelda games, there is an underlying note of melancholy to it. When Link is faced with remnants of the past–an ancient kingdom lost and a hero that never arrived to save the day–the deeper story is revealed and Link knows it is up to him to fix what his past self could not. He starts his journey as a naive young boy trying to save the sister he loves, but it is his destiny to save what is left of Hyrule and bring peace to those that still remain. The Wind Waker offers an engaging experience in a world that is pleasant to be in, does not overstay its welcome, and encourages you to go out and explore every secret hidden within it. It does have its flaws–unreliable mechanics, pointless sidequests, and some truly irritating sound effects–but it's a lot of fun and absolutely worth your time.