The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD – The Devil Is In The Details

By Robert Ward . September 20, 2013 . 1:55pm

One of my favorite things about the Legend of Zelda franchise is the care with which the design team makes even the most insignificant of characters charming and the most inconspicuous of details meaningful. It’s no surprise, then, that in the middle of a hide-and-seek game with the Killer Bees, a group of pseudo-rebellious children (with golden hearts) who roam the streets of Windfall Island, my attention was instead stolen by Hylian text scattered about Ms. Marie’s classroom.


On the blackboard was a poem which, when translated from Hylian to Japanese and then Japanese to English, reads something like “Blue sky, boundless clouds.” A poster to the right of it says “Cleanliness. Correctness. Beauty,” perhaps hanged to encourage students to practice (or pursue) proper penmanship. Above this sign is a children’s drawing depicting a young girl petting one of Windfall Island’s indigenous pigs. Written atop the image is a gentle reminder to Ms. Marie’s students: “Be considerate.”


I’ll be the first to admit that I tend to spend too much time hunting for and making sense of these little details. After all, the Hylian text in Ms. Marie’s classroom isn’t something that’ll send diehard Zelda fans into a frenzy of theory-making, but I think that that experience represents a small part of what The Wind Waker does best, and that’s promoting an awesome sense of discovery.


The Wind Waker lets you make the most of your adventure. Each square on the map only has one island to explore. Each island has a wandering fish that’ll tell you more about that square, but also anything it’s overheard on its journey throughout the high seas. You can use this information to continue exploring the ocean, hunt someone down, or find new power ups and items that’ll help Link along his quest to save his sister Aryll.


You’ll come across treasure maps that reveal locations of hidden chests on the great sea—but they only show a sliver of the area where it’s located, so you’ll have to be well-traveled and well-acquainted with the seemingly endless sea to find most of them. You’ll be able to pull chests up from the seafloor as soon as you get the grappling hook item, and you’ll find that other items will grant you access to islands you couldn’t reach before. These quests will bring you to and fro, often naturally, so it never feels forced or cheap.


I feel as though the true potential for making your own adventure unique, though, lies in the Miiverse. I haven’t had a chance to access the Miiverse functionality yet, but experiencing the game alongside two different generations—those who love it and are picking it up again, and those who are experiencing it for the first time—is going to be great. I can’t wait for the community to open up and for submissions to start pouring in.


I’ve only made it about half way through the game, but I can already pick up on the ever-so-slight changes in presentation and music that completely transform its sense of presence. Generous bloom lighting makes you feel the heat of an isolated island in the midday sun, and the sudden change in weather marking the calm before a storm create a sense of apprehension its predecessor couldn’t quite match.


I’ll elaborate on that just a little bit more next time, but for now, it’s time to find some those blasted triumph-forks these fish keep telling me about…

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  • Guest

    Good luck on that hunt, man. Thankfully, they should be a bit less time-consuming to find now.

  • I can’t wait until I get my copy. I preordered the disc version because I got a deal on it.

    What I’ve always admired about Wind Waker compared to other Zelda games is how expressive it is. I love how Link’s facial expressions give life and depth to a character that doesn’t even speak. I didn’t realize how much of a difference facial expressions make in making you feel until I tried out a demo for one of the Mass Effect games. I kept wondering why the characters’ facial expressions were so stiff, even when something was getting blown up. It’s hard to get invested in an emotional scene when the characters themselves don’t seem to be.

    I do hope the next Zelda takes some inspiration from this game in that sense.


      Well, Link in Skyward Sword is incredible in his facial animations and the way that express emotions. I remember clearly the scene when he is listening the Hero Song and his expressions almost make me feel that it was I who was listening the song above the clouds…

      • I actually don’t remember Skyward Sword’s facial expressions too well, but it’s probably because its been a while since I’ve played, and also because they weren’t quite as exaggerated as Wind Waker’s. But there are certain moments I remember well, like the part when Groose falls out of the sky with him. That was incredibly funny.

  • James Enk

    “what The Wind Waker does best, and that’s promoting an awesome sense of discovery” exactly how i feel about this game and no other game I’ve played ever since manage to beat the WW on this

  • s07195

    With golden… hearts? So you can slice them open and replenish your health by 2 hearts or something?

  • Linkr2

    Someone has translated the Hylian text written in to the special edition gamepad?

    • Robgoro

      I haven’t had a chance to look at it, but I’m sure it’ll pop up on the internet here any day now. The bundle does come with a free digital copy of Hyrule Historia, after all, so fans have a translating handbook all to themselves. :)

  • Linhua

    … okay one question for ya, Robert Ward… or anyone here who may know the answer.

    … do you know if you can play this game on the Wii U controller’s screen instead of it being just an inventory thing…?

    … please tell me this is one of those games that can do that… = =;; …

    • Snow Covered Kenneth

      Yes, it has been confirmed that you can play it off screen on the WiiU pad. That is what is making this a day one for me.

      • Linhua

        ._. Then I cannot for the life of me find out how to do this… @[email protected] … could you show me the source where you got this information from…?

        … maybe they might show me exactly where to make this happen.

        • Robgoro

          Press the minus button.

          • Linhua

            … I pressed EVERY button on this controller BUT that one. I even pressed the plus button and I don’t even understand why I didn’t do the minus.

            … thank you, sir.

          • Snow Covered Kenneth

            So you got it then?!?! YAY!

          • Robgoro

            Just doing my civic duty! I’ve been through many of the same situations before. Like pressing “L” in the wonderful 101 to fix the zoom on the camera. ;) Enjoy!

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