PAX Prime: The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD – “First” Impressions

You know why there are quotation marks around “first”… when it comes to a game that’s over a decade old, and which has been played over and over again by Zelda fans around the world, it’s not really a first, is it? But here’s the thing… to all the people waiting in line, they didn’t care if it was the first, third, or fiftieth time playing. They wanted to try it out in HD, and they were willing to wait!

I say “they” because, when it came down to waiting for 2 hours in line to play or covering maybe 2 or 3 smaller titles in that period of time, we chose to cover those smaller titles to optimize time. There’s a lot to see and do at PAX, and we wanted to be able to bring you news on as much as physically possible during our time at the show!

So, we watched from a distance today as other people waited for two hours to play—reports around the convention center say that the only wait that’s longer is Titanfall, a three hour wait (thought your Nintendo Fire team has definitely seen longer waits at previous PAX events, so two hours actually isn’t THAT bad).

Anyway, part of the lineup these past few days may actually have something  to do with the demo being a requirement for the scavenger hunt… if you play it, you get a stamp on your treasure map, and if you complete all the tasks, you’ll receive a Wind Waker t-shirt, modeled after the shirt that Link wears in the game’s prologue. If that’s something  you want? Get there early, or check it out at the end of the show day when crowds tend to be a little bit lighter (that’s what we’re counting on, anyway!).


The crowd in line seemed delightfully positive about the whole thing, however. Many seemed to be huge fans of Zelda games—though some were just there for the t-shirt—and eager to see their favourite game in high definition.

There are two demos available on the station to play through, the first one being part of the prologue that allows you to explore a bit of Outset Island, and the second, a boss battle with the Helmaroc King on top of the Forbidden Fortress. It’s clear that these two sections were chosen to specifically showcase how the game looks now, after all this time—and to remind players how exciting the game can still be, even more than a decade later.

A few new things worth paying attention to are that you can now walk around in first person mode, which we saw several people trying out, and also plenty of bloom lighting on the environment. This will be great mid-winter when we’re all freezing in our homes… load up the game, and let your senses be taken away to a tropical island! Oh yeah, and play the game while you’re at it and forget that it’s snowing outside…

What was really neat was the Wii U’s ability to create its own sort of surround sound, with sound coming through the GamePad at the same time as it came through the TV. For example, you’d hear waves rolling in at a distance on the TV, and then crash closer to you—as if you were standing on the shore, and it does seem to scale according to how close you are to the water—through the GamePad!

With the boss battle, most of it has already been covered with the Nintendo footage from E3, but needless to say the adjustments to item use, sailing, and overhead view have made it much easier to get a handle on combat and wind control. With the equipment view right on the GamePad, you can make faster decisions and don’t have to slow down your gameplay (or lose some of the immersion in the story).

Regardless of the early complaints that surrounded Nintendo’s decision to make this game into HD, it’s clear that Zelda fans are flocking to this one with strong support. Sure, the cel shading that made this game memorable is lost in the upgrade to HD, but the exchange was worth it. The experience is still there, and arguably better.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD will be in the eShop on September 20th, and on store shelves on October 4th.


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Author: Dave View all posts by
Dave will tell you that he likes to play video games, this is in fact a lie. What he really likes to do is buy games, and leaving them sitting unopened on his shelf. He is a monster.

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