Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Wind Waker HD's New Art-Style: Is it Really Such a Big Deal?

You can check out an enhanced version of this article in the upcoming fourth issue of Stream, the free web-mag edited by yours truly. The version you'll read below is the same in terms of the main bulk of the article, but the Stream version comes complete with comparison screenshots and the like. It'll be released very soon. Check out previous issues right here!

Ever wanted to know what my first truly magical Nintendo experience was? Set your DMC DeLorean to 2008 and crash through time into my abode (albeit not directly, because that could potentially rupture the space-time continuum and create a time paradox in which images of my body slowly disappear from any images that contain it, leading to an epic escapade in which you, my dear reader, attempt to undo your actions in order to resurrect me... wait, where was I going with this, again?) and you might just spot a GameCube and a copy of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker along with it. That, my friend, was my first experience with Nintendo. Well, excluding early sessions with the Parachute Game & Watch - but let me tell you something: that 3-frame LCD game ain't no Wind Waker, son.

Despite being a GameCube release, the third main polygonal Zelda game still stands tall as one of the most beautiful games ever made if you're looking at it visually. It can successfully topple many current generation titles when it comes to just how brilliantly crafted the game is artistically, and that's when we're not even bringing the gameplay, soundtrack, story, or any other aesthetics into the equation. If Ocarina had this magic spark in terms of how it was structured, then Majora's Mask certainly had it nailed down thematically even if the graphics were no different from its predecessor, in many cases quite literally. With Wind Waker, in my opinion, Nintendo pioneered in these aspects. Thematically it was no Majora, but in terms of gameplay and visual direction it trumps its predecessors, no questions asked, and all it has to offer is presented primarily through some truly wonderful art design. Oh, and did I mention the soundtrack? A large chunk of Koji Kondo's compositions for this game are among the best in the entire Zelda franchise. It really is a mesmerising experience from every angle, with very few hiccups along the way.

Going back to how Wind Waker compares to the first two 3D Zelda titles, I must stress that I'm not here to be controversial. Many of the comments made in the last paragraph are indeed my opinion, but most definitely not yours. I can scarcely imagine the mass of flak I'd get for making such a hefty statement as Ocarina of Time is the weakest 3D home console Legend of Zelda release (whether this is my actual opinion or not I'd rather not reveal). What I'm sure most of us can agree on, however, is that Wind Waker is certainly a better looking game than its predecessors, whether you take the technology into consideration or not. So, I've decided not to write about my thoughts on the entire series, but instead on my very first experience - as well as what might just be my next experience in glorious high definition form - with gaming's most legendary franchise. Conversely, this argument might just stir up a few of you Wind Waker worshippers out there, so keep an open mind.

'Hang on, what argument?' you ask? The argument for the graphical appearance of the high definition semi-remake of the game I've been gushing on and on about for the past three paragraphs, of course! As if you didn't read the title of this article before you dug into the meat of it. You nutter.

As noted previously, Wind Waker is one of the most splendiferous visual achievements the history of the gaming industry has ever seen. Allow me to expand on this now: Zelda's GameCube masterpiece (or, at least, the one that wasn't Twilight Princess) took the typical series standard obscurity and injected it with colourful cel-shaded juices made of rainbows and magic. Then it enhanced many said virtual celluloids with thick, inky outlines that were so straight they'd make a certain canine Goddess of nature whimper. Ōkami sucks, by the way. Oops, I guess I got a little sidetracked there, because that's a whole other discussion which I hope to never get into. Anyway, if the GameCube version of Wind Waker looked so beautiful, why should you change it? Why not just up-scale the visuals and enhance them with a HD coating? Because Nintendo like to keep things fresh, that's why. They ain't Square-Enix, folks.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is set to be released on the Wii U eShop and in retail this October in the UK, and it's going to stun us all over again with potential feelings of over-familiarity stripped away by a brand-new art-style. Honestly, do you really want to spend £40 on the same game with a few adjustments and a high-definition upscale? Or, would you rather have an experience that's been altered to the extent that it appears almost but not quite completely different from its original incarnation? Think about it, because at the moment a lot of people seem to be leaning more in favour of the former, perhaps even yourself included. The main reason Wind Waker HD is being released is because Nintendo want to keep the Zelda fanbase occupied during the undoubtedly long wait for the next main series instalment. Surely adding some flourish would help benefit this goal as opposed to keeping the game's art-style the same, but HD? Whether the shiny new ink-less style looks better than the original or not, it's difficult to deny the previous statement is true in this case, unless you're some kind of pessimist.

In my view, both games look visually appealing in their own unique ways, and that's what sets them apart. You could say the same comparison can be made between the original Nintendo 64 version of Ocarina of Time and its 3DS reboot, or outside of the Zelda franchise, the original NES Super Mario Bros. and the version found on the SNES compilation Super Mario All-Stars. I liked Super Mario All-Stars, because despite being a collection of previously released games, they had that little graphical Febreeze applied to them to keep things fresh. While I don't feel that Wind Waker HD looks better than Wind Waker on GameCube artistically, it's different enough to justify a re-release and graphically it's certainly a stunner. There are even a few new features in the Wii U version, making good use of the platform's Miiverse network and the GamePad. Oh, and you can fast-forward boat travel; truly a gift from the Goddesses. With all of this in mind, Wind Waker is absolutely worth releasing once more in a new skin on a more advanced system. If and when you move house, you wouldn't want it looking the same as the one you're moving out of, would you?

If I eventually save up enough pennies to purchase a Wii U of my own, Wind Waker is definitely a game I'd be willing to revisit in the form of new, flashier visuals. Graphics aren't everything to me, but experiencing the same game as I have in the past but in a new, more impressive skin is something I definitely wouldn't be against when said game is from the Legend of Zelda franchise. Are you a fan of the slick new direction Wind Waker HD has taken and what are your thoughts on the original game? Will you be purchasing the remake or do you think it's a waste of effort on Nintendo's part? Let me know in the comments box below.

1 comment:

Raphael Reviews said...

I liked this article :) I think Nintendo are wise in a re-release for the Zelda franchise. Surves as a distraction until the inevitable full-new Zelda for Wii U. I myself haven't even played his game so I'm very looking forward to this!