"No longer a sometimes pixelated or fuzzy facsimile of an animated movie, the game looks remarkable."
The Wind Waker has an interesting history. Following a realistic teaser trailer for a next-gen Zelda, the cel-shaded graphical style of TWW was met with very mixed reactions. But fast forward eleven years, and the game is one of the most beloved entries in the series among Zelda fans. So when Nintendo announced a 2013 release of an HD version for Wii U, it was met with much fanfare.
So how does The Wind Waker look in HD in person? The short answer is that it looks like The Wind Waker in HD. It doesn't sound impressive, but it's easy to forget just how far we've come in terms of resolution since 2002. Nintendo has the GameCube version of TWW running next to the Wii U version, and the difference is remarkable. The HD version is the very definition of "crisp" in its presentation. No longer a sometimes pixelated or fuzzy facsimile of an animated movie, the game looks remarkable. When it was announced, we saw a few screen shots that had an abundance of bloom lighting effects, but that seems to have been toned down, and the game appears properly cartoony. However, the increase in resolution did allow Nintendo to implement some niceties like realistic drop shadows on not only the characters inhabiting the world, but even smaller pieces of the environment like tufts of grass.
There isn't a lot new to say regarding general gameplay; The Wind Waker HD plays just like it did on GameCube, though with the change of platform, it has picked up a few tricks from Skyward Sword, like gyroscope-assisted aiming for tools like the bow & arrow and grappling hook. Looking around in first person is also accomplished by moving the Wii GamePad around. Oh, and yes, Nintendo has heard that many people feel sailing is tedious: holding A while sailing enables "Fast" mode.
The GamePad display is the biggest change in how you'll interact with the game. The touch screen contains Link's inventory, the map, and a catalog of bottled messages — but more on those later. The inventory is, of course, a compartmentalized grouping of your items, broken up between tools, potions, etc. Pausing the action on screen allows you to drag items to their assigned buttons: X, Y, and R, with B assigned to your sword. Pressing the minus (-) button moves the main game screen to the GamePad, so you can play sans TV.
A second tab on the GamePad is "Map," which is, well, a map. The more interesting one, and new to Wii U, is "Bottles." While all Wii U games have their own Miiverse accessed via the Wii U menu, The Wind Waker HD has a clever way of integrating the social aspect, in the form of messages in a bottle. Occasionally you'll find bottles washed ashore on an island, and they will contain a random message from another player. These can be drawings like you'd see in Miiverse, typed messages, or even contain in-game screen shots. We don't yet know much more than that, but it's a clever idea, and in a world that's nothing but islands, a perfect way to implement it. It may prove nothing more in-depth than a fun distraction, but that's okay.
All in all, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is shaping up to be only a bit more than a sharper, smoother, and modern-looking rendition of the GameCube classic. But given the adoration many have for the original, and the Wii U's dire need for quality software, I think people will openly welcome Toon Link back into their homes.