|System: Wii U|
|Release: October 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Josh Engen
Nintendo is desperately trying to breathe a little life into the Wii U, which has been suffocating since before it even hit the market. The system itself has all of Nintendo's trademark flair, and I'm sure that the company's first-party titles will be wonderful. But any excitement that gamers may have originally felt for the system faded immediately after the console was released.
The problem is that we're only a few months away from the Wii U's first birthday, and retail shelves are still practically empty. Third-party publishers won't touch the system until people start buying it, and people won't buy it until there are games to play.
But, Nintendo isn't stupid, and they understand their customer base better than any of us ever could. So, even though it certainly looks like Nintendo is bleaching all of their whitest flags, I've always assumed that they have something up their sleeves. And for a few days, I got to look behind the curtain at E3 and get a glimpse of Nintendo's future.
The company has put together a really impressive lineup of games. They definitely haven't lost their stride, and anyone who tells you that Nintendo is out of touch with the gaming industry is obviously out of touch himself. In fact, many industry insiders have been speculating that, from a business perspective, Nintendo's presence at E3 was more powerful than the presence of Sony or Microsoft.
Mario, Donkey Kong, and Bayonetta are all making a return flight to the console market, but one franchise in particular could almost single-handedly put a Band-Aid on the Wii U's sales figures: Zelda.
Aside from Mario, the Zelda franchise is probably the most iconic series that Nintendo has in its pocket. But, and this is even more important than name recognition, the real value of Zelda comes from its rabid fan base. Zelda fans are practically chomping at the bit to get their hands on the titles that Nintendo has been teasing for months, and The Wind Waker is about to scratch that itch.
When I swung through the Nintendo booth at E3, I got the chance to pick up a Wii U GamePad and reacquaint myself with the Triforce. And I'm happy to report that I wasn't disappointed. Not even in the slightest.
The Wind Waker HD retains all of the classical charm that you would probably expect if you fired up your GameCube and inserted one of those adorable little disks. The updates aren't heavy-handed enough to overrun the game's iconic style. In fact, Nintendo even created a brand-new engine to handle Wind Waker's signature, cel-shaded aesthetic, even though a texture update would have probably sufficed.
Also, because they took such an all-inclusive approach to the game's graphics, there's a chance that we'll see similarly styled titles in the future. "Well, we’ve prepared The Wind Waker HD for Wii U," said Miyamoto in a recent interview with Time magazine," and because we’ve done this and brought the toon-shading of that game to Wii U, there’s a chance that we may use that toon-shading again with something else."
The Wind Waker's graphics weren't the only thing that received a facelift, though. The controls, while similar to the original, have been tweaked for the transition to the Wii U GamePad. Button layouts should feel nearly identical to the original, but Nintendo has implemented a gyroscopic aiming mechanic this time around. I wouldn’t say that it gives you any advantage, though.
Also, the developers have added several touch-based interactions, but they're subtle enough to avoid offending any of you Zelda purists. Handling inventory and checking out the map can be done from the Wii U's touchpad, but this isn't necessarily the only way to accomplish these tasks. However, it is far easier.
Travel has been updated as well, which means that you won't have to spend an endless number of hours aimlessly paddling from island to island. These days, you'll be able to throw some extra wind behind your sails with the touch of a button.
During my time behind the GamePad, a representative also filled me in on the title's social interaction. Nintendo, after all, is attempting to integrate the Miiverse into every one of their titles. In The Wind Waker HD, this will be accomplished, like any water-based fairy tale, using messages in bottles. Here's how Eiji Aonuma, the man in charge of the Zelda franchise at Nintendo, explained the process:
"We’re going to make it possible to maybe only get bottles from people who are close to you, but certainly there will be people who leave less helpful information. That too is part of the experience of interacting with others. My hope is just that lots of people leave bottles."
It's incredibly easy to be disappointed by a remake. Our memories construct a faultless recreation in our minds, and it's easily ruined by a less-than-perfect title. But, The Wind Waker HD isn't one of those remakes. Even though Link has received a battery of upgrades, Nintendo has managed to make these changes without overdoing anything or ruining the previous title's legacy.
So, wipe all of the sweat off of your forehead and find a place to pre-order. You’ll probably also have to pick up a Wii U, but that shouldn’t be hard to find. They’re not exactly flying off the shelves.
Date: July 25, 2013