Of the three Legend of Zelda games currently in development, the enormous Nintendo booth at PAX Australia gave its attendees the chance to play 2 of them in 10-15 minute doses. The two ‘remakes’ on show, A Link Between Worlds and Wind Waker HD, both had steady queues and plenty of fans returning to try out a second level, or even one of Wind Waker’s memorable boss fights.
A Link Between Worlds (the not-so-remake of A Link To The Past) has totally successfully made the transition from classic, 3/4 top-down title to glossy, polygonal 3DS title with seamless perfection. That being said, A Link Between Worlds isn’t actually a remake of A Link To The Past – it’s more of a full-length DLC, set in the same world, with some of the same puzzles and a direct continuation of the original story. The level I had the luxury of playing was totally familiar; I left Link’s lovely little house, walked up an updated version of a path I’d seen a hundred times before, weaved between menacing boulders and confronted a few familiar, relentless enemies that felt far less overwhelming than I remember with the pleasure of a 3D environment. When I finally ran into my first puzzle, I was just as perplexed as the day I’d first seen it – especially with Link’s new ability.
The new ability allows Link to become a sort of painting on almost every wall (every wall I tried, at least!). He’s completely stuck to the wall, as a 2D image, yet you’re still able to move him backwards and forwards or around curves, and he can pop back off the wall whenever there’s a solid surface for him to put his feed. This opens up new areas or secret nooks and crannies within the game; you can make your way around a corner that your regular gravity-ridden body wouldn’t have been able to approach thanks to invisible walls, or because there’s no actual path to put your 3D feet on. It adds so much potential to every situation and every environment that I barely even knew where to start!
Wind Waker HD, on the other hand, feels a little less impressive, even with the gamepad. More than anything, it takes the original Wind Waker and gives it an airy-fairy glow. The sun actually brightens the areas it falls on, shadows are in the right places, buildings are more inviting and the trees look far more lively, but I’m personally not a huge fan of the near-blinding light. Shadows are great, but the over-exposure of the sun in Wind Waker HD feels way too much like I’m actually outside which isn’t what you want while you’re playing a game, right?
That being said, I played through Outset Island on my goal to rescue Tetra, just like in the original game, and everything looks loveably ‘the same’. Of course – it doesn’t quite play the same, since Wind Waker HD is now accompanied by the gamepad. Usually, you’d have to open up a menu screen to select the item you want to use. On the Wii U version, there’s no need to pause the game at all – your inventory is sitting right there, on the Gamepad. It also has plenty of other unique uses – for example, to use your telescope, you move the gamepad in the direction you want to look in and the game screen follows along. It’s a little awkward and perhaps slightly inaccurate, but in the comfort of your living room it might be a tad easier to familiarize yourself with.
Aside from that, the gamepad controls are fairly simple and Wind Waker HD really does have the same vibe as the original – it’s just much shinier and slightly more elaborate. While I’m not sure I like the changes I experienced all that much, I didn’t dislike them and there are some other cool additions I didn’t get to try out – you can control the speed of the boat, for one!
Both games are undoubtedly exciting for Zelda fans and Wii U owners in general, plus the efforts put into their development is incredibly obvious. Both games played beautifully and paid a really, really wonderful ode to their marvelous predecessors, though they’d surely hold their own even without the delightful nostalgia. I do have to say though – the Gamepad works with the Zelda universe so well that it felt almost cruel not to have the new Zelda Wii U playable at PAX!