A Cold Front.
I loved The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.
It’s one of those things you can say now without the same crisis-category level of shame that used to come accompanied with it. The Legend of Zelda was always bright and breezy, but The Wind Waker was artsy and just a little too on the side of The Powerpuff Girls in terms of visuals for most grown men to feel comfortable being seen playing it. Which is funny, considering the ending is the darkest and bleakest of any Zelda title in the series, and it has no qualms about how it reminds you of that in the end, but still, it used to be that if you said you liked The Wind Waker, you were seen as a bit of a knob.
Fortunately, time has been extremely kind to The Wind Waker and it is now rightly regarded as one of the series most standout moments. And I think that’s a fantastic achievement for a game; Nintendo games are often like that, they age far better than most, but still. My problem is not with The Wind Waker. I still love it and no doubt I will be a massive hypocrite and buy it on its HD release.
But I’m hoping I won’t.
My issues are twofold; one, I don’t believe this is a very good time for Nintendo to be releasing an HD remake of a decade-old game that was neither that hard, nor altogether that long. For all its charms and all its loveliness, The Wind Waker is certainly not the sort of game with masses of hidden depth. This wouldn’t matter if, of course, the old cut dungeons and concepts were being added back into the mix to allow for a more complete feel but no, they are not because the dungeons were re-used in other games. It speaks to the efficiency and cost-effective nature of Nintendo that they did this, but sadly it demonstrates a distinct lack of foresight on their part. An HD Rerelease, and one which we’re noting will be a rather pricey retail release, usually needs that kind of clever Unique Selling Point. The Wind Waker HD is making subtle changes, like faster sailing and easier Triforce Hunting; elements which felt like padding in the original release anyway! With those changes, the game is shortened and considerably weakened in the process.
The Tingle Tuner thing was never an essential; I’ve made my feelings clear about Tingle before but I will say it again – as much as I respect Nintendo, Tingle is one character for which they should be the most ashamed, He is a hateful, vile creature and moreso in a game like Wind Waker, where the inference of what he is and what he does is about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the groin; I am sure they feel it will add something to the main game, but really, Tingle is not the answer. Tingle is never the answer. Tingle is the problem. His content didn’t really add much then and it’s not going to do a lot now.
But that’s just the first problem. The lack of fresh content is a deep concern to me for Nintendo, who really could have simply released the original version on the Wii U eShop for £12.99 and been done with it, and if they wanted to add the Tingle thing as an additional bonus; hey, why not?
The other problem is that it feels like Nintendo are trying to relive past glories. With talk of Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem also due for a Wii U release, and other Gamecube titles, there’s a sincere thought that this is Nintendo preserving its back catalogue for future posterity. It’s hard to argue that; but it’s also going to lead to a lot of criticism on various different levels.
I mean, the first argument is that “Nintendo’s old games are better than its newer ones!”. The Wii U hasn’t been out nearly long enough for that to be that fair but in reality, we all know now that Luigi’s Mansion was a great release game! Nintendo’s most promising game from the Wii U launch line-up, Zombi-U, was owned by UbiSoft and Nintendo foolishly and stupidly allowed UbiSoft to can any chance of a sequel! Pikmin 3 is fabulous but it’s a lone voice at a time when the market is looking to Nintendo – who make such great games – to shine a light and lead the way. If its first instinct is to head back and re-release its Gamecube titles, then it really cripples any serious confidence others would otherwise have in the machine.
The second is that Nintendo are making more efforts to preserve its back catalogue than others. And you know what? That would be a very fair criticism. Nintendo may not realise it yet but the Gamecube in particular was very good for third-party games; Resident Evil: The Remake was and still is an astounding example of how to take a classic game and make it better in pretty much every single regard. Resident Evil Zero should also be preserved for being the last of its ilk and a fitting and brilliant send-off for the old Resident Evil style. Sega released Billy Hatcher and The Giant Egg; a bonkers-brilliant title that deserves to be remembered. Beyond Good and Evil, UbiSoft’s seminal (and utterly frustrating!) classic was best on the Gamecube too. Nintendo can’t be seen playing favourites with its own past titles in such a regard; it only serves to reinforce the notion that Nintendo only cares about Nintendo.
And then you have the big one; Nintendo’s line-up is sporadic for the next few months, as third parties are treading cautiously. Admittedly, Nintendo doesn’t need nor want Fairweather Friends, but patching up the gaps with old games doesn’t help – if anything, it only serves to highlight the lack of new content being pushed onto the market! The eShop in particular likes to promote these older games ahead of other titles; this is a silly thing to do, and does nothing to stem the undercurrent of frustration that people have with Nintendo right now. Seeing the older games, as a long-time gamer, only reminds me that I actually loved Nintendo more back in the Gamecube days than I do right now; it only serves for some to remind you that the love you may feel is for a past, a past that may or may not hold up in the harsh light of day in the modern era. Games have changed – and we have changed along with them.
And I love all of these old games. I also loved Metroid Prime, and Baten Kaitos, and Battalion Wars and Killer 7 and Timesplitters 2 and so on; but so many of those games are, largely, gone now. Metroid hasn’t had so much as a mention yet, Battalion Wars and even Advance Wars has gone off the radar… as for Timesplitters, god forbid Nintendo tries to get some of these classic titles back on their system and generate some genuine consumer goodwill!
My point is, this is the wrong time for Nintendo to be trying to re-release an HD version of an old game, even one as good as The Wind Waker. Nintendo’s current problems are largely down to image and whatever Nintendo do right now will be construed by others into something less than pleasant. Nintendo needs to be making it as hard as possible for people to argue that there is no sensible reason to buy a Wii U; it needs quality software that no-one can get anywhere else, and a sensible and progressive strategy going forward. Classic remakes only give the detractors the argument of, “Well, why not buy a Gamecube then? It’s cheaper!” – an argument that, sadly, does have its merits.
As gorgeous as it may be, I’m just not feeling the love from The Wind Waker HD. It seems like a strange token gesture now, and I do worry that’s all it will ever be. A bit of a throwaway title, something that creates the illusion of something more interesting or profound. If Nintendo wanted to be more serious with the HD thing, why not Skyward Sword? Or heck, why not listen to your market and go for Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, something people have been asking for now for YEARS. The former would at least attract the market that skipped the Wii (which, sadly, is a lot of “core” gamers), whilst the latter speaks far more to the old community who genuinely want to see some supremely under-appreciated games given a new lease of life. For which the Gamecube has many; it didn’t sell very many of anything back in the day…
The Wind Waker HD then is a title that really does signify the hole Nintendo is currently in; it’s not ‘classic’ enough for the older gamers to get that excited about (it’s hardly ugly even in its old state), and nor is it new enough for the newer crowd to get too excited over. It’s a strange compromise, a middle-ground that reeks more of an auteur project than one designed to attract customers, a title that will sell; but is it a selling point? Somehow, I have my doubts. I genuinely believe that if Nintendo cared about its classics, it wouldn’t be putting them up one or two a week starting with the oldest; they’d have found a way to dump them all on there in a big lump. And if it cared about new products, it wouldn’t be making an HD remake of a game which will have nothing new or exciting in it.
I don’t feel it right now. The Wind Waker: HD leaves me a little cold. It’s just too much of a point, and not enough of a direction.
And direction is what the Wii U desperately needs right now…