The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker on the Wii U is a HD remaster of the GameCube game of the same name. The game does however include several improvements such as upgraded graphics in HD with completely new lighting tech, altered aspects of the gameplay and pacing of the game, Off-TV Play and Miiverse support.
The game first released on September 20, 2013 in North America as an eShop-only download and as part of a special Wii U console bundle that also includes a digital version of Hyrule Historia, a book chronicling the development history of the Zelda series up through Skyward Sword. The game was subsequently released in Japan on September 26, 2013 and in Europe on October 4, 2013. The North American retail version launched on October 4, 2013.
The most obvious change comes from the HD upgrade in the visual departments. The game runs at a native 1080p resolution while maintaining the original game's 30 frames per second. Wind Waker HD also enhances the originals toon-shaded art style with some modern shader technology that introduce bloom lighting, soft real-time shadows and a generally more vibrant feel to it. The black and white section in of the original game is now presented in sepia tone. Textures were upgraded for the higher resolutions as well.
All the effects and music have been reworked and mixed with higher quality samples and a much crisper sound while still keeping the feel of the original game's audio intact.
The game makes use of the Wii U GamePad. The GamePad screen allows for instant access to Link's inventory which the player can manipulate via touch-controlled drag-and-drop. During sea travel, the screen displays the sea chart, letting players plan their course without interrupting the gameplay.
Similar to the updated Ocarina of Time 3D, the UI now as a dedicated button for the Wind Waker baton, treasure-hook and boat-cannon removing the need for players to equip the associated items in an item slot manually. Also, players no longer have to equip a sail in an item slot as the UI now automatically activates it and associates the A and B-buttons with the sail functions as contextually appropriate. Players also can use the GamePad screen to control the wind waker, swiping in the corresponding desired direction. All of these improvements result in a more streamlined UI that removes a lot of manual back-and-forth between the game and the inventory screen from the original.
On top of that, the button bindings section of the HUD can be completely disabled to leave only the hearts and rupee/key counter on screen. Additionally, like in Pikmin 3, hitting the minus button will instantly switch to Off-TV Play mode, letting players play the game entirely on the GamePad. It is also possible to skip certain cut-scenes like the opening.
Link is now able to acquire the Swift Sail in the auction house after beating the first dungeon. The Swift Sail speeds up sea travel and lets players directly control the ships movement, removing the need to manually use the Wind Waker to change the direction of the wind.
This particular feature was initially planned to be incorporated into the original release but was omitted due to the technical limitations of the GameCube console as it was only capable of loading a single block of ocean at a time and the slower sailing speed was required to mask loading times.
Steps are also being taken to improve the general pacing of the game, particularly in regards to the Triforce hunt prior to the final dungeon. Players now have to go out and decipher only three sea charts to find Triforce pieces and the remaining five can be acquired instantly. Additionally, it is no longer possible to accidentally skip Tingle Island as a new introductory sequence has been added to the main quest of the game.
Further pacing improvements come via shorter animations and faster text-scroll speed.
The Tingle Tuner from the original game, which was used to interface with the GameBoy Advance to allow for unique asymmetric gameplay mechanics, is being replaced by Miiverse Integration. Aonuma stated this was decided because the Tingle Tuner was meant to be a "helper tool" to aid the player in tricky situations. Miiverse Integration now comes in the form of messages in a bottle that will wash up on shores containing messages from players left on Miiverse, in a Demon's Souls-like fashion.
Another feature tying into Miiverse is the Picto Box, the in-game camera. Link can now even take photos of himself with a selection of preset facial expressions. The capacity of the Picto Box has also been upped to hold 12 pictures at the same time. All the images taken with the Picto Box can be shared directly via Miiverse.
Ever since Ocarina of Time, players had the opportunity to view the world in first-person, but it wasn't until Skyward Sword that Link was allowed to move around freely in first-person and be able to use ranged items. This ability has now been added to The Wind Waker HD. However, players are still restricted from using melee equipment such as swords while in the first-person view.
Taking a page from skyward Sword, a harder difficulty setting called Hero Mode is now included. Like in Skyward Sword, enemies will deal twice the amount of damage and Link can no longer obtain hearts from actions such as slashing bushes. The only way to regain health is using a fairy or consuming a potion. However, unlike in Skyward Sword, this mode is now available from the start instead of having to be unlocked by finishing the game once. Hero Mode can be toggled on or off at any time.
The maximum rupee limit at the start of the game has been increased from 200 to 500 rupees.
The HD version features more treasure charts to hunt down and an item originally obtained via sidequest is now found through such a treasure chart.
Some of the other miscellaneous alterations which were made to the game are as follows:
During development of the remaster, Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma has specifically stated that a trio of dungeons that were cut from the GameCube game prior to release would not be implemented. Part of the reason for this is that some of that cut content was already used in Zelda titles that followed Wind Waker's original release.
In North America and Europe, Nintendo sold a Limited Edition Ganondorf figurine along with the game. In North America, it was available as a GameStop-exclusive bonus. In Europe, there was a dedicated Limited Edition bundle that came with the game and the Ganondorf figurine. The European The Wind Waker HD box from the Limited Edition comes with a reversible cover featuring entirely different artwork than the main box art.
Eiji Aonuma, who announced the game during the Nintendo Direct in January 2013, said this remaster was born after creating the Zelda HD Experience Wii U tech demo for E3 2011. In preparing for the development of the first original HD Zelda title, Aonuma's team experimented with porting past entries into HD, and in the process felt that Wind Waker's art style gained new life on the new console tech. The decision was then made to release an updated version of Wind Waker for the Wii U to tide fans over while work continued on the new Wii U Zelda title.
As of December 31 2015, The Wind Waker HD has sold 1.69 million copies worldwide.