Playing The Wind Waker inspired me to build a boat. There, I've said it. It still sounds a little silly - to me at least - and I'll get to that. But can we at least acknowledge that the game made a convincing case for the joys of sailing?
HD remasters have continued to fill release schedules over the past couple of years, leaving many console owners feeling a bit of a remaster fatigue. Despite that, we still believe in them. While the likes of Saints Row 4: Re-Elected and Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition are obvious cash grabs, we feel that a high-quality remaster can serve not only to preserve classic games but also open them up to a new audience altogether. If there's one publisher that still has a lot of untapped potential in this field it has to be Nintendo. Going all the way back to Super Mario All-Stars on SNES, Nintendo's work on remastering projects has always been first-rate.
And yet, during the packed 2013 Autumn release schedule, exactly one such release slipped entirely under our radar - The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD. It's an interesting conversion of the original GameCube release that goes a bit further than your average remaster project; Nintendo EAD enhanced both the visuals and gameplay to refresh the game for a new audience while preserving what made it great to begin with. It was an exercise no doubt designed to familiarise the team with HD development in its preparation of a brand new Wii U Zelda title, but it highlights the potential in tackling more of its back catalogue. But just how good is Wind Waker HD as an example of what could be done, and what other projects would benefit from similar treatment?
Wind Waker HD isn't the first time Nintendo has returned to a classic Zelda game on a new platform; Ocarina of Time 3D was released more than two years prior with entirely revamped visuals in tow. However, with Wind Waker HD, EAD chose to stick with the original 3D meshes, instead using other means to improve the visuals. It starts with a crisp 1920x1080 output, something of a rarity on Wii U, combined with a post-process edge filter that does a reasonable job of keeping aliasing at bay.
Eiji Aonuma is The Legend of Zelda. His first game as director, Marvelous on the Super Famicom, was unashamedly influenced by Shigeru Miyamoto's early classics. Under Miyamoto's wing, he was a lead designer on Ocarina of Time, co-directed Majora's Mask, and directed The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess. He's been the series' leading light since Miyamoto handed him the producer baton in the late 2000s - although it wasn't the first time the great Nintendo designer had tried to pass overall control of the series to his protégé.
Nintendo's retreat from the very public PR war of the E3 press conferences turned out to be a more literal one than we might have thought. This morning in Los Angeles, the company replaced its traditional stage show first with its Nintendo Direct live stream and then by inviting press to its stand before the show floor opened to play six key Wii U titles and meet their creators.
This week Nintendo will release its crucial third-quarter sales results and reveal how Wii U fared during its initial two months on sale. The company had promised to ship 5.5 million Wii U consoles by the end of March and end the financial year back in the black, thus avoiding a repeat of last year's damaging loss - the first in the company's history.
The loss was described as a blip that occurred as Nintendo price-dropped the 3DS and wrapped up costly research and design on the Wii U. It was a cost the company would not repeat, Nintendo boss Satoru Iwata told investors. But profits for this year have already been revised down. In October, Nintendo forecasted a new, slimmer earnings margin for the year, with the Wii U's early success playing a critical part. It's this early performance that we can now try to evaluate, with the console launched and already past its first holiday sales season.
Nintendo UK has remained silent about Wii U sales, but MCV reported first-weekend results of 40,000 consoles. It's a modest sum compared to other launches constrained by the level of stock allocated to the UK, although what did filter through to shop shelves didn't entirely sell out.