Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Wind Waker HD vs. Twilight Princess HD vs. Skyward Sword HD

When we looked at creating a Zelda for Wii U, there were so many possibilities given the HD graphics. But rather than starting from zero, we actually ran a few tests. We tried converting other console games to Wii U. We actually did this with Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword. And the result of that was, hmm, those are semi-realistic representations of the Zelda world so we weren’t really surprised with what we got. But with Wind Waker, when we converted that to HD we were really surprised at how great it looked.
- Aonuma in an interview with Wired

The Wind Waker, Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword - not counting a possible Majora's Mask HD, since this game will most likely end up on 3DS, those were the three options for a possibile HD remake on the Wii U. And many are surprised by the outcome, which is the Wind Waker HD. Obviously Twilight Princess would be the game profiting the most from an HD makeover. And when Skyward Sword came out, many sites argued there should be an HD version bundled with the Wii U as a starting title.

Now, let's try to follow Nintendo's thought process here. It's actually easy to replicate their HD conversion tests by simply using the Dolphin emulator, which allows you to play GameCube and Wii games in HD resolution. Now two of the games will surprise and maybe astound you with the results:

Both The Wind Waker and Skyward Sword use an unique visual style, which has a much more timeless approach. The Cel Shading visuals of the Wind Waker allow easy upscaling and downscaling in any resolution without any loss in quality. The game will always look great. And Skyward Sword's so called impressionistic paint dab style is pretty similar. Maybe some improved lighting and some better textures here and there and ready is the HD version.

Twilight Princess on the other hand hasn't aged so well. Its more realistic visual approach makes it look pretty shabby compared to many modern games. If they'd made an HD version of this game, fans would expect to look similar to the tech demo from E3 2011. But of course making this would be very expansive, they would need all new models and textures, resources needed for the new HD Zelda game coming to Wii U.

So, here's the problem. A fan might want an HD remake that gives the best visual boost. Something like Twilight Princess HD or Majora's Mask HD even. But Nintendo naturally goes for the game that can be remastered with the lowest possible effort to aim for the best profit. And that is clearly not Twilight Princess.

Skyward Sword HD might also get made at some point, but for now The Wind Waker was the best choice from Nintendo's standpoint. In addition to the timeless graphics the game also has the most room for easy improvement. Adding a faster sail, streamlining other things, improving the Triforce Quest, adding a harder difficulty - the game can be made so much more enjoyable with just little improvements. The problems of Skyward Sword and Twilight Princess go much, much deeper than that and can't be fixed so easily (except for the bigger glitches and the annoying Rupee and Treasure/Insect messages you get each time after rebooting the game), if at all. Additionally The Wind Waker can make good use of the GamePad, which wouldn't be possible with an HD version of Skyward Sword, which can only be played with the Wiimotion Plus and Nunchuk controls. And The Wind Waker is now 10 years old, old enough to be interesting again. Many people maybe haven't played the game in years, if ever. Skyward Sword is still too young, most have played it on the Wii, so there's no reason to get a Wii U for this. And you can still play both Skyward Sword and Twilight Princess on your Wii U thanks to its backwards compatibility, while you can't play the original Wind Waker on the system.

So, there you have it. The Wind Waker is easily converted into HD, easily improved, makes good use of the GamePad and is old enough to be interesting. That's why Nintendo chose to make The Wind Waker HD over Twilight Princess HD or Skyward Sword HD. And I'm okay with that. I wouldn't want them to make an expansive remake that steals from the development of a new Zelda game, which would be the case with Twilight Princess HD. Concerning Skyward Sword HD, I'm pretty that it will get made at some point for the Wii U, maybe in three years or so. Simply because it can be easily converted into HD, much like the Wind Waker.

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