A Closer Look: Wind Waker Wii U’s Graphics

There have been a variety of different reactions to Nintendo’s recent announcement that they will be releasing an HD version of the Wind Waker on the Wii U. These reactions have ranged from surprised to excited, from confused to disappointed.

I think it’s great news for the shear fact that a lot of people who missed out on Wind Waker will be exposed to it for the first time, but there is one point of contention that I’d like to discuss and that is how the game looks; more specifically how it may differ from the already-released stills to the final product.

Wind Waker HD isn’t just a port of the game running at a higher resolution (a.k.a. Dolphin style); it’s a remake of the game. It’s unclear whether the game will be a complete remake (like what happened with Ocarina of Time 3D) or if it will just be spruced up (I suspect the latter), but there are some pretty obvious changes to the visual style that have upset more than a few people who love the game for its art direction (don’t worry friends; we’ll always have the original and Dolphin).

However, there’s no real reason for such an uproar, at least not yet.

One of my first reactions to the announcement, after being surprised by it coming out of left-field, was how something seemed off about the promotional screens that Nintendo released in conjunction with their presentation.

After taking a closer look at the stills, it seems unlikely that they represent the game’s final look.

For starters, the majority of the screens featured a bloom effect that made all the stills seem more like a test of the Wii U’s lighting capabilities than actual in-game footage (Aonuma did say the decision to make Wind Waker HD came about after performing such tests on older games)


This is further suggested by the textures on the character models. While the environment’s textures have been cleaned up (i.e. high resolution, less pixelation when stretched, etc.), the textures on the Link and Tetra models have not (or at least nothing beyond a negligible amount). I’ve ripped enough game models to know what these characters look like without the cel-shading, I know what they look like without lighting, and due to the large number of fan rendering projects, most of us know what these models look like in long-render lighting tests.

These stills look like such tests, specifically tests where the only change is the lighting set-up and the lack of cel-shaders.

And that’s what it all comes down to, the lack of cel-shading. However, if these stills really are just initial HD tests by the Nintendo team, there’s still a chance that the final product will have the proper shaders.

As for the also controversial bloom effect, this too is taken out of context.

This apparent lighting test could be a collection of multiple images of one moment in time, as viewed from multiple cameras within a single scene, and if we all think back to the last time we all played Wind Waker, we’ll remember that a similar lighting effect was present from time to time, however brief. For those who have forgotten, in Wind Waker outside areas appeared too bright upon exiting darker interiors in order to create the illusion of what happens with the human eye in real life. The overexposed lighting in the stills could be a representation of that moment, and it’s unlikely that the remake’s lighting be overexposed for every moment of play (at least within the day cycle).


This could all just be wishful thinking on my part (I do love the cel-shading), and the final game will indeed look like the stills. However, it’s still worth keeping a weary eye out now to prepare ourselves to look for any differences upon the game’s eventual release.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/XxStoicMonkeyxX Jamal Grandy

    Personally it doesn’t seem like wishful thinking, i feel like they released the images to give us something rather than more of the same “It’s coming wait and see” type deal. Nintendo got this :D i’m sure the finished product or the near complete version will be in playable demo form at E3. then all things will be set to rest.

  • zdog

    Good observations, I’m hopeful that things get cleaned up too! I know I’ve said this before, but I’m still just having a hard time with the neon grass that matches the color of Tetra’s hair. I hope that gets calmed down just a bit.

  • Nathan

    People freaking out about how it looks from the test shots really need to cool it. I’m about 95% sure those images were probably from what Nintendo saw when they were experimenting with the older games on the new hardware, rather than actual footage from the retail release. Even if it were, the game would most likely not even be in post-production yet, given the significantly shorter dev cycle of a re-release game.

    Relax people. It will be Wind Waker in glorious HD with better character models and cleaner, clearer environment texturing. And you will all love it.

  • Willow

    Wait, if these are stills of the game what is Sue Belle doing in Windfall Island?