Wind Waker Wii U: Will Nintendo Anger Zelda Fans…Again?

Nintendo dropped a bombshell on us today during their Wii U Direct presentation. Not only did we get our first hints about what we can expect from a new Zelda game on the Wii U, but Nintendo also unveiled an HD remake of Wind Waker for the system as well.

Initial response to the game have been largely positive, but I can’t help but shake the feeling that this revelation is a mirror of the game’s original debut. Wind Waker has, over time, earned its spot among the top Zelda titles, but the game wasn’t so well-received at first. Can it find new life on the Wii U, or will it suffer the same criticisms?

When the GameCube was still in development, Nintendo prepared a tech demo for the system and showed it off at Space World 2000. If you’re looking for a way to get Nintendo fans excited about what a new system can do graphically, the Zelda series makes a perfect candidate, and Nintendo took advantage of this. The Space World demo depicted a short scene of Link and Ganondorf in a sword fight, using “realistic” graphics, and the response was overwhelmingly positive.

WiiU_ZeldaWindWaker_Scrn09That’s why fans were more than a little surprised when they got their first look at what Zelda would really look like on the GameCube. E3 2002 was the setting for the unveiling of Wind Waker, and the reaction, especially in the United States, was a pretty somber one. What was this cell-shaded cartoon look? Where were the realistic graphics shown off at Space World? The crowed was so stunned that some reports say Shigeru Miyamoto even questioned his staff, “Why are they not clapping?”

Many fans have warmed up to Wind Waker‘s style over time. Some hail it as the best artistic direction the series has taken, and most agree that it provides a certain timeless aspect that allows it to age well when other games from its time period so quickly begin to look obsolete. Still, for everyone who loves the style, there’s an equal amount of people who believe it made the game too childish, and many opted not to buy the game specifically because they couldn’t tolerate its look.

We recently conducted two polls here at GenGAME regarding the graphics of the Zelda series, and it’s clear that Wind Waker‘s style is still somewhat of a black sheep. When we asked our readers to vote on what graphical style they’d like to see Zelda Wii U utilize, Wind Waker‘s look only managed to get 9% of the vote, finishing second to last behind only a classic throwback to the 2D games. Later we posted videos of Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword all running in HD on the Dolphin emulator, and asked fans to vote on which style looked the best. Wind Waker took last again, managing only 13% of the vote.

Link HDFast forward from Wind Waker‘s original mixed reception to E3 2011. As with Space World, Nintendo had a new console in the works and was looking to show off what they could do with it graphically, so an HD Zelda tech demo with realistic graphics was unveiled, and the response was incredible. People loved it, and a large majority of Zelda fans were clamoring for an HD Zelda game on the Wii U in the style of the tech demo.

Despite all of this, Nintendo representatives have repeatedly said that Zelda on the Wii U is unlikely to be in the same style as the tech demo. Not only that, but the first HD Zelda game we’ll be getting is a remake of Wind Waker. If Nintendo received heavy criticism for showing off a realistic trailer and following it up with the toon-style Wind Waker on the GameCube, will they face the same kind of backlash on the Wii U?

Wind Waker was a beautiful and imaginative game on the GameCube, and it’s going to look even more amazing rebuilt with all new HD graphics on the Wii U, but will it be enough to make Zelda fans happy? Realistic graphics caught people’s attention back in 2000, and they still are now. Can Wind Waker in HD compete with that? We’ll find out this fall.

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