Tag Archives: Wii U

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker – Game Review

Related: The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass (NDS sequel)

Similar: Witcher 3


Golden Sun 2: The Lost Age


Platforms: GameCube, Wii U (HD remaster)

Genre: Action Adventure

Length: ~31 hrs. with moderate exploration



  • Rewarding exploration.
  • Loaded with charm.
  • Sharp combat.
  • Toon Link.
  • Timeless art.
  • Varied dungeons and items.


  • A treasure hunt quest instead of the penultimate dungeon of other Zelda games.

When The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was first revealed with its cel-shaded art, many were quick to deride the style as too ‘kiddy,’ but now, so many years later, Wind Waker’s art is timeless in a way the more realistic styles can’t match.

Wind Waker follows the quest of Link as he rescues his kidnapped sister, snatched away by a giant bird to the Forsaken Fortress. He enlists the help of pirates and a talking boat to navigate the seas packed with squid monsters, Bokoblins, and sharks. The open sea is at the core of Wind Waker, for out at sea there are secrets to be uncovered and chests to be plundered. As many open world games, such as the recent Watch Dogs, have shown, a larger world isn’t always a positive, especially when said world is drowning in watered down chores. Thankfully, Nintendo kept the world at just the right size – big enough to feel vast, but never repetitive.

Wind Waker is a game of exploration. When the music swells as you hit the open sea…fantastic. There is so much to discover. You may want to keep a notepad for secrets you should come back to later with the right equipment. When one hits a new island, there is that sense of mystery, of excitement at what one may find. It can range from a chest hidden behind a wall of fire to an entire dungeon. It isn’t predictable. In fact, a favourite feature of mine, and a key to the sense of discovery, is how little information the game gives you. These days, you look at the map in an open world game and you’re met with hundreds of icons telling you where everything is and what to expect upon arrival. Rarely do they have any mystery to them. Two crossed swords – yep, that’s a combat task. A chest icon – why does no one else take this treasure if it’s marked on every map?

The game guides you in subtle ways instead. For example, the world map is a blank grid to begin with. A blank tile says, ‘If lost on where to go, why not try that area over there?’ What will you find? Who knows… There is enough information to get started, but not so much that it feels like you’re hooked by the lip and dragged across the ocean.

You can fill the map by feeding a master painter fish (go with it) in each tile, who greets you with a “Shveh! (Hey, small fry!)” and gives a little information, usually on the island. Even with the map filled, the information is minimal, as it should be. It never feels like a checklist.

The artist fish is one of many charming features you will meet in Wind Waker. This game never seems to stop with the charm. Link’s wide, expressive eyes follow butterflies when he runs past, strangers watch you with peculiar interest at your approach, and that tiptoe sound effect when Link sidles along a ledge! One that always makes me laugh is the man who runs the Battleships mini-game on Windfall Island, the hub of activity. He adds his own sound effects to the mini-game; hearing that “Splooooooosh” should be infuriating at another missed cannonball, but it’s too charming to anger me. Even the enemies have charm. Moblins, a normally serious staple of Zelda, swagger around, lanterns aloft as they patrol the Forsaken Fortress. But poke them in the bum with your sword and they jump to the ceiling, tears comically streaming from their eyes before they run around in circles clutching their backsides. Be careful, however, as they will recover and go to retrieve their dropped weapon, though you can get to it first. Nothing quite like seeing tiny Link wield a serrated blade three times his size.

To battle these foes, Wind Waker uses a combat system as sharp as any action adventure game. The lock-on system invented by Ocarina of Time allows focus on the combat rather than the camera. Attacks are quick and precise, changing in nature depending on the direction of the control stick. A forward tilt plus ‘A’ results in a leaping strike – powerful, but leaves you open, whereas a mere tap of ‘A’ delivers a quick jab. Combos increase your power and can disarm or stagger enemies. Link can also execute deft counters with a well-timed press of the button. The combat is about timing and knowing the enemy’s weakness.

Wind Waker’s dungeons aren’t as good as the likes of Ocarina and Twilight Princess, but they are great nonetheless and the items feel relevant throughout the adventure. The equipment also serves a greater purpose than in other Zelda games. You can salvage treasure under the sea using the grappling hook, while the bombs add a canon to your boat, further increasing tools of exploration.

Why essential?

The exploration and discovery make Wind Waker an essential game to play. It captures the feeling that there is something new just over the horizon, a quality few games have managed to grasp. And once you reach your destination, you have an excellent combat system, beautiful cel-shaded environments, varied enemies, and fun dungeons. Don’t forget the endless charm.

What about Ocarina of Time or other games in the Zelda franchise?

To say Wind Waker is the essential Zelda game is a bold statement in the face of such competition. Every 3D entry into the franchise is the best at something. Yes, Twilight Princess has the best dungeons and Ocarina of Time has the best story, but Wind Waker brings every element together better than the others do. Keep in mind: Wind Waker’s dungeons and story are great, even if not as great as the other two.

The Wii U difference.

The Wii U version is an exemplar in how remasters should be done. It increases the resolution from 480p to 1080p widescreen and overhauls the lighting engine with better volume and shadows. The touchscreen on the gamepad helps maintain flow by not having to pause to check your map or change items. For veteran gamers, there is a Hero Mode option that doubles enemy damage and disables heart regeneration outside of potions and fairies. The Picto Box camera can store twelve photos instead of three for the Pokémon Snap-esque mini-game.

Lastly, a new Swift Sail greatly improves travel speed for those who want to get around faster, but not so fast it may as well have teleported you. It also conveniently changes the wind direction for ideal travel without the need of the Wind Waker to manipulate the wind. The Swift Sail will save at least a couple of hours overall, depending on how much you explore.

Recommendation: If you can access the Wii U version, it is certainly worth it; however, the GameCube will still give you the essential Wind Waker goodness.

Metroid Prime – Game Review

Related: Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (sequel)

Metroid Prime Hunters (DS spin-off)

Similar: Bioshock

Batman: Arkham Asylum


Platforms: GameCube, Wii, Wii U

Genre: First-Person Shooter Action Adventure

Length: ~15 hrs. (20 hrs. completionist)



  • Isolation.
  • Unparalleled atmosphere.
  • Interesting mechanics.
  • Unique gameplay.
  • Well aged visuals.
  • Haunting soundtrack.


  • Needs bigger mini-map.

I still remember playing the Metroid Prime demo kiosk at the local K-Mart before its release. There was a timer on the demo before it kicked you back to the title screen, so I would play over and over to get as far as possible (made it past the first boss). I have never had a demo hook me into a game as much as this – it certainly helped that Metroid Prime has the pinnacle of what a first level should be. No filler, all awesome – sums up the whole game, in fact.

To label Metroid Prime as a first-person shooter is misleading, for it shares nothing in common but the perspective with the common notion of an FPS. You won’t find 360-no-scopes or run-and-gun gameplay here. Instead, prepare for heavy exploration, unique combat, and atmosphere few games manage to achieve. Metroid Prime oozes atmosphere. From the way rain and frost affect your visor, to how the interface is integrated Iron Man-style within the game world, to that haunting music of alien mandibles clicking with anticipation, Metroid Prime pulls you into a world unlike any other. My favourite immersion detail is seeing your face reflected inside the visor after a bright flash – mind blowing for the time.

We play as Samus Aran, legendary bounty hunter, as she answers a distress call from a Space Pirate frigate, where experimental subjects have slaughtered the crew. There, she faces Ridley, her archenemy, and the fight eventually leads her onto the planet Talon IV. Alone on this alien-infested planet, Samus must track her enemy and deal with far more than she expected.

The isolation grips you right away. You quickly learn that everything on this planet will try to kill you and there is no one there to help. Expect to dive into murky lakes, roam canyons, delve into volcanos, and explore ruins as you uncover what really happened on Talon IV. Metroid Prime wants you to feel alone, one woman against a planet.

However, to even the odds, Samus has her signature power suit. Early in the game, much of Samus’s equipment breaks, leaving her with little more than the basic Power Beam, as is usual for the Metroid franchise. As you progress, you will find new beam weapons, each with interest effects – the Ice Beam, for example, freezes enemies after a charged shot to the mouth. Beam weapons can further be enhanced with a dose of missiles (also usable on their own). It is so satisfying to complete a charge just in time to blast a leaping alien point blank with a massive explosion, knocking them back.

The way aiming works is unique. As the second stick handles weapon swaps, you aim by holding a trigger to lock-on target. While locked-on, you will strafe instead of turn and you can do quick dodges to sidestep attacks. Use the other trigger, and you stand still, converting the movement stick into a free-view mode. This sounds strange, I know, and if it were a standard FPS like Halo, it would be utter rubbish. However, Metroid Prime was tailored for this control scheme and it works great. If this still doesn’t sound appealing, the Wii and Wii U versions allow free movement of the crosshair with the Wii remote at all times, while lock-on merely keeps the enemy in view.

Metroid Prime has more to it than combat, mind you, far more. Samus can scan the environment (useful for finding secrets) and enemies to uncover lore and weaknesses. At later stages, the visor upgrades with different vision types, my favourite being the X-Ray visor, which allows you to see through walls and into enemies. It still blows my mind how incredible the tech was to build this game.

Samus can also acquire various utility upgrades to help with traversal. Each new equipment find feels meaningful; you immediately get a sense that so much more of the non-linear world has opened up to you. Finding the Space Jump Boots, you remember that platform, just out of reach, which you spent ages trying to snuggle your way onto. Or all those purple doors that impeded your path, now ready to fall aside as you blast them with your new Wave Beam – yes, even the weapons play a significant part in the exploration and puzzles.

Puzzles! Throughout Talon IV, you will find many ingenious puzzles akin to an Indiana Jones adventure, though with a sci-fi slant. Your main puzzle-solving tool is the Morph Ball. Samus curls up and rolls around like a Sandshrew, fitting into narrow passages and scaling walls once upgraded. (Yet another dimension to exploration.) As with all of her equipment, the Morph Ball has uses in combat too. Nothing funnier than turning into a ball when in danger and zigzagging though a room of aliens trying to stomp you – “I am outta here!”

With such equipment, Samus feels powerful, truly like the galaxy’s best bounty hunter, yet the challenge has the right level of daunting anticipation. The difficulty, the balance between figuring out an enemy’s weakness and which weapon to use, keeping your surroundings in mind, all comes together for a tight combat experience.

If I had one complaint, it would be a need for a bigger mini-map. As is, it barely conveys information on which rooms are ahead, making you open the full map more than necessary, which matters in the labyrinth that is Talon IV. Still, minor issue.

Why Essential?

Metroid Prime is a unique game (barring its sequels). Even including Bioshock and Arkham Asylum as ‘Similar’ games above is a bit of a stretch. One may find elements common to other games – great feel of exploration or isolation, for example – but no game brings the unique combat, deep exploration (with plenty extra for those interested), and puzzles together, all wrapped in flawless atmosphere, like Metroid Prime does.

What about the Metroid Prime sequels?

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes adds more to Metroid Prime’s horror side; however, the new ammo system for extra Beam weapons reduces the strategic and puzzle elements, as you end up holding onto your ammo just in case instead of being creative.

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption introduces new characters, which is cool, but it loses the sense of isolation and it isn’t as dark, so the atmosphere is weakened. These are still fantastic sequels you should play if you enjoy Metroid Prime.

Recommendation: Whether you prefer the GameCube version or the Wii version (far cheaper as a Wii U download – Metroid Prime Trilogy is one of Wii’s most expensive games) depends on your attitude towards motion controls. Metroid Prime 3 showed off much of what motion controls were capable of in games, which was later applied to Prime 1 & 2. Either version, you are getting a great game. Do note the Wii & Wii U versions do not support GameCube control schemes, only Wii remote with Nunchuck.