Wind Waker HD

Everyone’s waiting for that shiny, photo-realistic Legend of Zelda Nintendo teased at E3 2011. Too bad that was a mere tech demo. During their January Nintendo Direct, the company admitted that their next entry in the series is a voyage long away. However, they are working on a treat to keep you occupied in the interim — The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD.

This isn’t just an HD gloss over a Gamecube classic. Nintendo’s promised to not only update the visuals, but also implement gamepad functions and Miiverse integration. They’ve also mentioned that they’ll be “tuning” the gameplay, most likely to bring the controls up to snuff with contemporary action games. I’m hoping they’ll also be adding content cut from the original. Maybe new islands, new sidequests or even new rooms in dungeons. To have orchestrated music this time around would be wonderful. When it comes to the music in Zelda games, Wind Waker has the most variety in its soundtrack, going from Celtic tunes on one island to Inca instrumentals on another. A decade has been long enough for this classic’s rebirth, hopefully adding plenty of content for veterans, while retaining its original charm and majesty for newcomers. However, this task is often difficult to execute, but I have confidence in Nintendo. They seem to handle their remakes tastefully.

Windfall Island in all its fresh, high definition glory.

It’s clear the graphics are being completely reworked. With a new lighting engine and HD textures, Nintendo is turning a pretty game, gorgeous. But I do have my concerns about these revamped visuals. Part of what makes Wind Waker‘s look so unique, is the hard transitions between colours. Strong shading and abrupt changes in colour helped define the scenery and characters, making it look more like a cartoon than a videogame. This seems to be somewhat absent in the remake, as the vibrance of the colours and how they contrast against one another, removes those sharp turns in shade.

Don’t get me wrong, I think this game looks beautiful. It’s just that there’s a distinct art direction with the original Wind Waker that this remake seems to be deviating from. But then again, only a few screenshots were shown. It could be that this game still holds the beauty of the classic, we just have to watch it sail.

Yoshi’s HD Adventure

It’s been a while since our dinosaur friend’s had his own adventure. Seven years really. Perfect time for his foray on the Wii U. This time, Yoshi has a fresh art style and a new studio, as seen in January’s Nintendo Direct.

Nintendo didn’t give us a title, but we can be creative. It could be a successor to Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. The art style may even suggest a sequel to Yoshi’s Story. But last November, a game called Yoshi’s Land appeared on Best Buy’s online catalogue and is most likely the same game exhibited in the latest Nintendo Direct. With one good look at the footage Nintendo released, you can immediately tell that it’s being developed by Good Feel, the studio that brought you Kirby’s Epic Yarn.

Yoshi running about what appears to be a child's bedroom.

In this new game we see a similar art direction; a look that scores our minds and distinguishes itself from the other platformers on the market. That being said, the gameplay in Kirby’s Epic Yarn was quite the letdown. Filled to the brim with shallow combat and simple platforming, the game’s presentation was the only exceptional aspect of the title. With no health system in place, there was no room for failure and as a result, removed any challenge from the gameplay. But good news, Takashi Tezuka, the director of Super Mario World 2, will be supervising the development. Hopefully his presence will push the game in a deeper and more challenging direction than Good Feel’s last title.

Obviously, I can’t make much of a comment on the game with so little information. But as far as visuals go, it looks incredible. Good Feel may be taking inspiration from their earlier product, but they’re sculpting something with a unique style, making this title worthy of its own pedestal.

Even with the limited exposure, I’m quite excited about Yoshi’s next adventure.

An Ascending Breath of Fresh Air

The God of War series has been one of Playstation’s strongest franchises since its debut in 2005. The titles have been known for their graphics, scores and the accessible combat that carries its gameplay. Early in 2012, SCE Santa Monica revealed that their next project in the series, God of War Ascension, is a prequel exploring the events “before Kratos became known as the Ghost of Sparta.”

Kratos’ journeys aren’t known for riveting stories or innovative gameplay, but rather how its epic scores and visuals come into balance with accessible fighting mechanics. This creates a presentation difficult to rival. The concept of a God of War prequel is quite intriguing. The first instalment had an interesting story of Kratos willing to go through anything to exact revenge on Ares and put an end to his tyranny by  retelling the story of a hero selling his soul to the devil. However as the series went on, Kratos became more of bloodthirsty barbarian than a tragic hero.

This is a dive into the uncharted waters of the God of War universe and no doubt there’s a lot of work going into the project. I found the first game to have the best plot and it’ll be interesting to see how Kratos came to the suicidal state he was in at the beginning of the series. Though I believe most people desire a new story. One that’s a genuine Greek tragedy and hopefully stays clear of the usual theme of futile journeys and ironclad fates. It’s also difficult to relate to Kratos when all the previous games had him constantly yelling and murdering gods for no greater purpose beyond power. To see Kratos as a general with emotions and realistic ambitions will be a welcome addition to this Spartan’s story and I’m excited to find out how Sony Santa Monica will tackle this.

It's safe to assume gorgons will return.

Historical events like the Battle of Marathon or the Battle of Thermopylae would be interesting to partake in. These battles could be even more fascinating if Kratos fought alongside historical figures like King Cleomenes or King Leonidas. In addition, it would be nice to see Kratos simply expressing some actual affection for someone or even meeting new characters that don’t end up dead soon after their introductions.

Though this untouched narrative shows a lot of potential, I have my concerns about the gameplay. As simple as it’s always has been, the main hook in the gameplay was the sheer brutality of Kratos’ actions, the scope of his fights and the feeling of empowerment the player gains. I’m sure Kratos will find someone or something that gives him some form of superhuman abilities, but the total scope and feeling of empowerment is worrying. Kratos having fought every interesting mythological creature and god I can think of, I’m curious as to what may be considered enough of a threat for him to go out of his way to kill this time and still maintain a sense of vigor. Both the titans and gods have already been defeated in past entries and having to fight mere mortals in God of War Ascension would far from enough because of the precedents set within the series. When I first saw Kratos climbing about the Colossus of Rhodes my jaw dropped. The scope of his goal is something that is rarely shown in video games and is never well executed when replicated in titles outside the series.

As fun as the games may be, Kratos’ story is being dragged out quite the bit and this prequel is a result of Sony Santa Monica painting themselves into a corner. I’m hoping the studio soon moves away from Kratos and tries a new idea with a fresh approach. But I’ll be the first to admit that I love everything the series has to offer and wouldn’t mind them just starting anew with a different setting. For instance, it would really interest me to see a God of War style game set in Egypt fighting the creatures and gods of ancient Egyptian mythos. An intricate story and well written characters would be welcome also as that’s been a weakness of the series in its recent entries. That being said, Sony Santa Monica hasn’t made a second-rate God of War title so there’s no fair reason to doubt them. The series needs a breath of fresh air and I’m hoping that God of War Ascension is the title to do so.