I’ve always been quite cynical about re-releasing and remastering shenanigans. At best, it often seems like a desperate cash grab and, at worst, it kind of feels like us Gamers are being taken for hopelessly naive rubes who’re easily parted from their money. Nintendo appear to be something of a repeat offender in this respect, and back when they seemed intent on padding out their Wii U catalogue with remastered versions of fan favourites, I couldn’t help but greet the decision with a fair degree of disdain and eye-rolling. “Seriously, how stupid do you think we are?” I cried, “What fucking eejit’s going to keep buying the same game again, and who, pray tell, is going to be so irredeemably, monumentally stupid that they’re going to buy your failing console just to play a decade old game on!?” I yelled, gesticulating wildly for emphasis even though there was nobody else in the room. But then, on the other hand – and in answer to my own questions, I guess – I eventually did buy a Wii U pretty much so I could play The Wind Waker again, and I also bought me a copy of Twilight Princess HD too.
So, like, there’s that….
Anyhoo, setting questionable business practices and the issue of whether I am, in fact, a big fucking eejit or not aside for now, returning to a favourite – perhaps even cherished – Game is an area that can be fraught with danger. At its most obvious, there’s a very real risk that the game might not be quite as we remembered it, perhaps not even as objectively good as we may’ve once thought, and replaying it might not only be a let down, but actually retrospectively taint the fond memories we have of it too.
Indeed, as with books, films and music, sometimes we happen upon a Game at a particular time in our lives – perhaps in a period when we’re overly receptive to its themes or ideas – and it’s often this subtle blend of time and circumstance that make a Game particularly special. As we move through life, these circumstances inevitably change and, moreover, we change, so it’s possible that a game’s resonance or appeal – a potent yet ephemeral mixture of who, when and where we are – becomes lessened as those things change too, forever locked in the past and tied to a specific period of our lives.
Similarly, given technology marches incessantly onwards too, it’s also possible that a Game can become dated, perhaps even obsolete, and even remastered games can appear quaint – or just downright rubbish – when we revisit them having played vastly more polished and advanced Games in the intervening years. Even Games that were relatively advanced or groundbreaking at the time can quickly become relics – often precisely because what was considered groundbreaking has been subsequently borrowed, imitated or improved upon many times over. Who hasn’t returned to a Game that was once thought ahead of its time, only to realise “ahead of its time” can rapidly become “jeez, this is so old, I may as well be playing fucking pong….” as they struggle to see past its graphical or mechanical limitations??
Basically, that’s an (admittedly overly long-winded) explanation of why I was generally quite reluctant to load up The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD this last week. Even though I’d got it on the day I’d bought my Wii U, I’d been severely conflicted about playing it. Some of me wanted to dive in straight away, some of me wanted to save playing it (and once rumours of the NX/Switch surfaced, it seemed more fitting for me to do so) and a lot of me was genuinely reluctant to play it at all because of everything I’ve just been banging on about.
See, I first played Wind Waker in a very specific set of circumstances, and even though I absolutely fucking adored it, I couldn’t help but worry that the two things were inextricably Link-ed (here all week, folks!). Long-story-short(ish) – and in a spectacular display of the dangers of putting all your eggs in one basket – once upon a time I worked in a shop and I also lived above the self-same shop. Obviously that was great for commute times, and I could literally get to work without stepping outside in the Winter, but when my boss/landlord decided he was selling the business/property it all became decidedly less convenient, and I suddenly found myself a month away from being both jobless and homeless. On the same day. If I’m being honest, I’ve had better fucking days than that one, but luckily the homelessness thing was resolved quite quickly, and I was in my new abode well before the end of that month. The job thing took slightly longer however, and after signing up for agencies and applying for vacancies and such, I found myself with little to do as I waited to hear back from one of them. On any given day, if I hadn’t heard from any of the agencies by about 9.30 am, I knew they’d not be calling at all that day, and even factoring in me sending off CVs, chores, DIY etc, I’d usually be done – and mahoosively bored – by lunchtime.
After I’d spent the second afternoon inventing (and talking to myself, and a very confused cat, exclusively in) a new language, I figured I should probably do something slightly less weird with my time. As I unpacked the last of the moving boxes, I came across my GameCube and an as-of-yet-unopened copy of Wind Waker, and given the choice between that and conjugating verbs in gibberish, I chose the former. Clearly that was the better decision objectively speaking, but more so because I found in Wind Waker exactly what I needed at the time.
Aside from the obvious (halting my alarmingly quick descent into madness, for example) the magic and innocence of Wind Waker’s world was an immediately effective antidote to having been sucker-punched in the balls by real-life, and I wholeheartedly drank that shit down. Likewise, it’s beautiful, colourful Universe of tropical islands and bluer-than-blue seas provided a refuge from the general grimness and malaise of my actual world, and in a very noticeable way, I’d have my spirits lifted as soon as I sat down to play Wind Waker.
In terms of the Game itself, I also found within it a distinct element of catharsis – an avatar on which to project myself. As such, Link’s successes were my successes, his own journey and growth became mine too, and together we made the transition from helplessness and hopelessness to being in control of our destiny, able and willing to meet the challenges before us.
In the end, I got a job within a few weeks and, given it was a job I felt I was largely under-qualified for, on some weird, irrational level, I couldn’t help but think that perhaps I owed some of that to having been lifted up by the sense of confidence and empowerment I’d taken from Wind Waker. As the years have gone by, even though I’ve largely forgotten the specifics of the game, it’s still taken on a mythical, almost supernatural form in my own Gaming history – and to this day I’ll unhesitatingly mention it if I’m asked about my favourite games. Sometimes, shit’s best left untouched though, and whilst I’ve been reasonably confident that The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is a great game anyway, I could never quite shake the fear that revisiting it would somehow disprove that theory.
Anyways, if you’re still with me, there was all of that swirling about in my head the other day, and there was a large part of me screaming “Don’t do it, James. Don’t ruin Wind Waker. For Fuck’s Sake, this is why we can’t have nice things…” as I hovered over my Wii U with disc in hand. But then, as I explained in my Twilight Princess piece, there was another part of me that couldn’t deal with not Zelda-ing anymore, and there was yet another (more superficial) part constantly whispering “High Definition, James. High. Fucking. Definition” like a sweet, irresistible siren song. I’m an A/V geek, so this proved quite compelling, especially given I’d originally played The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker on a shitty, non-widescreen, not-even-flatscreen, 17 inch CRT TV, so the idea of firing up a remastered HD version on my 64 inch 4K TV filled me with kid-on-Christmas-morning levels of excitement. Any fool knows you don’t argue with kid-on-Christmas-morning levels of anything, so, despite all the soppy, emotional bollocks I’ve just mentioned, it was my inability to adult that means that now, actually, I am returning to one of my bestest, favoritist Games ever – despite the risks, dangers and potentially soul-crushing realities that might entail.
Obviously I’m really, really hoping I don’t regret that decision – and early indications are good because I immediately feel in love with it again, but that could all change further down the line, I guess. Because of the significance of replaying The Wind Waker though, I might have to randomly babble about inner turmoil, or conflicted feelings, or even go off on big rants asking why people insist on dicking around with stuff that ain’t broken at various points along the way. Because somebody somewhere stupidly allowed me onto WordPress, those will in all likelihood be here, Dear Reader, so consider yourself warned. I mean, you don’t have to read them if you don’t want to, but if you do, be prepared for some weird, overly long and nonsensical pieces about feelz and whatnot.
Indeed, overly long, nonsensical pieces exactly like this one.
TL; DR – Turns out inner-conflict and cherished memories are no match for High Definition and big TVs when you’re shit at adulting! Who knew, eh!?