Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is a fantastic and highly praised game, but not every aspect of its design has gone without criticism. There is some questionable content, such as the game-length padding added by the collecting of the Triforce pieces, but the one feature that gets the most groans from fans is the navigation and sailing speed one must endure while sailing the Great Sea.

While I myself often found sailing to be a rather peaceful experience, at times there was no denying how sluggish it felt. Having to play the “Wind’s Requiem” whenever Link needed to change direction wasn’t great, either. Thankfully, once Wind Waker was updated and released on the Wii U as Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, we were given the chance to bypass this often-criticized gameplay feature.

Princess Zelda’s Study is a series where we examine the history of The Legend of Zelda to bring you some fascinating (or just plain weird) trivia. In our studies, we’ll explore each game’s development, curiosities within the rich lore of the franchise, and the impact it has had on our culture. From time to time, we’ll also look at Nintendo’s past to unearth some facts about our favorite company.

At a certain point in the game, the player could acquire the Swift Sail, an upgraded version of the regular sail that boasted significantly faster sailing speeds and the ability to change the direction of the wind without using the Wind Waker.

It was a great addition, but the question was, why wasn’t this available in the original version of the game? Also, why not let the player start with this sail, rather than finding it later on?

As it turns out, sailing at any faster speeds would not have been possible back in 2003. During a June 2013 Nintendo Direct, Eiji Aonuma, a director, producer, and supervisor for the Legend of Zelda series, as well as the lead director of the original version of Wind Waker, explained that the sailing was purposefully kept at a slower speed due to hardware limitations of the time.

The Gamecube was simply not powerful enough to load the ocean at the rate a faster sailing speed would have demanded. Mr. Aonuma explained that such speeds would lead to the game crashing in a rather spectacular way. Thus, the need to keep the speed at a modest level was unavoidable.

With Wind Waker HD, however, the Wii U was able to load the entirety of the ocean at once, removing the need for the limitation altogether. HD


 “On the GameCube, in the previous version, it took some time to load the ocean data, because it was so vast. So, if the ship had gone too fast, it would have sailed to the edge of the ocean and fallen off. Now that it’s on Wii U, the capabilities have been enhanced greatly, and we’re now able to load the entire ocean at once. Now that we’re able to do that, we could speed up the ship.” — Eiji Aonuma

But, as I said, why did they not give us the Swift Sail from the very beginning, or simply make the normal sail’s sailing speed faster? Mr. Aonuma explained this in the Direct as well.

Mr. Aonuma went on to explain that the decision to withhold the Swift Sail until further into the game was to help the player appreciate the increase in speed. The developers wanted the player to experience how great the boost felt, so requiring them to move at the original pace for a little while was an effective way to convey how much of an improvement the enhancement was.

The sailing speed seemed odd and somewhat annoying to many gamers for close to a decade, but Wind Waker HD was able to provide much-needed clarity on the issue and offered the fast and freeing experience those fans had always hoped for.

And if any of you would like to see the referenced section of the Nintendo Direct, here you go.