Shining through the Twilight
The long-awaited The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess first launched with the Nintendo Wii. It was a great game to sell Nintendo’s new console, bringing a darker story and refined visuals to the Zelda series. In preparation of the franchise’s 30th anniversary and the release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Twilight Princess was remastered for the Nintendo Wii U. There are only a few new gameplay features, but the HD remaster looks crisper than ever and is just as fun to play as it was back in 2006.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD’s story is unchanged from the original. Its story should be familiar to anyone who has played other mainline games in the series. Link is a farm boy living in Ordon Village. Following an attack by shadowy beasts, he is suddenly transformed into a wolf and sent to the Twilight Realm where he meets Midna, an implike creature, who asks for his help in defeating the King of Twilight.
While the story is edgy, with some introspective cutscenes and graphic action sequences, it’s not that special. Although there are some important story sequences that adorn the first half, the second half is mostly rushed with very few important events between dungeons up until the end. It’s as if they had an idea, but decided to forgo it halfway through in favor of a focus on dungeon design. While this is actually effective from a gameplay perspective, the game is left with a half-told story and underdeveloped characters. The huge exception and saving grace is Midna, a Twilight imp brimming with personality. She is spunky and snarky, while displaying a lot of heart and dynamic character growth. The villain is also interesting and plays off of her very well. While the overall plot is decent, Midna’s tale is well-told and is worth experiencing.
Much like the story, gameplay should be familiar to anyone who has played a previous Zelda game, especially Ocarina of Time or A Link to the Past. The opening tutorial is still a little slow, but the game grants you freedom as soon as you get through it. Exploring the world and traversing through dungeons are the two main aspects of this game. On the exploration side, Hyrule Field is a vast area filled with secrets to discover and collectibles to find. Getting around is a breeze thanks to your horse, although she has a tendency to bump into trees and cliffs if you’re not careful. The ability to brandish your sword while on horseback is exciting though not used much. Unfortunately, the field is sparse, with a small number of enemies covering its large surface area. With several towns and calmer locales making up the rest of the map, overworld exploration could easily eat up hours of playtime.
Dungeons are the meat of most Zelda games, and the ones in TP comprise some of the most entertaining in the series. The dungeon designs are very cohesive, with two or three central mechanics featured in each, such as controlling water flow or bringing a statue down a tall tower. These creative concepts encourage mastery of a dungeon item, which is a key weapon that helps you solve the puzzles within. Some items help you throughout the game, such as the grappling Clawshot. Many of these items are mainstays of Zelda games, but have additional clever functionality here. For instance, the Iron Boots not only let you sink in water, but also take advantage of its magnetic properties for some creative wall-climbing gameplay. However, others are less versatile and are generally mostly used in its dungeon like the wall-grinding Spinner, which is a fun item but has limited utility.
TP’s combat uses the effective L-targeting mechanic that Zelda games are known for. By using the ZL button to target your enemies, you can attack and dodge freely. Special learned moves let you vanquish foes in style. Each dungeon also ends in a boss fight, and TP has some of the most epic bosses in series history. Dungeon items are again used cleverly against these huge monsters, and nothing is more satisfying than slashing your sword continuously to finish off a boss.
This game’s dual world mechanic is between the normal world and the Twilight Realm. You don’t actually spend much time in areas covered in Twilight, but you are forced to become a wolf form of Link during those sections. Wolf Link can’t use items and instead attacks with pounces and bites. He is clunky to fight with, but you luckily don’t have to use him much outside of the Twilight Realm sections. The realm also features a slightly time-consuming subquest in which you must collect Tears of Light hidden in a province to dispel the Twilight. While this is a little annoying, TP HD actually removes some of the Tears that were in the original games, making this subquest go by more quickly.
There are plenty of collectibles to keep you busy throughout your time in Hyrule. Pieces of Heart increase your max health, although it now takes five pieces to fill a new Heart Container as opposed to the standard four, a small but noticeable change to the grind. Hidden Poe ghosts and Golden Bugs return from the original. Hidden Poes used to be a hassle to find in the original, especially since there were so many, but a new Ghost Lantern now assists you by illuminating when a Poe is nearby. New to this version are Stamps, which can be used on Miiverse posts and feature the Hylian alphabet and other fun images. Although they aren’t that useful, they are placed in new hard-to-reach locations or replace other items in select chests to give veterans something new search for.
There aren’t many new additional features in TP HD. The world map is no longer reversed as it was in the Wii version. In fact, the non-mirrored map combined with button inputs replacing waggle motion controls makes this entry more similar to the original GameCube version. The Wii U GamePad is used effectively, allowing you to manage items on the fly. You can also look at a map, your status, or play completely on the GamePad if you desire. Additionally, the GamePad’s gyroscope assists your aim when using items like the Bow or Clawshots. Finally, there is amiibo support, though only for Zelda-themed amiibo. For the most part, you can either refill arrows, restore health, or double damage inflicted on yourself with compatible amiibo. Wolf Link’s amiibo, which comes with some copies of the game, offers an additional enemy rush dungeon – the Cave of Shadows – which you must complete as Wolf Link. This is a true challenge, testing players’ skills with the hard-to-use wolf form, though this bonus feature doesn’t add that much for those only interested in the main game.
Graphics and Sound
Twilight Princess looks beautiful in HD. Character models are more refined, cutscenes show off better detail, and the world is impressive to gaze at. Additionally, the game looks a little cleaner, lacking a yellow filter that was present in the original. The artstyle is still a little on the ugly side, with character designs that are only memorable for looking bad. The main cast looks better and smoother than ever though.
The music is well-composed and resembles an orchestral sound. There are many great tracks from the calm Lake Hylia to the spaghetti western stylings of the Hidden Village. The overworld theme has also become iconic with the music changing depending on the time of day and current location. The music effectively sets the mood with a good mix of melancholic tunes and triumphant tracks. The music that plays when you are wailing at a boss is still one of the most fist-pumping songs in any Zelda game. Unfortunately, there isn’t voice acting, unless you count Midna’s garbled Twilight language. It’s easier to forgive since there was no voice acting in the original game, nor has the series had it up to this point. However, the cinematic sequences and characters’ lips syncing to the dialogue make this lack of voices more apparent and even a little awkward.
The game is lengthy, taking anywhere between 35-50 hours, depending on how much you explore and how many collectibles you are aiming for. A perfect 100% file can take very long just based on the sheer amount of collectible items alone. A new Hero Mode, in which hearts don’t appear and Link takes double damage, is available from the beginning, so challenge-driven veterans can dive right in. Hero Mode is also flipped, which matches the mirrored orientation of the Wii version. The Cave of Shadows, the new Wolf Link exclusive dungeon unlocked by scanning its amiibo, also increases replay value.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD is an astounding remaster worth replaying. Even if Nintendo didn’t add anything to the game, it would have already been a fun experience thanks to the clever dungeon design and large explorable overworld. The game has some trouble finding a good pace with a slow opening and a more rushed second half, but the game is overall solidly designed with intuitive puzzles and unique items. Characters are mostly missed opportunities, but the playful Midna makes up for it and steals the spotlight. The added Cave of Shadows, amiibo support, Hero Mode, Stamps, and different control schemes go a long way in making this feel like a unique experience, especially if you’ve only played the Wii version. Twilight Princess takes the beloved mechanics of the 3D Zelda entries and refines it superbly. This beautiful HD remaster is worth playing for anyone who loves the Zelda series.