The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD (Wii U) Review

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.

Story

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.

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Midna, the Twilight imp girl, steals the spotlight.

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.

Gameplay

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.

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Travel across the field on your faithful steed.

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.

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Combat is intuitive, thanks to L-targeting.

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.

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Being a wolf is certainly different, but not better than regular Link.

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.

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There are some new collectible secrets to discover in these intricate dungeons.

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.

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The world looks better and less yellow than the original version.

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.

Playtime/Replayability

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.

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If you wanted a flashy Zelda game, then you’re in luck!

Conclusion

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.

Score: 9/10

What are your thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, both original and remastered? Do you have any fond memories of this game? What are your favorite dungeons and items from Twilight Princess? Please share any thoughts in the comments section below!

Hyrule Warriors Legends (3DS) Review

The Legendary Warriors are Back!

The original Hyrule Warriors was released on the Wii U as a Koei-Tecmo and Nintendo collaboration, developed by Team Ninja (Ninja Gaiden, Dead or Alive) and Omega Force (Dynasty Warriors).  Given its pedigree, this game had similar gameplay to the Warriors series, only with characters and places from the Zelda universe.  It was a fun, flashy game that served as a love letter to Zelda fans despite not being a mainline title.  A couple of years after the original’s release, the same team has ported the game to the 3DS, with the new branding of Hyrule Warriors Legends.  While bringing a Wii U game to the less powerful 3DS seems like a lofty goal, the developers do justice in carrying over its frantic hack-and-slash gameplay.  Though graphics understandably suffer through the transfer, the game makes up for it content-wise, providing nearly all the DLC from the original as well as new characters and maps.  The content is so plentiful and the new features are so game-changing that owners of the original Wii U version may want to consider double-dipping.

Story

Since this game is a port, the story is identical to the original Hyrule Warriors.  The sorceress Cia seeks to conquer Hyrule through a largely ridiculous plot that involves converging the worlds of different games from the Legend of Zelda series.  The hero, Link, must join forces with Princess Zelda, the brand-new character Lana, and heroes from other eras to stop Cia’s nefarious plan.  The story doesn’t ever get too deep during this romp through Hyrule, but it’s still an interesting way to bring the infamous Legend of Zelda timeline together.  Hyrule Warriors Legends includes DLC chapters from the original game as well as two brand-new exclusive stories: Linkle’s Tale and the Wind Waker Tale.  Linkle’s Tale is sprinkled throughout the main campaign and features Linkle, an adventurous girl who looks much like Link, but who is very much her own unique character.  The Wind Waker chapters tell its own story that includes new characters and locales from the iconic cel-shaded classic.  Neither story is very long, but both are worthwhile inclusions.

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The new Wind Waker Tale

Gameplay

Hyrule Warriors Legends is co-developed by Omega Force, creators of the Warriors games, so it should stand as no surprise that this feels very similar to that genre.  You can pick your character from a stable of beloved (and questionably beloved) Zelda characters such as Link and Impa.  The number of characters is fairly sizable, and each plays quite differently from one another.  Each character wields a weapon, for instance, Link’s Hylian Sword.  Some characters can use different weapons, essentially making them feel like alternate characters.  Characters are further customizable in a couple of ways.  Materials looted from foes can be used to create badges that improve a character’s performance on the battlefield.  Weapons can also be augmented with skills that give its wielder advantages and special abilities.

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Many characters join the battle, including Princess Zelda herself.

Controls are the same per character but lead to completely different movesets.  There are two styles of control: a button input similar to other Warriors games and another more attuned to players familiar with Zelda.  You can also customize controls however you want, which is very useful.  Either way, you can use a combination of weak and strong attacks to string together combos.  Some combos are good for taking down hordes of enemies while others excel at focusing on a single foe.  Some characters even have unique attributes such as making shields and charging up energy.  Since characters differ so much, it will take some time to master each one, which is fine considering you have to level up each warrior separately.  You can also build up a special gauge to perform powerful attacks to take down lots of enemies.  Finally, filling up the magic gauge allows you to enter Focus Spirit, a strength power-up that yields bonuses for defeating numerous foes.  The simple controls and strong attacks make you feel powerful on the battlefield.

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Take out hordes of enemies using combos!

The game usually pits you against hundreds of weak enemies, and being able to beat them all up with flashy attacks is a very fun, cathartic experience.  Unfortunately, the game is sometimes limited in how many characters it can render, leading to less enemies on the screen at once compared to the Wii U version.  This can make a difference since building up KOs is one of the requirements for A-Ranks.  A bigger problem is that sometimes enemies will be there, but their graphics or attacks won’t actually display, making it feel like a cheap invisible attack.  These problems don’t happen too often, but it can cause unnecessary frustration when they do.  In addition to mobs of weaker enemies, commanders are stronger opponents that require more hits and exploitation of weak spots.  Larger, classic bosses may appear as well to further challenge players with their strong attacks and high HP bars.  Luckily, there are subweapons like bombs and boomerangs at your disposal to gain the upper hand on these behemoths.  Taking them down feels just as good as fighting multiple weaker enemies, making for a satisfying battle experience.

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Take down big bosses with the power of teamwork.

The game is not just mindless fighting, however.  There are lots of factors to keep track of while playing.  There are main missions, side-missions, allies to save, keeps to defend, captains to defeat, and Cuccos that show up occasionally.  Many of these events occur concurrently, forcing you to multitask and determine how to most efficiently tackle the overwhelming situation.  It provides a good type of pressure that balances the cathartic eradication of enemies.  Unfortunately, the computer-controlled allies are as helpless as ever, requiring constant aid and doing little in return to support your cause.  You must always be on the alert to help them.  The map on the bottom screen is very helpful for analyzing the situation and locating the areas most in need.  This actually works better than on the Wii U version, which only had a tiny map in the corner of the TV screen as opposed to having a devoted map screen.

As you play, you will eventually gain the muscle memory to achieve management efficiency.  However, as you get better, the game may feel more tedious, especially in the Adventure Mode where multiple maps have similar objectives.  By this point, playing the game while doing something else in the background (like listening to podcasts) may become a preferred way to play.

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This game will make you feel powerful.

Modes

There are three main modes: Legend Mode, Free Mode, and Adventure Mode.  Legend Mode is the main campaign that goes through the aforementioned story.  Each chapter teaches you the mechanics as you complete numerous missions.  Free Mode allows you to play any chapter that you have already beaten.

You will likely spend the majority of your time in Adventure Mode, which lets you travel on a gigantic grid-based overworld map divided into tiles.  Each tile represents a battle in which you must complete a mission.  Adventure battles usually involve one main objective as well as defeating a stronger enemy commander.  Challenge battles change up the gameplay by engaging you in battle quizzes, enemy rushes, and keep-defense missions.  Each victory nets you battle rewards and unlocks surrounding tiles on the map.  Thanks to rewards providing instant gratification for each battle and a wonderful sense of progression from constant map unlocks, Adventure Mode can be very addictive.  You may find yourself playing “just one more” battle every time you play.

The maps hold some secrets that can be unlocked by using classic Zelda items (earned as battle rewards).  For instance, the first Adventure Map is a faithful recreation of the overworld from the first Legend of Zelda for the NES.  The same secrets hold true for this map, so using bombs on specific walls will uncover special rewards that you can earn by completing the accompanying mission.  One point of criticism for Adventure Mode is that you are occasionally gated off by A-Rank conditions which require you to get a certain number of KOs, avoid taking too much damage, and complete the mission within a time limit.  The numerical thresholds for each condition are not explicitly stated, though they are possible to figure out or look up.  Regardless, getting below a threshold of damage can be a little too challenging, as there are quite a few missions where one enemy hit will reduce your health to only a quarter heart.  This happens no matter how many heart containers you have, which makes gaining heart containers as battle rewards seem moot.  Aside from that setback, it is still incredibly enjoyable to take on each square, collecting the treasures within and unlocking the path to the final boss.

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Adventure Mode is an addictive experience filled with plentiful rewards and unlockables.

Network Links can appear via online and StreetPass, randomly taking your friends’ “Links” and placing them on an adventure mode tile that you have already beaten.  By accepting these bonus missions, you can earn valuable prizes.  The only drawback is they sometimes annoyingly appear on tiles where you have not yet earned the rewards.  Until you beat the Network Link or refresh the following day, they will be stuck there taunting you and preventing you from obtaining the original rewards from that tile.

New Features

Hyrule Warriors Legends comes with its own bells and whistles to entice veterans to come back for a second round.  Nearly all of HW’s DLC is included in the base game, which adds 3 whole adventure maps and a handful of characters (only the original’s Boss Mode DLC is left out).  To account for multiple adventure maps as opposed to the original base game’s singular one, maps have been rebalanced so that you can beat them at a lower average level, making the progression feel more steady and fair.  Brand new warriors for this release include Linkle, Skull Kid, and Wind Waker characters.  There are also a couple of novel stages based on The Wind Waker.  The characters are fun to use, but the highlight is definitely the stages, which come with its own unique challenges.  Additionally, there are new chapters for Legend Mode and a new map based on the Great Sea from Wind Waker in Adventure Mode, ensuring you never run out of things to do.

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Linkle joins the fray as a new Hyrule Warrior!

You can also now control multiple characters in battle and switch between them on the fly.  Having multiple playstyles in one battle keeps the action fresh and allows you to maintain control of different areas at the same time.  Through the new command function, you can tell other warriors to go to a certain area, then switch to them as soon as they arrive.  This essentially creates a form of warping.  It doesn’t stop there, as HWL also has a built-in warp mechanic in the form of Owl Statues.  By playing the Ocarina, you can warp to any Owl Statue you have already activated throughout the map.  These new mechanics make missions more efficient and can alleviate the stress of having to run halfway around the field.  The game responds appropriately by ramping up the amount of events that occur within a mission and occasionally gating off some of your characters, forcing you to utilize these new mechanics effectively.  Through these changes, the game somehow becomes even more fast-paced, yet just as manageable, improving the original’s gameplay twofold.

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The ability to warp using Owl Statues is a game-changer.

The other major feature, My Fairy, allows you to raise a fairy and bring it with you in battles.  Akin to a virtual pet, you can raise a fairy by dressing her up to increase her power and giving her food to raise her skills.  A fairy’s skills can be activated during battle to give you an edge, with abilities such as reviving you when you die and continuously filling your special gauge.  By using some of your magic, you can also perform a “fairy nuke,” a blast obliterating waves of enemies, even those that haven’t spawned yet.  This attack actually provides a solution to the issue that fewer onscreen enemies appear at a time.  Fairy nukes will also spawn barriers according to the elements of your fairies and may cause enemies to gradually lose HP or speed.  My Fairy can change the flow of battle, so this mode provides a lot of incentives to raise a good fairy and collect plenty of food and clothing for her.  That said, it would have been nice if the game explained this feature better.  I honestly had no clue how to raise, much less obtain, a fairy and had to figure this all out with outside help. Many players are likely to have the same difficulties.  This is a shame as it is one of the major selling points.

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Take care of your own fairy by feeding her and dressing her up.

Graphics and Sound

New 3DS: The New 3DS is fundamentally weaker than the Wii U, so it should it come as no surprise that the graphics aren’t as good.  Edges are rough and characters don’t look as clean or shiny.  Many flashy moves were removed and replaced by generic animations.  Nevertheless, it is impressive that this game still manages to run at a smooth framerate given the number of monsters that appear at once.  Any instances of slowdown are rare, unless you turn the 3D slider up.  There are occasional issues with enemies “popping in” which can affect gameplay.  In other words, the enemies are there, but some graphics don’t render in time.  As a result, you may not be able to see some enemies may get unfairly hit by seemingly invisible attacks.  This wasn’t a terribly huge problem during my playthrough, but it’s something to watch out for.  Some full motion video cutscenes even appear, albeit with less quality, than the Wii U GamePad’s screen.

Original 3DS: The original 3DS is weaker, which results in an overall slower framerate that appears to chug at times.  There is more pop-in of enemies than when playing on the New 3DS, which can make it difficult to know where enemies are.  Additionally, there is no 3D functionality, and controlling the camera is more difficult without the New 3DS’ C-nub.  All things considered, the game is still very much playable on the original.  Having played on both systems, it is much more preferable to play on the new one, but the old one shouldn’t give too much trouble aside from some stuttering.  If you only have an original 3DS, these issues are not deal breakers.

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Graphics Comparison: Hyrule Warriors (Wii U)
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Graphics Comparison: Hyrule Warriors Legends (3DS)

Sound: Most of the music consists of butt-rock versions of classic Zelda tunes from the different eras they represent.  They all sound well-remixed and fit very well with the dynamic gameplay of HWL.  Memorable jingles will occasionally play too, such as the “you uncovered a secret” and “opening a treasure chest” jingles that Zelda fans know and love.  There is no voice acting (aside from a narrator), but each character grunts and yells just like in the actual Zelda games.  They can sometimes get annoying since you hear them constantly.  Actual voice acting would have provided more immersion since dialogue text boxes appear often, but Zelda games are usually known for lacking voices, which is unfortunate.

Playtime/Replayability

This game is long.  While Legend Mode takes an average of 20 hours to complete, Adventure Mode multiplies that number nearly tenfold.  To fully complete everything in Adventure Mode can take hundreds of hours, since there are over a hundred missions in one map alone.  Then, factor in that there are 5 maps in the base game (not including the additional DLC maps sold separately).  In addition, every stage is littered with collectibles like Heart Containers, weapons, costumes, fairy food, and hidden Skulltulas.  Finally, you must achieve A-Rank on many of these missions to claim the rewards, and some missions are character-specific.  This means you will have to build a well-leveled-up stable of Hyrule Warriors to tackle this all.

As this is a 3DS port, there are some limitations affecting replayability.  Unlike the original, there is no cooperative 2-player nor any multiplayer for that matter.  This is an understandable choice but disappointing nonetheless.  Additionally, from the standpoint of someone who played a good chunk of the original version, it is unfortunate that you cannot sync the 3DS and Wii U games.  These are definitely 2 different games, so some of it wouldn’t transfer anyway, but at least being able to sync high-leveled characters (and adjusting for level caps) and powerful weapons (again adjusted for power level) would have been very welcome.  There are many like myself who put in a lot of time perfecting the Wii U version and losing all that progress can be disheartening.  Such people might not feel the urge to dive back into HWL.  For those who have never experienced HW or are willing to start over, this game has more than enough content to justify keeping it in your 3DS for months to come.

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Set forth, legendary Hyrule Warrior!

Conclusion

Hyrule Warriors Legends is a fully-featured content-rich game that has the intensely satisfying hack-and-slash action that Warriors games are known for.  Novel characters and maps will entice HW veterans, and new mechanics like switching characters and My Fairy keep skirmishes fresh.  By including all of the DLC adventure maps from the original and adding more on top of that, HWL is well-worth the value, even for veterans of the original HW.  This game is nothing short of a marathon and provides addictive, gratifying gameplay that will keep players glued to their screens.  Between the 3DS and Wii U versions, there is no perfect version.  If you want better graphics, higher performance, and a 2-player cooperative mode, then the Wii U version might be a better option.  If you want a game with a seemingly endless abundance of content that you can play on-the-go, then Hyrule Warriors Legends is an excellent choice.

Score: 8.5/10

What are your thoughts on Hyrule Warriors Legends?  How is your progress on the game so far?  Do you prefer playing the 3DS or Wii U version?  Please share your thoughts in the comments below!