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

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo/Tantalus
Genre: Action/Adventure
Release Date: 3/4/2016

Despite longtime rumors that it might be in the works, the existence of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD still came as a surprise to me. After all, the Wii version of the game is still playable on the Wii U and I half expected a $19.99 digital release instead. Not that I’m at all displeased with this outcome. I’m very selective with the HD remasters I buy, and this is a Zelda title I knew would benefit most from the treatment. It’s also one of my favorite 3D Zelda titles and one I went to bat for when we had it up for nomination in the Hall of Fame. In other words, I’m not at all regretful at spending the extra cash for this version.

A Wolf Link amiibo to sweeten the deal doesn’t hurt either.

Chronologically, Twilight Princess takes place several centuries after Majora’s Mask in the child Link timeline. This time, Link is a simple farmhand in the village of Ordon. One day, he’s tasked with delivering a sword to Hyrule Castle. And as we’ve found happens in most villages in fantasy settings, it is attacked before this pilgrimage can take place, resulting in all of the children being abducted, Link being transported to the Realm of Twilight and taking on the shape of a wolf. What’s a guy to do other than man up and go be a hero?

He’s joined on his adventure by an imp looking creature known as Midna, who is arguably one of the best companions Link has ever had throughout his adventures. I mean, yes, she is incredibly disrespectful and often times demeaning, but makes up for this by being entertaining and all around staying out of the way. Fi and Navi could learn a thing or two from her example.

Narratively, things are fairly predictable as it requires Link and Midna to collect X number of widgets in order to accomplish their goal. I’ve always found a level of comfort with this design as it’s both structurally and thematically similar to Ocarina of Time, which was one of my favorite things about it. It follows a familiar pattern which may put off those looking for a big change up, but I think there are enough twists and turns to keep even the most jaded fan interested until the end. The pacing, particularly towards the beginning, still needs some work as one can only herd goats so many times before wanting the real adventure to start. I also wish there would’ve been more time spent fleshing out the new villain, Zant, and the things that motivate him. At least the secondary characters got some time in the sun (or twilight at least).

If you played the Wii U version of Wind Waker HD, you have a pretty good idea of how the game controls. This remaster is based upon the Gamecube version, which means Link is once again left handed and things are mirrored from the way they were in the Wii edition. It also means that motion controls are not an option; the only control schemes available being the gamepad and pro controller. I suspect most fans will be okay with this compromise since even someone like me who didn’t mind the motion controls will admit that they were nothing more than a novelty compared to the way they were used in Skyward Sword. Many of the buttons are similar to how they were laid out in the previous remaster (B for sword, A for context sensitive actions, etc), though some additional conveniences were added specifically to make life easier. For example, you can now switch between Link’s human and wolf forms on the fly using the touchscreen. Items can be assigned to button slots on the fly as well, and off-TV play is available. If you do happen to be playing on the TV, then you instead get a handy dandy map, which is incredibly useful. Gyroscope controls are back for some of the aiming functions, but I turned those off at the first opportunity.

What sets Twilight Princess apart from other Zelda games is Link’s ability to transform into a wolf; a necessary mechanic for navigating the Twilight Realm as well as for fending off poes, following scents, and digging up treasure. Having played Okami, I’m sad to say that wolf combat is nowhere near as interesting as that game, though it’s at least serviceable. I still think it’s an enjoyable form to be in, as it adds some variety to the proceedings. Especially in instances where you’re tasked with switching between the two in the midst of a boss encounter.

Being able to swordfight while riding Epona was a major addition to this entry, and a number of encounters being built around this ability really plays this up. In fact, some of my favorite moments of the original release was being able to ride alongside enemies and smack them off their mounts with my sword, so I was happy to see this experience preserved. Epona can be a pain to control in high intensity situations like these, though I know very few horses to be able to turn on a dime, so this is just nitpicking on my part.

The game is quite a bit longer than I remember, especially compared to its predecessor. There are nine major dungeons throughout the course of the game and that doesn’t count the hidden areas and other places to explore. If you like side diversions, there’s a ton of minigames at your disposal, such as fishing, goat herding and snowboarding against a yeti (yes, that’s a thing). In other words, there’s a ton to do, even if you don’t factor in the amiibo dungeon, so folks shouldn’t have trouble getting a lot of bang for their buck. Especially if you’ve never played it before. It’s a shame that a lot of it is in the form of collectibles (like Agitha’s bug collection), but I know some folks who enjoy that stuff far more than I.

While Wind Waker HD was a huge step up in regards to enhancements and conveniences, this game hasn’t been tweaked quite as much. There has been some adjustment in regards to the pacing, namely the Tears of Light that have to be collected throughout the game (there are less of them now). A few of the cutscenes are more sped up, which is nice considering it’s one of the more cutscene heavy entries in the series (you can skip scenes too). Like the other remakes, Hero Mode is selectable from the beginning of the game if you’re looking for a challenge, as it doubles the damage taken. And let’s not forget the collectible stamps that are now obtainable for those that want to flavor up their Miiverse posts.

As evidenced by the bundle it’s purchased in, Twilight Princess HD has amiibo support. If you own a Link or a Toon Link, you can recharge your arrows, which… is not all that useful. Zelda and Sheik will recharge your hearts once per day, and if you want Dark Souls levels of frustration, Ganondorf will double how much damage you take (try combining with Hero Mode!). The Wolf Link that comes with the game will open up a Cave of Shadows dungeon. Folks that opt for the digital version and don’t want to own an amiibo will miss out, though having played it I can tell you that you’re not missing out on much. It’s less a traditional dungeon and more a test of endurance much like the Cave of Ordeals. The main difference being you’re restricted to Wolf Form. The amiibo can also be used in the as of yet unnamed Zelda release, though it’s unclear to what capacity.

I think that visually, this is a game that benefits more from an HD remaster, and it really shows. Everything looks really sharp, and seems to run really well. I did encounter the occasional graphical glitch, but compared to how a lot of re-releases are treated, it’s a drop in the bucket. One of my favorite things about the this particular entry was the dark aesthetic, and I feel like it’s represented fully here, so props to the developer for doing a proper remaster. I also love the soundtrack, which is why I think it’s a shame that GameStop was the only one offering it with the game. Gotta make up for the lack of a discount program somewhere, I guess. Ocarina of Time fans can look forward to renditions of familiar tracks, such as Saria’s Song and Zelda’s Lullaby, which was a great nostalgia trip.

I don’t think Twilight Princess is as widely revered as Wind Waker (ironic given the internet outrage of the latter at the time), which makes double dipping for the game a little bit of a harder sell. Not to mention that the Wii version of the game is still playable on the Wii U. Still, I firmly believe the visual enhancements and improvements to both the pacing and mechanical conveniences are worth the upgrade. And if you happen to own any amiibos, it just tips the scales even more, even if they’re not as useful as they otherwise could have been. Besides, have you seen the prices of the Gamecube release lately?

Short Attention Span Summary
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD is a remaster based on the Gamecube release of the original game, which means Link is once again left handed and motion controls are a thing of the past. The visual enhancements do well to showcase the dark aesthetic intended by the original, and the added conveniences make playing the game much more enjoyable than it was previously. Amiibos are supported by way of refilling health and arrows, though the bundled Wolf Link grants access to a new dungeon that’s sadly less exciting than it sounds. There aren’t as many enhancements as implemented in Wind Waker HD, but for Zelda fans wanted to take another stab at this entry, it’s still absolutely worth the upgrade. Especially considering how expensive it is to obtain the Gamecube original.


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