The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD Review

With the Wii-U now looking like it might be nearing the end of its life cycle with rumours of the new Nintendo NX console on the horizon and The Legend of Zelda Wii-U due sometime this year (hopefully), what better time could there be than to wheel out another HD remaster of a solid entry in The Legend of Zelda franchise to pass the time? Originally released on the Gamecube in 2006 and then shortly thereafter on the Wii, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess brought back a more gritty, realistic approach to Link’s adventures following the excellent, but divisive comic-book styled The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. A decade on, and a shiny new HD coating later how does Twilight Princess stack up against modern titles? Let’s find out!

As per the standard Legend of Zelda narrative the game revolves around its protagonist Link, a relative nobody from a sleepy little village. After the village is attacked and the children taken by mysterious dark forces, Link is inadvertently drawn into the shadowy Twilight Realm (not to be mistaken with the Twilight Zone) where he awakens inhabiting the body of a wolf. Joined by Midna, a sarcastic, overly critical but often humorous Imp who is an outcast of the aforementioned Twilight Realm, and his newfound ability to transform into a wolf, Link sets out to liberate the land of Hyrule from its new shadowy overlords. The journey sees them seek to defeat the shadowy creatures of the Twilight Realm, defeat the source of the invasion and return light to the world once again.

As a series The Legend of Zelda is a pretty formulaic beast. Dissecting any of its numerous titles and you’ll find the same core gameplay principles and mechanics at play. The same is true for Twilight Princess in which in true Legend of Zelda style players assume the role of the chosen hero Link who needs to save the land of Hyrule. He does this of course by finding and overcoming a series of increasingly difficult dungeons (and boss encounters) which incorporates a healthy blend of action-adventure style combat and puzzle rooms requiring an increasing variety of items, weapons and abilities which will give players’ problem solving skills a solid work out.

Having said that, each of the Legend of Zelda titles has their own unique twist to the formulae to make them feel more unique – A Link to the Past introduced the current formula, Ocarina of Time had our hero travelling back and forth through time, Majora’s Mask had provided unique transformations and special abilities whilst Wind Waker and Skyward Sword have a massive expanses of ocean/sky to explore (also Link’s Awakening is bad ass – just had to squeeze that in there!). Twilight Princess feels almost like a compilation ‘best of’ album that borrows a little from each. The world and flow of gameplay and narrative is highly reminiscent of Ocarina of Time, the wolf transformation gives additional abilities as seen in Majora’s Mask and the world itself, whilst not on the scale of Wind Waker or Skyward Sword is still substantial for a Legend of Zelda title.

Outside of the necessary but slightly painful opening sequence that lasts about 45 minutes longer than it should, Twilight Princess is one of the better executed entries in the Legend of Zelda series in terms of being the complete package. The melee action is great with the trademark swordplay feeling somewhat meatier than the other titles with its hidden techniques and manoeuvres, the items/gear and associated abilities are more unique than most of the titles (magnetic boots! Clawshots! Magic Rods!), its dungeons are among the most grey matter intensive and interesting of all the Legend of Zelda games and the narrative is one of the stronger, more relatable tales that the series has produced. All of this combined with its 30 hour run time and unrivalled sense of adventure and discovery make it a title that can still hold its own 10 years on.

So what is new in the remaster? Firstly, the game incorporates an efficiency straight off the bat by using the console’s second-screen for inventory management similar to the Nintendo DS titles and more recently Wind Waker HD. This allows players to quickly manage items, switch weapons/gear in and out and check out region maps without having to pause the game every few minutes to do so. Likewise, a single button can now be used to transform between wolf Link and regular dude Link – a significant time saving. Similarly, new items have been included to help speed up the locating of and hunting down collectibles for some of the side-quests significantly.

Amiibo support is also included and provides a range of effects. The Wolf Link Amiibo which comes included with physical copies of the game will unlock a new optional dungeon – the Cave of Shadows which is essentially a challenge mode in which players will need to defeat waves of increasingly difficult enemy encounters without health restoring items. The Shiek, Zelda and Link/Toon Link Amiibos will replenish health or arrows to full capacity once a day, whilst the Ganondorf Amiibo will make the game more challenging.

To make things a little more difficult for those hankering for a challenge, Twilight Princess HD also comes equipped with Hero Mode in which enemies will deal double the amount of damage they would during the regular game whilst also completely removing health restoring hearts from the game, forcing you to rely on stored potions to replenish health. To make things even trickier, the Ganondorf Amiibo can be used once per day to again double enemies attack damage (which stacks with Hero Mode for 4X damage) until you see that game over screen.

The other cool feature that has been incorporated into Twilight Princess HD is the Miiverse stamps. Each of the stamps for this game feature a single character from the Hylian alphabet and they have been hidden away in chests scattered around the game world. It’s a nice addition that allows players to use and decipher the in-game language script to send messages to one another via the Miiverse.

By far the most obvious change to Twilight Princess HD though is its graphical overhaul. Whilst the cartoony vibe of Wind Waker HD held up remarkably well even by today’s standards, the dark and gritty washed out presentation of Twilight Princess doesn’t quite stack up as well. Visually the game is much improved over its initial form running at crisp 1080p resolution, with some much more detailed and serious texture work at a silky smooth 30 frames per second. Unfortunately though, unlike Wind Waker HD there are some noticeable blemishes in the game world. There is the occasionally muddy texture hanging around and a certain blockiness to the environs and characters that belie the game’s 10 year age and surprisingly, outside some of the more memorable dungeons and some visits to the Twilight Realm, the entire world seems somewhat ho-hum and pretty much bog standard for a Legend of Zelda game with no real stand out areas to speak of.

Unfortunately, Twilight Princess HD has a few issues that hold it back from realising its full potential. The HD coating does a nice job of bringing the game a more modern feel, but still retains an aged feel due to some lingering texture issues and blocky models. For whatever reason, the Cave of Shadows is only accessible to those who purchase the physical copy of the game with the Wolf Link Amiibo and as said Amiibo cannot be purchased standalone as yet, those who get the digital edition will miss out. Twilight Princess HD also removes motion controls from the Wiimotes, which may be a cause for celebration for some but realistically the functionality would have been a nice option to have included for those who like that kind of thing.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD is another fantastic Nintendo remaster but one in which the level of polish does not quite reach the benchmark set by Nintendo’s previous re-release of Wind Waker HD.  Despite some small foibles, the removal of Wii motion controls and a decade after its initial release Twilight Princess HD is still an incredible adventure that is on par with if not superior to most contemporary action adventure titles. This adventure is one that comes easy to recommend and proves that advanced tech and ultra-pretty graphics are not the only way to achieve gaming excellence.

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