When Twilight Princess was released back in 2006, I remember it being a pretty divisive game. People were excited to get the realistic, gritty Zelda game they were promised before Wind Waker’s release, but at the same time an overly-long tutorial section and being forced to play as a wolf roughly 25% of the time turned away many players. I for one loved the game from start to finish. From the big things like exploring Hyrule again and battling a posessed Princess Zelda, through to the little things like the throwbacks to previous games and being able to Spider-Man your way through areas with the dual clawshot items. With such fond memories of sitting in front of my Wii after school and hacking my way to victory (and seeing those cool little after-battle flourishes that Link would do) I could not have been more excited to pick up Twilight Princess HD. After playing through the campaign once again, I can tell you that the game is absolutely enjoyable and still a blast for me to play, but as with any HD re-release I have to ask myself the question: is it worth purchasing?
The land of Hyrule is thrown into despair as it is overtaken by a mysterious Twilight and invaded by its inhabitants. These Twilight soldiers are lead by a mysterious, and downright creepy villain by the name of Zant who has achieved mysterious powers that have allowed him to lead his forces in an all-out invasion of Hyrule. The only thing is, due to the nature of the Twilight, the Hylian people are blissfully unaware of what’s going on around them. Enter our hero Link who is turned into a Wolf by the Twilight and must team up with the mysterious Midna in order to stop Zant, save Princess Zelda and ensure Hyrule’s safety.
As far as Zelda stories go, it is pretty standard stuff and shares a lot of similarities with the latter portions of A Link to the Past. However I will say that for as familiar as this story is, it doesn’t feel old or tired. Unlike previous games which have a habit of reusing old people and place names for their NPCs, Twilight Princess has an almost entirely new cast, which helps it feel fresh and distinct to the rest of the franchise.
As much as I love this game, one part of its narrative that has always bothered me was that the entire game is spent building up Zant as a legitimately terrifying, evil and powerful antagonist but seems to lose sight of what to do with him in the later portions of the game before he is eventually supplanted by Ganondorf. The battle with Ganondorf on horseback at the end of the game is one of the most thrilling final boss battles that I can remember, but it still sucks to see this character (who will likely never appear again) play second fiddle to one we have seen a thousand times before.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD’s gameplay is broken into two sections; Traditional Zelda gameplay and Wolf-Link mode. The traditional Zelda stuff is the same sword-slinging, dungeon-exploring, boss-fighting action that we have all come to know and love from the franchise, and frankly I think it does these better than pretty much any other game in the franchise. The dungeons are all exciting and unique not only compared to one-another but compared to the dungeons across all Zelda titles, and don’t even get me started on bosses. Stallord, the big-bad of the Arbiter’s Grounds dungeon is one of the coolest and creepiest bosses in the franchise, and the fact that you fight it in such a fast-paced, intense environment where you use your recently acquired Spinner to bounce along walls before slamming into him is one of the most high-octane moments of Zelda and one that I always think about when thinking of this game.
The Wolf-Link sections of the game are a little different. Link can still attack like he would as a human, but most of the gameplay is focused on him using his senses to uncover clues in order to proceed. It is a much slower-paced style of gameplay that would ordinarily be done by using an item like the Lense of Truth or something similar. I personally really enjoy these sections as they provide a bit of a break from the most intense action scenes and they let you use a whole different set of skills and abilities. I will say though, that the fetch-quests you need to do in each area to turn back into a human for the first time are a real drag and the game would probably better without them.
Back when it was originally released, Twilight Princess for Wii was mirrored. This was because Link in pretty much every incarnation (including this one) is left handed, but since Nintendo wanted to show off the Wii’s motion controls and have players feel like they were IN the game, they wanted Link to be right-handed, and the easiest way to do this was to flip everything and mirror it. Since Twilight Princess HD doesn’t rely on motion controls, everything was flipped back meaning that unless you were one of the few players to own the Gamecube version of the game, this would be the first time you are able to play the game with the map how it was originally intended. This offers really no gameplay benefit, but it is cool to see Hyrule how it was originally created… Especially because locations and landmarks are in very similar spots to Orarina of Time’s landmarks, providing a cool little tie between the two games.
Visuals & Audio
As with most HD re-releases, most of the appeal is with how the game looks on new hardware, and I will put any potential doubters to shame and let you all know that Twilight Princess HD looks gorgeous. The game employs a lot of clever lighting and colour tricks to really make some features stand out and pop, and these translate really well into 1080p. The faint yellow glow when in the Twilight Realm looks absolutely gorgeous and the land of Hyrule looks as good as it ever has.
However, the game is far from perfect looking, and as is so often the case with these HD games, Twilight Princess HD shows its age and you can really tell that it was made on old hardware. Character models are a little more….shall we say angular than what we get now and textures are frequently quite muddy and can get pixelated at times. Normally this isn’t such a big deal with these sorts of game releases, but the fact that Twilight Princess was originally designed for the Gamecube means that these things stand out a fair bit more than with a game like DmC HD which was made at the end of the Xbox 360/PS3’s life cycle and then bumped up to the current gen. The gritty and realistic art style can also create some of these problems, as the overly cartoony, cell-shaded Wind Waker HD looks absolutely gorgeous at every angle so it is a shame to see Twilight Princess flail and trip up behind its brother.
In my opinion, for a HD remake to be worth the price of admission, then it really needs to do something that the original version couldn’t offer otherwise it can feel like a cheap cash-in or a way to fill in the gaps in an otherwise empty release schedule. While having prettier visuals are always nice, none of these re-releases ever really does much than to ramp up the output to 1080p (which, depending on the game can result in more of a detriment than a bonus). Often times what these remakes do that the originals don’t is provide availability to players. Being able to play bygone classics that are out of print, hard to find or only work on old hardware is always a boon. To that end, Twilight Princess HD doesn’t really offer anything new that the Wii and Gamecube releases didn’t have. Sure it fixes some minor problems like tracking down Poes, and the new Amiibo-exclusive dungeon is nice, but unlike its predecessor Wind Waker HD which rectified many of the game’s actual plaguing issues, Twilight Princess just feels like an almost straight re-release.
Now don’t get me wrong, Twilight Princess is an incredibly fun, engaging and unique Zelda experience and by far one of my favourite in the whole franchise but nothing is different here, nothing is new and I couldn’t really find anything to warrant the cost of admission aside from being able to play the game with a Wii U Pro Controller. Heck, you can still even pick up a copy of Twilight Princess for the Wii (which will also work on your Wii U console) at any EB Games store. I love this game and I can’t speak highly enough of it, but this is one remake that is just unnecessary.
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