Editor’s Note: The reviewer played Twilight Princess HD on Hero Mode throughout
When Twilight Princess first came out for the Nintendo Wii (and later the Nintendo GameCube) it was the talk of the town. It supposedly sold so well that it had a 75 percent attach rate to all Wii consoles sold when the early life cycle of the Wii. This is the Zelda game that people had been waiting for ever since that Spaceworld 2000 tech demo all those years ago, which had “realistic graphics.” That is why, when Twilight Princess was first unveiled, the crowd went insane. This was finally the Zelda game fans were looking for.
In the coming months following release, and even years, Twilight Princess got its fair amount of both warranted and unwarranted criticism. People hated the Tears of Light; I found them to be a nice change of pace. They hated the hour-long tutorial to introduces the player to the game and its mechanics, but that actually gave the game better pacing than almost any other game out there. They hated the Twilight areas, as it kept you from truly exploring Hyrule, but with a Hyrule so massive, it incrememntillay introduced you to each area so you could get a full sense of Hyrule’s vastness before exploring. If these complaints convey your issues with Twilight Princess HD, this is not the game for you.
From the very beginning Twilight Princess HD immerses you into its world, from the stunning visuals to the wonderful storyline and characters. The original GameCube/Wii version had to do so much with so little power-wise and did a magnificent job with it, but it’s not until this HD release that we can truly appreciate what an amazing job Nintendo did. The art style retains its place as one of the best in the Zelda series and in the words of a reviewer from 2006 (paraphrase), “I’d rather play a game with a gorgeous art style like Twilight Princess than most of the games coming out on other consoles.” Finally the visuals have caught up. Sure, some textures aren’t perfect, but it doesn’t take away from the overall enjoyment of the game and ultimately that is what matters.
Twilight Princess HD also has one of the most involved stories in the entire Zelda franchise. The problem though lies in that it feels like it is leading up to something and then simply falls flat on its face. It feels empty. Zelda has never really about story, but it was a little disappointing. That doesn’t take away from the experience though so to speak because the game is so much fun. Midna, Link’s sidekick for this game, is by far the star of the show and sometimes even steals the spotlight from Link, making me feel this installment should have been called “The Legend of Midna.” Nintendo definitely did some experimenting here; some things worked, some switched up the typical Zelda formula, but it still maintains the gameplay-to-story ratio that all Zelda games have.
Every Zelda fan looks for something different in a Zelda game; some judge difficulty by combat, while others judge it by its puzzles and exploration. I am in the camp that thoroughly enjoys puzzles, so Twilight Princess HD was a fantastic play for me. I also did play the game on Hero Mode, which gave the game an extra challenge. I had never died in the original, but in the beginning of this game, I actually died quite a bit. Owning all the amiibo helps though, as, both Zelda and Sheik replenish your hearts once a day. Ganondorf even causes quadruple damage on top of Hero Mode’s double damage, which makes for a extra challenge for fans who crave something more.
The dungeons are also superbly designed and I actually feel as if they have aged quite well; this could be due to the fact that because of my age, my tastes and my understanding of level design has changed vastly. Nintendo tried to mix up the typical dungeon formula and what defines a dungeon in the game; an example of this is Snowpeak Ruins, and it works. They are a lot of fun as a whole with wonderful puzzles. There’s also a ton to do in between dungeons, which is a different approach from previous Zelda outings. It’s a great change of pace though and allows the player to breath in between dungeons. The game isn’t so hard combat-wise; some of the bosses can be seen as being way too easy from a combat standpoint. They are so much fun though and the battles are so epic. I can spend hours in Hyrule Field simply fighting enemies because it’s such an enjoyable experience, and while Twilight Princess HD isn’t the best Zelda game, it has that fun factor that makes a Zelda game a Zelda game.
There is a brand new dungeon that is unlockable via the Midna/Wolf Link amiibo, which I have to say is actually impressive compared to my other amiibo (okay, I admit, I have a problem), called the Cave of Shadows. The dungeon is very much modeled after the Cave of Ordeals in the Gerudo Desert, but, it can get incredibly challenging, especially on Hero Mode. I enjoyed the challenge and it’s a nice little bonus that integrates amiibo quite well. It will be interesting how the data in the Wolf Link amiibo will be used in The Legend of Zelda for Wii U.
One vast improvement in the Wii U version of Twilight Princess is the use of the GamePad. Changing weapons is now seamless as you simply drag and drop items into your inventory. You also have the option to change into Wolf Link by the push of a button rather than simply pressing L and asking Midna to transform. I had never played the GameCube version of the original version of the game, so, I was worried that this version wouldn’t be as immersive as the Wii version. I couldn’t have been more wrong; it was as immersive as ever. The only complaint I have is that the analogue stick is not as precise as the Wii’s, so riding on horseback is a bit more difficult but is still manageable and a ton of fun.
If there’s one aspect of Twilight Princess that is completely unappreciated, it’s its music. Twilight Princess has one of the best scores in all of Zelda, probably the best overworld theme in the series, yet it is constantly overlooked and even looked down upon by Zelda fans, which is a shame. Not all the cues are necessary memorable, but they fit the purpose of the story and the gameplay and some of the boss music is flat out epic. The music for the cutscenes serve their purpose well and while some of these motifs are not memorable, they really hit the spot. There’s a certain amount of nostalgia to the score, but, it doesn’t depend on it.
Twilight Princess HD is not a perfect Zelda game. At times it is too easy, some of the bosses are way too easy, and the story builds to something but ends up feeling hollow in the end. That’s okay though. The fact of the matter is the game is so much fun that it doesn’t take away from the experience as a whole. It is not one of the absolute best Zelda games, though it is in the top five, and it is not Ocarina of Time 2.0; Twilight Princess is its own game that tried some different things. A lot of those things worked. The game cements its place as a masterpiece with this HD release, although it is a shame that people still compare it to Ocarina of Time, which simply put, it isn’t. Twilight Princess HD is an unappreciated masterpiece and hopefully after 10 years people can see what a special game this is.