Only four months ago, Nintendo announced The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD for the Wii U, and it is hard to believe that the game is already here. It may not seem this way, but it has been nearly ten years since the launch of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for the Nintendo GameCube and Wii. As Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma had admitted several times, he created Twilight Princess to satisfy the fan outcry for a more realistic game. That meant the graphics would be pushed further than they have been in past Zelda titles. Twlight Princess went on to become one of the most beloved games in the entire series, but nostalgia is viewed through a rose-colored lens. The original Twilight Princess has not aged as gracefully as other titles in the franchise, but after playing Twilight Princess HD, it is easy for me to see why this enhanced version was much needed.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD stars Link, a young shepherd from Ordon Village, which is just south of the kingdom of Hyrule. When his village is attacked by monsters, Link’s friends are kidnapped, and he finds himself pulled into the mysterious Twilight Realm, a dark world that has begun covering the land of Hyrule. The power of the Twlight Realm transforms him into a wolf. He soon meets Midna, a creature of the Twilight that offers her help in exchange for Link’s. The two team up save the kingdom and free it from the Twilight Realm. The whole story is the same as it has been, and while there are a few questionable moments of direction and even a few mysteries left unexplained, it remains to be one of the best in the Zelda series.
At the time of its release, Twilight Princess was one of the best looking games of its generation, but it arrived right at the cusp of the HD era. Its visuals were quickly overshadowed those of Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games released around the same time. Looking at it now, the first Twilight Princess is a little blurry and muddy. Twilight Princess HD fixes all of that. As one might expect, not everything in the game has the same level of polish. The game still has the jagged polygons of the bygone GameCube era, but the high-resolution textures do more than hide most of that. The enhanced visuals give the whole experience new life. The lighting effects in the Twilight Realm sections of the game are particularly sublime. Every piece of clothing that the characters wear, the bricks of all the architecture, and the ground beneath Link’s feet look like they could be touched. There is a wide difference between the old and the new, and I have stopped many times to get a closer look at the aesthetics of some of my favorite areas in the game, like Castle Town; Unlike in the original, it is easy to make out the faces of each passerby walking through the streets.
While the shiny graphics may be one of Twilight Princess HD’s biggest draws, the little tweaks to gameplay deserve just as much focus. As they have done with their past remakes, Nintendo clearly looked over every detail of the player experience and thought hard about what could be improved. The gameplay of the original was solid. It was the kind of action-adventure, puzzle-riddled entertainment that the Zelda franchise pioneered, except now you can play as both a human and a wolf, which added a new layer to some of the puzzle-solving. Twilight Princess has one of the largest overworlds seen in the entire series, and there are nine full-sized dungeons to explore with many caves along with way (Twilight Princess HD adds an additional mini dungeon that I will talk about later). It is one of those intuitive games that can be picked up and played. It did everything that The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time did well and improved on it, which cannot be a bad thing. Still, even the great mechanics like those of Twilight Princess have been made better.
I have played both the Wii and GameCube versions of Twilight Princess extensively, and I always preferred the tight controls of the GameCube, but I did enjoy aiming with the motion controls of the Wii Remote. The Wii U GamePad does well to blend both of these elements together with its addition of motion controls while also having traditional controls. Any who have played The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD will be familiar with the play style, including the addition of the touchscreen controls on the GamePad. This allows players to quickly change between items and menus without pausing the gameplay. If none of these features are appealing, motion controls can be turned off, and you can also play with the Wii U Pro Controller.
As for other changes, there are several smaller ones. Before, a message would pop up every time players acquired a Rupee with a value of five or more to tell them what it is worth, and the would be repeated once for each kind of Rupee after resetting the game. This has thankfully been changed; the message will only be seen the first time getting a new kind of Rupee and never again. This is a minor change, but it is the kind of approach Nintendo took this remake; they wanted to speed up gameplay and keep things moving.
Link’s animations for certain actions, like climbing, are faster. There are few Tears of Light required to be collected when clearing away Twilight. Rupees no longer need to be returned to chests when their value exceeds the maximum capacity of your wallet. Poe Soul hunting is easier with a total of Poes in a region is shown on the map, and the Ghost Lantern alerts those looking to any Poes in the area. These are only some of the adjustments that have been made. My favorite change is the simplicity of transitioning between Link and his wolf form, which can now be done by tapping an icon at the top right of the GamePad’s screen. Considering how often the transformation needs to be done in the latter half of the Twilight Princess, this keeps the momentum from braking. Sadly, with all this, the first twenty minutes of the game are as slow as ever, but it is easy enough to get through for the real fun to begin.
Additionally, 50 Miiverse stamps are now hidden away across Hyrule; they replaced the contents of chests that once contained Rupees in the original game. For completionists like myself who like to collect everything, having something new to find is enticing. There is also a new Hero Mode, which is a welcome addition. Twilight Princess can at times be too easy, but Hero Mode, like it has in more recent Zelda titles, makes Link take double damage. It also mirrors the entire game. While the Normal Mode has the game in its original GameCube orientation, the mirrored world is familiar to those who have played Twilight Princess on the Wii. That said, I am not sure why Nintendo did not make the difficulty setting and the mirror mode two separate options.
Finally, Amiibo functionality adds a little extra to the experience. Certain Amiibo provide different bonuses; Link and Toon Link fill a quiver’s arrows, and Zelda and Sheik refill hearts. Ganondorf, however, makes Link take double damage; quadruple when playing on Hero Mode. The Wolf Link Amiibo currently bundled with the Twilight Princess HD adds the most to the experience. Activating it sends players to the Cave of Shadows, a 40 floor dungeon in which only Wolf Link can be used. I was concerned it would be too much like the Cave of Ordeals, a similar area in the game, but the Cave of Shadows really feels new. The environments deep in the cave are like nothing seen before in Twilight Princess, and the best part is that completing it is genuinely challenging.
Of course, the sound quality and music are as good as they were ten years ago, and even greater. There is not much orchestrated music here, but orchestrated is not necessarily better. It is remastered, though, and it just like with the graphics, the improvements are clear when comparing the old and new side-by-side. Twilight Princess still features a memorable score that feels like it is alive. It adapts to what is happening on-screen. It is calming when it needs to be, and it escalates in the moments of intense action, which is most noticeable while exploring Hyrule Field or fighting a boss.
Even the original Twilight Princess is not a game to be passed up. I have compared Twilight Princess HD to the original quite a lot, which will mean more to those who have played the game before and are considering trying the updated version. For both returning players and those who might be trying it for the first time, be assured that is because of the efforts put into this remake that The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD on the Wii U is the best way to experience this classic Zelda title.