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

Twilight Princess is back, but is it still fun all these years later, or have cracks started to surface?

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 04/13/2016 10:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Sublime visual overhaul; wonderful soundtrack; narrative is pleasingly dark without being dreary; combat is solid; dungeon design and boss battles rock; Amiibo support is well-implemented...
Poison Mushroom for...
... with the exception of the Wolf Link Amiibo, which is the only way to play through the Cave of Shadows; overworld can feel lonely; no motion control support with Wii Remote

Nature abhors a vacuum, and so it was that when The Wind Waker HD hit Wii U back in 2013, it only seemed natural that Nintendo would go on to add a high definition sheen to its other GameCube Zelda title, Twilight Princess. Sure enough, with the launch of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD, Nintendo has completed the circle and brought this dark, gritty adventure to a new generation of fans. Thankfully, the transition to Wii U has been overwhelmingly beneficial to this now nearly ten-year-old game, with improved visuals, refined gameplay, and some fun new additions to fool around with. Though still not a perfect Zelda game, Twilight Princess HD is still certainly amongst some of the best in the series, making this return to Hyrule absolutely essential to franchise fans and newbies, alike.

I keep all of my old video game consoles, so it hasn’t been all that long for me since the last time I fired up the original Twilight Princess. Though I’ll defend graphics on older systems until I’m blue in the face, there’s still no denying that Twilight Princess, when played on a modern flat screen TV, looks pretty fuzzy. So it was with a great deal of satisfaction that I basked in the intro video of Link riding Epona that plays at the title screen of Twilight Princess HD. Though there are still other titles like Mario Kart 8 which I think are better showcases of what Wii U can do from a visual standpoint, Twilight Princess HD is extremely pretty. Every asset of the original version has been overhauled to meet today’s standards of high definition gaming, and it’s glorious. Some of the boss battles in particular benefit greatly from the improvements to the visuals, most notably the fights with Armogohma and Morpheal (that chamber the fight takes place in has never felt more enormous than it does here!). There are some elements of Twilight Princess HD that might feel dated in comparison to contemporary games; the overworld remains sparsely populated, some animations are a little clunky, and other nitpicks like that can be found throughout the game.

“Nitpicks” is, I think, an appropriate word choice here, as Twilight Princess HD’s flaws are fairly minute in comparison to everything it does right. Zelda games are known for being evergreen for a reason; they stand the test of time incredibly well. Everything from the storytelling to the world and character designs to the music to the dungeons is triple-A quality, here. The darker tone that was adopted for the narrative is as welcome now as it was the first time, eschewing the lighter feel that Zelda games tend toward for a more mature one. I always felt like Nintendo drew heavily from the Lord of the Rings movies for the aesthetic of Twilight Princess, and my opinion hasn’t changed. Combat is especially fun, with the techniques passed on by the wandering Hero’s Spirit lending even more diversity to Link’s typical array of attacks. I love the brawling in The Wind Waker, but the fisticuffs in Twilight Princess are more visceral. Possibly as a result of needing to match the tone of this game, of course, but whatever the reason, I love smacking around bad guys in Twilight Princess HD possibly more than in any other Zelda game to date.

In a wise move, Nintendo has nipped and tucked where necessary to make Twilight Princess HD a smoother experience than the original. Perhaps the biggest irk to some players about Twilight Princess on GameCube and Wii was the tedious collecting of Tears of Light in each province in order to lift the veil of darkness hovering over them. The number of Tears has dropped from 16 to 12, thankfully, thus making the process much speedier, but this isn’t the only notable change. The default size of Link’s wallet and each subsequent upgrade has increased, which is wonderful considering how pricey some purchases in the game can be (and makes the Magic Armor a bit more usable, though I wish Nintendo had dumped its Rupee dependancy entirely, myself). Some movements have also received a speed boost, like Link’s climbing and swimming. There are more besides (and are all useful), but perhaps of the biggest interest to fans will be the much discussed Amiibo integration.

As has typically been the case with its toys-to-life line, Nintendo has brought Amiibo along for the ride in Twilight Princess, but in a way that doesn’t interfere with those who want to play the game straight without using any of the figurines. Zelda Amiibo from the Smash Bros. line are compatible and grant once-a-day restorations of hearts and arrows, save for Ganon, who ramps up the difficulty level of the game. This use of Amiibo has become standard operating procedure for Nintendo up to this point, but there is one extra perk that can’t be achieved without an Amiibo, and just to complicate things a bit more, it’s a very exclusive Amiibo, at that. The Wolf Link figurine can be scanned to unlock a new dungeon called the Cave of Shadows. It’s reminiscent of the Cave of Ordeals, but restricts Link to his wolf form as he makes his way through waves of enemies and others tasks. The reward at the end is nothing to sneeze at (the Colossal Wallet, which can hold 9,999 Rupees!), but it’s also not integral to completing the game. There’s no denying, however, that there will be a number of fans annoyed to have any aspect of the game locked behind an Amiibo, so I definitely can see why some players might be irked by Nintendo for incorporating the Cave of Shadows in this way (especially because it’s good fun to play through). Ultimately, though, Twilight Princess HD is so stuffed with content that I can forgive its clunky inclusion.

Along with these additions and alterations, there is also Miiverse support in the form of Hylian alphabet letters and Stamps that can be found throughout the game world to be used on Nintendo’s social media platform. They’re truly all over the place, too, hidden in chests, handed out by characters throughout the game, and elsewhere. They’re a fun diversion, for sure, and many folks will find themselves anxious to complete the collection. I will say that if I had one true complaint that vexed me, it would be the lack of Wii Remote support. Yes, I know there are plenty who hate the waggle, but Nintendo’s use of motion controls in Twilight Princess on Wii was sound and lent that version a different feel from its GameCube counterpart. To see it omitted here was disappointing, especially considering Wii U absolutely has no problem recognizing Wii Remotes and Nunchuks. The button/touch interface used here is lovely, make no mistake, but I would have liked to see all play styles accommodated.

Twilight Princess HD reaffirms everything that made this game great the first time around. Every element of the title has been refined and improved upon, making it the ultimate version of Twilight Princess. There’s a gripping story at the heart of this Zelda adventure, revolving around the identity of Midna, the motivations of Zant, and more, all wrapped in a dark (but not oppressive) tone that makes Twilight Princess stand out as one of the more “mature” installments of the series, right up there with Majora’s Mask. It has its detractors for not being as innovative as other Zelda games, but with such stunning production values, top-notch dungeon designs and boss battles, and arguably the coolest take on combat (especially those Epona fight sequences!), Twilight Princess HD is yet another can’t-miss Wii U game.

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