2016 is the 30th anniversary year of the Legend of Zelda series; probably my most favourite videogame franchise of all time. To kick it off in style, Nintendo released an updated version of the GameCube and Wii’s crossover title, Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD. This remaster presents the game in a full 1080p resolution, running at a locked 30fps, and with much improved textures and controls. In many ways this is the definitive version of the game, unless you were enamoured with the Wii version’s “waggle” controls, as this is the only thing missing. A few years back, Nintendo gave Wind Waker HD the same treatment, and this was met with resounding success, but then that was a timeless-looking game that still held up on its original console. Twilight Princess, with its more conventional graphics, didn’t age well and so it’s good to see it get a bit of TLC and a makeover. Rather than review the whole game all over again, I’m going to put an excerpt here from my original review; jump to the bottom where I’ll specifically address the Wii U HD version.
“Essentially what Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is, although I didn't realise it at the time, is a sort of "grown up" version or retelling of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time; a game widely considered by many critics and fans to not only be the best Zelda entry ever made, but also one of the most influential and well-designed games of all time. In some small ways Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess improves upon its predecessor, for instance swapping out the annoying fairy Navi with the titular Twilight Princess Midna, who is still my favourite of the "sidekick" characters aside from Princess Zelda herself. Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess also made the fantastical world of Hyrule actually seem huge and epic in its proportions; the prior entry Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker had probably been slightly bigger, but was a vast empty ocean populated by islands, not an actual open world. This time around Hyrule was a vast open overworld with sweeping canyons and towering castles, with a day and night cycle that made good use out of the bloom-lighting and other newer graphical effects provided by the slight boost in hardware.
Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess grabbed me and dug its claws in like no other game had for a long time, which was not only down to the fantastic story, characterisation and atmosphere, but also the air-tight gameplay and level design. In my opinion, the temples in Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess are some of the best to ever grace a Zelda game; they're large, complicated and require a fair bit of puzzle solving to get through them. There are also a *lot* of them, and this constant variety really helps keep the game moving. In the latter half of the game there is a fair amount of backtracking in the over-world of Hyrule, as you go about completing various side-quests and errands, but the temples/dungeons sequentially only ever move the plot and gameplay devices forward driving you ever towards the game’s epic conclusion. The sheer scale and exquisite ever-changing design of the environments have never really been matched in a Zelda game since, and the addition of the twilight realm, with its Link-Wolf transformation, makes this entry stand out from its peers.
All this would already make it one of the best Zelda titles in the series, but the truth is what really makes this entry stand out for me is the conclusion to the story; I’ve never been so moved by a Zelda game before or since. Joining the ranks of games such as the superb and moving Final Fantasy X, I found the ending of Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess to be simultaneously uplifting and overwrought with sadness to the point where I felt genuine catharsis. This alone makes Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess very special indeed. While some might argue that it’s a “poor-man’s Ocarina of Time” I feel like it’s a worthy sequel (going by the Hyrule Historia) and very fitting considering the core themes of the Zelda franchise regarding stories repeating themselves, and characters being trapped by fate/destiny.”
I finished my playthrough of the HD remaster earlier today and nothing above has changed, it’s still the excellent videogame that I remembered, and the story still moves me very much. I think that Midna is such a good character, with strong development throughout the game, you really feel for her plight (and the struggles of other ancillary characters) by the end and it’s moving to see good triumph everyone returning to their lives. It helps that the characters all now look great too, with vastly improved texture work really bringing out all the details that were until now hidden behind a blurry low-resolution with too much bloom. Speaking of which, the lighting has also been much improved, and the effects in the Twilight Realm especially are much more subtle, and not as overbearing as they were back on the original Wii. Unfortunately, the environments are more of a mixed bag. Dungeon design remains a strong point in the game’s favour, with some beautifully constructed areas interspersed between the nooks and crannies of Hyrule too; the waterfalls housing the light spirits are exceptionally beautiful in HD for instance. However, Hyrule Field itself is still often empty and devoid of landmarks, with level geometry being very basic, although this does all help to keep pop-in at almost zero. Compare this with Shadow of the Colossus HD on the PS3 and you can see the trade-off that Nintendo were making originally in order to keep the viewing distance far and the framerate up.
The controls of the game obviously benefit massively from having the Wii U gamepad, much in the way that other Zelda titles have benefitted from having a second screen, as it allows you to swap items on the fly using the touchscreen or move a large map to the bottom thus freeing up the TV. Also, despite the lack of Wii-mote controls, there are still motion controls available in terms of gyroscopic aiming, and this feel fantastic when quickly using the bow or grappling hooks. Despite the advances and tweaks to controls Epona still handles like an unwieldy truck though. Lastly, the game has built-in amiibo support, and most copies come with the “wolf-link” amiibo to unlock the Cave of Shadows challenge dungeon, which is a series of circular rooms containing various enemies that you much combat in wolf-form. There’s no healing in the Cave of Shadows, for this you must use the Zelda or Sheik amiibos, which restore your health. Scanning in either of the currently available Link amiibo with refil your arrows, and if you want to increase the challenge of the game (it’s often accused of being too easy) you can scan in a Ganondorf to increase the damage you take from enemies. For the ultimate challenge you can use the Ganondorf amiibo in combination with the games’ “Hero Mode” to flip the world back-to-front like the Wii version of the game, and increase the difficulty still further!! In this regard the game is *very* customisable in terms of difficulty level.
Stills a *fantastic* Zelda title, Twilight Princess HD is a worthwhile purchase/upgrade for any series fan, and especially for anyone who hasn’t played the original game, as this is the absolute definitive addition. If you have a bunch of Zelda amiibo lying about and fancy a challenge it’s even better value for money. I still love this game to bits, even if it’s a bit derivative of Ocarina of Time.