Once more into the twilight
My relationship with Twilight Princess is one of the most complicated I've come across in my entire gaming career. I completed it within a week of its launch on the Wii, and was left underwhelmed. It wasn't necessarily the waggle controls as they weren't egregiously pointless like some Skyward Sword bits -- it just didn't feel like a Zelda game in many ways.
But years later, I rediscovered it on the GameCube, and found myself connecting with it more. The dungeon design, for one, is simply wonderful, and it contains some of the best zones in the series. But I still had that lingering feeling of disappointment regarding many of the experience's core tenets.
With Twilight Princess HD on the Wii U, I had yet another reawakening. It may not be the best Zelda game, but it's a fantastic adventure.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD (Wii U)
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Released: March 4, 2016
Thank god you can skip cutscenes, because the intro is still boring as sin. I'd go so far as to say it's the worst in the franchise, actually. Why are there not one, but two tedious goat-herding mini-games? On top of that, Twilight's team felt the need to essentially provide you with two tutorials, one for the human form of Link, and another for the wolf. An hour later you're off to see the princess with a semi-open Hyrule Field, but it doesn't excuse that painful opening.
Past that, the hand-holding mostly stops. Midna may pop up to give you hints every so often, but she doesn't outright spoil dungeons like Fi did in Skyward Sword. The "Twilight" gimmick also holds up throughout, particularly when you get the chance to swap between forms to warp around and frolic about as a beast. It's built into the game inside and out, not just with the gameplay but with the theme. Midna feels like a natural extension of Link, living in his shadow, belittling him and building him up at the perfect moments.
You can easily make the argument that the story is derivative, especially when they fall back on the tried-and-true "Ganon is the bad guy" reveal, but the real magic lies within the journey itself. The dungeons are some of the most memorable locations in Zelda history, and the boss battles are just as striking all these years later. The Stallord confrontation still gives me chills, and the Snowpeak Ruins, a dungeon set to the backdrop of a relationship between two Yetis, is unforgettable.
Combat is possibly the best in the series. The back slice after a roll feels great every time, and the shield bash adds a new dimension to fighting turtle-heavy foes. The thrill of learning a new move from the Hero's Shade (which, according to Hyrule Historia, is the Link from Ocarina and Majora!) is still present. Each and every ability feels useful. Items like the pair of Clawshots show old favorites in a new light, and inaugural additions like the Spinner are fondly remembered even to this day. Even the Dominion Rod has its moments despite its limited use. Nothing feels like fat added on for the sake of it.
As far as the changes go, the GamePad is the most obvious upgrade. Like the recent 3DS iterations and Wind Waker HD, you can actually map items to the touchscreen, which is a welcome feature for dungeons that require multiple tools. It eliminates nearly all of the tedium, and can even be used in the thick of combat to provide for some interesting combos without having to pause the action over and over. The same goes for switching between forms -- no more talking to Midna and doing it manually, though you can still opt for that route if you wish.
Off-TV play is also included, and does exactly what it needs to. I'm sure some of you liked the Wiimote controls in the original, and for you, the GamePad's gyro motion functionality is in for first-person aiming and the like. Otherwise, it plays out just like the GameCube edition, with the obvious touch concessions. Other changes are small, but just as welcome. Now instead of hunting down Poe souls at night, you can use a new lantern item to catch them during the day. There are also less Tears of Light to capture during each darkness sequence (it's 12, down from 16), which I didn't fully appreciate until I did that Panzer Dragoon-esque flying sequence.
Another awesome little bonus is that the Miiverse stamps are actually chests, where players uncover the Hylian alphabet in-game. It's a much cooler way of delivering stamps than a lot of other Nintendo titles. Then there's the amiibo bonuses, like the forgettable Cave of Shadows Wolf Link amiibo dungeon, and the Ganondorf super hero mode that quadruples enemy damage -- on top of the standard double damage hero gametype that's available from the start.
But the alterations in general aren't quite as monumental as Wind Waker HD. With that release, Nintendo took an already timeless art style and touched it up to make it even more iconic. There was so much love and care that went into that game, and it showed with both iterations in spades. I'm not convinced the same amount of attention went into either Twilight Princess. I mean, sure, that awful blur effect is mostly removed and the framerate is more stable, but the art style outside of the Twilight zones isn't as memorable as other core entries. Even the main hub, Castle Town, lacks character and can't hold a candle to locales like Majora's Clock Town.
Little quality-of-life additions like GamePad item management go a long way with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD. They manage to hide some of the game's less flattering blemishes, and let you focus on what it does best. While I still wouldn't put it near the top of the Zelda pile, it's still head and shoulders above most modern adventure games.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD reviewed by Chris Carter
Impressive effort with a few noticeable problems holding it back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth most people's time and cash.
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