Zelda: Twilight Princess HD Review - A Spectacular Encore
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD is a stunning remake -- and I'm not just talking about the breathtaking graphics. Looking back now, it's clear that Twilight Princess originally had larger ambitions than the decade-old hardware was capable of. While the HD remake doesn't alter the core game, the additional details and quality of life improvements transform an already great game into a must-play Zelda title.
Twilight Princess HD looks spectacular. The original game was evidently trying to go for a detailed environment, and it's unfortunate that the hardware of the time couldn't optimally showcase their design. It feels as if I was blinded by pixels for 10 long years, and now I can finally see the true beauty Twilight Princess has to offer.
The remastered textures, amplified colors, added bloom effects, and 1080p resolution goes a long way towards creating a living, breathing, thriving world. Nintendo even spent the time to rework a few of the models, such as Link's beautiful golden locks. However, don't expect many reworked models -- it still has its polygons and humorous waterfall textures.
Music and Audio
Twilight Princess HD sounds fabulously similar to its predecessor, which had an amazing soundtrack. There are various improvements sprinkled throughout, making for a crisp and clear audio experience. Even while playing on my stereo TV, I could recognize that many if not all of the remastered soundtracks were now intimately optimized for a 5.1 surround sound setup.
The sound effects, on the other hand, are unchanged, though this doesn't hurt the game. Unlike the game's art direction, its audio has aged brilliantly.
Gameplay and Controls
If you've ever played a Zelda game, you should know what to expect. This is an exploration-based puzzle-platformer with classic sword and board combat. However, Twilight Princess HD is a unique entry in the franchise thanks to a wide array of sword skills and the famed wolf transformation.
Movement in this HD remake is surprisingly fluid for a game locked at 30fps -- Link maneuvers across Hyrule more accurately than ever before. The controls are so tight and intuitive, it's a wonderful Zelda experience. Playing with the Wii U Gamepad lets you aim with the built-in gyroscope, which swivels exactly as you'd expect it.
However, using the camera stick awkwardly locks the camera in position, removing the sway of focus on Link's back. In certain situations this comes in handy, but I found it to be a nuisance more often than not, as I'd eventually resort to using ZL to target and recenter my camera anyway.
Playing as a wolf controls like a dream this time around; however, I can't help but notice its inherent lack of attack moves. Due to the large variety of sword and shield skills Link has in Twlight Princess HD, the lacking moveset of the wolf form sticks out like a sore thumb.
Characters and Plot
The characters in Twilight Princess HD feel incredibly life-like, which is unique seeing as many Zelda games don't normally accomplish this. The residents of Hyrule and Ordona each have their own lives and unique motivations, even if some of them are a bit cliché.
Most notably, it's immediately clear that your partner, Midna, has her own motive and is using you to achieve her personal goals. Throughout the plot, she goes through an incredible amount of personal development and retains her place as the most fleshed out Zelda character ever conceived.
Twlight Princess HD has an wonderful story, likely thanks to the mature and dark themes that Nintendo ventured into for this entry. It still follows the traditional hero's journey story structure that the previous entries set up, though thankfully it carries enough significance and life to make it feel like a true adventure. Everything has a deep subtext that mature players can clearly appreciate, but it still maintains an air of innocence that a younger audience can still enjoy uninhibited.
To my surprise, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD includes both the Gamecube and the Wii orientation of the game. Link is left-handed, but since most players are right-handed, the Wii-version is mirrored -- everything on the left is on the right, and vice versa.
Hero Mode in Twilight Princess HD not only doubles enemy damage and eliminates heart drops, but also mirrors the entire game a la Master Quest from Ocarina of Time 3D.
However, the 3-hour tutorial is still present, which can quickly ward off any attempts to replay the game. It's not entirely out of place, though; the game tends to pace out each dungeon or temple with a handful of quests. The intro just takes too long to get through.
The wallet sizes have all been generously upgraded to carry an immense capacity of rupees. I only capped my wallet once during my entire 30 hour playthrough.
Collecting the Tears of Light in each region isn't nearly as tedious as before. There is no more needlessly waiting around while the tears slowly float down into your grasp. Additionally, the number of tears need in each province has been reduced from 16 to 12.
The Wii U Gamepad is a wonderful user interface tool that greatly reduces the tedium of jumping in and out of menus. The Item menu is now entirely tucked away on the Gamepad, the cluttered radial menu thrown to the wind.
You no longer need to chat with Midna every time you want to transform. Now there's a convenient button on the Gamepad that can be pressed to swiftly transform after you unlock the ability.
There's a few neat new collectibles and challenges in Twlight Princess HD. Aside from Hero Mode (see Replayablity), there are Miiverse Stamps in chests scattered about Hyrule, a Ghost Lantern to help suss out those elusive Poe Souls, amiibo support, and an amiibo dungeon similar to the Cave of Ordeals.
The Cave of Shadows is a wolf-only challenge dungeon that can be entered by tapping the Wolf Link amiibo -- which comes with the retail copy of the game -- on the Collection Screen any time after amiibo logo appears. After reaching predetermined story checkpoints, the Cave of Shadows will unlock deeper sections until you win your hard-earned reward at the end (SPOILER), yet another wallet upgrade to match the two Agitha gifts Link for catching Golden Bugs.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD is spectacular 3D Zelda title. It certainly has its flaws: the intro is lengthy, the art direction hasn't aged as well as The Wind Waker, the wolf form is still lacking in attacks, and the amiibo exclusive content will frustrate any completionist with a digital copy of the game.
All things considered, these are but minor imperfections on the face of a mystical adventure with so many twists and turns it will make your head spin. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD is a remarkable remake, and a great addition to the Wii U library. It was a pleasure to experience Twilight Hyrule again, and I know I'll be returning for a Hero Mode completionist run in the future.
If you haven't played Twilight Princess before, there has never been a better time to experience the deepest and most mature story Zelda has to offer. Existing fans are going to adore the new HD experience.
However, if you couldn't get into the original Twilight Princess for any reason other than the Wii controls, pixelated graphics, or that blasted radial menu, this entry will not redeem it for you.