These past few years, Nintendo has found some great success in remaking the 3D Zelda titles, with Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask being remade from the ground up on the 3DS, and Wind Waker seeing an HD overhaul on the Wii U for its tenth anniversary. It makes sense that Twilight Princess, which served as both the swan song for the GameCube and an introduction to the Wii back in 2006, follows suit with Wind Waker by getting a Wii U re-release in its tenth anniversary year as well. But does Twilight Princess’ HD remake live up to its predecessors?
Whether or not you like or dislike Twilight Princess HD will probably depend on how you felt about the game the first time around. Though it should be said that this HD release does provide a few technical improvements, and if you haven’t played Twilight Princess before, it provides a hefty adventure that’s definitely worth a playthrough.
That adventure is identical to what it has always been: Link is a young farmhand at the beginning of the game, but gets caught up in an epic adventure when his village is attacked by monsters. Link soon learns that the land of Hyrule is slowly being corrupted by the “Twilight Realm,” and manages to get corrupted by it himself, which transforms him into a wolf. In his new form, Link encounters Midna; a strange, impish creature who serves as Link’s guide, and is a central character in the story.
Twilight Princess has some solid storytelling, though the story itself may be overly familiar to anyone who’s used to Zelda titles. In fact, that familiarity has always been Twilight Princess’ biggest shortcoming in many ways. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say Twilight Princess is essentially a continuation of Ocarina of Time. That’s certainly not a bad thing from a technical standpoint, since Ocarina of Time is one of the most mechanically sound games out there, but Twilight Princess is arguably the safest entry in the franchise from a creative standpoint.
Rewind back to the early 2000s, and Wind Waker received an unfathomable amount of unwarranted backlash for trying something different with its unique, cartoony visuals. It can be easy to see Twilight Princess as a means to pander to those who cried foul at Wind Waker’s cel-shading. Twilight Princess is certainly a “darker” game than Wind Waker (or most other Zeldas for that matter), but many of its dark and “mature” elements can feel a bit forced. It’s never laughably bad like, say, Shadow the Hedgehog, but there is a sense of pandering about it. And structure-wise the game is essentially a bigger Ocarina of Time, right down to the locations and story elements.
So Twilight Princess plays things safe. That’s always been the downside to the game. That, and a few pacing issues with the game’s opening chapter and some of the segments between dungeons (though they aren’t as severe as those in the later Skyward Sword). But when taken by its own merits, Twilight Princess is still a thrilling adventure, and this Wii U version is probably its best realization.
First and foremost, the game has never looked better. Its art style may not exude the timelessness of The Wind Waker, but the HD overhaul makes it a much prettier game than it ever was before. The character designs and some of the textures do make it obvious this was originally a game from yesteryear, but the HD update does hold its own.
The greatest bonus in this remake, however, comes in the form of the Wii U Gamepad itself. The game does give players the option to use the more traditional Pro Controller, but the Gamepad comes as the more recommended mode for playing due to how it smoothens out the Zelda experience, much like it did in Wind Waker HD before it.
With the gamepad, you no longer have to pause to cycle through Link’s items and maps, as the second screen has all of that covered. You simply use the touchscreen to swap items, look at maps, and cycle through menus. It may not sound like much, but it really makes the gameplay of the series feel more immediate and fun.
There are other, smaller tweaks to the game as well, with some of the fetch quests between dungeons being trimmed and streamlined to help smoothen out the game’s pacing. And of course there’s Amiibo functionality, with the Zelda-themed Amiibo replenishing Link’s health and Rupees, while the Ganondorf Amiibo ups the game’s difficulty by making enemies do double damage. Additionally, the Wolf Link Amiibo unlocks a brand-new side challenge.
Again, there aren’t a whole lot of changes here, so if Twilight Princess wasn’t your cup of tea before, it won’t be now. But the HD version does add an extra dash of polish to the experience. For those who do love Twilight Princess, or have yet to play it, the game does have a lot going for it. It’s still the biggest and lengthiest Zelda to date, and includes some of the series absolute finest dungeon and puzzle designs (Snowpeak Ruins and City in the Sky rank among the series’ most inventive dungeons), and the core gameplay is fluid and polished, as you would expect from the series. Those who are fans of the series’ story elements should also find Midna to be one of the series’ best-realized characters (which really makes one wonder how her successor, Skyward Sword’s Fi, failed so miserably).
Combine the game’s top-notch level design with its grand scope, great soundtrack and well-executed gameplay (which, again, is better than ever on Wii U), and Twilight Princess makes for a truly compelling adventure. The flaws are still there, with the aforementioned in-between dungeon segments often dragging, and many of the long-going sidequests having underwhelming rewards. Not to mention it sticks to Ocarina of Time’s rulebook so closely that it loses some of its own identity.
If you didn’t love Twilight Princess before, then Twilight Princess HD will probably only lighten your attitude towards it so much. That is if you’re willing to buy it all over again at all. But if you did love Twilight Princess before, then Twilight Princess HD will make you love it more with its fine-tuning of many of the game’s elements. And for those who missed out on it ten years ago, Twilight Princess HD is definitely an adventure worth taking.