Midna > Bella Swan
The year was 2008, and my family had just purchased our first ever non-handheld gaming console. The Wii sat unassumingly in a box on the floor of our local GameStop. While the rest of my family oohed and ahhed over the minigames included in Wii Sports and Wii Play, a different game on the shelf drew my attention: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
I only knew a little bit about the Legend of Zelda games at that point. There was that annoying fairy everyone on the Internet complained about, and I’d gotten the Lost Woods theme stuck in my head a few times, even if I didn’t know exactly what the Lost Woods were. But this game looked different from everything I’d seen of the series. It was darker, more realistic. And Link was a wolf, somehow? Color me intrigued. I bought the game and proceeded to play it for a month straight, racking up nearly 80 hours on my first save file. Twilight Princess set the bar by which I rated every subsequent Legend of Zelda game, many of which I proceeded to play in rapid succession.
Now, nearly a decade and two generations of consoles after its original release, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is back on the Wii U with an HD upgrade. It was with equal parts excitement and trepidation that I opened up the game box to see the disc and accompanying amiibo?how would the game that holds such a special place in my heart hold up, all these years later?
As it turns out, I needn’t have worried. Twilight Princess HD is, to an eerie degree, exactly the same as I remembered. This is truly not a remake or a reboot. It?s straight Twilight Princess, just with an HD skin, remapped controls, and a couple of minor additions. Of course, that’s exactly what Nintendo advertised, and it’s similar to the treatment The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker got a few years ago with Wind Waker HD. Still, it’s a little strange in its familiarity. Playing Twilight Princess HD is like returning home from a long trip to see your hairbrush sitting on the counter exactly where you left it. It feels like something should have changed during all the time you?ve been away, all the life-changing adventures you?ve had, but nothing has.
For being the biggest selling point of Twilight Princess HD, the actual HD treatment itself is pretty hit-or-miss. While Wind Waker’s cel-shaded, overly cartoony style looked great with crisper lines and a new lighting engine, Twilight Princess’ more realistic and soft-focused twilight aesthetic doesn’t stand the test of time nearly as well, especially when that blurriness is intentionally stripped away to reveal all the flaws in crystal-clear 1080p resolution.
Most of the problems stem from the fact that, while the textures have been upgraded, the character and environmental models have not. This works better for some parts of the game than for others. Surfaces that were originally meant to be flat, without too much depth or detail, generally look great. The Temple of Time, filled with polished marble and reflective stained glass windows, literally shines. Midna, too, looks fantastic in HD with her smoother, alien-looking skin and helmet, and it’s hard to complain about seeing Zora’s Domain or Hyrule Field in their full glory. In cases where more detail or movement is needed in order to look good, however, the HD treatment actually makes things look worse. Hair doesn’t blow in the wind so much as it flops in chunks (I’m pretty sure Epona’s mane is all one solid mass). Anything with feathers, fur, or fabric looks similarly awful. Calling down a hawk, only to get a vaguely hawk-shaped, sharp-angled geometrical figure covered in a hyper-realistic feather pattern, is a little disturbing. And after about fifteen seconds of meticulous comparison, I determined that there’s more detail carved into the Wolf Link amiibo than on the actual Wolf Link model in-game.
Additionally, the removal of that “twilight blur” and the increased resolution reveal a number of new issues that were invisible in the base game. Characters in cutscenes often jitter very slightly?not enough to be immersion breaking, but enough to be noticeable. Sometimes, I’d be running across a field and catch sight of a weirdly clear, jagged landscape in the distance that I’m pretty sure I wasn’t supposed to be seeing that clearly (just because you can eliminate distance fog doesn’t always mean you should). Of course, some of the weirder visual ‘glitches’ in the game (chains vanishing once they enter the wall, water not so much flowing as spurting down a slope, grass growing from the ground in odd little tufts) are just visual oddities that were completely normal and would?ve been expected on the GameCube version of the game. Still, that doesn’t stop them from looking laughably bad and out of place, especially in areas where the rest of the environment looks great.
Some of that same GameCube clunkiness appears in the actual gameplay, especially when controlling Epona. Running across the open ground of Hyrule Field works pretty well, but Farore forbid you run Epona into a village. If you can even get into the village in the first place, that is, since guiding her through gates and around tight corners is more difficult than facing down Ganondorf. Thankfully, Link can just run everywhere on his own two (or four) legs if need be. I was also stuck in the skill tutorial for the Back Slice special attack for longer than I’d care to admit, not because the move was difficult to pull off (it’s not supposed to be), but just because of the awkward way that the combo is mapped to the controller. And the Lakebed Temple was an unpleasant reminder of why underwater swimming levels are universally loathed. These are all problems, however, that are present in the base game, not something unique to Twilight Princess HD. It just seems like mapping all the controls for clunky movement to a new controller would be the perfect opportunity to, y’know, solve the clunky movement problems.
Now, Nintendo did change a few things for the better. The original Twilight Princess had an unusual problem with money: namely, that there was too much of it. Link’s wallet filled up too quickly, there was nothing to buy, and once his wallet was full he’d put any new rupees he found back into the treasure chests, leaving annoying unopened chests around the map. Twilight Princess HD fixes all of this. Link starts with a bigger wallet, and each upgrade is bigger than the original. If his wallet is full, Link will take the rupees from a chest anyway (though where they vanish to is a mystery best left unexplored). The game’s also taken out those annoying reminders of how much each rupee is worth that used to pop up every time the game was turned off and on?yes, I’ve been playing for twenty hours now, I know a yellow one is worth ten.
Additionally, many of the chests that contained unsatisfying rupee rewards now contain Miiverse Stamps, fifty brand new items that let you send Miiverse posts with Hylian letters and images of the characters. It’s a much nicer surprise to open up a chest and find a hilarious stamp of an angry Midna face than another lackluster purple rupee.
There are a few other nice quality-of-life improvements, like the way the Wii U?s GamePad displays either the map or the item screen at all times. The easy access to this item screen, unexpectedly, adds a layer of difficulty to the game since the game no longer pauses while switching out items. Since there are now three buttons items can be assigned to, this usually doesn’t cause any problems?until you suddenly realize you need that health potion out of your inventory right now and it’s the middle of a boss fight and you have to look away from the main screen in order to grab it. It definitely adds to the tension, and, arguably, to the immersion. There’s also a convenient new human-to-wolf or wolf-to-human instant transformation option on the touchscreen. Once that point of the game is reached, it saves those few seconds of needing to talk to Midna.
I was also excited to see how the GamePad handled gyro aiming but ended up sorely disappointed. Honestly, the Wii’s simple point-and-shoot system ten years ago was better. The first aimable item in the game, the Gale Boomerang, is possibly the clunkiest of them all to use, and doesn?t serve as a great introduction. Using it requires holding down the item button, moving the GamePad around to aim, and locking on multiple times with one of the triggers while still holding down the first button. There’s also nothing subtle or precise about the gyro controls. Aiming at anything not directly in front of Link?like a Clawshot target on the ceiling?required me to lean way back in my chair and practically flip the controller upside down in order to get the cursor that far up, with similar contortions for aiming from side to side. Apparently this looks hilarious enough to outside observers that my co-workers threatened to take video of me playing through the City in the Sky level with the Double Clawshots (but really, Nintendo, there could at least have been a sensitivity setting).
The final big addition to Twilight Princess HD is the Cave of Shadows, a bonus dungeon similar to the original game’s Cave of Ordeals that’s unlocked with the Wolf Link amiibo. This isn’t a puzzle-based dungeon in the traditional sense, but a skill challenge. Link must face room after room of enemies, fighting only in wolf form, with no healing available. The challenge is to get to the end without dying (or with as many hearts remaining as possible). More of the Cave of Shadows unlocks as you progress through the game, revealing harder and harder enemies. For those who really don’t want the amiibo, I wouldn’t worry about missing out?the Cave is its own self-contained area consisting purely of the challenge cave, and there’s no extra story or lore tied to it beyond the addition of the Giant Wallet, the ultimate prize. The Cave of Shadows does incorporate some neat environmental challenges, however, including lava pillars, quicksand, and icy floors, and offers unique combinations of enemies to fight, so if you do have the amiibo and feel up to the challenge, it?s worth a look. It?s more interesting than the traditional Cave of Ordeals, though nothing worth hunting down the amiibo for unless you?re in love with the Wolf Link combat system.
So is Twilight Princess HD worth the buy? Honestly, it’s a tough call, and one that’s very dependent on your past experience with the original Twilight Princess. It is, essentially, the same game, just in HD?and to be fair to Nintendo, that’s all the company ever promised it would be. But if this is the only Twilight Princess re-release we’ll get, I do wish they’d gone further with it, updating the models and controls and generally making it feel less like a GameCube game (especially for that steep $60 price tag). However, if you’ve never experienced the magic of Twilight Princess, or if it?s a game you loved the first time around and want to play again, then Twilight Princess HD is definitely be worth a look. Just know that the value of your purchase lies in the Twilight Princess part of the title, not the HD.
|Developer: Nintendo EAD ? Publisher: Nintendo ? ESRB: T – Teen ? Release Date: 03.04.16|
At times, the HD upgrade looks fantastic. At other times, the HD upgrade looks terrible. But underneath it all, the game is still Twilight Princess, and that means that it?s a great game.
|The Good||Being able to sign all of my Miiverse posts with “angry Midna face” beats finding 20 rupees any day.|
|The Bad||The GamePad’s gyro controls. I signed up for The Legend of Zelda, not Wii Sports.|
|The Ugly||Don’t look too closely at any of the animals. Especially the hawk.|
|The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD is a Wii U exclusive. Review code was provided by Nintendo for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.|