Game Review: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD

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The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess mirrored most releases in the series. Critics loved it, fans felt that the previous game in the series was better, and over time it was remembered fondly. Despite this typical Zelda cycle, Twilight Princess has been remembered as being one of the weakest in the series. It split audiences when it launched onto the GameCube after being released on the Wii. The Wii version split audiences by offering no visual improvement over the GameCube, and by flipping the visuals of the game to make Link right-handed to match the majority of Wii Remote-holding sword-slashers.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD

What it did offer felt like an extension of Ocarina of Time. After the cartoon cel-shaded graphical feast that was Wind Waker, Zelda fans were hungry for something a little more based in reality, and it did that in spades. In doing so, it may have split fans even further by possibly going a little too dark. Almost 10 years after its original release, we now have a version of Twilight Princess on a console that can do it some justice.

In a move that will instantly appease a selection of Zelda fans, the world has been flipped back to its GameCube origins. Link is left-handed once again, and all those who played the Wii version may feel like they’re playing an entirely new experience with everything that was once on the left now being on the right. It sounds like a small change, but it forces those familiar with the game to rethink and slow down.

The story hasn’t been altered and once again we see Link tasked with having to deliver something to the Princess of Hyrule: Zelda. One of the biggest complaints from the original release was that the first few hours of the game move too slowly while introducing the game mechanics. Nothing has changed here and those frustrated originally may dread returning to Ordon Valley to catch a fish, herd goats, and show the local kids just how badass Link is.

Before too long, these same kids are kidnapped and it’s up to Link to rescue them before heading off on his journey, but it’s never that easy. Zelda games typically involve some kind of unique mechanic (an Ocarina, a baton, magical masks, an AI sword) and this is no different. Instead of Link obtaining a specific item, however, he is transformed into a wolf thanks to the darkness that is slowly enveloping Hyrule. This mechanic removes Link’s ability to utilise items he has collected, while creating the ability to use more animal-like traits.

Delving too far into a Zelda story means ruining a lot of what makes a Zelda game what it is: a hero’s tale. For every action Link takes you feel more and more like the hero he’s becoming, and few games are able to capture that feeling the way Twilight Princess does.

I think it’s fair to say that this game has aged well. Part of that is down to the fact that we’re all a bit starved for a new Zelda title, but mainly it’s the fresh coat of paint that gives the HD remake the look it should have had from the start.

Textures are beautifully detailed and crisp, meaning characters and environments show details that would have gone unnoticed before. This lends itself to looking more lived in and weather-beaten, and goes hand-in-hand with the realistic style Nintendo were originally trying to push. Supposedly the game is a little less brown and bleak than the original release, but if you don’t play your games side-by-side with the originals you’re simply not likely to notice.

Fans of the series will instantly recognise the gameplay that has gone unchanged over the years. You’ll be driven through an action-adventure world by a compelling story until you reach a dungeon or temple. Once there it becomes more of a puzzle adventure game. Locate the map and the compass so you can see unvisited areas and chests that need to be opened. Fight the mid-dungeon boss and obtain a new item. Use the item to get through the rest of the temple and defeat the dungeon boss. It’s formulaic, but it works, and never ceases being fun and challenging.

The thing with Zelda titles is that no matter how hard things get, and Twilight Princess has arguably the most difficult dungeons in the series, if you can get somewhere you have everything you need to proceed, it’s just a matter of finding out what you need to do. There’s never a need to leave a dungeon to find an item you may have missed, and if you end up in a locked room it’s just a matter of time before it all clicks into place and you continue on your way. Sometimes it’ll be frustrating, and sometimes you’ll think the solution is harder than it actually is. The puzzle-filled dungeons are what keep the fans coming back.

Despite everything the remake does well, it’s a shame there are still frustrating moments that could’ve been fixed with a little extra work. There are key action moments that utilise their own mechanics and, simply put, they can be downright offputting to play. Sure, there’ll be someone on a message board somewhere that’ll tell you they knocked the ogre off the back of the boar with ease, but it took me multiple attempts. It wasn’t because I didn’t know what I had to do; it was because the controls simply weren’t responsive enough. It’s even worse that you have to do it multiple times throughout the game. But that’s a small complaint on a hugely enjoyable return to this version of Hyrule.

Like Wind Waker HD, Twilight Princess utilises the Wii U’s gamepad for easy switching of items as well as a larger, more accessible version of the mini-map. The leap onto Wii U also means there’s amiibo functionality: hold any of the Zelda themed amiibo over the NFC reader and you’ll receive some form of reward. The game comes packaged with a Wolf Link amiibo that unlocks a new trial mode called the Cave of Shadows, which is a great way to test your skills as a fighter.

Twilight Princess really shines here despite having little more than new textures and lighting; fans of the series will find something new here, while gamers new to the series now have two amazing Zelda games to choose from on Nintendo’s current system. Knowing what the Wii U is capable of makes this reviewer incredibly excited about what we can expect from the next chapter in the Zelda timeline.

 

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD
On Wii U

Players 1
Rating M
Released 5 March 2016

 
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