The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess arrived at the start of the last console generation out of fashion, like the kid in school who hadn’t gotten the memo that the 90s were over and nobody was wearing flannel anymore. While the game was heartily praised at the time for fully and magnificently delivering on its promise of a darker, more adult adventure for its grown-up hero, HD was now in season, and mingling with all of Link’s new and dazzling high-definition contemporaries did not do his game any comparison favors. For once a Zelda title wasn’t pushing the boundaries of gaming technology, and the lack of hogging the spotlight may have caused the its reputation to suffer a bit over the years. Though there are no second chances at a first impression, Nintendo has finally decided to give its masterpiece a modern makeover and release what would have blown everyone’s minds ten years ago with their remastered Twilight Princess HD.
With HD remasters en vogue these days, coupled with the success of Wind Waker HD, this was only a matter of time, but a welcome addition to the Wii U library nonetheless. For those who have never played Twilight Princess, the game follows our legendary hero in the green tunic as he attempts to rid Hyrule of the twilight shadow that is slowly encompassing it. Along the way he turns into a wolf, meets an impish queen, sumo wrestles, teams up with monkeys, hunts ghosts, fights a dramatic duel on a bridge, snowboards with a yeti, and of course kills lots of monsters. The game is massive, taking on an epic quality a la The Lord of the Rings like no Zelda has before or since. For those who have always wanted to see their sword-swinging stand-in be a badass warrior, this is your game. Link shreds through opponents with ruthless precision and ferocity in both man and beast form, performing a variety of snarling bites as a wolf, and whirling blade techniques that he slowly learns from an ancient knight who understands the burden of destiny. Twilight Princess HD loses none of this grand feeling, nor the sense of doom and melancholy that accompanies a world that is fading from the light.
For those already familiar, Link’s adventure is essentially the same, though a few changes in the quest have been made here and there for this updated version. The most noticeable addition is the brand new Cave of Shadows, and area that can be accessed by scanning the Wolf Link amiibo that comes with physical copies of the game. Not an actual dungeon, the Cave of Shadows is basically one of those stamina tests that show up periodically in the Zelda series. This one Link can only tackle in wolf form, and he must descend floor by floor deeper into the cave, defeating enemies along the way with no chance to regain hearts, until earning an eventual prize. It’s a mild diversion, but for those who downloaded the digital game, it’s not something to fret over missing out on. Also apparent is the shortening of the Tears of Light collection segments, which some people seemed to think was a bit of a slog (much like the goat herding intro, which has remained). A few of the tears have been removed from each, but instead of making the game feel shorter, it instead gives one the sense that something is missing, with areas on the map that used to contain evil bugs now useless.
Other than those and a few treasure chests that used to contain rupees but now hold stamps to be used in the Miiverse, the story and progression play out pretty much the same as they did back in 2006. How the game actually plays, on the other hand, is one of the things that makes Twilight Princess HD stand out. Combing the best aspects of both the Wii and Gamecube versions, players using the gamepad as their controller will be able to savor using buttons instead of jerky hand movements to perform sword and shield attacks, as well as have the option to utilize the superior and intuitive motion controls for aiming projectile weapons or items. This works beautifully and feels very natural. Add to that the convenience of having the inventory and map on the lower screen, with items easily swapped out on the fly without having to pause the game, and this is clearly the best way to play.
As for the remastered visuals, while it’s evident that nothing has been rebuilt or given quite the same attention and care that Wind Waker HD brother received, the crisp lines, and rich textures (especially on some of the character models) make Twilight Princess HD feel much more polished. Its colors now pop off the screen in a way the more subdued original never could. The polygon count is still low for this generation and won’t be winning any awards in the graphics department, but overall this is the best the game has ever looked, and thanks to great design, some moments are still quite stunning.
So the moment of truth: is Twilight Princess HD worth buying? As usual, that depends on a few things. If you’ve never played this incredible Zelda adventure then this is a must-buy, simply to experience one of the best entries in the series. However, for those who have ridden alongside Link and Epona at least once before, with not much new other than a decent face-lift and some fine-tuned controls, how much you would enjoy retaking that journey should be the deciding factor. For those who like myself absolutely adore it, Twilight Princess HD is the definitive version of an amazing game.