Reviews// The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD

Posted 15 Mar 2016 12:28 by
When The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was first shown prior to its 2003 release, it is safe to say that the reaction was not wholly positive. The cel-shaded graphics, colourful world and ‘kiddy’ Link were not what was expected of a sequel to the genre-defining Ocarina of Time.

Wind Waker did not have a particularly noteworthy launch and was criticised, not just for its visuals, but also for aspects of gameplay, such as the infamous Triforce Hunt quest line. However, time has been kind to The Wind Waker. By the time it was re-released in HD on the Wii U, appreciation for the game had increased dramatically. Visually, the game had aged well and the refinements made to the main quest made it a tighter and more enjoyable experience.

The follow up to Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, appeared on the surface to be a direct reaction to the criticisms levelled at Wind Waker. The former game was ‘too kiddy,’ the story not ‘dark’ or ‘adult’ enough. Twilight Princess returned the series to the visual style adopted in both Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. It was dark, the themes more ‘adult’ and the main quest line was suitably epic. It appeared to be exactly what critics wanted in a Zelda game.

It launched in November 2006 on both GameCube and Wii, serving as a launch title for the latter. The game was initially enthusiastically received, in part because it showcased the start of the ‘waggle’ generation of motion control. However, over time the game’s reputation, has dipped whilst Wind Waker’s has soared. Twilight Princess was commonly criticised for being too drab, too long, too dark and too depressing. Nintendo had given the gamers what they wanted, a game with an epic plot, a dark world in peril and a world larger than that of Ocarina of Time.

Twilight Princess was a lengthy game, largely because a great deal of content felt like padding. In particular, Link’s first steps in the world were criticised for being too repetitive because of the tedious fetch quests and goat herding. I remember mostly enjoying the game back in 2006, although I was relieved when the final credits rolled. Ten years later my reaction has been quite different.

Twilight Princess HD looks great. There, I said it. Wind Waker may have aged better visually, but the jump to HD has significantly improved Twilight Princess. The 2006 release stacked up particularly poorly against games that were coming out on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The world was vast, but visually it was rather forgettable.

The difference between the original release and this one is striking. Characters look more alive. Small details, lost in the standard definition release, are now far more noticeable. This really highlights the unique artistic style of the game: it is not just dark, it’s weird. Twilight Princess is not a frightening game, but the visual style is most certainly unsettling, in the best possible way. However, Nintendo tends to overuse the ‘dark world,’ ‘light world’ mechanic in their games and Twilight Princess is particularly egregious in this regard.

The game plot is naturally based around this concept, with Link once again bringing light to Hyrule by defeating the forces of darkness that are controlled by the mysterious magician Zant. Time spent in the twilight world as Link’s wolf incarnation is brief, with each area feeling rather linear. This is a shame, as it never really feels like the potential of Link in this other form is ever fully explored.

The use of a ‘dark’ and ‘light’ world may be a little tired by this point, but the changes made to the pacing of the game have made the story far more enjoyable. I’m not going to go into details here, but parts of the game are genuinely unsettling, although never particularly shocking.

By removing the more tiresome aspects, such as the fetch quests, the story moves along at a wonderful pace. Link’s sidekick, the eponymous 'Twilight Princess' Midna, is an interesting companion, her often mean spirited comments adding to doubts the player may have about her role in the quest.

Twilight Princess has a sizeable world to explore, far larger than the one in Ocarina of Time. Whilst this does offer the player a lot more to do in terms of side quests, sadly the world itself is rather barren and featureless. Travelling between areas can be time-consuming, and although it is possible to warp between locations, this seems to rather negate the point of having such a large world to explore. Even Fallout 4’s nuclear wasteland is teeming with more life than Hyrule. Just a few more settlements and encampments would have made all the difference. The plot most certainly could have supported this - why not have residents of the cities fleeing the darkness and setting up camp in the countryside?

Aside from the addition of ‘Wolf Link’ the gameplay mechanics of Twilight Princess are largely identical to both Wind Waker and Ocarina of Time. The player is sent to various dungeons around the world to retrieve ‘fused shadows’ in order to defeat Zant.

Dungeon design is excellent, with just the right amount of challenge for a player who has played previous entries in the series. There is not much in the way of innovation in design, but rather a further refinement of what makes the series so enjoyable to play. The game can be controlled using either the Gamepad or the Pro Controller. ‘Waggle’ has not been removed entirely. If the player uses the Gamepad the gyroscopes can be used to refine aiming. This feels like motion control used appropriately, though, without the tiring controller-flailing of the original Wii release.

Aside from the upgrade to HD, the game does feature other additional content. For example, there's a dungeon not featured in the original release titled ‘the Cave of Shadows.’ However, this is only unlockable with the use of the ‘Wolf Link’ amiibo. Sadly, I was unable to try out this dungeon as I don’t own the amiibo, but I am curious to know if any of the design ideas that have improved the series have made their way to Twilight Princess.

Other amiibo can also be used. Using the Link amiibo restocks arrows whilst the Ganondorf one increases the difficulty of the game. These are nice additions, but they feel like an opportunity wasted. Surely more interesting content could have been unlocked, but this is a problem with the amiibo range in general.

Twilight Princess HD is a thoroughly enjoyable, although unambitious game. Improvements to the structure of the quest and the exceptional improvement to the visuals make it a game worth replaying. However, it is far from being an Ocarina of Time style masterpiece and lacks the overall charm of The Wind Waker.

Aside from the interesting, frankly bizarre character designs and well put together plot, this is Zelda by the numbers. Whilst it would not be fair to compare the game to current releases, it is worth noting that on its release in 2006 similar criticisms were levelled at it for its lack of innovation and ambition in moving the series forward. Despite this I would not hesitate to recommend the game. Time may not
have been as kind to Twilight Princess as other entries in the series, but it deserves to be replayed and enjoyed on its own terms.

Pros:
+ HD treatment truly make a big difference.
+ Excellently paced.
+ No waggle.

Cons:
- Dark/Light world is a little unimaginative.
- Game world is sparse.
- Use of Amiibos could be improved.

SPOnG Score: 7/10

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