A welcome return to a Zelda entry that never gets enough credit.
Format: Wii U
Released: March 4, 2016
Copy provided by publisher
Twilight Princess has, perhaps more than any other contribution to The Legend of Zelda, found itself unable to be looked upon with the near-universal fondness enjoyed by its ancestry.
Sandwiched between The Wind Waker and Skyward Sword, Link’s lupine adventure stands out as a darker, more drab experience.
Its moody tone and depressing color palette has dated it moreso than other Zelda games, while its dual status as a GameCube swansong and marquis Wii title give it no real era of its own.
Despite fans throwing an embarrassing tantrum over a certain review at the time, Twilight Princess has become the popular Zelda to bag on, the one that’s “okay” to call mediocre in a world where suggesting such things of other installments would cause heads to roll.
In truth, it boasts less personality than its kin, trying hard to ape the tone the tone set by Ocarina of Time but in a less elegant way. However, it’s still an accomplished game, containing some of my favorite elements of the series overall.
Returning to it as an HD rerelease has me certain it’s aged better than one might assume, even if it’s not timeless.
The GamePad has helped matters considerably, with the expected touchscreen menus and instant map access making for a far more streamlined affair. The game overall is quicker and easier to enjoy without the need for constant menu changes and inventory management. The Legend of Zelda, perhaps more than any other Nintendo property, has immensely benefited from the dual-screen capabilities of the 3DS and Wii U.
True to its name, Twilight Princess HD looks prettier than it did before, with the resolution upgrade and clearer visuals making for a less murky and drab appearance. Twilight still suffers from a color scheme of muted greys and dark greens, but characters pop a lot more, giving the previously foggy graphics a little more boldness.
The enhanced resolution does show off the less-than-impressive visual quality that, even for its time, was becoming old fashioned. While The Wind Waker still looks amazing today thanks to its classic cel-shaded style, Twilight Princess‘ aim for “realism” has made it much less palatable as time’s gone by.
Nintendo has done an impressive job of remaking some assets to bring the game up to code – better textures and some totally reworked models stop the game looking bad in any way – but at times it’s hard not to stare at Wolf Link’s paws and notice how much like they resemble balls of mashed clay.
Purchasing the physical version of the game bundles it with a unique amiibo of Midna and Wolf Link, opening up an exclusive new dungeon – The Cave of Shadows. There’s a new item in exchange for completing this dungeon, but don’t expect much compelling gameplay. It’s a series of challenge rooms where you move from arena to arena and fight stuff. Nothing too amazing, but it’s not an unwelcome addition either. It’s sort of just there.
Despite its setbacks, Twilight Princess maintains a special place in my heart, a place that has only been strengthened by this HD rerelease. For a start, it boasts fantastic characters with more depth to them than the average Nintendo cast. Midna has endured for a reason, a likable jerk of a protagonist whose insecure jibes and ultimately sad backstory make her among the more complex characters in Zelda‘s universe.
Then there’s Zant. Before taking a backseat to the inevitable Ganondorf appearance, Zant remains my favorite antagonist in The Legend of Zelda, a wonderful examination of the artifice and superficiality of villainhood.
Initially portrayed as a cool and collected chessmaster, Zant is exposed as a childish, screaming, utterly pathetic little monster. Some players found the breakdown disappointing, but I adore him for the same reasons I’ve loved Kylo Ren’s characterization in Star Wars. He represents what evil really is under the cool helmets and dark robes. Petty and pitiful.
His boss fight is absolutely fantastic, too.
Despite the more serious nature of the story, Twilight Princess is nonetheless full of some truly weird characters and scenarios. There’s Malo, the strangely cynical little boy with a merciless business acumen, Agatha the Bug Princess who manages to be adorable and creepy at the same time, and the Oocca – perhaps the strangest creatures ever to set foot in Hyrule.
Though less obvious, a lot of the series’ eccentric and almost unsettling humor still exists, backed up by some serious attempts to shake up the gameplay.
Wolf Link, for example, may be functionally similar to your average bipedal hero in terms of control, but it was a nonetheless enjoyable change of pace with some added puzzle elements otherwise unseen in the series. Looking back, the wolf sections are far more enjoyable than I remember, and his leaping attacks in combat make for some great fight sequences.
The Spinner is a fantastic addition to Link’s expansive gear, a whirring cog that can latch onto rails and allows players to hover across otherwise impassable surfaces. I remember wasting time just spinning across the chasms and canyons of Hyrule, simply because riding the thing was so much fun.
There’s a lot to love about Twilight Princess that often doesn’t get credit because it never could grip the imagination quite like Majora’s Mask, Wind Waker, or Skyward Sword did. The HD rerelease is a good chance to hop back in and appreciate all that – the terrific character development, the unique gameplay ideas, and a very scary Bug Princess.
I like it, is what I’m saying.