The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD Review – Zantastic

A welcome return to a Zelda entry that never gets enough credit.

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Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
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 timeTwilight 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.

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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.

03

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 ShadowsThere’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.

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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.

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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 MaskWind 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.

8.8
Great

Ed
Guest
Ed

Great review Jim. While I understand that twilight princess’ more realistic graphical styling ages the game, there is a pure artistry in the visual designs that is simply absent from games of the time. The use of color, especially the orange hues of twilight, and the great character and monster designs, keep the visuals unique, despite looking pedestrian on first glance. My second favorite video game (and Zelda) behind skyward sword. PS: Could have done without the bad score joke. Either you get it and its not that funny, or you don’t and this is the one game that stands… Read more »

Brendalf
Guest
Brendalf

Replaying this game in HD made me wonder how the hell did I play this with the Wii Remote motion controls, I really appreciate this game more now with the gamepad and its a wonderful remaster. Damn Nintendo, pack an Amiibo with a soundtrack for any remastered version from now on and I’ll definitely buy it.

Mike White
Guest
Mike White

I love the hell out of twilight princess.

RenaudB90
Guest

8.8
Clever girl.

Robert Reed
Guest
Robert Reed

8.8?! WTF JIM YOU FUCKING IDIOT I THINK YOU MEANT HATE.HATE!

Paris Stalker
Guest
Paris Stalker

“I remember wasting time just spinning across the chasms and canyons of Hyrule” But there are literally only two places outside of the Arbiters Grounds dungeon (where you get the spinner) that you can use it beyond a snail paced movement that quickly stops. One of those is in Hyrule castle up a small set of stairs just before Ganondorf, and the other is in a section of Hyrule Field, that has nothing but a heart piece obtained by using said spinner. The spinner is indeed great fun in the dungeon you get it, but like many of the game’s… Read more »

Chicken008
Guest
Chicken008

That score, AHAHAHAHA!!
You’re the best.

Drinking_with_Skeletons
Guest
Drinking_with_Skeletons

Despite its flaws, this is still my favorite 3D Zelda. It’s a big game with well-designed dungeons and almost all the elements I want in a Zelda title. The quality of the gameplay stands out even more sandwiched between Wind Waker–which has more style than substance–and Skyward Sword–a failure in more ways than I want to list right now.

Sapphire Crook
Guest
Sapphire Crook

I thought the Spinner stopped working after a few feet and thus had limited application!

Rikeus
Guest
Rikeus

Almost as good as the Zone Flash Game 😛

Max Whiteley
Guest
Max Whiteley

I don’t know if I should buy a wifi u or not. It’s cheap now and has quite a library, but I don’t know. I’ve got enough games I don’t play on my one.

Even Luck
Guest
Even Luck

Great.

Stephen Mc Devitt
Guest
Stephen Mc Devitt

Twilight Princess was my first Zelda game for my first Nintendo console (the Wii) because 2008 had too many dreary western shooters. I loved Wind Waker too but Ocarina of Time is hard to get into.

I always thought Twilight Princess has as many quirky characters as much as any other Zelda, from I AM ERROR to Tingle to Ghirahim!

melbye
Guest
melbye

I liked Twilight Princess before, but i always considered it the worst 3D Zelda. This upgrade now places it ahead of both Majora’s Mask and Skyward Sword in my opinion. But they are all fantastic games

Erich Fromm Hell
Guest

Good review, Jim. I love this game. My main problems were the tears of light bits, the skull kid bit, and that somewhat clumsy cutscene with evil Link, but the dungeons, plus Midna and Zant, made it a very special experience overall.

Scøtt Jeisman
Guest
Scøtt Jeisman

gr8 r8 m8 I’ll w8 for the 8.8 h8

MisterHoot
Guest
MisterHoot

There’s something about the design in TP I always loved, gave away a very weird and “Shadow of the colossus”-y vibe. I mean look at Zant and his servants. Ain’t that the best bug-eyed masked mo’fo.

I would add tho that from what i’ve seen, Skyward Sword is the one considered at least as “so-so” as the original twilight princess

Nocturne
Guest
Nocturne

Honestly my favourite Zelda game because of the characters. Of all of Links companions I’ve found Midna to be the most fun to run around with.

Peter Schaper
Guest
Peter Schaper

WHAT AN OUTRAGE! OFF WITH HIS HEAD! FIRE JIM FROM GAMESPOT!

Space Blizzard
Guest
Space Blizzard

“8.8”

Oh, you.

MowDownJoe
Guest
MowDownJoe

8.8? God damnit, Jim, did you have to beat that dead horse?

Torgeir Engen
Guest
Torgeir Engen

I don’t care much about the grapics update, and the new additions seems very… trivial. If I’m going to buy this I need to know if they fixed the things that ruins reruns of the old version. Does Link still climb like a old nanny? Does battle music still ruin the game’s best mellow moment (you know the one)?

Might add that although TP is the Zelda I play the least, it is the Zelda I love the most, as I played it before OoT, and thus didn’t get bothered with the “seen it before” aspect.

CriticalQuit
Guest
CriticalQuit

Having originally played the wii version, i’ve been having a lot of fun, since the motion controls are one of the things about it i found a little taxing. That said, the entire game map is mirrored from the wii version, so muscle memory keeps betraying me.

Also, nice gag.

ʟυᴄαѕ⁰⁴⁵¹
Guest
ʟυᴄαѕ⁰⁴⁵¹

Yeah, this review is right on the mark. So is the score, ha!

Gareth Andrew Case
Guest
Gareth Andrew Case

I have been really enjoying my time with the HD release. Only played through TP once before so going back it seems nice and fresh again and most importantly without the eye strain-oh vision that the Wii provides on a HD screen.

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