Luring a missing cat back to it’s owner through a series of small actions is still a mildly frustrating way to start a sprawling adventure in The Legend of Zelda universe, dull when compared to the stunning Ocarina of Time or Majora’s Mask, but Twilight Princess is much more than first impressions, as we witnessed a decade ago when this clever game was first released on both the Gamecube and the Wii.
Though the entry remains in the shadows – a place where it seemingly chose to lay anyway – of superior titles like the aforementioned Ocarina and the impeccable Skyward Sword, Twilight Princess deserves it’s place amongst the best in the series, sharply different with it’s dark, more confronting tone, but still playing to the same high standard of gameplay fans have come to expect from this iconic series, encouraging and rewarding exploration of it’s massive location more so than the aforementioned, much like The Wind Waker. When you consider this then you realise that Twilight Princess was actually the perfect choice for another HD remake.
As fans of the series anxiously await to see what Nintendo do what with this highly anticipated forthcoming Zelda title, Twilight Princess HD is a welcome return to one of the more under-appreciated moments in the 30 year old series, given a substantial spit-n-shine from Melbourne development team Tantalus Media. Exploring Lake Hylia, just standing in the fast-moving fog of the game’s very first dungeon, or playing through a surreal blend of Spaghetti Western menace and Zelda playfulness are just some of the moments where the re-work is most evident; the textures are sharper, the palate has more life to it, and some of the characters even have new assets to flesh them out a bit more, mirroring the attention given to remastering some of these settings via the smaller details like an extra tree here or different shadow movements there. Link even looks like he really knows how to take care of his skin (metro much?).
Much of the applied remix to the Gamecube version of Twilight Princess has gone into the background to nod to those who really appreciate the finer details in games like this. However, there are some moments where this is seemingly overlooked to focus more on character models, with small patches of grass at points looking just as sloppy as in the original version; negligible in the grand adventure that is Twilight Princess, but noticeable if you’re looking closely.
Aside from the aesthetics, the gameplay is also augmented in some ways here. Even smaller gestures like putting your map and item selection screen on the Wii U controller makes playtime more seamless, there’s even off-screen support so you can continue the adventure handheld. Of course, one of the biggest changes to gameplay is it’s Amiibo support, using the Wolf-Link figure available with retail versions of the game to unlock a completely new dungeon titled The Cave of Shadows, which features wave-like battle scenes and a brand new wallet upgrade. The upgrade is fairly pointless in a world abundant with rupees, but playing through the dungeon in all it’s hack-and-slash glory is well worth scanning that highly detailed Amiibo.
There’s also support for other Legend of Zelda Amiibos. Using Zelda or Sheik figures gives you more hearts for example, while using Gannondorf increases the difficulty, particularly in the new Hero Mode which is damn near impossible at some stages in the game. Could this be Nintendo’s Dark Souls?
Other features are thrown in to make the experience a bit more convenient. For example, you no longer have to go through the process of talking to Midna – I’d take a weird ball of light that pretends to be a fairy over a crowned sorceress any day – to transform into a Wolf anymore, you can do it with the press of a button; nice, easy, and another step in ironing out small frustrations that the original Twilight Princess brought.
The intensity of Twilight Princess is the most memorable thing about this outing 10 years later, and it’s only more involving now that Tantalus Media have come through and marginally improved the look, feel, and flow of the whole game. The tone in Twilight Princess changes so much with so many innovative ideas – like the Spaghetti Western area as mentioned above – it’s hard not to want to jump back in and re-visit this epic adventure that moved the series forward and set the stage for the more vibrant Skyward Sword. If you haven’t given this title a spin in the past few years then this remake is well worth getting your hands on. While there is more content, nothing is as significant as The Cave of Shadows or Hero Mode, and those looking for extensions to really take advantage of the Wii U’s capacity may be left feeling slightly let down; this is more or less a faithful remake just rendered with substantially better, more modern graphics.
Review Score: 8.5 out of 10
Highlights: Character models look incredible; The Cave of Shadows and Hero Mode great additions; convenient controls.
Lowlights: While the new content is good, there just isn’t enough as there could have been; some features (eg patches of grass) inconsistent with the improvements.
Developer: Tantalus; Nintendo EAD
Released: March 5th, 2016
Platform: Wii U
Reviewed on Wii U.