Twilight Princess released on GameCube and as a launch title for the Wii almost ten years ago. It quickly became one of my favorite 3D Zelda games of all time. The game was massive with a vast overworld to explore and dungeons that were so complex that most of them took several hours to complete the first time through. At the time I had played the Wii version, and in many ways it showcased the system’s unique properties. It was the first Zelda game displayed in true 16:9 aspect ratio. It used the innovative Wii Remote for easy aiming of weapons like the bow and arrow and slingshot. The built-in speaker delivered an immersive soundscape that really added to the experience. It’s no secret that I was excited to play through the game again, this time with glorious HD graphics, GamePad support, and miscellaneous game mechanic improvements. So, how does the game hold up in 2016? I’m happy to report, surprisingly well.
I’m not going to delve into the story of the game, as it’s identical to the original release. Instead I will focus on the changes made to this version and how it has been updated to meet modern day gaming requirements. The most noticeable enhancement is the game’s visuals. No longer are we stuck with a 480p resolution. Twilight Princess HD is displayed in glorious 1080p, and for those of you that played the original version you will notice a huge upgrade. The textures have all been redone, giving the game a much-needed fresh coat of paint. There are details in the environment that I never noticed in the original, and all of the characters and enemies look much more detailed.
While it’s true that the underlying polygons and structure haven’t been retouched, the game still looks crisp, vivid, and the unique character designs really stand out now. Visual effects are especially nice, such as dust flowing through the air in a dungeon or the heat distortion effect emanating from a flame. The animations are as smooth as they always were, and I think the game holds up remarkably well in the graphics department. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t going to compete with games like The Witcher 3, but then again the Wii U isn’t as powerful as a PS4.
I feel that the upgrade from the GameCube version is even more pronounced because it had a 4:3 aspect ratio, making it very difficult to go back and play on today’s televisions. Of the two Zelda remasters, Twilight Princess HD sees a more marked improvement in its visuals than Windwaker HD did, mostly because the complex textures found in the former looked blurry on the GameCube, whereas the latter had cel shaded graphics, which are more timeless.
The Wii U GamePad is utilized perfectly for this game. The touchscreen allows you to toggle between an inventory screen and the map. You no longer need to pause the game to go into a separate window to change out items and weapons. It’s as easy as tapping and dragging the item to the button you want to use on the GamePad. The map is super useful, especially in dungeons because you can zoom in and out. It’s a matter of simply looking down at the screen instead of bringing up a different menu. You can also use the built-in gyros for motion controls when aiming various items, like the boomerang, bow and arrow, and the slingshot. This is totally optional and can be toggled on and off in the settings. Unlike the Wii version, you now have total control over the camera by using the right analog stick. This gives a wonderful sense of freedom when exploring the various environments and you can invert the camera if you so please. Missing from the Wii game are the sound effects that could be heard from the speaker on the Wii Remote. I’m not sure why they didn’t leave that in since the GamePad has speakers as well.
Like most of Nintendo’s games these days, Twilight Princess HD has optional amiibo support. In the U.S. the game is bundled with the Wolf Link amiibo. Tapping it to the GamePad will warp you to a dungeon where you’ll need to clear floors by defeating all of the enemies. This challenge will yield a nice reward at the end that most players will appreciate. The amiibo can also be registered to your save file. I highly recommend doing this as it allows you to enter your saved game right from the title screen simply by tapping the amiibo to the controller. It’s a faster way to get back to your adventure. This amiibo will be used in the upcoming Zelda game coming to Wii U later this year, but as of this writing we’re not entirely sure what functionality it will bring. If you happen to own any of the Smash Bros. amiibo from the Zelda universe you can use them to help or hinder your gameplay session.
It’s been ten long years since the original Twilight Princess first graced our televisions. In that time there’s been a lot of games released, like Dragon Age, Skyrim, Kingdoms of Amalur, The Witcher, and even Xenoblade. While Twilight Princess HD isn’t technically an open world game, it does start to show its age a bit by focusing on smaller areas. This is especially noticeable right at the start of the game when you’re running around the village. Moving from one area to the next requires Link to run off the screen, have it fade out, and then briefly load, and then fade back in. It never bothered me before, but now that I’ve played games that seamlessly hide the load times it becomes excruciatingly obvious. As it is, the game’s world feels a bit disjointed and I wish the developers had taken out the strange segues between areas.
Twilight Princess HD is one of the best remasters I’ve played. This is partly due to the major upgrade in visuals as well as the gameplay improvements offered by the GamePad. The game’s story, controls, music, and dungeon designs hold up remarkably well. There’s plenty to do in this game and you can easily lose 40 to 50 hours exploring the world and figuring out all of the secrets it holds. One of the best Zelda games of all time has been revamped with enough enhancements to warrant the price tag. I had just as much fun this time around as I did the first, and that’s high praise. I highly recommend the game to anyone with a Wii U.