Platform: Nintendo Wii U
Release Date: March 4th, 2016
Note: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD’s physical version includes the Wolf Link amiibo for $59.99 as listed at the bottom of the review. The game is also available digitally without the Wolf Link amiibo for $49.99.
The phrase ‘HD Remaster’ gets thrown around pretty easily nowadays. While some are actual remasters like Halo Anniversary and the upcoming Final Fantasy VII, there are plenty that are HD ports like Final Fantasy X on PS4 and Sonic Adventure on Xbox 360/PS3. When The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD was announced, it was unclear which category it fell into. After playing it I’ll say that, while it’s not as dramatic an improvement as Wind Waker HD, Twilight Princess HD is still worth buying.
The story of Twilight Princess HD has the same core as other Zelda games, so I’ll just mention what makes this game unique. The main antagonist Zant is the King of the Twilight Realm and is attempting to swallow up the world of light. Link, who’s grown up on the Ordon Province, gets caught up in the encroaching twilight as his friend and the children of the village get kidnapped by Moblins. After entering the Twilight and getting transformed into a wolf, Link meets Midna, a strange imp-like creature who wants to overthrow Zant’s false kingship.
Besides that, the story has standard progression with somewhat predictable twists. I will say that there are a few moments that are genuinely creepy. I do appreciate that Ganondorf and Zelda aren’t the focus this time around, and that the other characters you meet along the way are refreshingly diverse. This Link doesn’t have as much personality as Wind Waker Link, but his upbringing and growth make him feel like more than just the Hero of Destiny.
The way Twilight Princess HD is presented is also more than meets the eye. The realistic art style has actually aged better than I thought it would, and it still has enough cartoonish elements to take itself too seriously. While a lot of the early game focuses on the bronze hues of Twilight, it really becomes quite colorful by the time you reach the second dungeon.
The music is also still as good as I remember. While there aren’t many standouts in the normal gameplay, tracks like Hyrule Field and Midna’s Lament are still lovely to listen to. I also found myself enjoying the dungeon tracks more this time around, especially the later ones.
As far as improvements go, Twilight Princess HD is much better visually compared to its Gamecube and Wii counterparts. Cranking the resolution up to 1080p gets rid of a lot of the visual flaws with the original games. Before, a lack of antialiasing and a low output resolution made edges extremely jagged, while the bloom felt like it was overcompensating and was oppressive as a result. Now, these have been smoothed out and toned down.
Texture work is also improved for the most part, and more polygons have been added to the environment where needed. For example, pillars don’t look like polygonal cylinders anymore. It’s not a universal overhaul, however, since the ones that weren’t really changed contrast a lot more with the improvements. This is most obvious when using Link’s ranged items in first-person and you see his badly-aged model.
It may not be a visual spectacle, but it’s worth it for how smooth the game runs. Besides the resolution, Twilight Princess HD also has a rock-solid 30fps frame rate. There are some dips here and there, but none are nearly as bad as sea combat in Wind Waker HD.
Unfortunately, camera issues rear their ugly head again. Clipping is an ever-too-common occurrence and really highlights how much this game was not built with a first-person camera in mind. Moments like riding the Spinner in the spire of Arbiter’s Grounds also makes the camera feel loose.
Issues can also make the camera jitter uncontrollably. These were most noticeable when using the Dominion Rod or when being pushed by/riding something. Luckily, no other bugs or glitches were encountered in over 20 hours of gameplay.
Overall, I enjoyed the gameplay of Twilight Princess HD the most when it comes to the 3D Zeldas. You have your standard gameplay cycle of enter dungeon, solve puzzles, find special item, use item to defeat boss. However, I feel that Twilight Princess HD adds a lot to this formula.
Combat feels more fun here. The variety of attacks and skills at your disposal (should you choose to learn them) is great. Besides Link’s arsenal, playing as Wolf Link is also fun. Fighting in wolf form isn’t that great, but his other skills make up for it and later dungeons that have you switch forms are well done.
I think that out of all the 3D Zelda games, Twilight Princess HD has some of the best dungeons in the series. Their designs are the most intricate and fun dungeons to play. Some incorporate more than just items and enemies. They also make use of other characters with Snowpeak Ruins being one of the most memorable (so much so that it was in one of my Top Ten lists in 2014).
Puzzles are well thought out, and a surprising amount of them make use of every item you’ve gotten up to that point. However, some still suffer from the 3D Zelda problem of being stuck until you find the one inconspicuous piece that solves the whole thing.
On that note, Twilight Princess HD has some cool and unique things to offer as far as dungeon items go. I will say that it sucks that some of the items are one-trick ponies; used in their dungeon then stored away, never to be seen again. I can’t even remember any other time I used the Ball and Chain besides the Snowpeak Ruins.
It is appreciated that Twilight Princess HD isn’t just a Virtual Console-style port. It actually brings some new gameplay elements and improvements with it. One of the biggest improvements is the structure of the Tears of Light quests.
Similar to the Triforce Shards improvements in Wind Waker HD, the Tears of Light quests reduce the amount of Tears needed to be collected and also indicated their locations in each area on the map. This makes them not only easier to track, but also less tedious to grab. You’ve also got the option for Off-TV Play, which is always appreciated.
The game controls are also vastly improved, even more so when coming from the Wii version. The Gamepad screen makes it super easy to switch item loadouts, to view a detailed map, and the switch between wolf and human forms. The gyro controls of the Gamepad also helps in tandem with the first-person camera and works so much better than the Wii Remote ever did.
Other controls are still a bit dated. The camera still only moves left/right and zooms in/out which feels a bit weird in a modern game. It’s still possible to get used to it and I was able to. That said, the thing that controls the worst has to be Epona. Frankly, I’d much rather switch to Wolf Link and run slightly slower just to not use Epona. Oh well, there’s always fast travel with the Twilight Portals.
The physical version comes with the Wolf Link amiibo, which gives you a couple of extra features. The most useful one has to be Quick Load. This lets you tap the amiibo to the Gamepad on the title screen to quick load a save game tied to it. The other feature is the inclusion of a challenge dungeon called the Cave of Shadows.
This challenge dungeon is like the Cave of Ordeals you find in the main game, with the catch being that you have to fight as Wolf Link. Beating this dungeon unlocks the Giant’s Wallet, which brings your max Rupee count up to 2,000. It sounds like this amiibo is locking content, but the Giant’s Wallet is also still unlockable through Agitha the old fashion way. Besides that, there’s not much else. With those features, I don’t think the physical version is worth $10 extra alone. Nevertheless, it has great build quality as a collectable, so I’d recommend picking up this version if you can find it.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD is not the most impressive HD remaster you’ve seen. Resolution improvements and minor lighting and texture fixes are all you’re really getting here, but these can dramatically enhance your experience, especially when compared to the Wii version. It may be a harder sell if you’ve recently played the original, but it’s well worth it for newcomers. On top of that, it’s easily one of my all time favorite Zelda games. Despite its flaws (and it does have several), I still wholeheartedly recommend playing this game.