I’ll break convention and start this review with a confession: I’ve never really gotten into The Legend of Zelda. Now, this is blasphemy coming from a self-confessed Nintendrone but I feel it’s an important point to make when I say that I never finished the original Twilight Princess on my Wii way back in the late 2000s. It was one of two games I got with the system at launch (the other being Call of Duty 3), so I did end up spending a good deal of time with it. However, having the attention span of a puppy made sticking to games quite difficult. Unless it was fetch. That shit was baller, yo. When Nintendo released Twilight Princess HD, it was a newfound opportunity to dig into this cult favourite of many fans of the series. But is it worth a purchase and, more importantly, worth buying a Wii U for?
For those particularly out of the loop, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was a launch title for the Nintendo Wii (and enjoyed a mirrored version on the Gamecube) that was pretty heavily praised at the time of release. Hang on, let me get my copy of the Zelda formula out so I can summarise the story… follows the adventures of Link yadda yadda small village blah blah Ganon’s the bad guy yadda yadda save the princess…ah, here we are: A strange darkness has overcome Hyrule, and it’s up to Link and his new wisecracking sidekick Midna to discover its purpose and save the land from eternal darkness which just so happens to involve saving Zelda from its clutches. Got it? Me neither. Look, a dungeon! Many felt that Twilight Princess was a true sequel to the Nintendo 64 classic Ocarina of Time, as the look and feel of the game was pretty damn similar. Back then, I thought it was similar in all the wrong ways: Arduous overworlds that offered little to do outside of passing through them, sidequests that were either too easy or completely unfair and a story that missed the mark many times. Still, it was an enjoyable enough game and did some things extremely well, including its superb dungeon design and memorable characters and set pieces. It’s like the partner that you can’t help but love, despite them going to the pub every other night and coming home without a shirt, because they’re just so damn nice. It’s one of the few Wii games where the motion controls didn’t feel tacked on and actually enhanced the experience, so their removal from this Wii U port is somewhat saddening.
“Aaaaaaaaaah’m gonna git ya!”
Here’s the mail, it never fails!
“Tonight on Ancient Aliens…”
Yes, motion controls are gone but they’re replaced with some excellent use of the Wii U’s gamepad. This includes improved use of control sticks and the controller’s superior button layout (in comparison to the Wiimote and Nunchuk) as well as the ingeniously simple ability to manage your inventory using the gamepad screen. The latter is a feature that every RPG on the system needs to have. On the other hand, Wolf Link still controls like a drunk kitten (but at least they’ve tried calming him down with some peppermint tea or whatever cats drink). The game’s areas and sidequests have been tweaked as well, so they’re substantially more balanced than the original’s offerings which is a change that was desperately needed in any reimagining of the game. Speaking of areas, Twilight Princess HD offers a brand new area to owners of the Wolf Link amiibo, the Cave of Shadows (original, I know). This new area’s all right, but nothing really worth buying the collector’s edition for. The game also supports other Zelda amiibo from games like Super Smash Bros. to unlock various tweaks to the game, which is a nice touch that’s thankfully become standard Nintendo fare and adds to the overall value of your collection.
Now, you’re not here for all of this…are you? What truly entices you is the graphics! Those brand spanking new graphics that make full use of the Wii U’s technical muscle! The eye candy that’ll make your eyes rot and give you aesthetic diabetes! Well, I hate to break it to you…but it’s just not that good. Yes, the textures look amazing and the game will look way better than the original on your “Xbox huge” TV, but the lack of detail in lighting and other effects really drag down the hard work put into other parts of the game. And there certainly has been some very good work put into this remastering, it’s just that the term HD may be somewhat of a false claim. This is a real shame, because The Wind Waker‘s HD remaster was phenomenally good-looking and was a prime example of what a remaster should be. Either Twilight Princess‘s engine didn’t allow for these changes, or Nintendo just didn’t care as much about this game than Wind Waker. Another can of worms entirely, to be sure, and one that’s probably started a bar fight or two.
In the end, do Twilight Princess’ flaws bring down what was a pretty good entry in the series? I would say not. Yes, the graphical improvement is mediocre at best. Yes, the game still suffers from overworlds that make like the Duracell Bunny and keep going and going and going. But the game still has the charm, the longetivity, the originality for a Zelda game, and the…well, Zelda-ness. If you’re seeking more Zelda to tide you over until the next one, it’s worth your money. But a system seller? Not on your life.
Wii U exclusive. A free copy of the Collector’s Edition was provided by Nintendo.