2016 marks the 30th anniversary of Nintendos green clad hero. While it is unlikely that we’ll see a brand new instalment to the franchise this year, Nintendo had prepared a HD remaster of one of their best. 2006’s dark, gritty epic Twilight Princess has been given a HD facelift, as well as receiving a couple of new features and some needed tweaks to some core gameplay mechanics.
Twilight Princess kicks off with one of the series slowest buildups as we see Links day-to-day life in the secluded woodland village of Ordon. It takes nearly an hour before things really swing into action, and Link is on his way to finding the Princess and getting his first glimpse at a dungeon. Once you’ve over that initial bump everything starts moving along nicely. We see Link pulled away from his quaint little country life, to set out on an epic quest to save Hyrule from a curtain of Twilight covering the land, and do battle against endless hordes of monsters. Across your journey you’ll meet a fair share of interesting and memorable characters. To name a few there’s the flirtatious barkeeper Telma who aids Link a number of times on his quest, Yeto and Yeto a pair of yeti living in the mountains of Snowpeak and of course Links companion this time round, Midna. Sassy and sarcastic she comes across as the games most memorable figure. She provides hints and aids Link while in wolf form but she seems to have an agenda of her own, belittling our hero and egging him on at just the right times.
Jumping away from the great character development elements and you get the challengingly clever dungeons. Twilight Princess easily features some of the series best and most memorable labyrinths. One of the best things I personally like about these is that a number of them are not setup as your typical dungeon. Goron Mines is a working mine complete with shrines for the Goron Elders and Snowpeak Ruins has recently been overrun with monsters but it is the house of a certain Yeti couple. Bosses are equally memorable with the aforementioned Snowpeak Ruins boss being unforgettable as it concludes with a touching little scene. Dungeons add a new tool to Links arsenal. Varied and interesting each weapon switches up the gameplay nicely, presenting new ways of tackling puzzles. The Dominion Rod lets Link Manipulate statues, the Spinner allows him to ride along walls and the Clawshot enables him to cling to surfaces like Spiderman. These tools are enjoyable to play with and each has their own role in the game however the usage of some is very limited. The Slingshot, Spinner and Dominion Rod for example see very little action outside of their respective dungeons.
Hyrule’s overworld is the biggest map of any other title. Each area from Kakariko Village to Lake Hylia has their own place in the story and each holds a significant number of secrets and collectibles. However the fields outside of the main settlements are sparsely populated with very little reason to revisit them after you’ve found their secrets. Even Clock Town which appears busy and bustling has little distractions from the main plot. Scattered over the land are your usual Heart pieces but on top of that you also get to play bug hunter, stamp enthusiast and ghostbuster. The latter of these was always hardest thing to accomplish, only appearing at night you’d be forced to tediously wait for the sun to set. Nintendo have now addressed the issue with a running count of Poes in each area and a new lantern that glows when you’re in vicinity of one.
In terms of Links fighting prowess Twilight Princess has some of the best, with the awkward motion controlled sword swings of the Wii having been dropped. What made this game different from other, was that Link gained new sword skills. Taught to you by a skeletal warrior (which if you’ve read the Hyrule Historia you’ll discover is Ocarinas and Majoras incarnation of the hero) add a new layer of depth to Links otherwise repetitive sword swing. For heavily armoured foes there the Backslash, for overly defensive monsters there’s the simple Shield Bash and if those aren’t enough there’s the mighty Helm Splitter. Inventory management is now also mapped to the Gamepad for easier access. It’s a great streamlined setup which helps to speed up those slow moments. The best new addition though is the ability to transform between Wolf and Human forms at the press of a button, cutting out the slow tedious chats with Midna.
Visuals, like you’d expect, have taken a substantial graphical update. The darker, grittier art style is something I’ve always loved about the game, but the presentation was always a little messy with muddy textures and overused bloom lighting effects. This looks to have all been addressed in this remake. Boasting a new set of HD textures and some higher resolution models the characters and environments have a much crisper finish. The only real performance issue I could find came down to off screen play. While playing on the gamepad you can encounter some pretty bad frame-rate drops particularly when you’re surrounded by a number of foes.
So beyond the new and improved visuals what else have Nintendo brought in? The first thing you’ll encounter when starting up is the addition of the Hero mode difficulty that has cropped up in a number of games of late. By choosing this option you’re opening yourself up to double damage from enemies with no heart drops to recover. Not only that but the whole world is a mirror image of the one on normal difficulty. If you’ve played the game already on the Wii then you’ll be used to this setup but for veterans of the GameCube like myself, prepare yourself as it can be a bit disorientating. For all secret and treasure hunters out there a new collectable has also been added; 50 stamps to use in Miiverse that include the Hylian alphabet among other things. Not the most exciting inclusion, but compared to how they’ve been implemented in other games it’s a much more interesting way of obtaining them.
Twilight Princess HD is also the latest game to embrace the way of the Amiibo. All Zelda Smash Bros Amiibo can be used in this game; Sheik and Zelda restore your hearts and the two Links fill you quiver with arrows. They’re not great benefits but they can be very helpful in a crucial moment. Ganondorfs Amiibo offers a more intriguing mechanic in that he quadruples any damage you take. Combine that with Hero mode and you’re looking at a very Dark Souls-esque experience. Finally for those that bought the limited edition copy there’s the Wolf Link Amiibo. This figure gets you access to the Cave of Shadows a similar dungeon to the in game Cave of Ordeals. 40 floors of enemies, getting progressively harder, the key difference is that you’re forced to tackle it as Wolf Link. If anything it’s a much harder experience, you’ve got no access to recovery items outside the Amiibos, plus your moveset is significantly reduced. The thrill doesn’t last very long though and soon leaves you wanting something more.
The decade old adventure has received a nice rejuvenation, that’s fixed a number of gameplay elements, sped up inventory management and polished the aging, gritty visuals. That said it’s also brought up a couple of new fiddly issues like laggy offscreen play and a lackluster new dungeon. Still The legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD is nice update to one of the franchises best, a great way for fans to reminisce and a fantastic starting point for newcomers.
This review was originally published on the site GamersFTW which unfortunately has now been taken down.