The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD Review (Wii U)

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When Link first transformed into a wolf in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, it made for a bold statement, revealing a rougher and grittier Zelda adventure. That was a response to the backlash that the prior entry, The Wind Waker, suffered for being too round and cute. In our current era of Zelda re-releases and remasters. So Twilight Princess returns to the Wii U in high definition and, in many ways large and small, Nintendo and co-developer Tantulus have updated Twilight Princess’s HD port for the new age. With a new coat of paint, how does it hold up a decade later?

Twilight Princess still remains unique in the franchise, not just for its darker art style, but its more mature overtones. Link was made a grown up once again, and this time he’s summoned on an adventure filled with life-or-death matters, quirky and diverse characters, grotesque monsters at every turn, and a bleak realm of Twilight that calls to be rescued.

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The journey’s melodrama is saved by Link’s partner character of Midna. She remains the best of his travel companions and easily the one to hold as the golden standard. Midna’s strength lies in being able to transition from a mischievous imp into a tragic figure who’s deeper backstory holds more to her than meets the eye. She endears to Link and the player in a way that no Fi or even Navi ever could. If you’ve never played Twilight Princess before, prepare to be surprised.

While the majority of this version of Hyrule Field shows its age with vast emptiness, big hulking chunks of  polygons (more on that later) and load times separating each province, the best parts are the little catacombs that beckon with hidden Heart Pieces and treasures. The same goes for the more specifically defined regions like Kakariko Village and the areas around Hyrule Castle, so full of life and character that the greater Hyrule Field pales by in comparison. Riding the vast fields again in this remaster reminded me it’s about the journey, not the destination.

The most noticeable upgrade is the high definition visuals. They certainly improve the game’s previous standard definition textures, but the game’s age shows. It’s not a full remake like the 3DS remakes of Ocarina of Time or Majora’s Mask, both of which improved the core of their original version’s art. By the standards of this year’s game visuals, you’ll instantly notice the ham hock hands, low polygon characters and chunky environments. Twilight Princess HD looks like how you remember it in 2006, only touched up to look good on an HDTV. Tantalus’ remastered texture work does draw you into this Hyrule adventure like never before.

You may remember how Twilight Princess was first launched on the Wii, where its much-touted Wii Remote and Nunchuck controls were a major key to a more “immersive” adventure experience. This was an era where motion controls held untold possibilities. If you know Twilight Princess’s version of motion controls, its console sequel Skyward Sword greatly improved on its motion controls five years later.

Motion controls are out this time, but you are able to aim projectile weapons like the slingshot and bow and arrow with the GamePad’s motion sensor. Fans of the GameCube version, take note: This remaster plays almost exactly as you remember it. Honestly, the GamePad may be the best controller with which to play Twilight Princess HD. The map display on the GamePad screen, plus easier menu navigation, makes a world of difference in the experience. And for extra convenience, Off-TV Play is also included.

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On the other hand, some of the game’s upgrades will be less noticeable to the average layman. A decade removed, it’s hard to tell that Epona’s controls are improved at all, the same with Link’s climbing. Nintendo also boasts that Tears of Light side quests have been shortened, but unless you’ve replayed and memorized the original you might not even notice all these changes. Nothing here is as profound a change on the scale of Wind Waker HD’s Fast Sail.

One major improvement: Link no longer has to see how much a Rupee is worth after you’ve collected it the first time. That speeds up the game significantly and cuts down on the annoyance factor present in the older versions, which plagued several other entries, such as Skyward Sword). Collecting the ghostly Poes has also become more convenient, thanks to a new Poe Lantern item you’ll earn in due course that pinpoints their locations.

Unlike in Wind Waker HD, an all-new area has been added to Twilight Princess HD: the new dungeon is the Cave of Shadows and the only way to access it is through the Wolf Link amiibo (only included in the Special Edition available at retail, for now). Admittedly, it is a Cave of Ordeals retread, a gauntlet of 40 increasingly challenging floors of enemies. Your progress in the Cave of Shadows is also gated across your adventure, so you won’t be able to finish in one sitting. At least the reward at the end of the tunnel is the biggest wallet possible, and not just a chest of 50 Rupees.

If you don’t have the Wolf Link figure but possess another Zelda amiibo from the Smash Bros. series, they work here too. Link and Toon Link will replenish Link’s arrows, Zelda and Shiek will replenish your health. Ganondorf conversely will cause enemies double the damage, or quadruple in the game’s new Hero Mode. This game’s edition of Hero Mode already causes enemies to deal double damage, so adding the Ganondorf amiibo on top ensures that survival is key to playing here. For fans fearing that amiibo will distract from the traditional Legend of Zelda experience, you can take them or leave them.

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Ten years later, Twilight Princess still has a lot to offer those who’ve yet to play it. The remaster is a great opportunity for fans who only played the game on the Wii to play again with normal controls. If you’re on the fence, the incentive comes down to how much you want the amiibo functionality, and how much the updated high definition graphics mean to you. If you’ve never played Twilight Princess before, this is definitively the best way to experience Hyrule’s most mature interpretation yet.

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The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD Review (Wii U)
Despite some outdated polygonal graphics and less-than-noticeable updates, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD takes the critically acclaimed Zelda adventure from 2006 and makes it better than ever. A worthy stop-gap for the real Zelda for Wii U later this year.
The Good
  • Sharper visuals
  • GamePad additions
  • Lengthty, varied quest
The Bad
  • Some dated visuals
  • Epona controls not much improved
8.5Overall Score

About The Author

Editor-in-Chief (Former)

A man with a plan. My favorite video game franchise is Pokemon, but his favorite video game is Resident Evil 4. I can also tell you trivial cartoon factoids.