When Nintendo began its forays into remastering games, some felt that the Japanese company were truly starting to rest on their laurels, returning to the victories of the past while new and exciting IP became increasingly thin on the ground. However, the phenomenal quality of Ocarina Of Time 3D, The Wind Waker HD, and Majora’s Mask 3D helped allay many of those fears. The announcement of The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD was quite rightly met with glee, but in this case, while some of the magic has clearly been retained it’s perhaps not quite the same experience it was nearly a decade ago.
For some, it’s the jump to high definition that’ll interest them the most, but where Wind Waker HD simply emphasised its gorgeous and almost timeless art-style, Twilight Princess’ more realistic graphics have aged less gracefully. That’s not to say that there aren’t moments of beauty, nor that there aren’t some fantastic creature and enemy designs, but the sharper graphics and improved textures often serve to emphasise the simplicity of the locations, and indeed their emptiness.
Ultimately, the foundation of the game is a ten-year-old Gamecube game, and though every effort has been made to make both textures and the central characters – in particular Link in both his Hylian and wolf forms, and the impish Midna – look their very best, the often grotesque designs of many of the plain human characters just seems incongruous with the rest of the game’s visuals.
Sadly some of the character animations haven’t received an update, and they serve to emphasise the game’s age, particularly when climbing or crawling. They’re so clunky that every time you perform those actions it takes you out of the game, and it would have been nice to address them in some manner. It’s worth noting that the animations for Link’s wolf form animations and those of Epona are excellent, as are many of the enemy animations and those of some of the huge bosses. However, it makes some of the disparities more obvious.
What’s perhaps most disappointing is that despite the original game’s humble technical requirements and the Wii U’s capabilities, the HD remaster doesn’t always run perfectly. Though moments of severe slowdown occur infrequently, the game can experience minor hang-ups for no apparent reason. It’s hugely unusual for a Nintendo title, particularly in such a high profile case, and one can only hope that Tantalus Media are hard at work to eradicate these hiccups.
The Wii U exclusive additions are niceties that make returning to Twilight Princess a more intuitive experience, though they’re not essential. Off-screen play is helpful, though the use of the gamepads gyro for aiming can make for some interesting physical contortions as you line up the boomerang, bow or slingshot. The instant access to the mini-map, your items, and various touchscreen controls work as you’d expect and make changing things on the fly nice and easy.
From a personal point of view, one of the key advantages to playing the HD version is the loss of the Wii version’s motion controls. Having to use the pre-MotionPlus enabled Wii remote lacked the precision that the game often asked of you, and the return to the Gamecube’s traditional control method genuinely makes the game more fun to play, rather than wrestling with an additional unnecessary barrier.
The sound design is again an element that it would have been nice to see reworked, with Toru Minegishi’s compositions yearning for full orchestration. There are still memorable themes, both from the series’ past and exclusive to Twilight Princess, and they’ve been performed live before. It simply feels like a missed opportunity not to have utilised these arrangements.
There is a lot of aural repetition here though – whether it’s monkey chattering, twilight creatures or a particular battle theme – and I felt some of it grated far more than when I originally played the game all those years ago. It’s not a deal-breaker by any stretch of the imagination, but it takes away from the experience in a way that I didn’t expect.
What remain bona fide classics are the narrative and the dungeon design. I’d forgotten what a delight Midna was as a companion, and your journey alongside her is nuanced, engaging and features some great imagery. The darkened Hyrule and its spirit residents create a phenomenal sense of place and foreboding, while your journey towards rebalancing the kingdom remains amongst my favourite Legend of Zelda tales.
As with many of Nintendo’s current Wii U slate, Twilight Princess HD makes use of their popular Amiibo figurines, though only the wolf Link one from the special edition bundle of the game adds anything meaningful in the form of the Cave of Shadows dungeon. Sadly Nintendo weren’t able to provide us with a sample in order to experience the new content, but hopefully we’ll have the opportunity in the near future.
Beyond that, you can use your existing Zelda figurines to varying effect, from Link and Toon Link replenishing your arrows to Ganondorf increasing the game’s difficulty by doubling the damage you receive. They’re not going to have you rushing out to complete your collection, but it’s a small bonus for series fans.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD is a highly enjoyable remaster of one of the Gamecube and Wii’s highlights, though it isn’t the perfect product fans perhaps would have hoped for. Some elements of the game haven’t aged all that well and the remastering process simply hasn’t addressed them. However, with that still in mind, Twilight Princess HD remains an adventure that deserves revisiting, still offering a great deal for returning fans and newcomers.
- Developer:Nintendo EAD, Tantalus Media
- Platforms:Wii U
- Release Date:04/03/16