The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess came out 10 years ago for Nintendo GameCube and Wii. Now it’s been rereleased with HD graphics for the Wii U. The new version is mostly the same as the original, but with a few key updates.
Twilight Princess HD takes place in the kingdom of Hyrule, hundreds of years after the events of Majora’s Mask HD (and in a separate timeline from several other Zelda games). The Twilight Realm, which is a sort of parallel universe with Hyrule, has been taken over by the evil Zant. Zant is now on a mission to take over Hyrule, too, shrouding the whole kingdom in darkness. Our hero Link gets involved after Twilight creatures kidnap his village’s children. Link goes on a mission to rescue them and along the way is recruited to save the kingdom by a snarky Twilight creature named Midna. To add a bit of complication, whenever Link enters a portion of the map that has been covered by Twilight, he transforms into a wolf.
Although the bones of this story are pretty basic Zelda fare—innocent working boy gets wrangled into saving a magical kingdom—Twilight Princess HD manages to bring a lot of new stuff to the table by way of its ominous (and often bizarre) tone. Midna is a wonderful ally throughout the game, and her dark humor makes her genuinely entertaining to spend time with. She is very clear upfront about using Link to get to her end goal—defeating the corrupt Zant. Saving Hyrule is almost a footnote in her real mission. Compared with most other Zelda sidekicks (I’m looking at you, Navi), Midna is an incredibly fleshed-out character with a great arc and independent motivations.
Twilight Princess HD is jam-packed with elegant details that really make the experience complete. There are dozens of optional side quests and hidden caverns to explore while hunting for collectibles, and pretty much every character has a detailed visual design and a unique personality. Twilight Princess HD builds on a familiar world and embellishes it in amazing ways. The updated graphics make the world feel more tangible than ever.
Although you don’t need to play any other Zelda games to enjoy Twilight Princess HD, it always amazes me how interconnected and complex the Zelda universe can be. Ocarina of Time HD, Majora’s Mask HD, and Twilight Princess HD in particular make for a wonderful trilogy. If you’re a huge Zelda nerd (like me), I recommend checking out this official backstory for one of Twilight Princess HD’s side characters.
Like other Zelda games, Twilight Princess HD’s gameplay is made up of puzzling, collecting, talking, and exploring. The remake uses the basic mechanics of the original GameCube version, and you can play with either the GamePad or a Wii U Pro controller (but not with a Wii remote).
This game has some of my favorite dungeons in the entire Zelda universe, employing incredibly clever puzzles and huge, open areas. The designers intentionally tried to make every environment feel bigger in this game, and it gives the settings a wonderfully ominous feel. There are also some really amazing new items in this game, including the Spinner (which Link rides around on like a top) and the Dominion Rod (which brings statues to life).
What bothers me the most in the gameplay is the pacing of the side quests. Many important items can’t be achieved until late in the game, which practically eliminates the need for them. The distribution of Rupees (in-game currency) also felt off-balance somehow. But overall, I consider Twilight Princess HD to be a very smooth play, packed with satisfying moments and clever secrets. While its beginning can be painfully slow, the dramatic finale is a great payoff.
The remake features only a few big changes, but dozens of small changes are unobtrusively snuck in here and there. On the whole I think Nintendo did a great job with them. Almost every update makes the game smoother and easier to play, or adds something fun to the experience. There are a few things I am not so sure about, though.
The game’s amiibo functionality feels shoehorned in. If you tap the new Midna/Wolf Link amiibo to your GamePad, you can access a brand-new area called the Cave of Shadows. To be honest, I wasn’t really impressed by it. The idea behind this area is that it challenges you to face off against dozens of enemies in your wolf form, since you usually end up fighting as a human in the main quest. But I don’t really enjoy fighting as a wolf in the first place, so the cave felt like a slog.
If you do play the Cave of Shadows, don’t save it for the end, like I did. To reach the third and final section of the cave, you’re forced to start over from the beginning at least twice. That was…disappointing to discover.
The GamePad’s new features are mostly great. The second screen can switch between showing off your item inventory, showing a map, or displaying the entire game (if you want to turn off the TV). It was nice to be able to change items without pausing, but it was incredibly frustrating that I could only select items by tapping and dragging on the touch screen, and not by moving my joystick.
There’s also a new item called the Poe Lantern, which I found pretty useless. It’s designed to make it easier to find Poes, but it only glows when it’s equipped, and you can’t use it to light torches or do any of the other things the regular lamp can do. On the bright side, the game did add a Poe counter to the map, which was much more useful for me.
Lastly, Twilight Princess HD does a great job incorporating Miiverse features. There are new Miiverse stamps littered throughout the game, including a complete Hylian alphabet. Twilight Princess HD features a lot of decorative Hylian writing that can be easily translated into English, which sounds like a really fun way to lose a few hours.
Twilight Princess was the first Zelda game to earn a T for Teen rating. This game definitely pushes the spooky stuff, with creepy ghosts and monster battles that may frighten young kids. The violence is about on par with The Lord of the Rings movies. The game also features a bar, though alcohol is never mentioned.
Twilight Princess HD doesn’t do much to change its original subject matter, but it doesn’t need to do much. This game is a classic for good reason. It plays like the cool, older sibling of Ocarina of Time in the best ways possible. Sometimes it’s a little weird, sometimes it’s a little slow, but overall it’s fun, satisfying, thoughtful, and gorgeous. If you love puzzles and spooky fantasy adventures, add Twilight Princess HD to your list.