The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD Review – Remastering a Divisive Classic

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a game that’s quite contentious among Zelda fans. On one end of the spectrum, fans consider it to be the best game in the series, while the other side considered it one of the worst games in the series. As a gamer who considers The Legend of Zelda to be the greatest gaming franchise in existence, I found myself somewhere towards the middle when I first played the game back in 2006. While Twilight Princess is far from the worst Zelda entry, the game has some flaws that prevented it from being the best. No matter where you stand in the argument, Twilight Princess is a fantastic adventure title. Now that Nintendo has remastered Twilight Princess for the HD era, has my opinion of the game changed at all? Is this remaster worth picking up for practically a third time? Let’s dive into Twilight Princess HD and find out.

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Not much has changed in this high definition remaster of Twilight Princess. Some fans of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD may be a little disappointed to see that Twilight Princess’ transition to HD didn’t quite shine as brightly as the former did. Fortunately, Nintendo and Tantalus Media (developer of the port) had a few tricks up their sleeves to make Twilight Princess HD the definitive version of the game. Textures have been reworked and look much more detailed than the muddy textures found in the Wii and Gamecube releases. While you’re not going to see anything too modern in the texture department, the game looks noticeably better when comparing the original releases side by side. The bump to the 1080p resolution makes the game look much crisper, but the polygon count on player models are still pretty low and could have used some reworking. Some of the lighting looks nicer too, especially in the twilight sections that often included over-exaggerated bloom lighting at times which have been toned down a bit. Seeing the areas of Hyrule consumed by twilight in the distant skies looks much cooler than I remembered too. The game still runs at a stable 30 frames per second to retain the feel of the original, but a few minor dips do still occur.

Fans of the Wii version’s motion controls will be sad to hear that Twilight Princess HD cannot be played in this method. For me personally, this is fine since I preferred the Gamecube version’s gamepad controls much more than the waggle controls. Don’t fret though, Wii fans; Twilight Princess HD does include gyroscopic aiming controls with the Wii U gamepad that still makes aiming as quick and accurate as the Wii version. While I do not like the motion controls found in the Wii version of Twilight Princess, I think the option to include them would have still been a worthy addition for those who prefer it.

Speaking of controls, the Wii U gamepad has been utilized in the same fashion as Wind Waker HD by adding a full map to the touch screen while also allowing players to equip items without having to swap between pause menus. Touch screen controls make playing Twilight Princess a much more seamless experience since players are not forced to be taken out of the gameplay in order to make crucial item swaps. Later in the game, players gain the ability to transform into Wolf Link on-the-fly, which required the player to pull up a menu in order to do so. In Twilight Princess HD, a button has been added to the touch screen so players can switch to Wolf Link quickly without constantly pausing the game, making this button one of the most welcomed new features and cutting some of the frustration out of the game.

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Twilight Princess HD is presented in the original, un-mirrored presentation of the game’s world found in the Gamecube release. The Wii version mirrored the entire world so holding the Wii remote in your right hand and nunchuck in your left hand made sense seeing as Link normally holds his sword in his left hand and shield in the right. Players who would like to experience Twilight Princess HD in the Wii version’s mirrored rendition of Hyrule cannot do so in the standard mode of the game. However, the optional Hero Mode does present the game in the mirrored variant, but it also makes the game much harder too by boosting the difficulty. A simple toggle switch for mirrored or un-mirrored mode when starting a new game would have been nice, but this isn’t an issue for someone like me who would rather not play in mirrored mode anyway since it isn’t true to the original design of the game.

The actual game design has received a few tweaks too. Vessel of Light sections early in the game requires Wolf Link and Midna to seek out 16 bugs that contain “tears of light” which revive Spirits of Light and cleanses areas of Hyrule consumed by twilight. These sections are tedious and must be completed three times — one for each major area in the game, which pad the game length and make the road to the first three temples drag on. Luckily, Nintendo dropped the amount of tears to collect by four, forcing the player to only collect 12 bugs now. Even though these sections are still tedious, it helps that players get to spend a little less time dealing with them.

Swimming controls have also been overhauled to make playing through aquatic sections of the game a bit easier on the player. While still not ideal, I’ll take the upgrade over the original game’s wonky swimming controls. Unfortunately, Tantalus didn’t enhance the controls on Epona, which is still frustrating and often unresponsive when attempting to turn around or jump fences. One segment of the game requires Link on horseback to protect a caravan travelling to Kakariko Village while being attacked by orcs and flying beasts. This segment still frustrated the hell out of me due to the stiff analog controls while riding Epona. I’m disappointed that horseback riding didn’t get smoothed out, but it’s not a deal killer by any means.

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Amiibo support has been integrated into Twilight Princess HD too, which can be handy at times. Every Zelda-themed Amiibo will do something special once it is scanned into the status screen by pressing down on the d-pad. The two Link Amiibos will refill arrows, Shiek and Zelda will refill hearts, Ganondorf will deal double damage to the player and Wolf Link will gain access to an optional bonus Cave of Shadows area that acts as an enemy battle royale. Completing the Cave of Shadows grants players a huge rupee wallet upgrade. An Amiibo can only be scanned once an hour so don’t expect to abuse the system to make the game easier. The Ganondorf Amiibo must be scanned every time the game is booted up in order to keep the challenge of the added damage active.

I have not played Twilight Princess since it originally released on the Gamecube back in 2006. Upon completing the game back then, I adored it but also thought it was a flawed experience. Lengthy, drawn out segments in between dungeons drags the pacing down and a few of the forced Wolf Link segments feel a little monotonous. The opening of the game can take upwards to three hours before even reaching the first dungeon and that’s a little ridiculous. Still, I remember Twilight Princess had some of the strongest and most unique dungeon design in the entire series and that has not changed. The dungeons really are a treat to solve and a few of them, like Snowpeak Ruins and the City in the Sky, are two of the most memorable moments in the entire Zelda franchise.

While I still feel the game is a little bloated, I didn’t have as much of an issue playing through it this time around as I did before. Maybe it’s because I’ve experienced this all before and knew what to expect, but I found that I have a higher appreciation of Twilight Princess after playing through it again in HD. The characters are still very charming even though some of them are a little frightening (Malo) and the presentation is one of the most cinematic in the entire franchise. The links to previous games like Ocarina of Time are exciting to see and the spinner weapon is still an incredibly cool yet under-utilized weapon. I still love this game and maybe even a little more so now that I’ve revisited it.

No matter how you feel about the game, Twilight Princess is a great entry to The Legend of Zelda franchise that totally deserves to be experienced. The game has an interesting cast of quirky characters, some great music and fantastic dungeon designs. Tantalus could have put a little extra effort into remastering the game in HD by enhancing the player models and cutting a bit of the fat, but Twilight Princess HD is still the best way to experience Twilight Princess whether or not you’ve already played through it. That being said, if you didn’t like Twilight Princess before, this version isn’t going to change your mind, but I found replaying the game gave me a higher appreciation for what Nintendo and Aonuma accomplished here. Grab the game and help relieve some of the stress of waiting for Nintendo to finally give us Zelda U.

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Josh Faulkner

Josh is a native Ohio-an who grew up in a small town that had very little for kids to do. As a result, Josh picked up video games at a very young age. Video games played a huge part in his childhood and continued to do so in his adult life. Starting out on an Atari 2600 when he was 3 years old, gaming has sort of grown up alongside with Josh and continues to be his biggest hobby. As an IT technician by day, Josh is an aspiring gaming writer by night who founded a few websites including 16 Bit Heroes and Too Busy Gaming, while also dabbling in retro gaming YouTube videos and live streaming events.