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Looking Back: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD is an action/adventure game for the Nintendo Wii U. Released in 2016, it served as the remaster of the 2006 title initially released for Wii and GameCube. Twilight Princess HD features a number of updates and quality-of-life improvements exclusive to the Wii U version as well as amiibo support. At press time, it retails for $50 for the physical version and $60 on the Nintendo eShop

2021 marks the 35th anniversary of Nintendo's illustrious Legend of Zelda series. Following Mario's 35th anniversary, along with the release of Super Mario 3D All-Stars, it's all but likely that Nintendo will follow suit with the Zelda series. In doing so, we may see a re-release of Twilight Princess HD for Nintendo Switch as well. If you don't own a Wii U, I would recommend biding your time for the release.

However, for fans of Twilight Princess and those who never played either version of the game, I have some good news. Not only is Twilight Princess a wonderful game in general but the HD version solves several issues of the original game. Thanks to the ability to increase the difficulty as well as the condensed fetch quests for Tears of Light, these improvements make this the definitive version of the Twilight Princess. With that being said, I want you to know that Nintendo created a classic that has only gotten better with age.

Twilight Princess follows the mythos of the Legend of Zelda series. Revolving around the artifact of the gods, the Triforce, it is the centerpieces of the storyline: the hero Link, the princess Zelda, and the lord of darkness, Ganondorf. In the story of Twilight Princess, the land of Hyrule has been taken over by an endless twilight. The shadow engulfs the world and turns Hyrule into a world of monsters.

Much like Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask, Twilight Princess features a bit darker of a storyline than the lighthearted appearance of Wind Waker. Its darker storytelling isn't afraid to show Hylian Knights dying in battle or the violent climax of the final battle.

But perhaps the most telling part of Twilight Princess' storyline comes from the introduction of Midna. The mysterious character that joins Link hides her complicated and tragic backstory behind her devious smile and nonchalant fa├žade. Midna is both largely the crux of the game's narrative as well as one of the most notable characters featured in the series.

The 3D action combat that originated in Ocarina of Time has seen significant improvements and additions over the course of several games. Wind Waker added attack combos and parrying abilities while Minish Cap, the GBA title, added several new techniques, like the rolling stab. Twilight Princess offers all of these techniques and then some. However, you'll unlock them by finding Howling Stones scattered across Hyrule and learning techniques from the Hero's Shade. These techniques add new depth to Link's arsenal, such as the Shield Bash and Helm Splitter, which in itself is a variation of one of his Wind Waker parries.

I daresay, however, that the combat techniques might have trivialized combat a bit too much. Even the powerful Darknuts, known as the elite armored enemies in the series, can be bested by mashing Helm Splitter and jump attacks without taking a single hit. Sadly, the original versions of Twilight Princess were too easy and lenient due to the small amounts of damage you received. 

Thankfully, the HD version blesses the player with both the Hero Mode and the Ganondorf amiibo which make enemies deal out more damage. But if you're coming from games like From Software's Souls series, you're quickly going to find how easy it is to trivialize even the hardest of enemies without losing stamina. Fortunately, the boss battles should certainly give you a challenge as each one will require a different strategy.

Outside of combat, Twilight Princess offers players many challenging puzzles. The dungeon design hits a high standard with a balanced level of challenge that offers elements such as your abilities while transformed into a wolf. 

I found the item selection to be a bit minuscule compared to other Zelda games in the series. Thinking about A Link to the Past, I loved using the Cane of Byrna, the Fire Rod, and the three magical spells in battle. Twilight Princess focuses heavily on items being used largely for puzzles, like the Spinner, Lantern, or Ball and Chain which will find limited use in combat. It's not the same as switching out to the Hammer or even a larger sword, unfortunately. However, the Wolf abilities, Link's sword techniques, and the return of Link's Awakening's Bomb Arrows fill in the gap for combat options.

Despite many of the complaints I've seen about the overworld being too big and barren, I never had an issue with it. Hyrule Field features a number of enemy types, largely Bokoblins, Kargarocs, and Guays. You'll find yourself crossing over Hyrule Field with Epona who, compared to the N64 titles, gallops much faster than before. The addition of warp points also helps streamline travel immensely.

Another complaint I remember from the original releases was the fetch quests. These came in the form of the Tears of Light from the first half of the game. You'll be comforted to know these are both heavily streamlined and condensed thanks to the subtraction of several tears in each part. I never found these to be a problem as they only took a few minutes to complete without much pointless searching. This is yet another blessing of the HD remaster which I honestly recommend over the original releases. 

What I loved about Twilight Princess was the game's overall darker tone. As the first T-rated Zelda game, it wasn't afraid to explore concepts like death and everything around you dying or could be dying. It wasn't afraid to be creepy at times and cast Hyrule in the twilight. However, the overall aesthetic is among my favorites in the series overall. The twilight adds its own little flavor to the game. Plus I love the aesthetic in dungeons like in Hyrule Castle, Palace of the Twilight, and the Snowpeak Ruins.

I love the shades and colors used in this game and they look even better in the remaster. Twilight Hyrule always looked gorgeous and the Palace of Twilight conveys just how well the HD conversion worked for the game. However, I have to admit some of the NPCs look kind of ugly which I suppose is just part of the chosen art direction.

I will say I enjoy the animations in the game, however. Even the little details, like Link spinning his sword while targeting an enemy brings battles to life. Plus when you sheathe his weapon, Link will strike a victory pose. This was also used as one of his taunts in the Super Smash Bros. series.

You'll also surely enjoy the music. It employs some mighty boss themes and wondrous area themes. I'm quite fond of the Twilight area themes which heavily use a keyboard sound that you might hear in Konami's Silent Hill series. Also, I'm quite fond of the many Zelda remixes featured in the game, like Zora's Domain, Lost Woods, Zelda's Theme, and Hyrule Castle from past games.

Twilight Princess HD included the Cave of Shadows. Along with the Cave of Ordeals from the original game, it's another way to challenge you if you're seeking more from the combat in the game. You can also stack the Ganondorf amiibo with the Hero Mode to take 4x enemy damage. Unfortunately, Hero Mode doesn't offer Hearts around the field which is the one reason I've never been a fan of it.

I spent around 30+ hours playing the game and I have to say I enjoyed the side-quests. Catching bugs for Agitha, hunting Poe's Souls for Jovani, and funding the Castle Town store are just a few of the things you can do to earn Heart Pieces and bottles. It also has its share of mini-games as well, like Cucco gliding in Lake Hylia and the STAR game in Castle Town.

I also found it amusing that the game's final dungeon is in Hyrule Castle. That's largely because it was the final dungeon of the previous game, The Minish Cap, which as mentioned earlier, originated the rolling stab technique. While Link's Awakening was the series' first handheld title, it indeed paved the way for Ocarina of Time and the rest of the series in general. However, to see Minish Cap, a GBA title which can be cleared in under 12 hours, influence Twilight Princess is honestly wonderful. 

Final Verdict: Recommended
When I first beat Twilight Princess, I thought it was a great game held back by its flaws. I didn't like taking only 1/4 hearts of damage from enemies. Truth be told, I'm not only glad for the Ganondorf amiibo boosting difficulty but I also feel Twilight Princess successfully founded its own sense of identity and not just borrowed from its N64 predecessors. I do wish, however, that I did not have to use the Ganondorf amiibo to get double damage every time I booted up the game. It should have only been a one-time thing.

The way Twilight Princess HD fixes the original release's flaws alone makes it worth playing again. It's the best possible version of an otherwise flawed favorite. With that being said, it's hard to really pinpoint anything wrong with Twilight Princess, per se. Rather, how it measures up to the best of the series really depends on your preference. It's indeed up there with the likes of Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, Wind Waker, and, more recently, Breath of the Wild as far as top 3D Zelda games go. Do you like the dark, somber tone and the combat abilities? Then Twilight Princess might be your favorite Zelda game.

However, I can't in good faith recommend getting it for Wii U unless you already own the console. If you never owned one or you sold it, have faith in Nintendo to deliver a Switch release. It will come out on a better console and hopefully feature all the challenges and updates from this HD remaster. I would definitely say play this over the GameCube version unless you don't mind the enemies doing minuscule damage and spending a few extra minutes collecting tears of light. The core game is still an easy 9/10 and marks another solid, quality entry in the Zelda series. I enjoyed the 30 hours I put into the game,  and I'm delighted I got to give this version the chance it deserved.