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The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD Review

Before I begin this review in earnest, I feel obligated to share that Twilight Princess is my favorite installment in The Legend of Zelda franchise. I first played it back in 2007 on the Nintendo Wii and have revisited it twice before picking up Twilight Princess HD for the Wii U.

That being said, I will jump right in and admit the game is not perfect. The original wasn’t perfect back in 2006, and the HD remaster is definitely not perfect. Playing as Wolf Link remains a stale experience compared to human Link, with no items or tools at your disposal save your mandibles and an area-of-effect attack courtesy of Midna. The game is too easy an experience, with creative but largely non-threatening bosses. The visuals, while appropriate in tone, do not hold up well, and the HD overhaul has some notable shortcomings.

Aside from those gripes, the game is still a terrific venture through the land of Hyrule and remains as profound as it was in 2006. And yes, I would still rank it as my favorite in the franchise.

With the exception of Wolf Link, the combat remains an exhilarating experience, relying on all the classic Zelda elements while adding in some new items to keep things fresh (though I will admit some items, such as the Spinner, are underutilized, which is a shame). I actually found eliminating motion controls improved the experience, but if you miss it too much, you can still use limited motion function with the Gamepad (I opted to turn it off, which was relieving given it threw my aim with the bow off terribly).

The major downfall regarding combat is, again, that the game is simply not challenging enough. Even the Cave of Ordeals, a 50-floor romp through all the baddies of Twilight Princess culminating in a one-on-three against Darknuts, didn’t offer enough to daunt me, especially having the Magic Armor, which substitutes damage for losing rupees (by that point, you’ve already bought everything you’re going to need anyway).

Twilight Princess HD Fyrus

The only struggle I faced was the Cave of Shadows, an HD-exclusive dungeon accessed by using the Wolf Link amiibo. This dungeon, sadly, was dull, as you must slog through the entire 39 floors as Wolf Link. To make matters worse, sections are unlocked the further you progress in the game, and you can’t pick up where you left off, which means you must replay the first tier when you unlock the second and both tiers again when you unlock the third. This only heightens the monotony. Given the reward is just a rupee upgrade that holds 9,999 rupees (almost completely useless by that point in the game), the dungeon is a letdown, and even more so when you consider it’s one of only two new additions to HD remaster (the other being Miiverse stamps, which are fun collectibles but add nothing to the overall experience).

One of the most welcome changes—which is the same praise I offered Wind Waker HD—is the Gamepad housing the item screen and world/dungeon maps. It’s so convenient to be able to switch items on the fly or glance down at your map without having to pause and scroll through a menu, and it really helps to keep the game moving. Unlike Wind Waker HD, there were few opportunities for Twilight Princess HD to cut down on the tedium (because there isn’t much here), and only the Vessel of Light sections were abridged in the game. (To be honest, I was disappointed the Lost Woods section wasn’t trimmed, too, but it’s not near as egregious as Wind Waker’s slower moments.)

The GamePad Item Screen.

The Gamepad Item Screen.

The beauty of the game still rests in the dark and poignant tale it leads the player through, and I’m always surprised by how cinematic the game is compared to other games in the franchise. The dungeons are also some of the most memorable and unique in any Legend of Zelda title, and though not especially challenging, using a snowy mansion and a small city in the sky as dungeons is too charming to overlook.

Bonus points are awarded to the game for having a Hero Mode (though it only doubles the damage you receive) and for containing the original world map from the GCN version as well as the mirrored Wii world map (which is used for Hero Mode). However, if you’re looking for a truly compelling reason to purchase the HD remaster, there isn’t much offered in the way here that is lacking from the original releases on GCN and Wii. If you missed out the first time or no longer have a copy, however, this game is as moving and provocative as it was the first time around, and I for one reveled in revisiting this beauty of a game.

Note: this review is based off Normal Mode, not Hero Mode.