Tears, shouting and uncontrollable applause. Mention The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and my mind is immediately cast back to the rapturously emotional response that it was met with at E3 2004. After the perplexed reaction that The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker‘s cel-shaded visuals were met with, it had been a moment of affirmation for Nintendo. But while adoration has since buoyed Link’s quest across the Great Sea, the years haven’t been as kind to an adventure that was once similarly met with unanimous critical praise.
Working as a young farmhand in Ordon Village, Link is once again unaware that destiny will soon see him awaken as the hero chosen by the Gods to save Hyrule. When rushing to rescue his friends from marauding Bulblins, a Shadow Beast pulls Link into the Twilight Realm where a curse transforms him into a wolf. With the mysterious shadow spirit Midna as his newfound guide, Link must rise against the powerful sorcerer Zant who threatens to cast Hyrule into perpetual twilight.
It was a far darker tale that had more in common with Nintendo 64’s Majora’s Mask, but the quest that followed will forever be remembered as among Link’s greatest. Twilight Princess boasts the most memorable and intricately designed dungeons that the series has ever seen, while reinventing many classic items with new twists that play on expectation – whether that be seen in the Water Bombs, Gale Boomerang, or Double Clawshots.
Originally destined for GameCube before Nintendo made the decision to also port the adventure as a Wii launch title, it is clear to see why opinion has become divided in the 10 years that have since passed. Away from the regularly scorned opening tutorial, the technological shift to high-definition televisions has resulted in the beloved classic looking increasingly aged in comparison to its more timeless peers.
The Legend of Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma has previously spoken about how Nintendo had experimented with converting past Zelda art styles into HD, openly considering the graphical direction for Link’s impending adventure later this year. That had resulted in the decision to develop The Wind Waker HD, a remaster that now sits alongside Ocarina of Time 3D and Majora’s Mask 3D as a way to introduce older Hylian tales to a new generation. But, at the time, Nintendo had also explored the art styles chosen for Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword, with Aonuma indicating that they didn’t have the available resources necessary to revitalise the games in the same way.
Enter Tantalus Media, the Australian developer that has spent the last few years working in secrecy to bring The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD into existence. Their expertise was called on for Mass Effect 3: Special Edition and Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Director’s Cut, and, while we’ll never be aware of their discussions, it seems that Nintendo were suitably impressed by their success in porting existing games while integrating the Wii U GamePad.
That experience has clearly been leveraged, once again lending Nintendo an opportunity in which they can address criticisms directed at the original release while rekindling the game’s mature art direction. That isn’t to say that dramatic changes have been made in Twilight Princess HD, but the background tinkering certainly lends more immediacy to the experience.
That’s noticeable in the reduced repetition in the opening hour, in expediting side missions by requiring players to collect fewer Tears of Light, and the ease in which the Wii U GamePad touch screen allows you to switch equipped weaponry or tap an icon to transform between Hylian and Wolf form.
The new Hero Mode sees the world mirrored (as necessitated in the Wii version), in which enemies will inflict twice as much damage and players must rely on potions and Pieces of Heart to restore health. Whereas the Wii U GamePad deploys optional motion controls when aiming with projectile weapons such as the Hero’s Bow and Clawshot, with Off-TV Play available to you whenever you’re shunted away from your main TV screen.
The only addition that I didn’t find as beneficial was the new Ghost Lantern item, which lights up to indicate that there is a Poe in the immediate region that you are in. Introduced as a means of easing your search for hidden Poes, it wasn’t particularly helpful – especially with more comprehensive guides readily available online. Longevity comes in collecting all Golden Bugs and Poe Souls, but Nintendo has also added 50 Miiverse stamps for players to find that often replace treasure chests that previously held rupees.
There’s also the added amiibo functionality, which sees the Wolf Link amiibo unlock the Cave of Shadows. This challenge dungeon sees players test their strength in beast form, looking to overcome increasingly overwhelming waves on enemies. It’s a rewarding diversion, but one that those without the Wolf Link amiibo won’t sorely miss. Whereas, outside of this, the Link, Toon Link, Zelda, Sheik and Ganondorf amiibo refill your quiver, replenish your hearts or see Link receive twice as much damage as normal.
At face value these collectively seem like such insubstantial changes but, coupled with a sharpened graphical sheen, successfully refresh Twilight Princess for seasoned veterans and newcomers alike. The soundtrack, composed by Toru Minegishi and Asuka Ohta, has similarly been remastered, remaining chillingly melancholic and haunting in equal measure. It ranks among the finest ever penned for the series, perfectly encapsulating the darkness that has swept across Hyrule.
There’s much left to talk about in relation to areas in which Twilight Princess succeeds, whether that be Link’s advanced swordplay mechanics, the somewhat ingenious puzzle design, momentous boss fights, or the introduction of horseback combat. But, many of you will already know about these, such elements coming together to see Hyrule remain such a joy to explore and be a part of. Replaying the adventure through was a constant reminder of how brilliant it had always been.
The legend is reborn, with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD delivering the definitive version of an undisputed masterpiece. 10 years may have passed but it remains as one of the greatest games ever created, and this Wii U exclusive becomes the very best way to relive the sweeping epic.
Version Tested: Wii U
Review copy provided by Nintendo