Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess originally released in 2006 on both the Gamecube and Nintendo Wii, and featured one of the most intricate storylines, and some of the best graphics, the series had ever seen. Midna, Link’s partner for the journey, was beloved by the fanbase; to some degree, even more so than the game itself. Twilight Princess HD, a re-release for the Wii U, takes away none of this, but adds a few minor differences that change the way players interact with the game in small but noticeable ways.
Each iteration of Zelda tells a tale independent of, yet still connected to, the other games in the series. In the “Era of Twilight,” (this game’s place in the Zelda timeline), Link’s peaceful village life is shattered by the invasion of an otherworldly power. The would-be hero finds himself helpless before these shadowy monsters, but is forcibly conscripted into action by a combination of circumstance, his desire to save the village children (who have been kidnapped) and the aforesaid Midna. After acquiring the skill and knowledge to fight back against the shadows, Link sets out into Hyrule on a mission to banish the eerie twilight that blankets the kingdom.
As an HD remake, the most significant change is to the visuals, and simply Googling a comparison will bring several side-by-side screenshots shows TP’s crisper details and softer lighting effects. Because shadow plays such an integral part to the story (Hyrule, the world of light, being changed and corrupted by the shadows of the Twilight Realm), having a high contrast helps create a unique sense of atmosphere that can be almost haunting. While the Gamecube and Wii versions of TP overdid the lighting effects in some areas, in TPHD that contrast has been toned down in several instances, particularly in the way that light plays off the surfaces of objects and terrain. This adjustment makes the detail easier to look at, but doesn’t go so far as to diminish the ethereal ambience. Rather, it achieves a happy medium that gets this point across quite well.
TPHD can be played using the Wii U’s gamepad or the pro controller. Choosing the gamepad allows quick access to Link’s inventory, a more detailed map of the current area, and motion controls that can be turned on or off at will. The face and shoulder buttons are easy to adjust to regardless of which prior version, if any, the player is used to. The left stick controls are a bit stiff, but this is only noticeable when trying to make slight turns with Link’s horse Epona. Players also have access to a Hero Mode from the start, rather than unlocking it after beating the game once. In Hero Mode, no hearts appear, Link takes double the damage and the entire world is mirrored (Kakariko Village, for example, is on the left side of the world map rather than the right).
A series of new collectibles has been added to the game in the form of stamps. These stamps are found in treasure chests throughout the world, and each represents a letter of the Hylian alphabet. And speaking of treasure, there seems to be quite a bit of it hidden away in surprising places. Take the time to stop and look up every now and then. You never know what you might see.
There are two optional dungeons in addition to the main eight ones and Hyrule Castle. The Cave of Ordeals consists of multiple floors with increasingly difficult enemies to face. Players who enter it a second time will find additional challenges and greater rewards. The Wolf Link amiibo also unlocks another dungeon: The Cave of Shadows. Like the Cave of Ordeals, players can battle enemies here and save the results to the amiibo, which grants rewards based on their performance.
Twilight Princess HD hits all the right keys and very few wrong ones. The redesigned visuals make TPHD always pleasurable to look at and create a need, even in veteran players, to explore every inch of Hyrule, a task that often yields surprising rewards. Newcomers to the game will find tons of optional side activities and a comfortable difficulty level, while those who played the original will find themselves guided by memory and curiosity at the changes. Twilight Princess is worth revisiting, and more than worth the investment for newcomers, not only for the graphics and story, but also because it’s one of the Wii U’s better 3D action-adventure games. The Zelda series always gets a lot of love from the developers who work on it, but this latest game has that special level of polish that makes it go above and beyond a reboot, and transforms it into an epic experience that should not be missed.
Twilight Princess HD is a remake that seeks to go beyond making an existing game more pretty. The revamped graphics not only invite new players to the series, but they welcome existing fans back to experience a renewal of one of Zelda's deepest games.