The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD Review: Cry Wolf

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD brings yet another of the modern 3D Zelda games into the HD era with improved visuals and gameplay tweaks. But does Link's darkest adventure hold up? Our review.

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Nintendo's growing array of Zelda remakes has inspired a variety of reactions in me, all of them positive. Ocarina of Time polished off some rough edges of an undeniable formative classic. Wind Waker held up incredibly well almost entirely on its own, particularly in its previously-derided art style. Majora's Mask gave me a chance to finish a quirky side-story I had previously neglected. But now, for the first time, a Zelda remake has made the game worse for the wear. Twilight Princess HD shows the same loving care as the other remakes, but bringing it back exposes its shakier foundations.

Howling at the Moon

Admittedly, this is partly because the governing design philosophy behind Twilight Princess has felt foreign to me. The Legend of Zelda is supposed to be a rousing Hero's Journey adventure, but for a short time Nintendo had been cowed into thinking the series should be dark and melancholy. Enter Twilight Princess--practically a remake of Ocarina, but with darker themes, an edgier companion, and long stretches in which Link turns into an honest-to-Nayru werewolf. It's all pretty silly and overwrought in retrospect, and it forced Nintendo into an awkward position of actively avoiding its strengths.

That's not to say it doesn't have its share of stirring moments. The confrontation on the bridge culminating in Link's slow-motion "hero pose" on the back of his steed still hits with impact, for example, and I like some of Midna's impish mischeviousness. On the whole, though, the darker themes and limited color pallette make it feel like the series' sullen teenager phase.

Twilight Princess is also where Zelda developed some of its formulaic habits. Skyward Sword was more of a departure, and the upcoming Wii U game is said to be taking notes from A Link Between Worlds, but this adventure follows the Zelda pattern to a tee. It was criticized for some of these elements at the time, of course. You spend far too long in your idyllic home town before the adventure starts, and the wolf segments are still fairly dull fetch-quests--thankfully tempered by reducing the number of Tears of Light in some areas.

The visuals haven't aged particularly well either. It's as if we need a new term, similar to the uncanny valley, to describe graphics that aren't old-fashioned enough to look nostalgic, like Ocarina, but aren't quite modern either. The HD coat of paint isn't as much a leap as it was in Ocarina and Wind Waker. Particularly at the beginning, before receiving his equipment, Link's movement looks lumbering and stiff.

A Brighter Twilight

Despite all that, though, Nintendo did clearly put care and attention into this as an HD re-release. The visual improvements may be slighter but they are present, and more importantly, this version lets you play with a proper controller. The result is combat that feels more exact and responsive than the Wii version that demanded motion controls. As has become the series norm, the addition of a touch screen makes it a breeze to equip Link's arsenal of items. Even if I find Twilight Princess only so-so by Zelda standards, this is easily the best way to play it.

And of course, it adds functionality from Nintendo's latest success story, Amiibo. The Wolf Link amiibo unlocks a simple endurance dungeon, though be warned, it drops you in at your current level so playing in the early game means you won't have much life to work with. It also works as a quick-start, letting you bypass the game select screen by associating a save file with the amiibo itself. It's a small feature, but it's a nifty little function that more games could use.

The Test of Time

On the whole, these improvements make Twilight Princess HD the best version of the worst modern Zelda game. That said, even a mediocre Zelda game is still pretty fun. If you can get past its tonal oddities and paint-by-numbers structure, it's a good game, but not a great one. I enjoyed it as a cultural artifact, but replaying it made me appreciate that this direction for the series was temporary.


This review is based on a Wii U retail copy provided by the publisher. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD will be available in retail stores with Wolf Link Amiibo for $59.99, and on the Nintendo eShop digitally for $49.99, on March 4. The game is rated T.

Editor-In-Chief

Pros

  • Has its share of stirring moments
  • GamePad controls significantly better than Wiimote
  • Nice Amiibo functionality

Cons

  • Darker tone is awkward for Zelda
  • Follows Ocarina of Time formula too closely

From The Chatty

  • reply
    March 1, 2016 6:00 AM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD Review: Cry Wolf

    • reply
      March 1, 2016 7:47 AM

      Can't wait for this. I preordered on Amazon, so hopefully I get it Friday.

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      March 1, 2016 8:55 AM

      Whoa, what? I didn't realize this would be a full priced game. How do they justify that?

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        March 1, 2016 8:59 AM

        Like every other HD re-release?

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          March 1, 2016 9:01 AM

          This isn't even remotely true. Most HD remasters don't demand full price.

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            March 1, 2016 3:01 PM

            Ehhhh, I think it's fair to say most HD remasters demand full price, especially Nintendo remasters. It could be lower, but there is new content, and the Wii U is backwards compatible so you could just find a cheap Wii copy if you want.

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              March 1, 2016 3:43 PM

              Full price is generally the exception to the rule, not most. All those Resident Evil games, God of War games, Dragon's Dogma on PC just to name a few.

              Going down the list off the top of my head on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_video_game_remakes almost all of those games released at a reduced price vs. their initial releases.

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        March 1, 2016 2:57 PM

        Because it's a full game. I think it took me 60 hours to beat or something. Need to check my Gamecube memory card.

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      March 1, 2016 10:28 AM

      Physical Copy of TP HD = 60 dollars. Digital Copy of TP HD on Eshop = 50 dollars, so the article is wrong.
      Already pre-ordered my copy, i can't wait to play. The dark tone and more serious storyline is what makes this game more interesting to me. Unlike others, i'm always open to new Zelda experiences, it doesn't matter if it's a darker tone like Majora's Mask or TP, or if it's a more cartoony and happy tone like Wind Waker or Minish Cap, i'm all in doesn't matter what. If the gameplay mechanics are good, then the rest it's just a good complement. Anyway, can't wait to play TP HD and later this year Zelda Wii U, it's a good year for Zelda fans, without a doubt.

      • reply
        March 1, 2016 10:58 AM

        Is it cheaper? I'll have to check this out.

        • reply
          March 1, 2016 4:01 PM

          Yes. The physical version costs $10 more and comes with the Wolf Link Amiibo

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            March 1, 2016 4:14 PM

            ^this!

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            March 1, 2016 4:17 PM

            with prime i got it for 52 after tax from amazon. if you have that best buy gamer club whatever physical is probably cheaper there as well.

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      March 1, 2016 1:01 PM

      Its too expensive

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      March 1, 2016 1:43 PM

      I was so fed up with the waggle controls in the original release that I never finished it. Hell, I barely got started. I may pick this up as it goes with more traditional controls.

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        March 1, 2016 2:45 PM

        Should have just got the GC version and played that on the Wii!

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          March 1, 2016 2:46 PM

          My memory's hazy, but I think at the time, I couldn't find the GC version. Or I may not have understood at the time that the Wii was a glorified Gamecube with motion sensing. I just recall that I didn't like the forced motion stuff, but I did like the style to it.

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      March 1, 2016 4:00 PM

      "the best version of the worst modern Zelda game"

      I didn't know Skyward Sword was getting a rerelease

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        March 1, 2016 4:03 PM

        I thought the same thing :D

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        March 1, 2016 4:16 PM

        It's tied with TP for me. Skyward Sword has one of the worst beginnings and best endings in the franchise. TP is more middling throughout.

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          March 1, 2016 4:33 PM

          I still haven't played Skyward Sword. It's just been sitting on my shelf for years and I'm a huge Zelda fan :(

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            March 1, 2016 5:26 PM

            If you can struggle through the first real dungeon I really think it's worth it. The lack of overworld connection makes it feel a bit disjointed, like Metroid Prime 3, but the dungeons and tweaks to the story pretty much consistently improve the whole time.

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        March 1, 2016 4:30 PM

        I really enjoyed TP. I certainly wouldn't put it at the bottom of the list of Zelda games.

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          March 1, 2016 4:40 PM

          TP is great. I also don't get the slagging on Midna, she's probably the best supporting character in a Zelda game.

          I don't agree with the "grimdark" criticisms either, and I hate it when grimdark is inserted into games or movies. The design in the dark world isn't generic like it could have been, its really bizarre and unusual.

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        March 1, 2016 4:36 PM

        I actually would not mind an HD release of Skyward Sword. I know it is not highly regarded, but it is also the only of the recent releases I have not played.

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          March 1, 2016 4:41 PM

          There are really good things about it, but it kinda makes you slog to see them. The beginning (and I mean like 10 hours) is mediocre, and full of bad design decisions. Still, the bright spots are good enough that I'd recommend it to anyone who was interested.

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            March 1, 2016 5:28 PM

            They'd have to make big changes though to let you play without the wiimote.

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              March 1, 2016 5:29 PM

              Wiimotes work with the Wii U, but man, I wish they could do it with some sort of motion++ - the controls actually worked well, but the motion+'s requirement for constant calibration and still-not-perfect tracking didn't help anything.

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                March 1, 2016 6:04 PM

                i managed to beat the entire game without really understanding the precision hits you had to use against the red goblins. regardless of whether i swung horizontally or vertically it seemed like the game just did whatever the fuck it wanted and i got shocked from their stupid fucking lightning swords every other time.

                other than the game being 40% longer than it should have that's probably my only other real complaint.

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                March 1, 2016 6:28 PM

                Should've just used it for more correct motion and the IR for pointing like every other game.

      • reply
        March 1, 2016 4:38 PM

        TP was one of my favorites.

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      March 1, 2016 9:50 PM

      Maybe I can redo this now with better footage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEGKFnfyimc :[

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      March 2, 2016 10:17 AM

      Let me know when they remaster a game I actually want to play, like Link to the Past