The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD Review
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD Box Art
System: Wii U
Dev: Nintendo, Tantalus
Pub: Nintendo
Release: March 4, 2016
Players: 1 Player
Screen Resolution: 480p-1080i Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence
Twilight Is Even Weirder in HD
by Becky Cunningham

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess takes up an odd niche in the 3D Zelda series. It's not as beloved as Ocarina of Time, not as original as The Wind Waker, and not as much of a cult hit as Majora's Mask. It experimented with motion controls on the Wii, but didn't go all the way like Skyward Sword. Still, it has its moments, the entire world is just a little bit off-kilter in an appealing way, and this remake generally does a good job highlighting its strengths while removing a number of its problems.

The most obvious improvement is the transition to HD, which does more than simply increase texture resolution. The brown haze that once covered the entire world is now gone, bringing vibrancy to Hyrule once you've released it from Twilight. Quite a few nice visual effects have been added, and little touches of life have been scattered around the world to make it feel a lot less sterile. I find myself much more attracted to this version of Hyrule, which now has a visual personality to match the colorful characters that Link meets during his adventures.

Not everything is jollier in high definition, however. The inhabitants of Twilight Princess' Hyrule, with their unusual facial planes and angles, were delightfully odd in SD. In HD, they look like out of work extras from a horror movie. Sometimes this enhances the original intent (Malo the toddler entrepreneur has always been a bit terrifying – and that has to be purposeful), but sometimes it's quite distracting. When the camera suddenly pans in on your buddy Rusl at the very beginning of the game, it feels like a Five Night's at Freddy's jump-scare. Similarly, Rusl's son Colin, whose downcast eyes originally helped characterize him as a child with low self-confidence, now looks more like his eyes could at any moment start glowing red as he decides to gnaw your neck off. This isn't a huge issue, but it can be a bit disconcerting, and I wish more of the character models had been fixed up to appear more natural in their new, hi-def world.

The second largest change to this version of Twilight Princess, the control scheme, is unequivocally positive. Motion control has been almost entirely removed, as all that remains is the option to use your controller's gyroscope for aiming. I gave that a try, disabled it quickly, and was immediately pleased with the results. No more does a micro-shake of my hands cause me to miss my archery target. Various other tasks, like fishing and shield attacks (seriously, did any game ever manage to get nunchuck-thrusting to work reliably?), that were frustrating in the Wii version were a no-brainer with conventional controls. Movement on horseback and in the water has been tightened up as well, and though it's not perfect, the massive improvement to my goat-herding time speaks to positive results in that area.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD Screenshot

Other than these changes, the challenge of Heroic Mode, and some amiibo support, this is the classic Twilight Princess game that is likely to remain as divisive as it was back in the day. It has some great characters, particularly the impish Midna, and some of my favorite dungeons in the series. I'll never tire of being swept upside-down on a magnetic crane while wearing the iron boots or fighting Stallord while riding on the spinner. I'm also a fan of some of the action segments outside of the dungeons, like jousting King Bulblin on the bridge and icicle snowboarding. Being able to turn into a wolf is a nice change of pace, too, and this slightly feral Link has a bit more spice to him than our usually bland self-insert protagonist.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD Screenshot

Despite its attractive themes and moments of gameplay brilliance, Twilight Princess suffers from several glaring design flaws that can't be fixed by a mere remaster. It has major pacing issues, especially at the beginning, when Link has to fart around in his hometown with little incentive or direction. There are a few too many mandatory activities that are more time-intensive than challenging, and you'll find yourself backtracking more than you'd like through relatively uninteresting areas. Even with its visual improvements, the outdoor world isn't nearly as well-designed as the dungeons.

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