Although the Wii U may still be missing its own unique Zelda game, Nintendo have at least tried to satisfy fans with a periodic program of remasters, and following 2013’s excellent Wind Waker HD, Twilight Princess now arrives in time to celebrate its tenth anniversary. While perhaps lacking quite the stellar reputations of older games like Ocarina of Time or A Link to the Past, Twilight Princess has nonetheless always been a well-regarded Zelda title in both GameCube and Wii incarnations and here Nintendo gives it a high definition upgrade to allow Wii U owners the chance to experience it at its very best.
As its title suggests, Twilight Princess is one of the darker-hued Zelda games - if Wind Waker is the effervescent pre-school Zelda escapade, and Ocarina of Time the studious older brother, Twilight Princess is the archetypal angst-ridden teenager, reminding adventurers just how cruel Hyrule can be as the once peaceful kingdom is beset on all sides by darkness.
The game begins slowly, with a leisurely pace lulling players into the gentle rhythms of village life as Link performs chores and interacts with his fellow Ordon children. This relaxed opening, full of herding goats, locating lost cats, fishing and occasional bouts of falconry, makes the abrupt change to come all the more shocking.
Like every Zelda adventure, Link is quickly cast into his usual heroic role - though here the familiar quest cards have been deftly shuffled, with the series’ recurring theme of dark and light delineated by sections where Link is transformed into wolf form. These lupine segments provide an interesting change of pace, as you lose the ability to use items but gain the ability to dig for secret passageways and hidden rupees.
This variety is perhaps one of Twilight Princess’ strong suits – there is a well-nuanced balance that keeps you from ever growing too tired of one type of action, and roaming the Twilight Realm on four legs provides an interesting change of perspective. Ill-tempered spirit guide Midna is an infuriating companion in the Zelda tradition, providing hints and tips in a mocking manner as you go about your quest.
Twilight Princess perhaps initially seems to lack the eye-catching cartoon design of the cel-shaded Wind Waker, but it has a unique charm that gradually captivates as you progress through the various tricky dungeons, accompanied by a beguiling soundtrack that drew criticism first time round for its synthesised nature. Ten years later this in fact seems to have been an inspired choice, lending it a feel distinct from most of its Zelda kin.
Based around the original GameCube version with a left-handed Link, the controls are greatly benefitted by the addition of the map and item selection on the gamepad screen. Like the Wind Waker remaster, some subtle streamlining of the more menial tasks helps the game flow more smoothly, like lowering the number of Tears of Light that must be collected and providing more forgiving wallet sizes.
Not all the kinks of the original have been ironed out, however - the irritating beeping heart sound effects remain, guaranteed to push you over the edge when deep in a dungeon and stuck on where to go as Midna cheerfully repeats the same unhelpful hint. Sadly the camera angles still have the capacity to bewilder players in the midst of a melee despite the targeting system trying its best to keep players from confusion.
Amiibo compatibility provides the opportunity to unlock a whole new dungeon if you have the Wolf Link figure to hand. Called the Cave of Shadows, it features forty floors of challenges for Link to clear in wolf form, rewarding players with the Colossal Wallet which can hold up to 9,999 rupees.
Serving both as a nostalgic excursion and an appetiser for the new game due later in the year, this tenth anniversary release is a timely updating of an underrated entry in the Zelda series.
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