March 09, 2016

The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess HD - Review

It has become an increasing popular trend over the last few years to port older games to newer consoles and for good reason, they are usually cheap to do, deliver quality games to players faster and help pad a consoles game library. Nintendo are not immune to this trend, but they do things in a much more methodical manner, which brings us to their latest attempt Twilight Princess HD.

The story of Twilight Princess was very different when it first came out, from the Zelda game that proceeded it, it was darker, full of very different themes and ultimately designed to appeal to the hardcore gamer. What was delivered was a very detailed story about light and dark and although the game is 10 years old, it still holds true today, while the pacing of the story is slow compared to other games in today’s video game world, it is still fun to experience, with Midna and Zant truly showing what Nintendo can do, when they want to create new and engaging characters.

The gameplay in Twilight Princess took steps from Wind Waker, with the HD versions of both, once again repeating that cycle. The sword combat is still a treat, though it lacks the realism that was later introduced within the Skyward Sword series, it still has a depth that is hard to look past. You are able to do the standard swing, stab and jump attacks, but now you can mix it up with shield bashes, helm splitting and more, for me it was this combat system that made Twilight Princess feel amazing when it first came out and now I am so glad that it is still amazing here. The other thing for me is that I played Twilight Princess for the first time on the Wii, which meant I had motion controls for my aiming, something that was missing on the Gamecube version, thankfully, the motion controls on offer here, the same as Wind Waker HD, help me out greatly. Sadly, the times when I played with the Pro Controller, had me feeling like the game was incomplete, because it lacked the motion controls found with the gamepad, they just work that well. It is a trade-off I wish I did not have to make, the Pro Controller is a treat to play with, but the lack of motion is too big a of a downside to ignore, but thankfully, the inventory management on the Gamepad is still as great as ever, being able to drag and drop an item onto a button slot, without having to pause the game, keeps the pace going, add to that, the addition of the swap button for Link to change between human and wolf forms, the gamepad really helps bring home the feeling of immersion. One area that the team have talked about and it does show, is the refinement to the swimming controls, as Link no longer feels like a lead weight when swimming, it’s fun to actually do so.

The rest of the gameplay, still feels as solid as I recall it being, which is more a testament to the initial design over anything else, but just how well the team at Tantalus performed, bringing the game to Wii U. Moving Link around, in either form is fluid and he reacts just as nicely as you would hope, the characters still move a little stiffly, but again, that is from the original design of the game. What issues are present from the gameplay though, that really bothered me, seem to be new to this version of the game, the first and probably the most troublesome is the camera, there were far too many times that the camera would get stuck behind a pole, catch on a box or other obstacle, which results in Link moving away from the camera and then some really odd camera work, to get it back to behind him. There were also times when the camera would get stuck in a wall, leaving me with shots of nothing between that wall and something in the distance.

The other gameplay issue that presented itself early on is how heavy Epona is, going in a straight line is no worry, but turning can be a pain, instead of nudging the stick to a side, you have to move it further around, but slightly too far and Epona then jerks to that side really quickly. When you are just moving from point a to point b, it can be overlooked as you won’t need to make too many sharp turns, however the events where you need to defend a caravan or rescue Colin, became frustrating to an extent I have never had from a Nintendo game. Trying to target an enemy while moving can be a challenge at the best of times, when the horse you are riding handles like a very large tank, it’s almost impossible. The other new feature introduced into the game is amiibo support, most players will get the game with the new Wolf Link amiibo, which when scanned into the game allows for two functions, firstly the Wii U exclusive Cave of Shadows, which allows for the player to put Wolf Link through a series of ever increasing difficult challenges, the second allows you to bypass the entire save file selection screen. Both are great additions, but neither will wow you, the game also supports other Legend of Zelda series amiibo, giving you boosts or debuffs, depending on the character scanned, but the problem with them is if you are using the Pro Controller, you will need to keep the gamepad handy to use them, also you can’t just scan them whenever you want, you will need to go into the collection screen to do so, which does help when you’re in a fight, but not when you are just moving around without a purpose.

When you are talking about porting a game to HD though, far too often people like mix up their terms, a port would be straight from one to the other, a remaster is fixing issues and making it look and sound better and of course remake is doing it all from scratch, the Nintendo HD upgrades fall into the remaster group, with each part worked upon, while maintaining the same quality feel that you remember from the original. It is a process that they don’t do all that often, but when they do it, they always come out a treat and this is not different. The visuals on offer here are leagues above that offered on the Wii or Gamecube versions of the game, that is because the design ambition of the game surpassed the consoles power when it was designed, but now with the power of the Wii U, things are finally looking as they were meant to be. This is not to say that the game is perfect, there are some textures and elements that still don’t look right, trees in Hyrule field are one such piece, but as a whole the game looks wonderful.

All this becomes more apparent when you enter some of the later dungeons, like the Temple of Time or Snowpeak Ruins. Even the earlier water temple, looks pretty amazing with its water, in fact the elements of the game that shine through the best, far outweigh the ones that are not up to scratch. The score of the game, is a missed chance, as it sounds cleaner than it did in the past, but still does not sound anything like we have become used to, especially with The Legend of Zelda Concert series that has been touring around the world. The other sounds have more impact now, thanks to the digital method of audio delivery in the Wii U, but nothing sounds more impressive than I can recall in the past.

What really matters with Twilight Princess HD is that the game is still as fun to play as ever, the game looks better and sections of the game have been improved, though the few issues with the camera and tank controls of Epona do slow it down, the Zelda series has been picking up some speed of late, so with a new game on the horizon, things are looking up for this long running series. 

Thanks to Nintendo Australia for supplying the game for review

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