The thing I’ve always found weirdest about The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is how many hardcore Zelda fans seem to loathe it. Now, the Zelda fandom is a rather persnickety bunch, something would be really wrong if they weren’t complaining about something. But the level of vitriol in this game has always baffled me.
Sure, the game has a few problems structurally speaking, but it may be the best story in the whole franchise.
Like always, the player takes on the role of Link, a hapless everyman man from humble beginnings. After being chosen as the one to take his villages tribute to the royal family, the Princess Zelda more specifically, the world is soon shrouded in a dark veil of magic. While the people of the kingdom are transformed into ghostly spirits, Link instead becomes an enormous wolf.
Soon after, he is found by Midna, a mysterious imp with an agenda of her own. From there, the pair is off on a quest to rescue Link’s friends and free the land from the grip of evil.
On paper, it’s the same classic Joseph Campbell-esque story that’s in every Zelda game. Except that this time you can turn into a wolf. However, the story goes way beyond its archetypical nature.
Most of that can be attributed to the new characters, Zant, our primary villain, and Midna, who despite being an NPC is arguably the game's true protagonist.
Zant, the King of the Twilight, is a terrific antagonist. He has an eery, mysterious design; and his habit of flipping from quiet menace to shrieking madness evokes more than a little of the Joker.
And then there’s Midna, hands down one of the best character Nintendo has ever created. Unlike previous companion characters like Navi or the King of Red Lions, Midna has a likeable, snarky personality, is integral to the story, and has the best and most defined character arc.
In fact, she’s much more the main character than Link himself, who as usual is pretty much an amorphous mass for the player to project onto.
Midna is the one who drives the plot the most, she’s the one who changes the most, she has the most skin in the game, and I need to stop rambling about how great she is or it will end up taking over the entire review.
As this is an HD re-release, there are of course a few new additions, the most notable of which is the graphics. The textures have undergone a huge overhaul, making character models sharper and environments far less murkier. This really helps to show off just how distinct and wonderfully bizarre the art design is. People’s bodies are regularly proportioned, but have over the top, cartoony faces that are enormously expressive.
Also, the Wii remote mechanics have been stripped out entirely, making this essentially a remaster of the Gamecube version of the original. Many fans will probably rejoice at this, seeing as motion controls are reviled by a sizable proportion of the fan base. With the Wii-mote gone, the controls fall more in line with the traditional gameplay started back in Ocarina of Time. Lock on based combat, items mapped to the face buttons, hitting the A button to make Link roll around and yell “YAH!” a whole bunch. Unshakable traditions.
Like the HD remaster of Wind Waker, the game also incorporates the Wii-U gamepad very well, using it as both an inventory and a map screen, allowing the player to switch out gear and reference their location without pausing the game.
If Twilight Princess has issues, and it does, they’re mostly structural. The opening tutorial segment, which centers around Link herding goats in his home village and doing various errands for his neighbors, drags on a bit, though it can go very quickly if you know what to do and where to go.
The overworld of Hyrule Field, while large, is sort of empty without a lot to do outside of battling monsters on horseback. The various roadways that lead to different regions are usually blocked off depending on where you are in the story, so the experience is rather linear….with a metric ton of backtracking and repetitive sections.
Thankfully, the re-release cut down on some of the repetitiveness in places. The light seed sections have been shortened, though they are still tedious.
Despite the Twilight Realm being an endless vast for potential, it’s geography, people, and culture all go entirely under unexplored.
As a package, Twilight Princess HD is classic Zelda. If you’ve never played it before, you absolutely should. And if you have, you might find a few of the game's lesser aspects are polished or removed entirely.
Now all we have to do is wait for the next Zelda later this year. God help us all.