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Twilight Princess HD Impressions

It is a strange thing to admit considering how long I’ve been gaming, but the first Legend of Zelda game I ever touched was Wind Waker on the Gamecube.  The second, naturally, was Twilight Princess, also on the Gamecube.  (I’ve never actually played the Wii version, and I’m afraid I often forget it exists.)  Those two games provide an interesting jumping on point for the series, since, as a pair, they’ve become an interesting dichotomy in many gamers’ opinions.  Wind Waker has ascended in the mindset of many due to its cel-shaded art style which was unconventional for the series.  Meanwhile, Twilight Princess is usually contrasted as a weak game that was overly reliant on the formula established by Ocarina of Time.  

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Personally, I’ve always been a big defender of Twilight Princess.  In some ways, it’s easy for me to be one.  I didn’t play Ocarina of Time until the 3DS version, so of course I never really felt like Twilight Princess was a retread of the OoT formula.  And I didn’t have to bother with the motion controls since I played the Gamecube version.  And while I understand the complaint that Twilight Princess has a lot of filler content, Wind Waker isn’t innocent of that flaw either, considering the slow speed of the boat and the late game Triforce hunt that bogged down the original version.

But I don’t want to be overly critical of Wind Waker in my defense of Twilight Princess.  And to be fair, it’s been a long time since I played TP anyway.  While I usually shy away from HD re-releases of games I’ve already played, as I get older, I strangely find myself becoming a sucker for Nintendo content.  I’m now a few hours into Twilight Princess HD just released for the Wii U.  I’ve just completed the first dungeon, the Forest Temple.  And so far at least, I’m enjoying the game as I did back in the Gamecube days.

Twilight Princess is a really beautiful game.  It doesn’t get often complimented as such, because it’s usually compared to its visually charismatic cel-shaded predecessor.  But playing through the first few hours of the HD version, I’m beginning to realize that Twilight Princess has an artistic flair that is highly underrated.  The world of Hyrule presented in this iteration has a strong fairytale-like quality that reminds me of ‘80s fantasy movies like The Neverending Story, Labyrinth, and The Dark Crystal.  The world is covered in dark natural colors, principally greens and browns, that are punctuated by more exotic artificial pigments like violet, jet black, and neon.  And while the Great Sea in Wind Waker served as breathtaking overworld, the dungeons in that game were often incredibly drab and flat. I don’t think the cel-shading served the interior environments as well as it did the outdoor presentation.  Meanwhile, I think the dungeons in Twilight Princess have more character as a result of the interior surfaces actually having textures.  However, one major thing I think Wind Waker has to its credit is that the cel-shading hid the edges of the polygons better.  Twilight Princess very much does feel like a world made up of polygons, with edges conspicuous on many naturally-occurring objects that shouldn’t have them, like rock formations and trees.  

One negative that I’m noticing so far is that the lock-on system in TP is incredibly finicky.  There’s been plenty of times I’ve hit the lock-on button when an enemy was right in front of me only to have nothing happen.  It seems to me that you have to be fairly close to an enemy to get the lock-on to register it.  I don’t seem to remember this being a problem in Wind Waker HD.  Maybe it was a problem in the original TP, but I should think that an HD release like this would have some fine tuning applied to it like Wind Waker HD had.

One final thing I’d like to mention is that the amiibo that comes with the game is actually an excellent figure.  I’m no amiibo super-collector.  I have an 8-bit Mario and a Donkey Kong sitting on my desk that were both gifts, and a Dr. Mario that I bought for myself because Dr. Mario is cool.  But I do have a feel of what quality to expect from them.  The Wolf Link amiibo that comes with Twilight Princess HD is by far the most intricately detailed amiibo I’ve ever seen, both in figure and coloration.  It deftly models Midna sitting atop wolf Link standing on a sloped white rock formation.  The are a good many little details captured on the figure including the golden insignia on wolf Link’s forehead, the ornate grooves on Midna’s mask, the lines of fur on Link, and the broken chain above his paw.  I hesitate to say it, but I actually kind of wish the in-game models of these two looked more like the amiibo.  Of all the amiibos I’ve seen, this is definitely my favorite.

I’m looking forward to playing more of Twilight Princess HD to see how the whole thing pans out, and if my defense of the game for all these years was worthwhile.  So this won’t be the end of my thoughts on the game, and I’ll do a more thorough write-up once I’m finished with my playthrough.

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