I played the original GameCube version of Twilight Princess on release in 2006, but going into this HD remaster, I remembered very little about it. Which struck me as odd, because despite playing The Wind Waker three years before Twilight Princess, I recalled far more of that title. And after completing this remastered edition, I think I know why.
The Wind Waker has a very vibrant art style. Twilight Princess on the other hand, can be described as ‘graphically gloomy’. Visually, TP is rather bland to look at, featuring washed-out colours and murky environments. This is, I suppose, due to the nature of the game itself and its theme of light and dark – the ‘Twilight’ part of the title isn’t just to be fancy. I’m not saying Twilight Princess looks bad, just that it lacks the striking and memorable visuals of The Wind Waker, which is probably the main reason I didn’t remember much about it.
The Wind Waker also features an impressive open ocean ‘overworld’ to explore. In comparison, the overworld of Twilight Princess feels rather empty and dull. There’s nothing particularly interesting or memorable about it. But aside from these two issues, I do believe that Twilight Princess is, overall, a better game than The Wind Waker.
The weakest part of Twilight Princess is definitely the opening section. It’s a rather slow slog as the game walks you through the initial three dungeons and introduces your various key abilities, including the core ‘gimmick’ of TP which is that Link can now turn into a wolf.
You’re unable to switch between Link and wolf-Link at will during the first part of the game, and there’s some unfortunate padding prior to the early dungeons as you’re forced into rather tedious bug hunts. Fortunately, once you clear this early hurdle and can switch between human and wolf on the fly, the game opens up dramatically into an engaging and hugely enjoyable adventure.
The dungeons of TP are the real star, with a fantastic variety of uniquely themed dungeons each with their own style, puzzles, enemies, items and boss battles. And whilst none of them are particularly challenging, they’re all very cleverly designed and will force you to stop and think on occasion.
Outside of the dungeons and main quest, there is side content to be found, but not a great deal to get excited about. As I’ve already said, the overworld of TP feels rather empty and it’s not a world that encourages exploration. There are some neat things to be found if you care to look, but you’ll likely spend more time using the fast travel to bounce about.
This isn’t just because there’s not much to see in the overworld, but due to the irritating (though short) loading screens between the separated zones of the map. Oh, and your horse which handles like shit and is a real nightmare to control.
But honestly, though the world and side content may be a little lacking, Twilight Princess more than makes up for it with a fantastic story driven main quest. You’re introduced quite early to Midna, who becomes your permanent companion throughout the game. She’s a great character who adds a lot of charm and humour and provides an important emotional core to the story.
Which is nice, because Link in TP is so f**king bland. Compared to The Wind Waker, Link in TP seriously lacks personality. His only real expression is a rather moronic grin which led me to believe that this incarnation of Link was born a little ‘simple’. The guy is thick, which is why it’s lucky he’s got the smart little Midna to lead him around.
The whole story of the world of light and dark is a pretty cool tale which builds to a satisfying and heartfelt conclusion. But it’s really the relationship between Midna and Link that’s the star of the show, as the two work together to save both their worlds. And this is a game that’s not afraid to get dark. There’s one cut scene in particular that was so weird and disturbing it reminded me of Event Horizon.
The combat in Twilight Princess is improved compared to WW, with new special abilities and attacks that can be learned as you progress, as well as new enemy types requiring different tactics to defeat. As far as changes between this HD version and the GC original go, I don’t think there’s been any substantial alterations, more smaller ‘quality of life’ type improvements.
Overall, Twilight Princess is a great Zelda game and I’d actually say I enjoyed it nearly as much as Breath of the Wild. Whilst it certainly can’t match that game in terms of its world, exploration or side content, it easily surpasses it in terms of story and its main quest and dungeons. If only we could combine the two, eh? Then we’d really have something special.