Nintendo is paying tribute to the ten-year-old Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess this year, and if you believe the rumors, it’ll be in two different ways. One is the HD remake, which absolutely exists, and will be officially released for the Wii U tomorrow. Another is merely a rumor, and would be an unintentional tribute: the next brand new Zelda game, tentatively scheduled for the Wii U later this year, could follow a two-console release pattern similar to Twilight Princess’s.
There have been reports that the next new Zelda will be released as both a swan song for the Wii U, whose life might be coming to an early end, and as a launch title for the company’s next console, currently code named NX, which might arrive as soon as this fall. It’s a situation very similar to the one Nintendo was in when Twilight Princess came out in 2006. The GameCube didn’t catch on as much as the company had hoped, and its follow-up, the Wii, was close to market, so instead of just releasing Twilight Princess on the older, relatively unsuccessful system they put it out almost simultaneously on both.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens with that new Zelda, and, if it does come out on both the Wii U and NX, if the Wii U version makes any kind of special use of the GamePad. That focus on console-specific technology ties in with the first item on our list of things you need to know about Twilight Princess HD.
The HD remake resembles the GameCube version of Twilight Princess more than the Wii one, at least in terms of how you play it. You’ll be holding a controller and not shaking a remote and nunchuk. That controller might have a big screen in the middle of it, but even on the Gamepad it still feels more like a traditional videogame than the Wii version. Moving away from the Wii control scheme has other repercussions, too, such as a smaller and less distracting HUD and more of a reliance upon the traditional Zelda Z-locking style of combat. And if you hate the Gamepad, you can always use the Wii U’s Pro Controller. I stuck with the former, though, because…
The Wii U’s Gamepad gets a lot of hate, but for me it’s almost always the best way to play games on the system. The screen is big enough that I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything, and I can easily pick it up and play without bothering anybody else who might be in the same room. Pretty much my entire time with the game was spent in bed with the Gamepad and headphones on. The images occasionally stuttered and felt slightly disorienting whenever I swung the camera around hard and fast in a half-circle, but it was always a momentary blip and only in that weird and highly specific circumstance. Perhaps the grandeur dissipates a bit when taking it from a large TV to a small handheld screen, but it makes the game more accessible without making it any harder to actually play, so I became a big believer in Twilight Princess on the GamePad.
Part of the game’s story involves Link’s occasional incursions into the Twilight Realm, a shadowy nether region parallel to his own where he turns into a wolf. If you remember the original game, Link would have to track down 16 “tears of light” before moving on. This was a regular and consistent drag, a boring collect-a-thon that added little but length to the game. Twilight Princess HD picks up a bit of the slack by dropping that number down to 12, letting you get out of the Twilight Realm a little bit more quickly. There are other minor changes like this at times, but the remake misses out on the opportunity to fix the game’s molasses-slow opening. If, like me, you don’t really have the best memories of Twilight Princess, it might be because the first few hours are about as boring as any Zelda has ever been. It starts with an overly long and repetitive tutorial that returns mostly intact in the HD remake. (Everything involving a goat in the opening portion should have been cut.) Once again, you’ll have to soldier through if you want to get to the meat of this particular Zelda.
There have been four Zelda-themed Amiibos released so far, and a fifth one based on Twilight Princess’s Wolf Link comes out alongside the HD remake tomorrow. All of them are compatible with Twilight Princess HD, and they’re legitimately pretty useful. The Smash Bros. Link and Toon Link Amiibos restore Link’s arrows, Zelda and Sheik refill hearts and Ganondorf makes the game harder by doubling the damage dealt by enemies. Wolf Link might be the one to get, though: it opens up an entire dungeon that’s otherwise unavailable. The Cave of Shadows isn’t crucial, or anything, but if you dig fighting as Wolf Link, it offers a lot of action with its waves of bad guys.
I had a hard time playing Twilight Princess on the Wii. It’s not just that it started off slowly, or that the Wolf Link gimmick seemed undercooked; my biggest problem was simply how the game looked. Coming after the elegant Wind Waker, the oddly distorted characters of Twilight Princess just looked grotesque. It was also drabber than any Zelda should ever be. The character models are still unsightly in the HD remake, but at least everything is crisper and more vibrant than before, with splashes of color that pop through the greys and greens. And the Twilight Realm, which always had a macabre atmosphere unusual for a Zelda game, benefits even more from the HD upgrade. At its creepiest the Twilight Realm is almost as nightmarish as the faces on all the people Link talks to throughout the game. Twilight Princess was genuinely hard to look at before, which is a bad thing for a medium that’s contingent on visuals. At least now I can stare at it long enough to play without getting upset at the game.
Garrett Martin edits Paste’s games and comedy sections. He also writes stuff on Twitter.