A TWILIGHT RETROSPECTIVE

Recently, Nintendo put out the HD rerelease of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, a game which I have always adored. In my excitement for this release, I had originally planned to do a standard review of this game. However, not only has that already been beyond well and done at this point, but the original game came out 10 years ago. So the odds are that if you are buying this game, you already know well in advance how you feel about it. Instead I wanted to take a different approach. I want to take this opportunity to look at what did and did not work with this title, both in the original and the HD version, and use that as a solid chance to see what has stood out and how that has affected and can affect future titles, hopefully opening the floor for future discussions. Everybody ready? Let’s get howling!

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First off, I have already mentioned how much I adored this title, and if you listen to our Podcast or have read my previous Zelda articles then you know how deep my love is, and therefore I obviously have a wee touch of a bias. And sure I have enjoyed almost all of the 3D Zelda’s, except for Skyward Sword which I am now calling the Mississippi of Zelda games, but for some reason Twilight Princess seemed to have an odd stigma around it. I have never heard anyone say they just outright hate the title, but the average reaction I have seen for it has been “Meh”. Even Shigeru Miyamoto Sempai said that it was a good game it was just “Missing something”. I guess to a point I could see that. Windwaker had its animation style, very unique setting with the Ocean, and an enduring charm.  Majora’s Mask had the creepiest setting of all, and is easily one of the most different Zelda’s ever made. So then, what was missing from Twilight Princess? It might just be a mixture of things. For one, it did have a reuse of certain sound effects from Windwaker, specifically when it came to collecting items and rupees, as well as the destruction of enemies. This may seem nitpicky, but think about it. Those sounds were meant to be unique to Windwaker because they matched that game’s style, so it doesn’t make sense to leave them in because it stylistically does not match. Majora’s Mask reused sound effects from Ocarina of Time, but that made sense due to that game being a direct sequel and still had the same style at its core.  A stronger example might be that Ganondorf ended up being the bad guy in the end instead of the new villain, Zant. That part is especially not fun after the Twilight Realm itself honestly being a bit of a letdown after it was talked about so much. Granted I actually get what they did with him but more on that later. There’s even a possibility that having to suddenly make a GameCube game a Wii game at the very last minute threw off some additional thought that could have thrown a wrench into other ideas they had.  Perhaps the issue was that this was only the 4th 3D Zelda, after Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, it kind of felt like a precedent had been set. But then Windwaker came out and basically blew that perception out of the water. So it’s possible that style wise Twilight Princess could have felt like a step backwards. Or it’s possible that the shine of 3D Zelda’s had simply been wearing off on people, as there were people claiming the superiority of the 2D format. I honestly have no preference on my number of dimensions; I just want it to be fun. This of course is all speculation, but do keep this in mind, when Windwaker first came out, it caused a great bit of division amongst fans, just based on the style alone. These days however, people have warmed up to it and have come to truly enjoy that title.

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A familiar pattern has happened with the HD version of Twilight Princess now being out. I have even seen some reports of people enjoying it more the second time around. And with that being said, let’s finally focus on the positives of this game. One thing that definitely did work was the feel for how big Hyrule was the first time I went through it. Sure it seems much smaller now after games like Skyrim, GTA V, and hell even Red Dead Redemption, but back in 2006 it felt massive. Thankfully, the new coat of HD paint makes this world still just beautiful to be in, and a true joy to ride through on Epona. It still feels like there are just several secrets waiting to be discovered throughout the land. Oh and it was a really nice touch to have an amazing render distance when it comes to being able to see all of the Twilight warp points in the sky, even ones that are all the way across the map, it’s simple and can go unnoticed at times but it’s just really cool to see. Little touches can always help to build something bigger.

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Another smart touch was giving you good reasons to go out and see different parts of the world.  A good example of this is the different steps you have to take at times to progress to the next area. Dungeons are a staple of literally every Zelda ever created, and probably always will be in some capacity, and having to do a little extra adventuring in between these dungeons is nothing new either. However, in Twilight Princess there is just so freaking much to do in between dungeons, and that’s pretty awesome. This both helps to break up the standard affair a little bit and gives us a chance to learn more about the current Hyrule we are trying to save.  And what’s even better is that I honestly never found these tasks boring.  In fact, here’s a list of what happens in between Dungeons 1 and 2 in order:  Cross part of Hyrule field and enter a new area of Twilight, become a wolf again, find the scent of one of the kids from your village and follow it to Kakariko Village, find the dark bugs (I forget what they are called) and restore light to the province (People had issues with this part and I can understand why, but it’s no worse than fetching Triforce charts and shards….),  once everyone comes out and starts to feel safe, bandits suddenly appear riding your lost horse Epona which you finally get back, but not before their leader comes and kidnaps one of the kids. Then you go to the next field and fight off these bandits and their leader on horseback, which then leads you to having what is essentially a jousting match with the leader on a bridge over an infinite gorge. And after you finally get the kids back you can finally try to climb Death Mountain, except the Gorons hate humans now and can easily knock you off the mountain (rock nippled jerks). So then the Village Chief tells you that the Mayor of your home village knows how to stop them. So we go back to Ordon Village where we, I crap you not, Sumo-Wrestle the mayor for his Iron Boots (Doskoi!!). Then we go all the way back to Death Mountain, tossing Gorons aside like dumb boulder babies until we reach the summit, where we yet again Sumo-Wrestle, but this time it’s with the much stronger Goron Elder, and then we can enter the next dungeon!!!……Hallelujah! Holy Sh&% where’s the Tylenol!?!?!

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On paper that all can seem extremely overwhelming, but experience and gameplay wise, I had more fun with those parts than with some of the dungeons (I still hate water temples). Plus it beats the crap out of using the Wii mote to swim around and find underwater dragon baby music notes….ugh…. It’s something that is encouraging you to explore and see this world so that your adventure can be that much grander. Not to mention that while you are doing these tasks and exploring every nook and cranny for rupees, Heart Pieces, and Poes, you have who is easily one of the best companions in the entire franchise at your side. Midna is a great standout entity. A jilted creature from the Twilight who initially cares only for her own goals and revenge, it’s truly enjoyable watching her demeanor change as the story progresses. Though there are several times when she smiles in this game that are just downright creepy, especially in HD. It’s like a weird mix between a mad scientist and someone who is stab stab crazy. But what’s most important is that she has a true personality, unlike Navi who yelled at you or Fi who was just a weird Auto Tuned whatever. We got our first taste of a companion with personality in Windwaker with the King of Red Lions, but with Midna having this unashamed and selfish goal, it actually makes her both more likeable and relatable. Good characters with standout personalities are starting to become more prevalent in 3D Zelda games, which is an excellent step forward. Heck, even Skyward Sword got this right with characters like Groose. But Midna is not the only interesting character who lives in the Twilight realm.

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The Usurper King Zant is a Man…Thing…Creature….Creeper…..who stole the Throne of the Twilight after receiving some, at the time, unknown powers. He is truly just creepy and for most of the game he appears to be a force to be reckoned with, even knocking back one of the Light Spirits out with just one blow. However this is all undone once we find out that the one pulling the strings is who else but Ganondorf.  After this, Zant becomes less threatening, and the battle with him focuses on him copying attack patterns from previous bosses and then basically flailing his swords around….Alrighty. Now I mentioned earlier that I felt like I understood why they did this. Think back to any Zelda you have ever played. Now think about the bosses you faced in whichever game you thought of. In one way or another, and I know there are some exceptions, they were all servants of whomever the main villain was for that title, be it Ganon, Vaati, or even Majora. And in this case, Zant was no different. And while that may hurt his character some, him using those previous boss patterns helps to show just how much of a puppet he really was. He wanted power, but on his own he was weak. He had to use the help of a much more powerful entity to finally achieve his goals. But once those newfound abilities failed him and his final attack becomes essentially spinning around at random hoping he hits you with his swords, you realize what he truly is, and that is both a weakling and a mere tool. Even when he is about to die he is still singing the praises of his “God”. And is Ganon anywhere to be seen to save his loyal servant? Nope. Thanks to Ganon being fully resurrected, Zant has served his purpose and is no longer useful to the Demon King. People may not like how Zant ended up, but I definitely see the narrative they were trying to show, and that is something that has been very underappreciated.

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I will talk more on Ganon towards the end, but I want to shift gears and talk about some of the other new features in this HD version before I forget them. There are no truly drastic changes, because honestly they weren’t needed. The Poe Lantern is helpful but it doesn’t actually tell you where the Poes are, just that they are in the general area. I did fool around with the Amiibo support and it is helpful that you can use them to restock arrows and hearts, though it should be noted that you can only do each once a day….I found that out the hard way….But the included Wolf Link Amiibo does have a two fold purpose, one is access a quick save for your game, and the other is to access a new dungeon called the “Cave of Shadows”. It’s basically a “Cave of Ordeals” but specifically for the Wolf form. Oh and another neat addition is the ability to switch back and forth between wolf and human forms on the fly. It wasn’t a huge hindrance in the original, but it is a time saver. Also, there is a “Hero Mode”, a higher difficulty setting first introduced in Skyward Sword, returns in this version of Twilight Princess. I have not tried this mode yet, but I do know that the world is now mirrored i.e. designed to emulate the Wii version of the game and thankfully without Wii controls, since the normal has the GameCube layout, which I believe is the superior and more accurate version. You will take double the damage as well, however it should be noted that activating the Ganondorf Amiibo while in Hero Mode quadruples the amount of damage Link normally takes when hit, son of a bee sting that hurts!

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I have saved Ganon towards the end because I am hoping that how he was used in Twilight Princess will be used as a stepping stone for future installments. Major Spoiler in case you didn’t already know, but it’s been out for 10 years, this one is on you.  So at the very end, Ganon is dead. Not sealed away in some realm, not taken prisoner. He gets stabbed in the chest, and dies. The End. This is important. Why? Well that should be fairly obvious. This opens the door for a new villain. Oh and get ready because I’m about to run with this one. (Deep breath). So as you are all mostly aware, we are on the verge of getting a new Zelda that is 3D somewhere in the future. Very little is known about this game, let alone its story and main antagonist. And ever since the establishment of the Zelda Timeline, however disputed it may be, this leaves people wondering where it should fall in there, and I honestly believe it should fall in the Child Link timeline, i.e. the one that has Twilight Princess in it. When you think about it, the other timelines are almost wrapped and have been given more development. In the Adult Link timeline, we know that the Windwaker happens, and more than a century later they have found a new land to live in and populate. And in the Time Line where Link fails, we know that the original Zelda titles are essentially a wrap up to the aftermath of Ganon. Sure you could find ways to make the new Zelda fit in all three timelines, but the one with Twilight Princess has actually gotten the least development and honestly has the most potential. Look at it this way. It has been established in Skyward Sword (yes I’m mad I keep bringing it up to, but it helps my point) that it takes place chronologically before literally all of the other titles. And in that game we meet Demise, a God of Destruction (I prefer Beerus, but I wasn’t at that meeting). Demise is a god who swears upon his defeat that he will return, reincarnated as a physical embodiment of his rage, in a never ending cycle. Now this ultimately is what leads to Ganondorf, Ganon, coming into existence and possessing much of the power he has even before getting the Triforce of Power. This makes Ganon a force to be reckoned with for sure. In fact, in Twilight Princess, Ganon is chained to a stone and stabbed in the chest with a giant Light Sword by the Sages. And does he die from this? Nope. He wakes up, smiles, breaks his chains, and then kills one of the Sages with his bare hands. It’s pretty metal. Now this does leave a weak point for Link to use in his ultimate defeat, remember how I mentioned he gets stabbed in the chest there to? Yea except, after Link thrusts the Master Sword through his heart via that remaining open wound, Ganon gets up and dies…standing up. That’s pretty freaking cool. Oh and he doesn’t just fall over either, he just stays there like a statue. Like a final memoir to let everyone know how close everyone came to being under his rule. And as awesome as that death is, it needs to be kept that way, as a true and permanent death. Not like a comic book death where it doesn’t count and he comes back in four issues (Looking at you Superman), but a true finalization of death. As I said before, Demise said his cycle would always begin anew, so why not find a new form since this one has already failed so many times? And yes I know he was resurrected in Four Swords Adventures by Vaati or whatever in this timeline, but he died again and I’m pretty sure no one is going to take that very seriously. This is a golden opportunity to make a truly new and interesting villain. I mentioned before that they are getting better at making truly memorable and interesting characters, and this would be an even greater step in the right direction.

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And if they want to keep Ganon in some capacity because he is just as important to Zelda as say Bowser is to Mario, you can still try to make it interesting. Instead of “Oh No, Ganon is back”, maybe have it play out to where having the Master Sword in him for so long, it has now been corrupted and that power is now his to wield, this creates a race against time to not only forge a brand new holy weapon, but to also stop Ganon from both rebuilding an army and reacquiring the Triforce of Power, which could maybe go to Link or Zelda this time and thus creating some new chaos. This may all sound like Fanfiction to some of you, and sure it can be but hey at least it’s not weird Rule 34 Fanfiction, but two of the concepts I just mentioned have been touched upon in other Zelda titles such as Minish Cap and Hyrule Warriors (Not canon, but Ganon did try to rebuild an army in that).

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Ultimately, the good that has come from rereleasing Twilight Princess in HD is two things. Number 1: People have another chance to play and truly appreciate this title for what it is. And Number 2: It shows just how much groundwork was laid for future installments, not just in concepts and gameplay, but in story as well. Skyward Sword (anybody made a drinking game yet?) unfortunately felt like a step backwards in several areas. But I have faith that the next iteration, whenever and whatever it comes out on, will consider the right and wrongs of previous titles and build upon them. For now, if you are in need of a fun Zelda adventure, pick up Twilight Princess HD, find a place to display your new Wolf Link Amiibo, and enjoy what I still believe is one of the most underappreciated Zelda titles ever released.


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