Tuesday, January 3, 2017

[REVIEW] The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD (Wii U)

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD
Played on: Wii U
Genre: Action-adventure
Developer: Tantalus / Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

I never owned a Wii or a Gamecube, as both those consoles were released during an extended break I took from console gaming. So when I got the backwards compatible Wii U in 2013, as a huge Zelda fan, one of the first things I did was to get Wii's Twilight Princess. Halfway through the second dungeon, I gave up, as I simply couldn't stomach playing through a 3D Zelda with motion controls. Twilight Princess HD, then, was a very welcome way for me to cover this particular hole in my Zelda backlog.

The first thing you have to know about Twilight Princess is that it was supposed to be a 'back to basics' of sorts for 3D Zelda. After two entries that successfully strayed from the Ocarina of Time blueprint, Nintendo probably thought it was time to be less bold. The result is a game that doesn't offer a lot in terms of innovation in the gameplay loop. Thankfully, this allowed a razor-sharp focus for the game design, resulting in a thoroughly fun experience.

Link starts his adventure by helping solve problems in his pastoral hometown, which offers some basis to a few of the game mechanics you'll come across later on. Soon enough, however, a strange portal rips reality apart, sending forth otherwordly, hostile beasts. As a result, all of the town youngsters are kidnapped, and Link ends up transformed into a wolf for trying to cross the portal. He's then immediately acquainted with a strange little creature called Midna, who goes on to serve as the title's gameplay companion (and is thankfully a vast improvement over Ocarina's Navi).

Overall, the storytelling is pretty good. Midna is an interesting character with intentions that are less than clear initially, and it's nice to watch as her bond with Link unfolds through the game. The cast of NPCs are all the right kind of quirky (you know, classic Zelda), which also helps in regards to the numerous side quests they present.

If there's one thing that actually stands out here, though, it's the dungeon design. I admit I've always been more of an overworld guy, meaning I usually prefer to explore the vast wilderness of Hyrule, and see dungeons as a fun diversion instead of a main gameplay focus. In Twilight Princess, however, the dungeons are so excellently designed that I found myself constantly yearning to find the next one (although yeah, the blandness of the overworld probably helps here, too). Two absolute standouts are the Goron Mines, with its extremely cool use of the iron boots, and the Yeti's Mansion, which has a strangely ominous atmosphere and has a progression theme that's unlike anything the series has ever done for a dungeon.

As far as 3D Zelda games go, Twilight Princess might be the most formulaic of them all. Still, this is the Zelda formula we're talking about. Even if the game plays it mostly safe, it's still a compelling, expansive, extremely well-round-out adventure. And yes, it features some of the most impressive dungeon designs to ever grace the series. If, like me, you missed out the first time around, Twilight Princess HD is a great way to remedy that.

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