Around 2004-2005, my parents split up. I won’t go into details, but the result of it was my dad and I moving to Canberra, leaving both my mum and Adelaide behind. It never really hit me that hard, strangely enough. My whole life was turned on it’s head, and I just shrugged, and kind of accepted it.
That’s not to say I didn’t care, I did, immensely. Perhaps it was all just too much for 15 year old me to take in. Dad and I had to share a bed at my half sisters place, while her and my brother-in-law were also raising a 3-4 year old boy. The solace I had was an Xbox, and a handful of games. It did the trick enough, I suppose.
A year later, dad and I got a place of our own, and we were all moved in within a week. I can’t remember exactly when it all happened, but it was late 2006, with the Wii about to come out here in Australia. I was pretty excited, despite the fact I hadn’t played a Nintendo home console for years. I skipped the Gamecube for the Xbox, but I was keen to get back into Nintendo, with the motion controls actually appealing to me. Yeah I know, but I was young…
And finding one was a whole other story, there was just no hope. But my mum pulled through, and found one, and shipped it over with a copy of Red Steel. I think we were both excited, with me hyped to get a new gaming console, and my mum being able to get me something awesome, closing that gap between Adelaide and Canberra.
A few weeks after the Wii arrived, dad and I went out to the mall, and we picked up a copy of Twilight Princess as his Christmas present to me. Even though my parents had separated, it was that moment that stuck with me, to open my eyes to the fact that they still both game a damn about me, despite the drama. I played Twilight Princess religiously for the next few weeks, excited to jump back into the series after A Link to the Past being the last one I played. So when I heard there was a HD remake coming, I hesitated. Do I want such a powerful memory potentially defiled by replaying it with modern expectations?
The first thing that stood out to me when I first got the game was the super serious, gritty tone of the world. The beautiful twilight colour scheme has always been one of my favourites, which has actually affected the way I see and feel about real life sunsets.
The character design is also great, with Wolf Link just working without even trying. Midna is endearing, even when it’s clear she’s manipulating you, simply because of her cheeky smile, and playful, impish mannerisms.
In retrospect, however, I am so glad they toned down the bloom lighting, meaning there’s more detail in the twilight areas. The HD textures make the game look stunning in some areas, but it also makes the low polygon count in certain areas incredibly obvious. Given that the main change of the game is that it’s now HD, it’s hard not to be a tad disappointed in the old polygonal modelling.
But now that I’m older, I can appreciate the character designs all the much more, in how they show so much about a character before they even say a word. Ashei was always one of my favourite designs, showing her stoic, but dutiful personality before even truly meeting her in the Snowpeak Mountain area.
It wouldn’t be a Zelda review without mentioning the music, right? When I first played Twilight Princess, many of the tunes in the game were familiar from watching friends play Ocarina of Time. Epona’s Song is not subtle at all, but the howling rocks can be either familiar, or changed to the point where I had no clue.
As familiar the music is, the HD remake hasn’t increased the quality from a MIDI track to fully orchestrated and recorded, which sticks out like a sore thumb these days. It’s a disappointment, but also understandable.
Midna is what makes this story worth playing the game for. Link was never meant to have a true character art, being a blank slate for the player to project themselves onto. Zelda takes a backseat this time around, leaving Midna with the vast majority of the plot points. Which is fine! She’s an enjoyable character whenever she’s on screen, with dubious motives turning to noble ones throughout the game.
Zant is also an interesting, but strange villain. He come across as menacing and formidable at first, where you can tell he’s holding back his true self to instill some uneasiness in you. But when you finally get to his throne to fight him, he’s very unhinged. Entitled, tantrum throwing and almost comic.
And then there’s my, still, favourite representation of Ganondorf. Actually hiding in the shadows, he proves to be the mastermind behind it all. At first, it comes across as cliche, but you have to consider his motives. He was put to execution because the Hero of Time warned Zelda and the royal family of his plans. Sinister as they may be, he was put to death without having done anything yet. That would make anybody mad, if you think about it.
But then the guy gets stabbed in the gut, only to be revived by the power of the Triforce- and then banished to a whole new dimension. Not to justify his actions, but they were really kicking the hornets nest here, only to have it all backfire in a major way.
The Zant boss battle, and the four phase Ganondorf (and Ganon!) fight are my favourite Zelda moments, by far. Pure fun, then the stakes are really high during the final fight. It’s just so epic, I still go back and play the Ganondorf fight over and over just because.
And then there’s the gameplay… I am so glad they took out the motion controls. So very, very glad. Back in 2006 when I first played it, I actually didn’t mind it so much. But I don’t think I could play 30 hours of Zelda with waggle again… The Gamepad is definitely the way to go, with your entire inventory, or even dungeon map, on display and ready.
So while the controls are nicer, the combat in the game is still tedious at times. I found myself getting frustrated with what should be simple battles, just because of animations going on for too long, or Link falling over and taking forever to get up. The Double Clawshot item is still a pain to use, with the Sky City dungeon still being my least favourite in the game, by far.
And then you have a handful of items that don’t make much sense being there beyond the dungeon they’re found in, other than a few cheap ‘piece of heart’ forks in the road. The Ball and Chain, the Spinner and the Dominion Rod don’t feel like staple items, and are all annoying to use in any other purpose than it’s intended dungeon-clearing design.
However, the dungeon design is still great in a lot places, with the water dungeon being one of my favourites for it’s ingenious use of water flow. That’s right, a water dungeon that’s not terrible!
All in all, I’m glad I got to replay Twilight Princess. I can definitely see it’s flaws, but I still have to be grateful for the Zelda game that got me hooked on Nintendo fully again. I wish the remaster went beyond textures and minor gameplay tweaks, but with a new Zelda on the horizon, it makes total sense why they left it to what it is.