Thoughts on Twilight Princess HD, from 2000 to 2016

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Earlier this week Nintendo confirmed what we all suspected – Twilight Princess is getting the HD treatment, and there’s an Amiibo tie-in to boot. With this nearly 10-year-old game back in the headlines, I wanted to take a moment to jot some thoughts down AND get yours in the process!

Twilight Princess’ story really begins at Nintendo’s 2000 Space World show, where Nintendo debuted test footage of numerous upcoming GameCube titles. We caught glimpses of Samus firing at alien creatures, Luigi freaking out and, most importantly, Link battling Ganondorf in what appeared to be an Ocarina of Time sequel… or at least spiritual successor. This brief yet incredible footage left many a Zelda fan desperately awaiting further details.

But a full year later at Space World 2001, the dramatic update we expected was replaced by a cartoonish kid Looney Tunes-ing his way past a horde of baddies. Needless to say, even in this pre-Wiki, pre-YouTube, largely pre-broadband internet, there was still a mountain of rage at this “betrayal.” Granted, this game – Wind Waker – would go on to become of the most cherished in the series, but from 2001~2004, most fans and press wondered what happened to the adult Link seen in the 2000 demo footage.

This mystery was solved at E3 2004, when Nintendo revealed what many assumed to be that ”lost” Zelda title from 2000. Even without an actual subtitle or release date, the audience loses its mind at the sight of this serious, Lord of the Rings-esque approach. And while that 2000 footage was never really related to Twilight Princess, it did plant a seed that finally blossomed during this show.

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And this is where things get a bit more personal, as E3 2004 also happened to be my first, and I hit the show floor kinda freaking out about the whole thing. Not only was this my first time going to the (at the time still) mythological E3 conference, but it was also ground zero for a hype machine four years in the making. It wasn’t present at the booth, but the trailer did replay on Nintendo’s screen quite a few times.

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Jump ahead to E3 2005, and Twilight Princess earns its name and alleged 2005 release date. The game is playable to attendees and for the moment it seems like this long-awaited, borderline mythical entry in the series is going to deliver on its promises. But jump to E3 2006…

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… and Twilight Princess has now become a dual Wii launch title / GameCube swan song, as it’s been in development for so long that its original platform isn’t entirely viable. This was a blessing and a curse, as Twilight Princess’ profile would be raised as a “launch title” for new hardware, but said hardware was already making headlines as a standard definition weakling in an age of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

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By this time I was the Nintendo Editor at GamesRadar, and was outrageously lucky to preview Twilight Princess from NOA’s headquarters. And while I went into the appointment somewhat deflated, having seen the kind of HD insanity Sony and Microsoft were selling that holiday, I left with a renewed spring in my step. Twilight Princess was indeed the game I’d constructed in my head after watching that 2000 test footage. It was, at last, the “serious” and “cool” Zelda game made to follow Ocarina of Time.

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After pouring 50 hours into the game, I completed Twilight Princess and felt a unique sense of closure. In a way, I (and many others) had waited six years to experience the intense one-on-one battle with Ganondorf teased back in 2000, and here it was. But Princess exceeded those lofty expectations in many ways, offering an epic, wildly escalating battle against Ganondorf’s many forms.

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Princess also managed to walk a fine line between honoring “traditional” Zelda values and dreaming up all-new ideas. In between numerous safe Ocarina homages are inventive new dungeons (that Yeti mansion really stands out to me), a companion who’s actually invested in the story (Midna <3) and uh, the fact you play a huge portion of the game as a wolf. I still think the wolf aspect is a little weird, but hey, that’s Twilight Princess – Majora-style weirdness tempered by Ocarina’s form and flow.

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Once the HD version was announced, it struck me how this game has been in my mind in just about every phase of my adult life, from its 2000 “tease” (college) to its 2004 debut (graduated, freelancing), to its 2006 release (salaried employee of GamesRadar) and now its HD remaster (2016, LaserTime Ernest Editor). To go from random college kid (2000) to sitting in NOA and meeting the team (2006) is a pretty wild leap to make, and I’ll always associate Princess with that kind of life-changing drama.

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Today, we’re lucky enough to have GC copy signed by both Aonuma-san and Kondo-san (via Caro’s trip to see the 25th Anniversary Symphony), which further places this game in a unique, lofty place. I may have never thought about how many ways TP had affected or impacted my life, had this HD version slipped through the cracks.

But now, I really wanna know what YOUR take on this game is. Did you play or finish it? Is this your magical childhood or high school Zelda experience? Are you interested in playing it again on Wii U?

Let’s chat!

24 thoughts on “Thoughts on Twilight Princess HD, from 2000 to 2016

  1. I have not played a Zelda game after Ocarina. I just started to drift away from Nintendo after the N64. Masks, wolves and waggling wii motes left me wondering what was going on in this series I invested countless playthroughs in Link to The Past. Friends have talked highly of the games and I have been curious, but never took a dive back onto the Nintendo side of gaming aside from a small handful of 3ds titles. I’d like to try the 3ds remaster of Majoras but I have the old XL, I seem to have been missing out on some good games. Great article!

  2. This is one of the Zelda games I have that I haven’t finished yet. A few years ago I was playing the game and I nearly finished the main story but I lost my Gamecube to a horrible power surge. Everything was lost so I just kind of became deflated and I didn’t feel like starting over even though I loved the game. I eventually got a Wii, sold it and bought another Gamecube a few years later and to this day the story remains the same. One day I will finish it, it was wonderful and worthy of a HD version I would say.

  3. I was one of those weirdos who camped out overnight at Target for the Wii’s launch. Never again…I could barely sleep, it was intensely cold and while I was waiting in line I got a call from my dad saying my uncle overseas lost his battle with leukemia, which made me feel terrible for even staying there.

    Twilight Princess isn’t my favorite Zelda by any means, but it did a lot of cool things. In hindsight, the pacing was poor at times, it took a long time to finally get to the overworld, the sidequests weren’t all that involved or deep, the Wolf Link collect-a-thons weren’t all that fun, most items were only important in the dungeons they were in, the game had two progress-blocking bugs and I got sick of the game pausing to tell me that a blue rupee = 5 green rupees every time I reloaded my save. And to top it all off, it felt too easy to me, especially the final Ganondorf battle (that horseback fight would’ve been incredible if it wasn’t so disappointingly brief).

    But you know what? The story was dark and interesting, riding around on Epona on a big overworld and swiping enemies with your sword was a treat, the boss fights, especially in the City in the Sky, were super fun, the music was and still is incredible and Navi and Fi have got NUTHIN’ on Midna (welll Tatl was pretty great). Also I’m looking forward to playing the game in Non-Mirror & Non-Sword Waggle mode (I got the GCN version way later on but barely played it. Go figure).

    tl;dr I’m still getting and replaying Twilight Princess in HD despite its flaws because it’s still super cool. Also soundtrack pre-order bonus hellooooooo

    tl;dr tl;dr https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqqczTWtFKE

  4. Twilight Princess is an interesting game because it seems like a great experience that a lot of people disliked because it couldn’t live up to those first moments and imagined possibilities when it was revealed. I think that is why it seems like a game that has a relatively not-good reputation. That said, I hope that the HD release will give fans a second chance to play and enjoy the game on its own merits, rather than judged against the blush of that first love, as I think it is a good title. Though I will admit that when it comes to games about wolves, I am more fond of Ammy than Furry Link.

  5. It’s crazy to me that this game is 10 years old already… I got it in 2005 when I got my Wii, and played through a good portion but never beat it. Already have the HD version pre-ordered though, and am definitely gonna make it all the way through this time!

  6. Twilight Princess was actually the first Zelda game I ever properly played. I have no idea how the series totally passed me by until then, but TP and Super Mario Galaxy (at the time) made me think the Wii was going to be the ‘future of gaming’.
    The soundtrack to TP is so underrated imo. Beautifully mysterious and ominous tones that struck a chord with me.

  7. Twilight Princess is arguably my favourite Zelda game. I got it as the first game on the Wii and enjoyed it immensely. I loved Ocarina although Wind Waker never did it for me(and it wasn’t the graphics). The less said about Skyward Sword the better.

    I think the series has almost flourished more in the handheld space. but I am getting off topic.

    The similarity to Ocarina of Time with better graphics is what got me. It has all the weirdness you expect from a Zelda game and some great temples. The Wii control was dumb but I didn’t realize that in 2006 when the idea of Motion control still seemed cool. It played great and was just solid in every aspect. The weird thing is at the moment this remake has no hold on me, I couldn’t care less. I think tat could change closer to release though.

    Great article Brett!

  8. I played all through Twilight Princess on the Wii and loved every minute of it, but it’s not one I’d revisit. Wind Waker is my personal Zelda, being the gaming highlight of arguably the best year of my life.

    However, Midna really made Twilight Princess special, and out of all Link’s companions she’s the one with the most personality. It’s a large part of the reason why I utterly lost interest in Skyward Sword – Fi is so completely devoid of character that it makes traversing the game boring. I had issues with the world design and the controls, but that was the thing that put me off the game first. Skyward Sword remains the only home console Zelda game since Zelda II that I’ve never finished.

  9. There are chickens with human heads in that game…. Never again.

    But seriously I did really like that game but I don’t think I would play it again unless I got it for cheap.

  10. This is awesome article Brett!

    Sadly, my own personal experience is pretty boring – my brother bought a wii at launch and I played maybe 10 hours or so of that version and haven’t touched it much since. I’m not the biggest Zelda fan (obviously), but maybe I’ll give this one a try sometime,

    This story of it’s long process to even coming out in the first place reminds me of Resident Evil 4’s development, with it’s early announcement and three “phases” before it would come to be the GCN title we all know and love. Stuff like this, even if I don’t have a huge personal tie to the game, is always fascinating to me.

  11. I bought it for my then girlfriend for GC. Incidentally, as it became rare and its price shot up, I got pretty bummed. For the life of me I can’t remember when, or even what system I began to play the game on when I finally did, suffice it to say I don’t think I got past the first or second dungeon. At the time I hated the aesthetic. Everything all jagged, sort of Aztec-y, sort of digital…it just seemed bizarre and flavorless to me. I think I understand it better now—can’t wait to see it in HD—but I still don’t care for it. After all this time, I regret missing it, particularly after Skyward Sword came out and seemed to get a real “siiiiigh” out of the world, with many pointing fondly back at Twilight Princess. I’ll check out the remaster.

  12. I went to the midnight release for the Wii and bought Twilight Princess to go with it. It didn’t take me long to come to the conclusion that this game was just an angsty remix of Ocarina of Time. I hadn’t been that disappointed since the first time I had sex. It felt like half the puzzles were lifted directly from OoT without any changes. The environments seemed like they were the same ones only with everything moved further away so it was a hassle to get anywhere. And finally, the wolf thing just seemed like a big, dumb, useless gimmick.

    Dual claw-shot was pretty neat though.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me while I jack-off Wind Waker a little bit. I hold that as the best Zelda game to date. The charm! The exploration! Jerks who dismissed it offhand due to the graphics drove me up the wall. None of the Zelda games before that came off to me as particularly mature, or intense, or graphically impressive even while playing them in their prime, so the cell-shaded art style didn’t feel like some sort of imagined betrayal. If anything it made it easier to show what was going on with characters, allowed them to be more expressive (and it ages better). The real betrayal was making gameplay secondary to the focus on making TP dark and brooding to appease a bunch of tools who take themselves too seriously.

    1. It was one of those times where you could sense Nintendo trying to be something it wasn’t. Twilight Princess was trying so, so hard, and even succeeded at times, like with Midna, and Zant, and the moments when your Zelda brain turns on and goes, “wait, am I in a dungeon?” That sense of surprise does pop up in TP. Aiming arrows and clawshot with the Wii Remote feels really good, too! The warbly, weirdo shadowbeat music fits well, much better than the efforts at orchestration in the overworld. There are veins of gold in the game, it’s just a chore to get there. Godspeed to the HD remake, I look forward to reading what are ostensibly patch-notes when it drops on Wii U in March.

  13. While Twilight Princess has good in its heart, it is not a holistically-crafted game. It’s Nintendo reacting to fan pressure, but not really knowing how to do so. It’s got giant Lord of the Rings-style battles horseback moments — but it’s set to a farty facsimile of epic music forced through midi sound files. It has a kingdom-spanning story concerning a people under siege — but it still only has two real towns, Kakariko and Hyrule Castle. It tries really hard to do dramatic, character-focused cutscenes — but these in-game movies are terribly directed and having no voice acting is incongruous to the type of presentation they are going for.

    Having no VO in Wind Waker is fine. It fits. If they want to make a big-time fantasy movie story, man, it’s got to have better production value. Look at what Shadow of the Colossus accomplished with its minimalism. That’s what Twilight Princess should have aspired to.

    But Twilight Princess remains a torn-up game. Its technology doesn’t match the scope Nintendo wanted to convey. It wants to be the heir to Ocarina of Time while still being a friendly, helpful Wii launch game with how-to’s and tips (“Hey, did you see those monkeys?!” Yeah, it’s literally the only other thing in the room.). It’s serving too many masters, the fanbase most of all.

    I love Midna. I hate having to turn into a wolf to teleport. I love being a wolf. I hate that I can’t turn into a wolf if an NPC is looking at me. I love the game’s scope. I hate that the game gives you no motivation to explore its smaller corners, and holds your hand on the dungeon puzzles.

    I hate the postman yelling at me the moment I walk into Hyrule field, freezing the game, automatically changing me from a wolf back into a human, speaking with me, giving me a letter, and running off. Game, you just told me I couldn’t turn into a wolf in town because I’m in front of people. Now you force me to transform? Its an ongoing contradiction.

    I’ll close with this. I played through the game on the Wii when it launched. As usual, my whole family watched along and helped out here and there, per tradition. Last year, I was playing through the GCN version at Christmas and my dad was watching me. His paraphrased words: “Which Zelda is this? I don’t think I like this one. It’s grim and gross.”

    I don’t think a remaster will save Twilight Princess. It summons no fond memories for me. It’s fine if people feel differently. It might be their first Zelda. I loved Wind Waker HD. A Link Between Worlds is a burning romance that may never die. But unless I hear people that I trust gush about Twilight Princess HD, I won’t be revisiting it.

    1. Agree with most of your points, actually. I still enjoyed it in the end, but I do think it feels disjointed and contradictory at times.

  14. I can’t wait to play it with what passes as a normal controller for Nintendo. This was the only reason I bought a Wii at launch and I hated those controls so much, it was the first main console Legend of Zelda game I never finished. I had the same problem with Skyward Sword, so I wish they did the same with that.

  15. First-time commenter!

    Twilight Princess was both my 1st Wii game and my 1st Zelda game. It became an obsession of mine and in one session, I played for 12 hours straight, and made it all the way to the Sky dungeon where you obtain the double claw-shot. In real life, though, my grades started slipping and I almost failed my Biology class, so my parents had to take away my Wii. My little brother hated me for a few weeks after that but eventually forgave me…with some help from my parents.
    I don’t remember much about the game, to be honest, but I was very intrigued by the darker storyline and I enjoyed the Wolf Link segments more than the human Link portions, mostly because of the tantalizing art direction from the Twilight Realm. I get enveloped in the world immediately and something about it keeps me playing it for longer than I intend to. I personally enjoy platformers and, as a senior in college, I don’t have the time to play really long games like Zelda any more.
    Since then, I’ve played other Zelda games with Wind Waker becoming one of my all-time favorites but Twilight Princess was my late introduction to the world of Nintendo and it defined the kinds of games I play today.

  16. I love Twilight Princess. I understand the criticisms I’ve read of it, but I still love it. I enjoy the length of the story (maybe with the exception of the bug-hunting parts as a wolf), the feel of the large world (one obviously dwarfed by other RPG games, but it still felt large), and most of all the characters. One character in particular propels this title into a very high standing with me: Midna. She is without a doubt the Zelda character with the most personality. And I loved how the story took her from troublesome, even threatening mysterious imp, to being the actual (sub)title character of the game! Her evolution feels genuine and awesome, plus her design is just really original and fun.
    .
    I am definitely getting the HD remake, even though I own both the Wii and Gamecube versions. If anything, this Wii U version will feature the best of both of those incarnations, and maybe they’ll even do some Wind Waker HD-like streamlining of certain parts.
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    I wasn’t super impressed by the visuals they showed in the Direct. It could just be that WW ages better because of its art style, or maybe the Direct’s video quality just can’t convey the updated looks they are giving it. In the end, that barely matters. I gladly play this game again on the original systems, so I will gladly play it again on the new. And I assume it will include both Wiimote and regular controller support, too.
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    Plus, that sweet, sweet Midna amiibo WILL be mine. (if only they’d made a Skull Kid one for the MM remake! But that just barely predates the amiibo craze)

  17. This is probably my least favorite Zelda game. I grew up on Ocarina, kind of like Majora, and LOVE Windwaker. I felt like Twilight Princess was pandering to fanboys by bringing back the adult “cool” link. The game design was still great though, and the air temple with the double hook-shots is still one of my favorites. The Iconic bridge battle was a stand-out moment as well. I found the story to be rambling and incoherent and the Wolf parts pretty insufferable. The Wolf segments railroad you into a plot mission stick you with clunky controls and just go on WAAAYYYY to long. I just felt like this game didn’t know what it wanted to be, so they just threw in everything and made a mixed bag that overstays its welcome.

  18. Enjoyed the article Brett.

    I remember playing through Twilight Princess on my gamecube back in xmas break 06. I was home from college and played it a good bit. I remember enjoying it but never really getting sucked into it. I didn’t even beat it initially I don’t think. That came later in the summer of 07. Idk what it was but I just couldn’t get hooked into it as much as I did Wind Waker or even Majora’s Mask.

    I would like to replay it now though and see if I like it more a second time through.

  19. You may hate me for this one Brett but this is the ONLY Zelda game I have finished. I am not babby either. I’m 30, had an NES as my first system but went to genesis, to PS, to PS2 to XBOX 360 so Nintendo and I never had our time in the sun. Really enjoyed this game though. Bought a second hand Wii to play it after seeing my brother in law waggling with it. Wish I could have played with a controller in hindsight but enjoyed it nonetheless. Good article buddy.

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