Atmosphere is vital to storytelling. Atmosphere allows for the audience to experience the emotional impact of a story the way the creator intended it. Proper atmosphere can be achieved using a variety of methods, which is dependent on the medium.
One often overlooked quality is the use of colors. Color direction influences how a game chooses to use traits such as palette, saturation, lighting, brightness and more in order to create a perfect atmosphere.
When The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess first launched for Gamecube and Wii, it attempted to manipulate colors to create an atmosphere of both comfort and bleakness, of warmth and melancholy. Ordon Village, where Link hails from, was made to look relaxing and lazy; the Twilight Realm more insidious and foreboding.
However, it failed to convey such a meaning in both aspects. The latter’s use of almost monochromatic coloring and very little lighting was poorly executed and instead looked muddy and uninteresting. The former failed miserably, as the bland color palate used resembled more of the brown achieved when mixing every paint color together. Mixed together and you get a game with very little variance in its visuals.
This issue is one of the most notable changes to The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD, due to the adjustments made to said color palate. Gazing upon Ordon is seeing a sleepy village awash in a sunset of shining reds, oranges and yellows. You can feel the warm sun’s rays as it basks the gentle hills and streams, the lighting equally soft and inviting.
Twilight Realm also receives its own boost through the enhancements. If Ordon resembles the sunset then Twilight is the night that follows.
At first glance the changes may seemed puzzling as the dark realm does seem a little less dark. But it reflects what night looks like under a full moon. Midna and Wolf Link emit a bright glow not unlike the harsh reflected light from the moon, juxtaposing and enhancing the darker and far less saturated tones of the realm.
Textures have also received a boost; greenery looks more lush and healthy, the water found in rivers and lakes gleam with a new found crystal clarity. Smaller details, such as the stitching on Link’s tunic and pants, are actually noticeable upon close inspection.
As such, Twilight Princess‘s visuals has been greatly improved from the original version, better conveying the desired atmosphere the developers strove to achieve. This has the effect of enhancing the story as well; the haunting tale of two kingdoms under siege is given more weight.
Gameplay is largely unchanged, on the other hand, from the Gamecube version of the original title. For Wii players, it will be quite the adjustment. Motions controls aren’t available — you choose between the Gamepad or Pro Controller instead — and the game is presented in its proper orientation rather than the mirrored one used for right-handed players in Twilight Princess for Wii.
Strangely enough, however, Hero Mode (the hardest difficulty setting) is presented in the same reversed orientation from the Wii version.
Dungeon designs are the usual varied fare found in the series, with plenty of environment-based puzzles scattered around to liven things up. What makes the game even more interesting is alternating between Hylian Link and Wolf Link as the two forms differ in gameplay, environments and dungeons.
As for control scheme, Twilight Princess borrows from its predecessor Ocarina of Time, including the “Z” or “L” Trigger mechanic that allows for precise targeting.
The context-sensitive button mechanic gives players a range of actions to perform depending on the situation and what is currently doing. For instance, if Link is stationary while holding a boulder than he will have the option to put it down. If he happens to be running, then that action will change to “throw.”
In his Hylian form, Link can perform vertical and horizontal slashes, a forward jab and the spin attack with his equipped sword. Players also receive a slingshot early on for long-ranged attacks. As you complete dungeons, Link gains access to other weapons and tools such as a lantern, bombs, boomerang, a clawshot and his trusty bow.
Epona makes her return from Ocarina of Time, with an expanded role in combat. Link can fight with his sword and several other weapons while on horseback and can be killed on horseback as well. There are even a few missions and battles in the game that occur entirely on horseback.
Wolf Link plays a bit differently as he essentially has no weapons to attack with. He uses his (admittedly powerful) fangs and claws to strike foes in a similar manner to Hylian Link equipped with a sword — forward strike, a series of slashes and bites and a spin attack.
In addition, Wolf Link is faster, more agile, possesses superior balance, can dig holes to discover new paths, has night vision and can detect scent trails in order to offset the loss of his weaponry.
Due to his lack of weapons, Midna will assist Wolf Link by giving him advice on puzzles and enemy weak points as well as helping him to grip and swing from objects (although Wolf Link can do this himself as well). Best of all, she provides him with a powerful finishing technique that strikes all foes marked by the orange and black circle she summons.
Another major difference between the two forms is whom Link can speak with. Link’s Hylian form can naturally converse with other humans but he cannot understand animals. Wolf Link is the exact opposite: while humans are too frightened to speak with him animals aren’t and he can glean useful (and often hilarious) information from them instead.
Gameplay benefited from the HD upgrade as well. Animations and load times are much faster than before — at times boasting a decrease of one-third. The “Tears of Light” puzzles, a major source of tedium in the original title, are also much less tedious to solve.
Most notably, amiibo functionality has been added to the game. The Wolf Link amiibo, which is bundled with the physical version, adds on the “Cave of Shadows,” an arena-type dungeon similar to the temple featuring Hylian Link in the original. In this version, you play as Wolf Link and must conquer waves of foes. You can re-challenge the arena after beating it once in order to better your record.
Other Legend of Zelda-themed amiibo tie into the the HD remaster as well. The Link amiibo replenishes arrows, Zelda restores hearts and Ganondorf increases the game’s difficulty during that play session by increasing damage taken by enemies.
For those uninterested in amiibo, the bonuses are just that: bonuses that are present for fun but aren’t necessary to fully enjoy the remaster. My one playthrough of the title had little to do with the amiibo and I was still capable of enjoying the plot for what it was.
As a whole, Twilight Princess HD is a satisfying upgrade from the original game that’s absolutely at the level of Wind Waker HD. In some ways it even surpasses the latter in terms of graphical enhancements and, coupled with the strong gameplay variance, results in a remaster worth investing in for those who may have missed the game the first time around.
For those who have already played the previous versions, the idea of double-dipping is a harder pill to swallow. But consider this: if you had any qualms concerning the original title that have since been addressed and corrected in the HD version, Twilight Princess HD may be worth the retread again — especially if you happen to own any amiibo.