Friday, November 20, 2015

Changes I’d Like to See in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD

Another Ze-make announced, another leak confirmed. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD is on its way to Wii U next spring, and I’m personally hoping that a Wolf Link and Midna amiibo isn’t the only novelty this new version will be boasting. At first glance, the visual makeover TP is getting seems to pale in comparison to the transformation that The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker underwent with its HD counterpart, but upon closer inspection, the visuals have certainly been cleaned up to a large degree and it looks like the game will be boasting at least much sharper textures if not entirely redone ones. TWWHD looks so notably beautiful in this modern day and age simply because its art is much better suited to the HD remaster treatment and has aged so gracefully, and Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma alluded to that very notion around the time of the HD remaster’s release. The lighting changes and added bloom also had a purpose when implemented in TWWHD, which was to capture the mood of the bright, sunny ocean setting, whereas TPHD may not have any use for similar drastic alterations. Similar to TWWHD, TPHD will not be a full remake like the 3DS Zelda remakes, but rather an HD remaster with hopefully a few tweaks here and there. Whereas my love and respect for the original experiences that The Wind Waker and Majora’s Mask provide made me wary of the changes being made to those games for their reintroductions, I don’t have the same kind of fondness for Twilight Princess and I’ll happily welcome some changes to TP that might differentiate it from the original and smooth out the experience.

I’ve thought up some alterations that I think have a realistic chance of being applied to TPHD. Again, this isn’t a full remake, so I don’t expect anything to the extent of the changes in Majora’s Mask 3D, for example. With this in mind, thinking up this list was a bit tricky because even though it sits at the lower end of my personal Zelda totem pole, Twilight Princess is actually a very polished game and there aren’t actually that many basic changes I can think to make. Most of my major quantifiable issues with Twilight Princess (and trust me, there are a lot) are baked into the DNA of the game and not the kind of thing you can just twist with a wrench a few times like Nintendo did with some aspects of The Wind Waker. That said, here are some of the tweaks I’d happily welcome when I experience this new version of Twilight Princess next spring.

GamePad Functionality

I’ll get the obvious one out of the way first, and going by the currently available screenshots and footage of the game, this stuff is all but totally confirmed anyway. It seems the game’s primary control scheme will be the GamePad, and so I fully expect the same kind of wonderfully-implemented functionality that TWWHD saw to be on display here: things like inventory and map management being on the second screen and gyroscopic aiming, which is honestly perfect because the motion-controlled aiming of the Wii version of Twilight Princess is the only aspect of that version I prefer to the otherwise superior GameCube release, so the HD version is poised to be the definitive version for me control-wise (although nothing quite beats the feel of the GameCube controller for me). As a side note, I’m very pleased to see that the HD version is being modeled after the GameCube version’s world map, so no mirror-world here like in the Wii version. Since I am far, far more familiar with the GameCube version (and also other factors like the world’s layout being more consistent with past Zelda games and also containing Hylian text that is based on the English alphabet and that is very readable if it’s not mirrored), I’m perfectly fine with this just being the way the game is, but an ability to swap between the mirror map and the standard one would be fine as well.

Camera and Miiverse Functionality

Taking another nod from The Wind Waker HD (there’s going to be a lot of that here), it’d be great if the Picto Box was introduced to Twilight Princess for this HD version (it was absent in the original game) and some kind of similar Miiverse functionality was also implemented. There’s no figurine quest or anything of the like in TP, but I’d still love to be able to photograph characters and scenery in TP’s world and share them on Miiverse (of course, I can also just do that by taking screenshots with the Home Button). Twilight Princess is actually fairly steeped in lore if you’re a hardcore fan of the series like me, and there’s a fair amount of food for theorizing in the game, so being able to share discoveries and discuss them online would be neat. Of course, if something akin to the figurine quest or maybe just the ability to photograph people and monsters in the world and get a short bio on them could be implemented, that would be most welcome. Twilight Princess is really lacking in any kind of feature like that compared to the other 3D Zelda games, so this remaster would be the perfect opportunity to remedy that and flesh out the game’s world. Even if nothing this ambitious is added, TP still has some of the most interesting architecture and lore in the series and the sharper textures will make studying features like the designs on the walls of the Temple of Time and the aforementioned readable Hylian text throughout the game a new pleasure, and being able to snap, save, and share some pictographs would make this even more enjoyable.

Refine Wolf Link

This is perhaps a more ambitious hope. Link’s wolf form may be the most underdeveloped “unique mechanic” in the entire Zelda series and it seems like an afterthought added to the game in order to give Twilight Princess a big unique feature to make it stand-out from other Zelda titles, something that it otherwise lacks. While overhauling Wolf Link entirely would call for a redesign of the whole game and is obviously not what I would expect, I think some minor tweaks here and there could at least make dashing around and fighting as the clunky lug a smoother experience. Instead of having to constantly hammer a button to make the otherwise sluggish beast dash in short bursts, just having the option to press or hold down a button once to run would be grand. Perhaps an even better choice might be to handle wolf-running the way it works in the far superior wolf simulator, Okami, where Wolf Link would start out at a measured gait and then gradually burst into a full sprint if the analog stick contained to be held forward. Also, please for the love of Din smooth out wolf combat, so enemies don’t fall down after one strike and invulnerably lie there for half a day before getting up and letting Link chew on them again. Whenever I play the original game, I have to resort to using Midna’s charge-up one hit kill attack in every single combat encounter in wolf form because fighting the normal way is just so bloody tedious.

Besides just overall touching up the way Wolf Link feels to play, maybe the bug-hunting sections where the beast gets the most action could be streamlined somehow as well. While I don’t hate these sections, mainly because of the atmosphere present in them, I find them far more tiresome personally than the Triforce shard hunt in The Wind Waker (which I never actually found tiresome at all, but I can see why people don’t like it), so if they tweaked that for TWWHD, maybe they can find a way to make some changes here. I’m not saying that the two sections are really all that equitable, just that they are both oft-maligned aspects of their respective games. I’m not exactly sure how they could alter the bug-hunting parts to make them feel less like a chore, and to be fair it would probably be harder to do than the rather simple and clever way they tweaked the Triforce hunt, but perhaps just something as simple as shortening them somehow to make the whole affair less drawn out so I can get back to dungeon-crawling and sword-slashing as human Link would be acceptable.

Rupees are so Annoying in this Game

You can never fit them in your tiny wallet. Link puts them back into a chest when he can’t hold them (which, again, is always), so a closed chest remains, forever mocking you and possibly even confusing you on a dungeon map. And of course, the game just loves to tell you how much each of these suckers is worth. Again. And again. And again. Every time you turn on the game. How to fix this? First off, just have a huge wallet from the start like in A Link Between Worlds (and swap out the wallet upgrade prizes from Agitha with some heart pieces or something; they did this kind of “reward-swapping” in TWWHD in some areas so there’s no reason it can’t be done here). At the very least increase the max number of rupees Link can hold; I’ve never understood why the largest wallet in TP can still only hold one-thousand rupees (not to mention you’re likely to get the largest wallet late in the game if at all) when Majora’s Mask had a freakin’ bank and The Wind Waker’s rupee max was five-thousand, especially considering just how many rupees Link finds in Twilight Princess. Next, ditch the “rupee saving” mechanic, or at least mark an already-opened rupee chest on the map with a rupee symbol. Finally, and obviously, for the love of Farore just get rid of the rupee reminders. I KNOW HOW MUCH A BLUE RUPEE IS WORTH DAMMIT. 

Selective Redone/Orchestrated Music

Taking yet more inspiration from The Wind Waker’s HD remaster, it would be great if selected tracks from Twilight Princess’s score were remastered and in some cases orchestrated. I’m not asking for the entire soundtrack to be redone, but merely given a similar treatment as in TWWHD, with selected songs being redone and in TPHD’s case, hopefully orchestrated. I’m not someone who believes all music in the Zelda series should be orchestrated and I firmly believe digital music (and other forms of music) still has a place, but Twilight Princess perhaps more than any other Zelda game begs to have a large portion of its soundtrack orchestrated, especially the (and I use this word properly) epic Hyrule Field theme (which already has an official orchestral version out there, so there’s really no excuse not to include at least that version or if not, do a new version).

Better Difficulty Balance

Twilight Princess has a great variety of fierce-looking beasties. Unfortunately, rarely do they ever pose an actual threat to the incredibly overpowered Link. Now, personally I don’t play Zelda games for difficulty, but some level of challenge and real opposition in the hero’s quest is appreciated, especially in regards to bosses. Twilight Princess has some wonderful dungeons and along with these tantalizing labyrinths are some very memorable boss encounters. But they’re all piss easy. Mainly this has to do with the strategy involved in taking them down often being pathetically obvious and extremely formulaic. It’s sometimes tough to really feel like a hero when these massive creatures’ menacing appearance is so betrayed by how easily Link stomps on them. With this in mind, I don’t expect completely redesigned encounters like in Majora’s Mask 3D (hopefully if that were the case, they’d be more well thought-out than in that game though), but I think monsters, bosses, and obstacles dealing a bit more damage to Link would go a long way. Of course, this probably won’t happen and the developers will likely just slap a “hero mode” on TPHD and call it a day, which is fine, but it’d be nice if there was something in-between “barely any challenge at all” and “hero mode”. For all its pretense of being “edgy” and “dark”, TP is one of the easiest and least threatening games in the series, so a little more difficulty might at least be in keeping with what the game is going for. And for Nayru’s sake, please take out the hearts and fairies in the final battle’s arena; Skyward Sword got it right in this regard.

Other Assorted Changes

Some other assorted changes I wouldn’t mind seeing: acquire the Horse Call item earlier or make Horse Grass way more common; perhaps too much to ask, but some smoother animations on characters, especially facial animations and especially Link’s facial animations; make the Magic Armor worth a damn or replace it with a better secret item as a reward for what is essentially TP’s only substantial side-quest (that’s not a collectathon at least); and lastly don’t restrict Link’s movement and actions indoors. This last one is something that started in Twilight Princess and continued in Skyward Sword and it is one of my biggest pet peeves about “modern Zelda”. Please get rid of it; it is so awkward and jarring and hurts the sense of freedom that is part of what makes Zelda games special.

I’ll end with just one more hope I have for Twilight Princess HD, which is, largely unlike its original release, I hope it surprises me. Whether it’s a brand new feature or area added, or just some unexpected and clever changes or additions that I hadn’t thought of, I hope there’s something in here that catches me off guard, in a good way. I’ve played through the original Twilight Princess a lot (the GameCube version, particularly), and speaking as someone who doesn’t care too much about the integrity of the original experience, something to mix things up would definitely be appreciated on my part.

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