Five Things Zelda Wii U Should Borrow From Twilight Princess

Do you remember the moment when The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was first announced at E3 2004? There’s a reason why the game elicited so much cheering and applause – for many, it represented a return to form for the series after The Wind Waker‘s experimental art style and world. That return to form was accompanied by a number of “back basics” shifts: gone was the Great Sea, with the old Hyrule kingdom in its place; old races like the Gorons and Zoras made a more pronounced return; even the dungeons felt more like traditional Zelda temples.

Bearing this in mind, the next Zelda game for a home console – Zelda Wii U – could represent a similar shift, away from the experimental direction of Skyward Sword and back to core conventions. Here’s a few of the conventions I’d like to see resurface.

#5: Hidden Sword Skills

My last article highlighted the fluid combat system of The Wind Waker and its feeling of advancement over its predecessors. Twilight Princess‘s combat didn’t quite make as many strides – it was based closely on an upgraded version of The Wind Waker‘s game engine – but it did introduce one feature that I think has tremendous potential as a mainstay for future games: optional Hidden Skills.

tp-hiddenskillsTruth be told, Hidden Skills weren’t exactly a new concept when Twilight Princess was released. The Adventure of Link had already featured two optional sword moves – the Up Thrust and Down Thrust – while The Wind Waker already had the Hurricane Spin and The Minish Cap had its Tiger Scrolls. However, the skills in Twilight Princess were hands-down the most memorable, the flashiest, and frankly the most badass of the bunch.

Frankly, I liked that advanced moves like the Shield Bash, Back Slice, Helm Splitter, and so on had to be unlocked and weren’t simply available from the start. This ensured that the more effective moves weren’t available right from the get-go – an issue that plagued Skyward Sword as its shield thrust move was tremendously overpowered.

If there’s anything I’d like to see changed about the whole system, it’s the method of unlocking the skills. The Howling Stones frankly felt cheap and weren’t particularly difficult to find in the first place. These Hidden Skills should feel more like rewards for intrepid and persistent adventurers, not as upgrades that you simply pick up along the way. They’re hidden skills, after all – how about making them a little more hidden?

#4: A Deeper Look at the Cultures of Hyrule

Ocarina of Time introduced new races to Hyrule and The Wind Waker showed how those races evolved to adapt to their new conditions in the Great Sea, but Twilight Princess was the first real game to seriously expand on the cultures of those races in a meaningful way.

The cute and cuddly Gorons of Ocarina were developed into the brawny Gorons we see in Twilight Princess, demonstrating their war-like culture. In addition, we were exposed to a council of elders, who serve under the Gorons’ patriarch. While most Gorons used the same character model, the game introduced some degree of diversity among the major Goron figures – much more diversity than we saw in Ocarina of Time. There’s still a long way to go to reach the “every character is unique” standard set by The Wind Waker, but it was definitely a start and gave us more insight into the Gorons and their ways.

The Zoras were expanded in a similar fashion. We finally saw a wider variety of Zora types, including males and females as well as warrior Zoras and their beautiful weapons and armor. Zora’s Domain in turn was more stylized to go with the Zoras’ redesigned look.


We also saw a non-Hylian human settlement in the form of Ordon Village – our first real trip between Hyrule and the outlying lands. It was neat to see – for the first time in a 3D Zelda title – that Hyrule isn’t all on its own in its vast world, and that it’s actually connected to other lands that aren’t tucked away in other dimensions.

Even Hyrule Castle Town saw some added character and charm. In Ocarina of Time it had a very carnival-esque feeling, while in Twilight Princess it was adorned with Greco-Roman style architecture, giving it a more old-world feel.

It’s these kinds of twists and additions that I’d love to see in a new HD Zelda game set in Hyrule. Banking a bit on familiarity is fine, but it can’t just focus on raw nostalgia – expand on the peoples and places of Hyrule, from their look to their culture to their history and lore.

#3: Well-Paced Dungeon Design

I won’t be shy about it: I think Twilight Princess offers the best balance of quality and quantity of any of the 3D Zelda titles in terms of dungeons. The game sports ten dungeons, all of which save the last rank pretty high on the series’ ladder. Sure, there are a number of reused themes – like a water temple where you manipulate the water level and a puzzle where you hunt down four ghosts to light four torches – but by and large the dungeons represent a meaningful advancement over their predecessors.

tp-lakebed-templeIf there’s any common element that shines across each of them, it’s how nicely they flow. While they’re a bit on the linear side, they handle linearity in the best possible way – by meting out obstacles in a logically-progressing fashion. As you move through the dungeons, you’ll constantly introduce changes that manipulate the layout, for example by setting pieces of the level in motion using a swift water current or by rescuing monkeys who can help you swing across certain gaps.

This approach has run throughout many of Eiji Aonuma’s Zelda games – we saw ideas such as this in Majora’s Mask and The Wind Waker as well, for example – but in Twilight Princess it comes to the foreground. Every dungeon is built around not just sensible and well-tuned design, finding items to solve puzzles and keys to match locks and so on, but logical advancement, where the dungeon itself evolves in response to your actions.

#2: An Outstanding Soundtrack

Every Zelda game has had an above-average soundtrack, and truth be told The Wind Waker or Majora’s Mask probably holds the spot for my personal favorite, but I can’t deny that Twilight Princess did a standout job in terms of delivering iconic and memorable new pieces and retuning older treasured tracks. Its Hyrule Field theme remains one of the most hum-worthy video game pieces of its time – moreso than any other main overworld theme save of course for the original – and the rest of the soundtrack follows suit.

Twilight Princess – Hyrule Field Theme

Twilight Princess – Death Mountain Theme

Twilight Princess – Lake Hylia Theme

Twilight Princess – Gerudo Desert Theme

Twilight Princess – Midna’s Lament

Twilight Princess – Ganondorf Battle Theme

Twilight Princess – Staff Credits Theme

#1: Capturing the Epic “Coolness” of the Zelda Series

I couldn’t possibly forget it – Twilight Princess‘s trademark style was easily its most defining feature. Many look on it now as conformity with “hardcore” gritty realism, but most people at the time saw it for what it was intended to be: a more enhanced version of Ocarina of Time‘s style.

If there’s anything that can sum up Twilight Princess‘s look and feel, it’s that it was epic and cool – in a way that every Zelda game before The Wind Waker had been, but that many felt was lost in the transition to “Celda” style. Don’t take this as me knocking the Wind Waker style – I think it’s still gorgeous and stood the test of time better than any other art style to date – it just didn’t strike a chord with people. It didn’t improve or enhance the reputation of the franchise.

The Legend of Zelda is an epic fantasy adventure. The way it looks should reflect that. Nintendo showed off what the “cool” Zelda style could be in HD in 2011, and the results were a hit. Now it’s up to them to carry that spark into a full-fledged visionary triumph.


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  • Draig6

    Hearing those songs made me miss Twilight Princess so much–in a bad way (mine broke :’( ). I say in a bad way because they were so dark, unlike the other games’ songs. I agree completely with the sword techniques, but I don’t think all the songs in the new Zelda game should have the same style as those from Twilight Princess.

    • Sreyesh Satpathy

      Some should, though. There’s generally variety, but I find most video games have at least one or two piece that just stick with you (Eureka Theme from FFIII, anyone?)

      • Alex Jones

        TP’s music is incredible when not synthesised, but in the game, the music simply didn’t work for me.

  • Draig6

    What I also miss, which I thought was the most fun thing in the world, was riding on my horse while slashing away at enemies and hunting down creatures with my bow. I want to see that again in the new Zelda, no matter how much it copies off of Twilight Princess.

  • Ghoti

    As long as it starts off better. It took me a year to get to the 4th dungeon, because the game was AWFUL up until that point.

    And I beat Wind Waker in a week my first time through.

  • Rowena Kathleen Annwen McKay

    I couldn’t agree more!

  • Xoa Wolf

    You forgot to put in Midna, cmon seriously get your priorities straight XD

    • Death47

      Nah, she’s long gone.

      • Xoa Wolf

        Shh! Don’t say such blasphemy!

  • Death47

    I LOVED the skills in Twilight princess, and my favorites were the backslice and helmsplitter. I was severely disappointed when Skyward Sword didn’t feature them and hope to see them make an epic return on the wii u.

  • Michael Harrison

    I think the willingness to go with cel-shading on Wind Waker was great for the very same reason the more realistic style was good for Twilight Princess: it fit the theme of the story. Wind Waker is ultimately a coming-of-age story, so a more childish look was right for it. Honestly, since we just had Skyward Sword, I’ve had my fix of realistic facial proportions; what I’d like is for Nintendo to experiment with something we haven’t seen before.

  • Nathan Thurnau

    Another element to note from Twilight Princess is, if there is going to be a “helper” character, make that character interesting, fleshed out, and relatable. Midna is without a doubt one of the most interesting characters created for a Zelda game, and if I’m going to have someone following me around the whole game, I want that character to contribute to the game’s story and mood.

    • Draig6

      Sooo true! Midna was an excellent helper. Navi was annoying and Fi was useless, but Midna was just awesome in usefulness and backstory.

      • Alex Jones

        “Master, did you know the battery in your Wii Remote are low?”

      • darklink623

        yes i always thought the same. tatl was also ok, but not as good as midna. tetra was ok, but only appeared like 2 or 3 times. they need to reinsert midna into a game. it could have a lame name like twilight princess 2 for all i care. i just want to see another game like the tp style. that was a great style. ss and windwaker were to cartoony for my taste, even though ww remains my 2nd fav zelda game to date (after the one that started it all for me: oot). needs to be a sequel, just like alttp

  • Jacob Weber

    Hopefully we get a good side character and not one that treats the player like he/she is 3.

  • Marlon Leal

    Midna is, IMO, the best side character. They should focus on the next side characer too.

  • Erik I

    The only thing I disagree with is the hidden skills being optional. I think it would be better if they were required so enemies could be built around the idea that the player DOES have them and not that they MIGHT have them.

    • Nathan Thurnau

      I don’t see this working that well. Making them optional allows for the player to, in a sense, have control over how their game is going to be played. I’m a completionist who wants to do absolutely everything in the game and have all of the abilities and armor and items. Some people are minimalists who don’t want to bother with all of that. And when it comes down to it, if Link is supposed to be the connection between the player and the game world, then the player should be able to choose what they do and don’t want to use to complete the given tasks of the game, within reason of course.

  • Alex Jones

    I dont understand why people like the look of Twilight Princess so much. It is bland, uninspired, colorless, and lifeless. There was not once when I looked at Twilight princess in awe of the beauty of my Surroundings like I was with every other 3D console Zelda title. Twilight Princess is bland on every single level except the character of Midna. It holds nothing on the utter brilliance of games like Majora’s Mask, Wind Waker, and Ocarina of Time.

    It annoys me to no small extent when people look at an absolutely incredible game like Wind Waker and write it off as cartoony and stupid while they praise the most bland and uninspired entry in the franchise as being “cool”.

    • lizalfos

      I just like that they change it up, more than I like the serious art style. I dislike that from what we’ve seen so far, Zelda U looks quite similar to SS. I mean, we’ve seen very little so we can’t be sure at this stage, and they don’t exactly the same, just a lot more similar than TP is to WW is to OoT. I’m kind of in the mood for a serious looking one again. But I guess there’s Hyrule Warriors for that so whatever.

      I disagree that TP lacked any awe inspiring environments at all. Anything concerning the two great bridges always got me. The world felt extraordinarily grand when you were in your little kayak in the river and way above and in front of you you could see the bridge of Eldin. Same as when you were at the bottom of Lake Hylia, or near the castle where the owl statue is, looking across to the Great Bridge of Hylia. All of that impressed me very much and I look forward to it whenever I pick the game up again.

      • Joshua B.

        Agreed with you 100%.

    • Joshua B.

      I honestly love the graphics of TP. But seriously, a true gamer does not care about graphics! It’s the gameplay that matters, and in my very honest opinion… TP nails both graphics and gameplay for me.

      And honestly, the cartoony graphics gets dull and boring after a while, it is nice to change it to something entirely different once in a while.

      • Alex Jones

        I just though everything about TP was bland, uninspired, and boring. Graphics, Story, Gameplay, Music, Characters (Except Midna)… just nothing jumped out at me as exceptional (except Midna).

        In terms of just being overall great, I loved Wind Waker. I thought the bright colorful graphics were fantastic, the story was solid and interesting (with a fantastic bitter-sweet ending), the characters were unique and interesting, The music was really good, and the overall sound design was the best in the series (I will always love the way the music reacts to battle, especially when fighting Phantom Ganon) and the gameplay was fresh and new with the ability to pick up other items as weapons, the hiding and wall-sidling mechanics, and the new sword techniques that game added. Twilight Princess dropped a lot of that in an effort to clone Ocarina of Time, and I thought the game was lackluster because of it.

        I do want to see that Tech demo graphics one day. Those were pretty.

        • Guest

          -_- WW fanboy… *sigh*

          • Alex Jones

            Oh, wow. I didn’t realize there were people who disagreed with me, better change my opinion immediately. ;)

    • SaiyanJedi_Trunks

      I don’t understand why people bash Twilight Princess. In fact, I have never heard anyone say it was bland, uninspiring or lifeless before. As for colorless, there was an emphasis on the shadow world and perpetual darkness. WW was a completely different game in order to invite Zelda to all ages…so yes it was cartoony and expressions and interactions were done intentionally for that feeling.

      • Alex Jones

        There was an emphasis on the contrast between light and shadow. The thing was that the graphical style never reflected that. Ironically, I found the Twilight covered areas to be less dreary looking than Hyrule itself, and the Twilight Realm was simply beautiful (in a kind of dark in foreboding way) in comparison to Hyrule.

        Ironically, the “Zelda game to invite all ages” touched on more mature themes than Twilight Princess even hoped to. Wind Waker, when you think about it, has a very dark story centered around death and loss which is contrasted by it’s bright graphics and cartoonish tone. I, honestly, prefer that form of storytelling and find it very reminiscent of several cartoons of the 80s and 90s (many of which I still watch to this day on occasion). Twilight Princess, on the other hand, slapped you in the face with the “Hey, I’m dark and moody” motif like an emo kid skulking in the hallways of any given high school and as I got older I just found it harder and harder to take that game seriously (given that I preferred it to Wind Waker when I was younger).

  • Sketchie

    I really wanna see the art style shown in that screenshot of Nintendo’s showing off of the Wii U.

    Link looks really epic there. Not too simple and plain, not too realistic and overly-detailed. I can really feel the Zelda style pouring off of it, and it feels good.

  • Mike Elwell

    I adored Skyward Sword. Even more so than Twilight Princess. But one thing I can’t seem to get right in my head is the tunes of the themed areas. There’s a delicate balance between making something memorable and catchy and yet sinks into the background so as not to become irritating when playing for long periods of time. An example of of the former would be Deku Palace in Majora’s Mask or Gerudo Vally from Ocarina of Time. Both terrific tunes, but when played for long periods of time it begins to irritate me. Whereas most of the tunes in Skyward Sword sank into the background to provide an accompaniment to the aesthetics of the area and as such, aren’t really memorable. As I type I can’t think of a single one.

    I still can’t think of which is the best way to go. Can the perfect balance be achieved? I guess the overworld themes of OoT, WW, TP & SS are good examples of ‘getting it right’.

  • John Hoge

    Glad to see a shout-out to the incredible soundtrack. Most intelligent and well-crafted soundtrack of the Zelda series.

  • lizalfos

    Excellent call about the soundtrack. Far better than SS, which I was expecting to be trounce TP for music before it came out. In fact I agree with most of this, particularly the implication that it should return to having a few likeable races instead of half a dozen that mostly suck.

    The part I (partly) disagree with is about dungeon design. TP’s dungeons were mostly fantastic. The Snowpeak Ruins were genius, the way it got you to explore different sections. But I’m of the view that Zelda has consistently improved in dungeon design with every single Zelda game, barring the DS games. If I were to make a list of Zeldas according to which games had the best dungeons overall, it’d be very close to the reverse order that the games were released.

    As much as OoT and MM are my favourite Zeldas, their dungeons are not as clever or interesting, by and large, as TP’s or SS’s or aLBW’s. SS had the Sandship and the Ancient Cistern and even the Sky Keep was really different and clever. And then aLBW just blew me away. The Ice Temple especially. I think Nintendo just need to keep whatever dungeon design process they have in place now that keeps allowing them to improve the dungeons as they have been.

  • Joshua B.

    I love Twilight Princess <3 :) It's my favourite Zelda game, hands down.

    And I completely agree with this article.

  • Alyssa J

    The Lake Hylia Theme makes me miss beautiful Twilight Princess Lake Hylia. Everyone calls it dark but there were some really beautiful moments.

    • SaiyanJedi_Trunks

      There were dark moments in the game and emphasis on Shadows, but Hyrule Field, Lake Hylia…even just interacting with people gave some beautiful moments.

  • Kimberly Ann Navarro

    Great article! I agree for the most part. TBH though, I don’t know if this is just me but I felt that the dungeons in Twilight Princess were a little too easy and straightforward. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed them but they were so linear and easy that not once did I really think about it or cry in frustration because I couldn’t figure something out (this takes me back to OoT and MM *sigh*). I think I only went online ONE time because I got stuck somewhere.

    What I DID love about TP dungeons were the themes, like in the forest temple you have to save the monkeys, or in the temple of time (which IMO is the most beautiful temple I’ve ever seen!) you have to bring the statue, or the snowpeak ruins you explore an actual MANSION! I thought thos elements were great and fun x) and BTW I hated the final dungeon (Hyrule Castle) mostly because it looked like a dungeon with the most potential! I understand that at this point it shouldn’t be a full-fledged dungeon since we’re going to battle Ganondorf, but this one didn’t quite had the majestic feel, I mean for the most part you just had to battle Darknuts and random hordes of bokoblins and whatever. Just think back to OoT. There were some rooms you had to go through before facing Ganondorf and they were tough but they weren’t too long either, do IMO OoT (WW also did a good job of that) did a better job at presenting Hyrule Castle. But that’s just me xD maybe there’s better examples.

    All in all, I love TP but regarding the dungeons I think they could be more challenging (not tedious like lakebed temple!) but maybe I’m just being picky xD

  • Triaxx2 .

    Ugh. I hate when people gush over the music. Don’t get me wrong, I like the music, but it’s such a background aspect of the game, I hate when it gets in the way of the other awesome things.

    Personally I’d have put story pacing in it’s place. You didn’t get too many huge exposition dumps on you at any point, and in between you got little tidbits. It’s something SS really lacked. I go for long stretches with no information at all, and then get a dump of exposition. (In annoying fashion, but that’s just me.) I’d rather my dungeons give me background by their construction than just get huge blocks of it thrown at me to be put in context myself.

    • ExcuuseMePrincess0111

      If I’m understanding what you’re saying about the overwhelming loads of info, I think that’s precisely why people didn’t like SS as much. I liked SS but I agree with you on the fact that we don’t get much info when we go to the worlds other than “we’re just trying to find Zelda” (initially) and then you get information MUCH later. I think the reason for that is because the world in SS is set up like a pre-dungeon, which annoyed the hell out of me because it didn’t feel like a world to explore, it just felt like a mini dungeon so that you could get to the main dungeon Dx

      I hope I understood what you meant, if not then my bad. Maybe we can agree LoZ is the best xD

  • SaiyanJedi_Trunks

    Such a beautiful write up and I agree with everything you said. TP simply wasn’t a conformity to the “gritty realism” of current games but an enhanced version of the Ocarina of Time…something that many fans were looking forward to when the Space World Demo was shown and of course after completing OoT and MM.

    As for the music, I still go back and listen to Lake Hylia on a regular basis. So many beautiful and ear-catching tunes that are very difficult to forget…something I had not experienced since the 64 Zeldas.


  • Luis Pazos

    about the dungeons, they should make them more challenging, let us say that you have to see the game over screen about 6 to 20 time before clearing a single dungeon, but the boss has to almost kill link before we can deliver the final strike

    • Luis Pazos

      I mean, besides the water temple, only city in the sky up to date is one of the most difficult dungeons of twilight princess, all the dungeons of skyward sword, and I mean ALL of them, are very easy

  • Kasparius

    I do agree that the Dungeons in Twilight Princess were fantastic and all the other elements you bring up were good too. I just thought that the game lacked over all personality and a lot of the sub-plots didn’t feel Zelda-like at all and were frankly pretty pathetic. The kids from the village were all insanely annoying and what the hell was that baby about. Not cute, weird and not in a good way.

    To be honest I felt the same way about the story in Skyward Sword and although both of those games did some wonderful things for the series gameplay and level design wise, I think they were a step backwards in terms of the overall Zelda mythology.

    I liked Wind Waker’s take on that much better, because there was some dark humor there, Zelda was badass and teased the hell out of Link, the girl in the village who was in love with Mo the Moblin who was going to end up eating her, all these things were great and didn’t make me feel like I was in some anime nightmare. For all the talk about how “childish” and “cartoonish” Wind Waker is, it’s still one of the only later entries that doesn’t insult my intelligence.

    But in Skyward Sword, the whole Harry Potter school thing and teen romance subplot that belonged in the latest Twilight book was frankly disappointing and the villain was easilly the least inspired character in the entire series, felt like he was straight out of a Power Rangers movie. Bring back Ganon, if those are the alternatives you come up with.

    What I loved about Link Between Worlds is that the game focused once again on pure Gameplay and Level Design and the story was just an excuse, which frankly I’m fine with, I never needed a complex story from a Zelda game. However if they are to try and build an epic yarn in the next one, I suggest looking at Majora’s Mask and Wind Waker and stay away from the teenage angst and childish aspects.