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?”

  • 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”.

  • 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.