The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD Digital Foundry

Zelda: Twilight Princess tested under official Tegra X1 emulation

Digital FoundryZelda: Twilight Princess tested under official Tegra X1 emulation

What does the Nvidia Shield version tell us about prospective retro Switch releases?

Nvidia's Shield is a solid, high-end streaming micro-console with the distinction of using the same Tegra X1 silicon found in Nintendo Switch - which makes the existence of a high performance Wii emulator for the system absolutely fascinating. An official project, developed by Nvidia and Nintendo in partnership, is this an early preview at how Wii and GameCube titles could be added to the Switch library? Our first look at the emulator running Super Mario Galaxy proved compelling, but follow-up analysis on The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess tosses us a curve ball, in that it's unlike any other version of the game available on the market today. It's still emulation - but with very specific customisations that set this release apart from the pack.

As things stand, we only wish that more Wii-emulated titles were available for testing - and that they were easier to come by. Right now, just four games are supported - Zelda, Mario Galaxy, Punchout and New Super Mario Bros Wii - and they're only available for Shield owners in China. Nvidia and Nintendo have done a pretty thorough job in locking out the games for other Shield users: you can only access them on Chinese hardware, and without access to specific Chinese social media platforms, they're impossible to buy even if you could access the appropriate store on Western Shield hardware.

Having overcome the availability issue by importing a Chinese console, we're now getting a sense of how much thought and effort has gone into this Nvidia/Nintendo collaboration. Super Mario Galaxy had full, localised Chinese text, perhaps suggesting that the developers are doing more than simply wrapping an emulator around the existing binary. Zelda: Twilight Princess goes much further - yes, there's the same localisation effort (obviously on a much larger scale for an RPG) but the game itself is a curious amalgamation of both Wii and GameCube versions, with one or two bespoke flourishes.

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Face-Off: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD

Digital FoundryFace-Off: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD

How the Wii U version stacks up against the originals - with some surprising results.

Developer Tantalus hits all the right notes in its Zelda: Twilight Princess HD remaster on Wii U: a full-blooded 1080p production with overhauled textures, boosted shadow quality, and tweaked bloom lighting. As a visual upgrade it's a satisfying one - and marks Zelda's 30th anniversary with some style. We've drawn comparisons with the Wii version already, but bringing the GameCube version into the fold lets us see the full extent of the upgrade across three generations of Nintendo consoles.

Of course, visual differences between GameCube and Wii are notoriously few, and both 2006 releases match up very closely indeed when planted next to this Wii U remaster. Even as the technological midpoint of the three, Wii's extras are fairly meagre in hindsight - the same texture assets, effects and geometry as GameCube, all presented at the same 480p standard. Adding a new widescreen mode (and an entirely inverted world layout) distinguished it to a certain extent, but otherwise these two were very much on par. With motion controls added, its status as a Wii launch title overshadowed the other version, and sadly, fewer people enjoyed the game in its original GameCube orientation.

This all changes for the Wii U release. Twilight Princess HD defaults to the non-mirrored layout intended for the game, while a harder Hero mode offers the Wii's inverted look. It's all output at a native 1080p too, but the benefits of finally running the game at a 24-bit colour depth can't be overstated. All captures below are taken via the Wii U's HDMI port, where the 16-bit colour on GameCube and Wii versions still cause a visible 'pinstripe' artifact across the output. This dithering is common to games of this era using heavy alpha effects - and thankfully it's a thing of the past on Wii U.

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