Every Legend of Zelda Visual Style, Ranked From Worst To Best

Every Legend of Zelda Visual Style, Ranked From Worst To Best

Nintendo / Game Master TV

The story of how we got the dark and gritty art style of Twilight Princess is one you might’ve heard before. It starts with a GameCube tech demo Nintendo showed at the Space World 2000 video game tradeshow, featuring a sword fight between Link and Ganondorf, in their Ocarina of Time aesthetic, rendered with some of the bells and whistles the upcoming GameCube would offer. Fans lost their minds after seeing the footage.

Fast forward a few years and the next Zelda game wasn’t a gritty remake of Ocarina of Time but the cel-shaded playable cartoon, The Wind Waker. Subsequent poor Wind Waker sales in the North American market led the artistic pendulum to swing toward an aesthetic that featured an adult Link in a dark and twisted Hyrule.

Twilight Princess doesn’t really bring anything new and exciting to the rich visual tapestry that is The Legend of Zelda. One of the biggest inspirations for Twilight Princess was another popular intellectual property at the time: The Lord of the Rings. This would give the game epic moments, like the Eldin Bridge battle at dusk, but would also give it a muddy, brown, desaturated color palette.

The twilight realm is this game’s version of a “dark world,” and it does bring a certain visual texture unseen in other Zelda adventures. Portals that coalesce as perfect black squares before becoming a mass illuminated by a colorful, magical circuitry are juxtaposed nicely against Twilight Princess’s aforementioned bland color palette. One of the game’s final areas is the Palace of Twilight, which is the best example of the game’s strongest aesthetic choices. An ancient architecture lit up by that same, angular, colorful magic. This whole area feels like an earlier version of the Sheikah and Zonai shrines we’d later see in Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom.

Character design is very good in the game, giving us some of the best versions of Zelda and Ganondorf we’ve ever seen. And the real star of the show is a very good boy, Wolf Link. I don’t know if anyone ever asked “what would Link look like as a wolf” but I’m so glad we have the answer now.

Twilight Princess is overall a bit of a drab adventure;. A game that wants to be as memorable as Ocarina of Time and as gritty as The Lord of the Rings led to an adventure that looks derivative and bland.

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