Posted on April 04 2016 by Jon Lett
Twilight Princess HD has been out for some time now, giving us a chance to go through the game many of us recognize, and to prepare for the biggest new addition to the game: The Cave of Shadows. This new challenge had a lot of fans guessing as to whether they would like it, since it could have ended up being little more than a clone of the already-existing Cave of Ordeals, but with 10 less floors, and with Wolf combat, which many have not enjoyed previously, but now that I have had a chance to run through the whole gauntlet, I think that this place was a worthy challenge to add to the newest Zelda remake. But we want to hear from you, too. Hit the jump for a look at many details that make this cave what it is, both good and bad, and leave your own thoughts in the comments! And if you want to avoid any and all spoilers until playing through it, steer of this article for now.
The first thing I noticed about this place was the way I was instinctively being more careful with my combat than before. Wolf Link’s combat, though often criticized for being less than fun, actually works quite well here. This is likely because wolf combat has never really presented the player with many legitamate challenges, beyond the Twilit Carrier Kargarok, or the Twilit Bloat. The Cave of Shadows changes this fact. With no need to think critically on what items to use at each level, or what hidden sword skills to utilize, you instead must think quickly on your feet (or paws, as it were), focusing more on swift, careful movement and when and where to use your short range of wolf attacks. Since your bites leave an opening to get hurt, and Midna’s energy field takes a moment to charge, you have to make sure you search for the enemies openings, and exploit them, or risk getting hit. And of course, getting hit is rather dangerous, as the only real way to heal yourself is Amiibos, of which you only have two. As far as I know, fairies do not work. Also, since many of the enemies are ones from the light world, and therefor ones you typically fight as a human, your usual methods of approach will have to change. This all makes for an interesting and challenging experience, especially in Hero Mode, much different from the feeling of the Cave of Ordeals. But of course, there is more to worry about than just the fact that you are stuck as a wolf.
The introduction of stage hazards caught my attention early on, and I must say, it is a welcome addition. They, along with great new aesthetics on different levels, certainly make for a better-looking challenge than the admittedly bland-looking Cave of Ordeals. Beyond that, the fact that wolf combat often involves wider and faster movement means that lava spouts and such are a real threat. The actual enemies seem more numerous that the previous Cave challenge, and that likely is for the sake of accommodating Midna’s force field attack. As a side-note, the numerous enemies make for force field combo records, which is one of the many stats that are recorded after each time through the challenge. With the data-saving function of the Wolf Link amiibo, you can record completion time, lost health, and amiibos used – recordings that the Cave of Ordeals could have used a long time ago. After all, the rewards were great, but having a record of the time I got through the harder version of the Cave of Ordeals without healing would have been cool, for the occasional bragging right.
Now, while this place has surprised me with some great aspects, there are some obvious problems. While I appreciate that it does not require preparation beyond raising your health as much as you want, the system of, shall we say, hindered progression was sort of annoying. I don’t like the requirement of getting to certain parts of the game to access the lowest parts of the dungeon. I played through the same levels that I did each time before, only to finally read online that you need the Sol-upgraded Master Sword before reaching past the 20th floor. Either way, though, you need to collect a reward and re-enter after first reaching the 6th and 20th floors, meaning you need to start playing through the challenge three times minimum to actually reach the end. Also, and this may be nitpicking, but the final prize, other than rupees, is a bigger wallet, ultimately leading you to a 9,999-rupee capacity. That is a bit… underwhelming compared to the fairy fountains and endless Great Fairy Tears you are given along the way in the Cave of Ordeals. That cave also beats this one in that it got harder after you beat it the first time, giving you a reason to play again. As far as I understand, the Cave of Shadows does not. Finally, the enemies used. The enemies them selves are fine, and the placement and combinations of various creatures on many floors is actually really well-done (the second-to-last floor’s use of switches and phases was cool), but I feel as though a miniboss of some kind at the end would really top it off. Even the Cave of Ordeals had that, with multiple Darknuts in armor colors unique to that part of the game. This one just kind of ends after a whole bunch of enemies.
In the end, though, I can really see past any of those small issues. Being blocked for awhile from the lowest floors was certainly unfortunate, but hey, look at all the awesome new aesthetics, and the ways you can test your Wolf Link combat skills! I had a LOT of fun killing my way through all those monsters, and honestly, this may be the best use of any Amiibo since Nintendo created them. I bet that if Zelda Wii U uses Amiibo in a similar way, people will be quite happy with the result. What do you guys think? Did the Cave of Shadows give you more faith in wolf combat? Were all the cool new things in this dungeon worth it, or do the shortcomings pile too high? Drop a comment below!