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• The Legend of Zelda – Twilight Princess

developed & published by Nintendo/2006.11.17
1 Player/1 DVD-ROM/Nintendo Gamecube, Wii

TWILIGHTPRINCESS-headersm

Fans didn’t have to wait long to find out how Nintendo would top The Windwaker, as The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess was announced a year later at E3 2004 to standing ovations and reportedly reduced some fanboys to tears. This was largely due to the trailer’s more realistic Lord of the Rings-inspired look and overall bad-ass Link, sporting some chain-mail under his usual green digs and a fierce glint in his eyes.

TWIPRIN-001The Dawn of A New Day

Never mind that it was designed for the Gamecube; Twilight Princess is one of the best looking Wii titles available. The character models are polished and textured with minute details; Link’s clothing and equipment and the Zoras and Gorons have never looked better. Unique cultural cues for each of the game’s areas enrich the world of Hyrule, resulting in a more believable and immersive adventure. You’ll get to know many of the people you encounter quite well, either because they’re integral to the story or because they test you with various side-quests along the way. Interesting and sometimes beautiful special effects spice things up, especially in the Twilight Realm.

Prior to release, there was talk of an orchestral score for Twilight Princess. Unfortunately the soaring symphonic score we all imagined didn’t quite materialize, but the in-game soundtrack is still good if somewhat ambient for my tastes. Much of the score takes a backseat to what is happening in the game, which in some ways is good because the dungeons can be lengthy affairs. Each area has a distinct theme and these can be excellent, but Twilight Princess suffers from the same problem as most recent Zelda titles in that many of the tracks are remixes of songs heard in previous Zelda games. I for one would like to hear a new take on the town theme, for example (speaking of which, does the main town still have to be called Kakariko?).

Surprisingly, Twilight Princess excels at cinematic presentation – something previous Zelda titles have not been known for. There are more cinematics than any previous Zelda title, and they’re well directed with impressive camera angles and expressive character animation. Twilight Princess may not feature the voice overs many fans have been calling for, as they can make or break a game.  Nintendo seems well aware of this, substituting full voice acting for short but expressive audio quips where they’re required. As with The Windwaker, these help give the characters a voice without becoming grating or annoying.

TWIPRIN-002Game play

As expected Link must save the day by exploring dungeons, solving puzzles, battling enemies, collecting special items, and slaying bosses – lather, rinse, repeat. Similar to A Link to the Past, there’s even a light world/dark world set up. It’s an old formula that some fans are getting tired of but it works, and somehow Nintendo has managed to improve it once again.  All of the returning items with the exception of perhaps the standard bomb and bottle have been upgraded with some sort of new function. Where items haven’t changed much, they’ve been improved thanks to the Wii remote’s pointer functionality. Aiming the slingshot, boomerang, or bow feels incredibly natural and effortless.  You can pick off enemies from afar so easily it’s almost criminal. Say good-bye to the nightmare of aiming with the analog stick that was Ocarina of Time or Majora’s Mask.

TWIPRIN-003One of the biggest changes is how Link attacks. Rather than pressing a button, players must now waggle the Wii remote in order to slash with the sword. At first this sounds like it might detract from the experience but once you get used to it, you won’t want to go back. Sometimes, this can lead to frustration as there is a slight delay between unsheathing your sword and attacking that wasn’t quite as evident in previous titles, but is forgivable because fighting feels more natural and satisfying. Players will pick up seven secret sword techniques as they progress through the game, which further enriches the battle system from The Windwaker, which was already pretty good. One of the biggest improvements that the waggle brings to the table is that Link doesn’t come to a halt when he slashes his sword – you can run around freely slashing left and right.

Twilight Realm

As the game’s introduction makes clear, Link can transform into a wolf. At first this is a bit of a curse, but eventually you can use this to your advantage. Link gains special abilities in wolf form that are indispensable to his quest.  In addition, Midna (a lovable side-kick from the Twilight Realm) can stun a group of enemies for easy pickings, and point out where it’s possible to jump long distances. You can also converse with animals and listen to spirits, which may provide you with the necessary clues to progress.

TWIPRIN-004Dungeons, Mini-Games, & Side-Quests

There are a ton of dungeons to be conquered and numerous mini-dungeons. They can be huge and will probably take you a couple of hours each to solve. Luckily, once you find the resident ooca (a bird-like race of creatures) you can warp into and out of dungeons with ease.

The puzzles aren’t always new, and many chests are filled with rupees (that probably won’t fit in your wallet anyway) but overall the dungeons are engaging to the last. Each one presents its own unique set of challenges and some are even inhabited by characters who will reward you for your help. The bosses look epic and are inventive and fun to fight, if a little easy for Zelda veterans.

Then there’s the optional stuff.

Collecting Poe’s souls and glimmering golden bugs will have you hunting every square inch of Hyrule, and mini-games such as river rafting and snowboarding provide fun diversions. A full-fledged fishing game is present and accounted for, this time fleshed out with a much larger fishing area as well as multiple lures to play with. You can spend hours trying to land the perfect Hyrule Bass, which will require mastery of the remote and nunchuk (and a little luck!).  There’s a ton of secret areas which can be described as mini dungeons just waiting to be plundered, and if you’re really hardcore, you can challenge the 50-level Cave of Ordeals, which throws everything but the kitchen sink at you.

TWIPRIN-005Twilight Trouble

There are some slight problems that mar the experience, such as the constant valuations of rupees per game session (“You got a Blue/Yellow/Red/Purple/Orange/Silver Rupee!”). Do I really need to see that prompt over and over again? It’s a small, but annoying problem. Oh, and not having enough room for rupees (“so let’s put it back”) is annoying – let me carry 1000 rupees from the start, please.

Then there’s the issue of the HUD, which takes up way too much real estate on the screen. You can hide the mini-map, but it’s still annoying. In my opinion, everything (such as your hearts, rupees, items, etc) should be semi-transparent or invisible until needed.  And it pains me to say it, but Epona just isn’t as life-like and fun to control as Agro from Shadow of the Colossus.

The Sun Has Set…

Despite any minor flaws, Twilight Princess is an awesome experience, taking the best bits from previous Zelda titles and mixing them with new ideas, a new look, and new controls (in the Wii version anyway) to create a truly epic game. There’s very little to complain about and a whole lot to love.

TWIPRIN-006Some of the stand out moments for me are also the small ones; fighting a new type of enemy, using a new item, or meeting new characters. In other words, the kind of moments that make up every play session I had with the game. And it’s a long game, too – it took me about 48 hours to finish it (collecting all the heart pieces and bugs, and most of the side quests – though I still need to find a few Poes), done over about a week … a pretty good indication I was hooked!

More importantly, Twilight Princess feels complete (unlike The Windwaker) and is on the same scale as Ocarina of Time or A Link to the Past, which is how a Zelda game should be. I can’t imagine how they’ll top this one next.

Quick Run Down

PROs:

  • Wii controls put a new twist on old ideas
  • A multitude of dungeons to be explored
  • Better developed story and characters compared to previous titles

CONs:

  • Rupee prompts get annoying
  • HUD seems unnecessarily large
  • Epona doesn’t feel as lifelike as Agro from Shadow of the Colossus

One Sentence Review: If you’re at all a fan of video games, how could you miss this one?

One Word Review: Epic.

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