Advantages Improves almost everything in the beloved formula
Disadvantages Not a casual game, a little "last-gen"
|Difficulty & Complexity|
Few games have been more eagerly expected than those in "The Legend of Zelda" franchise and even when the folks at Nintendo decide to take risks, like the cartoony graphics of "Wind Waker", they always seem to have the last laugh, as the end result never fails to be astonishing. The latest installment, "Twilight Princess", tries to recapture the timeless magic of 1998's "Ocarina of Time" and the outcome is another fantastic action-adventure that, even though contrary to the Wii's casual-friendly façade, is a definitive thrill.***The Story***
Ever since the inaugural title back in 1986, the Legend revolves around the triangle formed between the personification of wisdom, Princess Zelda; a fearsome Warlock that lusts for power and her expansive kingdom; and the courageous green-clad Hero that is the world's last hope against the evil fate that looms. Everything is set in a distinct fantasy setting and a period of hundreds of years is covered in the over-a-dozen "The Legend of Zelda" titles that have been released.In "Twilight Princess" the Hero chosen by the goddesses is a good-natured lad from Ordon, a small town in a southern province of the Kingdom of Hyrule. An adept swordsman and excellent rider, Link is the one everyone in the humble village looks up to, despite the young of his age. Any thoughts of carrying out a slow-paced life of shepherding are cut short however, when disaster strikes and the whole world is covered in mystical darkness.
This enveloping "twilight" from the parallel Shadow Realm reduces the world's inhabitants to mere spirits, while grotesque monsters emerge and reign supreme. Marked by the gods, Link is spared such a fate and is able to roam free, albeit in the cursed form of a wolf.Midna, a mysterious imp-like creature from the Shadow Realm, sees him as the ideal tool with which to accomplish her goals and promises to help Link as long as he doesn't outlive his usefulness. She takes him to see Zelda and the Princess states that only he can drive the darkness out of the world now and helping Midna is the only way he'll have any chance of battling the conspiring overlord.
Hence Link has to use his canine talents to revive the Spirits of Hyrule in order to, bit by bit, push the shadow back and return to his proper self, as to successfully overcome the challenges of the temples holding the artefacts the puzzling Midna desperately covets so.As the stakes keep rising, Link will grow stronger, more experienced and versatile. Wondrous items will strengthen his arsenal and lethal moves will embellish his technique. There is more to the story than that, but it's too well presented for me to try to describe any further without ruining anything. Hopefully I've served to intrigue your imagination because, while there is plenty of Zelda lore to keep the average fan completely hooked, progression might seem too leisurely to the uninitiated.
The pace starts quite sluggish and even though there are two especially epic moments spread throughout, the whole journey feels like a steadily slow build-up until the extravagant end. It's rather remarkable really, given the length of the game, but players new to the franchise might be looking for something faster and action-packed.
Rest assured, however, that investing the time needed to give "Twilight Princess" a chance to shine is totally worth it.
***The Gameplay***"The Legend of Zelda" games always involve virtually free roaming in a vast Overworld, filled with giant dungeons to explore, such as Forest and Water Temples, great quests to accomplish, including, but not limited to, saving the world, and relatively unimportant tasks to carry out, like getting hot spring-water to thirsty citizens. "Twilight Princess" is no different, with the Kingdom of Hyrule and the couple of neighboring provinces, containing everything a budding hero needs to prove himself.
The dungeons typically contain power-ups in the form of weapons, which allow you to proceed even further in the world and solve more intricate puzzles. Their layout is genre-defining, with vast rooms containing enemies and perplexing riddles, so in order to get to the final boss' room you'll have to think as much as fight. The boss fights are also monumental, usually pitting you against giant monsters that have but one weak point; you'll have to find it quickly to come out triumphant.After so many years of Zelda and countless dungeons, it's pretty amazing to see "Twilight Princess" still bringing something new to the table. Sure, the basis of most ideas has been done before, but everything has been reworked to a point where it never feels you are just recreating old clichés. I can't help but wonder for how long new games will be able to keep that up, but the imagination of Nintendo doesn't seem to be running dry anytime soon.
So, the enemies are pretty straight-forward. Some require a lot more effort than others, but they all pretty much ask for you to use your fighting techniques and make the best of your sword and shield. A great touch in "Twilight Princess" is the Hidden Skills you are passed on by a mystifying white wolf lurking in the overworld. It will take a little searching to find all seven of the techniques, but some of them are extremely useful and they all spice up the swordfights, in addition to looking pretty cool indeed.The puzzles are predictably more complex and a sure cause of frustration. Creative use of your abilities and vast array of items is obligatory to proceed and patience is an invaluable commodity. Successful use of each and every new item is required in order to exit the very same room you find it in, like cutting ropes to bring down a bridge with the Hero's Bow, which greatly helps in understanding what to expect as you proceed, but there are definitely no kids' gloves available for the casual gamer, especially the further you go into the game and you have to juggle more and more weapons. As a Zelda veteran, I didn't find any particular puzzle in "Twilight Princess" too far-out and most were rewardingly challenging.
I am not exactly sure what this means for new players, as I can't remember a time where I didn't ran to get fire whenever I saw a spider's web, or scour a room for hooking points as soon as I entered; I am pretty sure their patience will be tested. Hope shouldn't be abandoned whatever the case, as there most certainly is a solution to every problem and Midna is often there to offer helpful advice. Finishing a particularly difficult temple always is a satisfying experience and I'd recommend it to anyone.After all, with the ability to save anywhere, the game is rather forgiving in tasks of skill. It's nice to see the difficulty rising by require extensive use of ye olden thinking muscles.
Vanquished Bosses yield complete Heart Containers; they represent your life energy and Link starts the adventure with a measly three of them, making him easy prey for the more powerful enemies. Pieces of Heart are also scattered throughout the game, hidden in treasure chests or rewarded after completing certain quests. Finding them all has always been a favoured pastime for Zelda fans, which is probably why the number of Pieces required to form a new Container has been increased to 5, up from 4.Speaking of things to find, "Twilight Princess" also features the collecting of fish, ghosts' souls and golden bugs. Incidentally, I think this is the greatest testament to the majesty of Zelda games: Fans are so fond of them they are willing to do anything to extent their stay in their wonderful world; even if it means collecting bugs.
***The Presentation***As suggested before, the story is expertly presented, with extra points given for cleverly concealing the "tutorials" whenever a new item is acquired, or a fresh skill is mastered. "Twilight Princess" hardly ever breaks character and it's pretty easy to immerse yourself in the action.
Character graphics are absolutely amazing. Never before had Link so much expression, or such a colourful cast supporting him. Absolutely fantastic.The world itself however, the background, could have been more. A lot of places are pretty bland, especially the Hyrule field, and although some locales manage to look impressive, they really aren't that much, if at all, improved over "Ocarina of Time". The previous Zelda, "Wind Waker", definitely had one better in this regard.
Characters in "Twilight Princess" speak in their own weird language, which leaves little room for criticism as far as voice-acting is concerned. It works adequately well. Music has always been a high point of Zelda games and it is pretty good here too, even if there is nothing particularly impressive. The ambience of the Shadow Realm sounds pretty weird, as well as Midna's patronizing grunts, but I suppose that was the goal all along.Sound effects are exactly right, with the added effect of hearing some of them right in your hand, through the Wiimote's speaker. Pretty nifty and engrossing. The same goes for a couple of the little details that spice up the battles. Link confidently spins his sword as he is waiting to attack and menacing growls can be heard when he is in his wolf form. Very nice touches.
Lastly, the game manual is the standard, helpful, type, although it can also be slightly spoilerish in places; contrary to my common habits, I'd advise not going through it unless you are stuck, confused, or have finished the adventure!***The Audience***
In many ways, "Twilight Princess" feels like a giant piece of fan-service. It's like Nintendo made a list of everything that ever was in a "Legend of Zelda" and proceeded to improve on every bullet point. This is most apparent in the array of items: they are more numerous than ever, look cooler and have more imaginative uses. Also, there is a return to the fan-favourite artistic style from "Ocarina of Time" and a teen-aged Link as the hero.As such, it is mostly intended for the legions of Zelda fans. It's quite a treat too, as it succeeds in being the technically best Zelda of all, albeit not automatically reserving the place of the favourite; in my mind "Ocarina of Time" was better, mostly because it was insanely ahead of its time and I honestly wasn't able to think of anything that could or should have been done better, as I was playing it 8 years ago.
But what about the rest of the gamers and the sought-after casual player the Wii is supposedly ideal for? Seeing as "The Legend of Zelda" is one of the most successful brands of all time, giving it at least a try is heartily encouraged. Action-adventure might not be everyone's cup of tea and the riddles might be too much for the casual, but if it does entice you then you are in for an incredible experience. Also, it's statistically probable that at least one person in every household will have a blast with "Twilight Princess".The game is rated "12+", even though it doesn't contain senseless violence, crooked morals, or even a drop of blood. It is probably because of the difficulty of some of the puzzles and one particularly disturbing scene that occurs when you accidentally throw the Hero into a pit of lava. It's pretty out of place and its inclusion very weird, but thankfully it's only possible to happen in only a couple single places out of the entire game world.
***The GameCube Version***"Twilight Princess" was originally developed for the GameCube, but Nintendo's usual delays for polishing and quality-control pushed it back enough to make not launching it with the Wii a marketing insanity. Sure enough, the game was ported for the Wii, featuring widescreen 16:9 support and unique Wii controls. Link changes to right-handed and a fairy is added as a pointer and other than that, the two versions are identical.
This is probably the essence of the title's criticism. It's great, but it is also delivered by a last-gen machine, so maybe we should be asking for more? It is a logical claim, even though I personally find it a harsh way to look at it. Few games are as fun as "Twilight Princess", so it's probably best to enjoy it now and worry about untapping the power of the current generation later.As far as the controls go, there are a couple of things that surprised me:
Controlling Link with the Wiimote and Nunchuck feels extremely familiar and second-nature to anyone who has played a 3D Zelda before. I was afraid it might have been tiring to play such a long game with Wii Controls, or that it would take a long time to get used to the setup, but this was hardly the case. I did mechanically press the "A" button whenever an enemy popped out of nowhere, instead of shaking the Wiimote, but I got used to the fact that "A" doesn't equal "slash" anymore, after a few days.I was also concerned that motion sensing would have been too gimmicky and added just for the sake of it, making matters worse. Thankfully, considering it was an after-thought, it's been pretty professionally added, something that is most apparent in fishing and the firing of projectile weapons. As far as sword-fighting goes, slashing the Wiimote doesn't translate on screen exactly, it's more like the press of a button. It's the direction you are moving with the nunchuck and the combos you are doing that determine the type of attack, rather than your actual motion.
Still, it's not difficult to *pretend* Link is mimicking your moves. It's all make-believe after all, right? I can see children really getting into it, happily lunging around the whole time, and I myself dramatically participated in quite a few of the more impressive boss fights. Then again, I am not exactly the paragon of maturity, but I am pretty sure everyone will have at least a little fun with the controls.In closing, the two versions aren't nearly different enough to justify getting them both. The Wii version is slightly better, but nothing GameCube owners should lose their sleep over; they are also getting the great game they were promised.
***OVERALL***To me, there was little doubt that "Twilight Princess" was going to be excellent and that I would enjoy it immensely. The real question was, would it be great enough to justify a 5-star recommendation in a machine that sells mainly because of its openness to non-gamers? Zelda is hardly casual-friendly; actually, it is often testing even to seasoned players. But the excitement the series are able to bring, the incredible escape into such a fantastic world, is worth giving it a chance. Thankfully, "Twilight Princess" is an improvement over its predecessors in virtually every level and, as such, a fitting ticket into the extraordinary Legend. If you have the Wii, you definitely should the fancy the journey.
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The Legend of Zelda - Twilight Princess - Nintendo Wii
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