You want to see what you'll be doing in the first five hours of the game? Get all the info you want to know about Twilight Princess right here and right now. Spoilers contained within!
Last updated: 11/03/2006 by Steven Rodriguez
The reason why we separated the controller impressions from the details you are about to read is quite simple. People want to know how the Wii controller works with Zelda, but they may also want to try and avoid any details on the game's story. If the latter comment applies to you, I must warn you that some of the things this preview will get into are moderately spoilerific. The aren't any major things that will ruin the game—there are easily 70 hours of game to play, and a blow-by-blow of the first 5 won't blow the story wide open—but there are things that happen very early on that might surprise you. They sure surprised me. So with that, this is your last chance to avert your eyes.
Still with me? I thought so. I'll start from the beginning.
After drooling over the attract mode movie and starting the game, you'll be presented with the usual pre-game screens. Pick a save file, choose a name for Link, etc. You also have the option of renaming your horse, if for some inexplicable reason you don't like calling Link's horse Epona.
Once you take care the paperwork, the game begins. Unlike in Ocarina of Time, there isn't some fancy introduction movie. Instead, Link and one of his village compatriots are simply sitting by the town's spring, sitting and talking.
Your initial close-up of the new Link is a sight to behold. There is so much life in his face, even more so than the very animated Wind Waker incarnation of Link. I have no shame in admitting that I believe Link to be an attractive character (yep, I'm gay for Link!). For fans of the series, seeing him in all of his grown-up glory is the epoch of six years of waiting, waiting since we first saw the mature Link in the year 2000. It was totally worth the wait.
During this opening scene, we learn that the town mayor wants Link to deliver a gift to the royal family in Hyrule. The gift, as it turns out, is a sword and shield, a sword and shield that will obviously fall in to your possession. It turns out that you don't obtain these items in the way you would expect to, and even after getting them you'll be unable to use them right away. (You'll learn why later in this preview.) Leaving the springs, you enter the starting town. Ordon Village is at the very south of the world map, and is a decently-sized place with a goat ranch to the south and Link's house at the north end.
Here is where you'll meet some of the children of the village. They play a very important role in the beginning of the game, but also serve as an immediate contrast to the new Link. Standing next to the children, Link looks like a very mature person. After coming to grips with that, the kids eventually send you on a trading/fetch quest around town which eventually nets you a basic fishing rod, the slingshot and a wooden sword. I'm not going to give the step-by-step instructions on what do, but this first familiarization area has some significant information.
Music has always been important in the Zelda series, and it is here too. Link doesn't carry around an instrument this time—or at least, he doesn't have one in the first parts of the game—so to do things like call for Epona, he'll need to find special plants that produce a sound when blown into. They are plentiful around the ranch, where one of the first things you'll do is get introduced to the horse controls via a goat herding mini-game. All you need to do here is get behind the goats and “whoop" them into the barn. It's a fairly straightforward introduction to horsing around, but since you don't have weapons at this point, you can't get into the good stuff until later. I'll be able to talk more about that next week.
A different type of musical plant will call forth an owl. Mister owl is used to attack enemies, knock down obstructions or retrieve items that are in distant or hard-to-reach places. Indicating where to sick the owl is done with the remote pointer and a button press. Unfortunately, these plants only grow in certain places, so you won't have the ability to owl it up at will. There might be other plants and other animals that can help Link on his quest, but currently it's just a horse and an owl.
After solving the game's first puzzles and acquiring your initial equipment, you discover that some of the children have wandered into the nearby Faron Woods. Naturally, your hero instinct kicks in, and you go off to rescue them. Before entering the area, you meet a salesman who gives you a lantern and explains its use. It requires oil to operate, which he sells for a meager 20 rupees per fill. You can also put the lantern oil in bottles for use whenever you're about to run low. It's very much needed in the darker areas of the wood, where it can be used to light stationary torches. Since it is an item, it gets assigned to the B-trigger like all the others. However, once you turn it on, it stays turned on even if you switch to different items. You must re-equip it and turn it off yourself if you want to save lantern fuel.
With light in hand, Link enters the woods for the first time. The area is more than a just general field, but not so much of a dungeon. It's a fairly large area, with bats and birds to fend off, and lightweight puzzles to solve. It's similar to the climb up to the forest top of Outset Island in Wind Waker, but on a slightly larger scale. Getting through the forest, Link discovers that the kids got into a little monkey trouble; they were caged up by one of the cute guys. Freeing them is as simple as swinging at the wooden cage with the sword. After a brief reunion, it's back to town.
After you complete the initial tasks set forth in Ordon Village, Link gets ready to depart for Hyrule. Just before leaving, though, one of the older children notices that Epona is slightly injured, and decides to take her to the spring outside of town to get her cleaned up. When Link catches up and is about to reclaim his horse, the trouble starts. Invaders from the Twilight realm come and kidnap the children, scare off Epona, and knock Link unconscious. After coming to, he discovers a wall of darkness on his way back to town, which literally grabs him and pulls him inside the Twilight.
You should know what happens by now. Inside the Twilight, Link transforms into a wolf. Unconscious from the transformation, Link is discovered by some Twilight baddies and dragged to a prison cell in an unknown location. Here is when we first meet Midna. She's a mysterious creature, and one that definitely has a connection to Twilight. Without really explaining her intentions, she offers to help Link escape. After cutting him loose from his ankle chain (which Wolf Link wears for the rest of the game), she leaves it to you to get out of the cell on your own. Once you discover you can dig like a wolf, and find the spot where you need to do so, Midna delivers a stern message to her new partner, along the lines of “while you're here, I'm in charge." You have no other choice but to do what she says, since you don't really know where you are.
As you look to escape, Midna teaches you the basics of being a beast. Attacking as Wolf Link works the same way as it does as regular Link, and all the other controls are essentially the same. As you run around in some sewers, you begin to get an idea of where you are. Link will encounter what appear to be floating spirits to the naked eye. As a wolf, Link has the ability to sense more than normal people could, and upon turning on sense mode, he will find that these spirits are actually people. He can hear what they are saying, but they can't see him. You encounter a few of these people on your way, but you don't quite have a clear explanation as to why until you get outside.
It turns out that you've been taken to Hyrule Castle. It's currently affected by Twilight, as is just about all of Hyrule. As you race across the roof of the castle and reach your destination at the top of the tallest tower, you meet someone that you might not have expected to see so early on in the game: Princess Zelda. And not only do you meet her, but you get to see what she looks like under her dark cloak. Holy moly, is she stunning. After seeing her, I started having second thoughts about my love affair with Link. She's all grown up just like he is, if you know what I mean.
Once you get over the mini-shock of seeing the princess, she explains to you what happened for the world to become enveloped in darkness. One day, invaders from the Twilight realm stormed the castle, and easily made their way to Zelda's chamber. It was here that their leader made a simple claim: Surrender or die. Zelda saw the writing on the wall, dropped her sword and surrendered. There was no stopping the power of the Twilight at that point.
The spirits Link saw on his way to the tower were people trapped in the Twilight. They can't keep their human forms while in the dark stuff. Link didn't turn into a spirit because of his piece of the Triforce, but there's no explanation as to why Zelda got to keep her form while Link turned in to a wolf. There also appears to be a connection between Zelda and Midna; they spoke to each other as if they were working together in some way. Zelda eventually informs Wolf Link that he's the only one that can save Hyrule from the Twilight. As she starts going into further explanations, they hear a guard approaching and decide to get out before they are discovered.
The wolf and his companion escape the castle. Midna reveals to Link that she has the power of teleportation thanks to her connection with the Twilight. She decides to travel back to Ordon, to a place near Link's village and the approaching Twilight in the Faron Woods. What was suprising about returning to a place outside of the Twilight was Link remained in his wolf form! Just exiting the dark areas isn't enough to turn Link back into Link. Midna informs him that he needs to go back to the place where he transformed into a wolf originally and cleanse the area of Twilight to restore both him and the forest to their original forms. Before doing so, however, Midna gives Link a shopping list; for some strange reason, she wants you to go back to Ordon Village and pick up a proper sword and shield, even though you will be unable to use them as a wolf.
Returning to your home as a wolf, you find that all the townsfolk are very concerned about the missing children. You discover that you have the ability to talk to animals in your animal form, meaning you can finally hear what a Cucco has to say about you always trying to kill it over the years. You get information from them like you would get information from talking to people as human Link, at which point you find out where the items on your list are located. There's also a bit of stealth necessary here, because if the town members see you, they'll run away. You must sneak up on some of them to listen in for critical information.
After getting the your first real sword and shield, you head back to the Faron Woods. On the way, you pass by a spring that calls out to you; it is here is where you learn from a fading spirit how the Twilight spread throughout the kingdom, and what you must do to repel it. Each province of the world has a guardian Light Spirit, whose job it is to keep the world filled with light. When the Twilight invaders attacked, they overpowered the Light Spirits, causing the blackout. The spirits' light energy was divided up and taken in by Twilight creatures that patrolled the affected area. It was Wolf Link's duty to seek them about and recover the Tears of Light they held.
With this information in hand, Midna helps Link re-enter the Twilight of Faron. Link had been to this area once already, but seeing it in Twilight and as a wolf is a night-and-day difference. Everything was the same, but the darkness gave it a spooky atmosphere. The graphical style of the Twilight area gives off a kind of dark-digital subtle cel-shaded look, making it almost look like a different game than when Link is out in the light areas.
Traveling through the woods was a bit tricker this time around, as much of the forest floor was covered in some kind of evil Twilight mist. To get around the bad stuff, Wolf Link and Midna needed to work together and jump big gaps around and above the forest perimeter. The mini-map in this area showed white dots, representing the creatures you had to find and kill to get the the Tears of Light they were holding. You can't see them without activating your wolf sense powers, though. Going around and getting all the fifteen or so Tears was relatively simple, but granted it's still the early part of the game. Eventually, you make your way to the same area where you earlier rescued the children from the monkey. This time, however, the monkey (in spirit form) is being held captive. After freeing the monkey and obtaining the final Light Tears, Faron is freed from the Twilight and Link is returned to the spiring that kept the Light Spirit.
When this happens, Link returns to his old self. And I don't just mean he's a human again. This is when we finally get to see the classic green-garbed Hero of Time, and boy oh boy, does it make him look sexy. (Upon seeing this, my Link vs. Zelda hotness competition became a dead heat.) The Light Spirit explains that there are three other Light Spirits around Hyrule, and in order to restore Light to the rest of the world, the others need to be revived in the same way he was. However, Link's work isn't quite done in Faron. The woods are still have some lingering effects due to the Twilight, so he needs to head back in for a third time to clean up the mess.
The Twilight mist that was present when Link went around the place in wolf form is still there, even after restoring light to the region. When approaching it, the monkey he rescued earlier swipes Link's lantern and decides to help guide him to his destination. The light cast by the lantern creates a safety zone in which Link and the monkey could get to the other side of the mist. Once safely through, Link makes his way to the north end of the forest, where a new path can be opened up thanks to the fire-setting ability of the lantern.
Here begins the first dungeon of the game, the Forest Temple. It took me a good three or four hours to finally get to it, which was just a hint to what I was to soon realize: The dungeon is enormous. It took me a little under an hour to get through it, and for some other people at the event, much longer than that.
The reward for solving puzzles and getting through sections of the temple is freeing monkey friends of your original simian guide. You'll need them to get across a bridge that was destroyed which leads into a new part of the dungeon. Monkeys help you swing across gaps that you wouldn't normally be able to clear on your own, and as you access more monkeys, you can access new areas by jumping from monkey to monkey. This takes a while to do, but once you free all four in the area you can get across that large gap and fight the sub-boss.
Yes, that's right. The dungeons have sub-bosses. In the Forest Temple, the boss was a giant baboon that was under the control of a Twilight creature. He held in his possession the Gale Boomerang, which requires you to knock him off his pedestal a few times to claim. It's nice that you actually need to work for some of your important items this time, rather than just open up a big chest and have them handed to you. Upon claiming the 'rang, you were able to proceed past a wind-powered gate into the second part of the dungeon.
At this point I realized how freaking huge the dungeon really was, and sort of wished I could get out if I needed to. As if the game read my mind, I happened upon a bizarre item that would let me do just that. Ooccoo is an item that looks like a egg-shaped human baby head was transplanted onto a chicken (yeah, I don't know either), but he's actually quite useful. You can transport out of the dungeon completely, stock up on supplies and hearts, then return to the same room from which you left. You can use him as many times as you want, which is good considering the massiveness of the level; you don't want to have to go through the same dungeon for another hour if you die.
About 45 minutes after I had first entered the temple, I had arrived at the boss door. The boss fight was against the plant-like creatures that people had previously seen in various movies and older demos. So there's no real need for me to go into too much detail about that here. However, the battle was made more interesting because of the Wii remote pointer. The baboon you defeated earlier comes back to help you with the real fight. He swings back and forth above you carrying a bomb flower that has yet to be activated. What you need to do with the Wii pointer is track the moving bomb target, lock on to it with the boomerang, then lock on to one of the plant heads to whirlwind the bomb into its mouth. The satisfying part is getting the lock-on with a moving target, and it's made much easier with the remote controller.
When you finally take down the evil plant, you get your heart container and your warp out of the dungeon. Midna decides to continue aiding you on your journey, and points you to Western Hyrule, the next closest area affected by Twilight.
And I'm afraid that's all I'm allowed to divulge about the game at this point. We'll be able to tell you more about the next area of the game, and the next four hours of gameplay time I put in to Zelda: Twilight Princess this time next week. Until then, you're just going to need to wait for the to see what happens after this. I assure you, the best is yet to come.