After the first few hours, things start to heat up. Are you sure you can resist reading about what happens as you battle through the second dungeon? Spoiler warning!
Last updated: 11/10/2006 by Steven Rodriguez
If you're reading this, then you've probably already read through the preview leading up to the end of the first dungeon. If you haven't done so yet, I highly recommend you do so before continuing. I will again warn you that this preview, like the first, contains some moderate spoilers regarding the early parts of the game. We understand that some people want to read spoiler-laden information and others don't, so we're giving those that don't one last chance to get out of this preview and head on over to our spoiler-free game impressions.
I bet you're still reading. In that case, I'll tell you that this preview is the chronicle of the events that transpired up until the point where I completed the second dungeon. Let's pick things up from there.
Upon clearing the Forest Temple, Midna tells you to head for Western Hyrule. Since Epona is still missing at this point, Link needs to hoof it to the Eldin Provence on foot. After making sure things are okay back in Ordon, you finally get your chance to step out of the woods and see the brand-new Hyrule Field for the first time. It will actually not be the first thing you notice; no, the first thing you'll be looking at is the wall of Twilight that is covering other regions of the world. It looks like the sky is on fire, but with the black flame of evil twilight instead of the usual red hot stuff. I paused a moment to appreciate it.
As I did this, I looked around at the field in front of me and saw how big it was. My conservative estimate put it at about five times the size of the Hyrule Field in Ocarina of Time. It would be like comparing an Olympic-sized swimming pool to an inflatable kiddie pool, basically. I think it took three minutes to get to the western passage from the lower center of the map, but if you needed to get from extreme east to west, it could easily take around seven or eight minutes if you had to run across it. Little did I know...
Upon reaching the westernmost part of the field, Link was greeted with another part of the Twilight. Midna did her thing and caused the wall to reach out and pull Link into it, where he summarily transmogrified into a wolf. Cresting a hill in Link's beast form, a familiar object came into view.
It was the wooden sword that Link first received in Ordon, and later gave to some of the kids to play with. Activating the wolf sense near the sword reveals a “scent trail" of the children, which Wolf Link can see and follow. Followling the trail leads you to a trio of Twilight enemies—the ones that don't die unless they all die simultaneously. Defeating them leads you to a large gorge that is missing its bridge; Midna speculates that the Twilight creatures have been up to no good and merely “relocated" it.
She asks Link to find it. I was a little clueless on where I could find a spare bridge lying around, but thankfully, I didn't have to scour all of Southern Hyrule to stumble upon one. Every time you defeat one of those special Twilight troupes, the portal they use to drop in from the sky remains open. While you are in wolf form, Midna has the power to transport you between areas that have these portals overhead, both inside and outside of the Twilight. I had unlocked four portals by then, so the bridge-finding quest didn't involve too much legwork. I eventually found it (and then realized what the heck it was the first time I passed by it), at which point Midna zapped it back into place. A quick return warp to the newly replaced bridge allows Wolf Link to get back on the children's scent trail and head further west.
Eventually, Link reaches his destination: Kakariko Village. That's right, one of the Zelda series' long-standing towns is in Twilight Princess too, complete with the Graveyard and Death Mountain. It's much larger than Wind Waker's largest island villages, if you want a quick size comparison. Kakariko isn't as tranquil or cozy as you remember it, either, considering the whole place is covered in Twilight. Once again, Link needs to use his wolf sense powers to find the light-toting baddies and dispel darkness from the area.
Finding them in Kakariko is not as straightforward as it was in the Faron Woods. The village has many different buildings, each one different in shape and size. There are also buildings very high off the ground, cut into the cliffs that line either side of town. The 2D mini-map showing the location of the Tears of Light only gives you a general sense of where they are, so you need to do a little more nosing around to get to them. They are much more spread out, too, with some of them stationed in the Graveyard and up around the climb to Death Mountain. It's up to you and your wolf smarts to get their exact location, and more importantly, how to ferret the creatures out once you find them.
Some will be out in the open, but the majority will be tucked away in trickier locations. For instance, one may be hiding in a fireplace chimney, rendering it unreachable. You'd obviously need to light the fireplace to smoke it out of there, but there's a problem: The only source of fire in the building is on the second floor, and you have no means of carrying fire in your hands—you're still a wolf, remember. Even if you could handle it, the fire source is a wall-mounted lantern that is too high up for you to normally reach. So how do you get the fire down into the fireplace? Use your head. (Actually, this puzzle is quite clever. But you still need to solve it yourself!)
Getting around town as an animal is interesting, considering what you need to do in order to gain access to the insides of buildings. Wolf Link can't open doors like someone with opposable thumbs, so he needs to use other tactics to get inside. The most common one is to simply dig his way in; certain places on the perimeters of structures have soft dirt or weakened boards for you to burrow your way in. You'll also need to climb up boxes, jump through windows and do other stuff you would imagine a dog does when he's desperate to get inside of a house.
During the light collection process, wolfy will come across a stone that looks a lot like a Gossip Stone from Ocarina of Time. In Twilight Princess, they are called Howling Stones. Approaching one in wolf form will transport you to a some kind of lake area with a giant moon looming in the distance (seen in this screenshot). Here, Link needs to warm up the vocal chords and howl a tune. Putting the stick in an up, neutral or down position will cause a different tone to come out, and once you match a particular howl tone, a wolf spirit will acknowledge it and take up refuge in Hyrule. After that, it is in your best interest to seek out this wolf spirit (its location is marked on the world map) after you return to normal form.
You see, not all of the bad-ass sword tricks are at Link's disposal from the beginning of the game. The only "advanced" technique he can do t the beginning is the traditional leaping attack. By finding and activating the Howling Stones as Wolf Link inside the Twilight, regular Link can meet up with a golden wolf spirit outside of the Twilight. These spirits will transport Link to a special place where he can learn new abilities from the spirits. The first move you get is the downward stab finisher, and the second move is the shield thrust (where you jam the nunchuk forward to hit enemies with your shield). Link can learn seven abilities in total, and although they aren't really required to finish the game, I was told that things can get really hard if you don't have them.
Anyways, once Link collects all of the Light Tears around Kakariko, the Twilight is immediately lifted, Link is Link again, and all of town's inhabitants are back to their non-spirit-selves. Among the saved are some of the missing Ordon young'uns that managed to get away from the Twilight troops and seek refuge with the town's Shaman. She explains things haven't been going too well up on Death Mountain, and as a result the Gorons haven't been very friendly with the village folk lately. Link is commissioned to go up there and see if he can find out what's happening.
Going up the trail to the mountain, Link comes across a goron that won't let him pass. He rolls at Link, and while you can try to stand your ground, the force with which the goron comes at you is too great, knocking Link around a good deal. With no apparent way up, you need to go back into town to figure out your next move. Upon arriving, Epona comes storming into view.
She's out of control, and it's up to you to jump onto your very shaken-up horse and regain control of her with a mini-game. After Link mounts the in-motion Epona, you need to ensure that he hangs on to her by moving the analog stick to the left or right when prompted on the screen. This sequence is rather simple, but it does look pretty chaotic with Link flailing from one side to the other, struggling to control his horse.
When you manage to calm down Epona, you learn that your best chance to get past the gorons is to beat them at their own game. The only human-type in Hyrule that has done that before is the mayor of Ordon, who is all the way back in Southern Hyrule. With fetch quest in hand, you mount up and head for home, this time with Epona.
There are some bad guys to slash up on the way, if you are so inclined to do so. By now you've seen that it's possible for Link to swing his sword while on horseback. Doing so is satisfying, since you need to swing with the proper timing to connect with someone on the ground as you gallop by them. There's no real need to defeat anyone along the way, but naturally you'll want to play around a little bit. It turns out this back-and-forth across the field is a little warm up for what's to come in the very near future...
Upon arriving in Ordon, the mayor lets Link in on a little secret about the gorons. One of the things the mountain natives like is the sport of sumo wrestling, and by defeating them at their own game, the mayor was able to become something of an honorary tribesman. He doesn't hesitate to teach Link the basics of sumo.
Before I get into the particulars about how sumo works, I must comment on the Link vs. Zelda hotness debate that I found myself in during my time with the game. For those keeping score at home, I found the hero and the princess to be of equal hotness up to the point of completing the first dungeon. This power struggle took a decisive turn toward the “gay for Link" side of the scale when the sumo training started. You see, in order to capture the spirit of sumo, Link takes it upon himself to remove his shirt. That's right ladies (and guys), he goes topless to show off his sexiness. His physique is made more impressive in comparison to the mayor's near-naked fat body, complete with manboobs. He's dressed up in nothing more than the sumo diaper, basically. Not pretty.
With that, the sumo mini-game commences. It uses a paper-rock-scissors setup, where you can choose to grab onto your opponent and try to push him out of the ring (the A button), slap him in the face to stun him a bit (a remote swiping motion), or sidestep to avoid a grab (analog stick). Grabs beat slaps, slaps beat sidesteps and sidesteps beat grabs. You can move around the ring a little as this is going on, so it's possible to get into a better position to throw your foe out.
After you defeat the mayor a few times, he lets you in on the real secret behind his Goron-wrestling success. Gorons are really heavy, so the only way to stop them was to become as heavy as they were. In the Legend of Zelda series, the only way to do that is to use the iron boots, which the mayor just happens to have in his possession. He gives the boots to Link, giving him the chance to get past the rolling Gorons on the Death Mountain trail.
Those plans get put on hold when Link returns to Kakariko, however. Out of nowhere, a caravan of Twilight realm baddies come rushing into town, nab one of the Ordon children and high-tail out of there. You immediately give chase and jump over the town's north gate to get the girl back.
Now, do you remember what I said about the size of Hyrule field? It was pretty big when I first saw it. As I left Kakariko, I noticed that I had come back to the field, but a different area of it. It turns out that the first area I saw was just a portion of the entire field; the area of the field I was currently in was another part of it, and just as large. So you can take that “five times the size" estimate I made previously and quadruple it. We only got to see about approximately 40% of the full Hyrule Field, but with just a minority view of the grounds, the field alone looks as if it could rival the size of Wind Waker's ocean world. Yeah, it's that big.
This would also be a good time to recall the little “warm up" I had with enemies on horseback going to and from Ordon. Understanding sword timing and horse control is necessary for the impending battle. The clash with the Twilight enemies takes place entirely on horseback—you've got to run Epona around the field, fend off attacking enemies and catch up to the leader to win the girl back.
It's high-tension stuff. There had to be at least eight groups of enemy boars, each with an archer that tries to pick you off with flaming arrows from a distance. Up close, the other rider on the black boar will take a few swipes at you with a club. Knocking off the riders isn't enough to keep them away, since they just keep coming until you get enough whacks at the leader. A lot is going on here, but the bottom line is that it is just freaking awesome to engage in horse-to-horse combat with arrows whizzing by, boars falling left and right and you heavy on the whip to catch up to the boss. Once you manage to slow him down, he heads for a nearby bridge. You follow him on to it, only to be trapped by a wall of flame at either end.
So begins a deadly game of chicken. Link and Epona at one end; the boss and his mount on the other. As they begin charging at each other, you can control when to swerve away to the side, and when to swing the sword to deliver a passing blow. Timing it right is not an easy thing to do. If you sidestep too early, he'll react and you'll miss completely. If done too late, the boar will punt Link and Epona clean off of the bridge. You also need to time the sword swipe to make contact at the right time as well, a task I found difficult at first because of needing to move the controller to do so. I eventually got the hang of it and sent the boss off the bridge, down into the depths below.
After re-rescuing the kidnapped girl (she was one of the ones that originally had wandered into the forest early in the game), you finally get the opportunity to head up Death Mountain. The goron encountered earlier will get thrown off the ridge he was guarding, with authority. Eventually Link reaches the mountain's base, complete with fireballs falling from the sky. It takes a bit of legwork and mind power to figure out how to get to the summit, but once there, the only thing that stands between you and the dungeon is a sumo match.
With your shiny new iron boots, you can stand up to the goron sumo expert and battle him much the same way you did the Ordon mayor in your training. (Sorry, Link keeps his shirt on for this one.) Bumping him out will earn the gorons' trust, and they ask that you get to the bottom of their dilemma. One of their elders has gone a little crazy, forcing him to be locked up behind a conveniently placed dungeon boss door. You need to get in there and knock some sense into him.
With that, Link enters Death Mountain and starts the second dungeon. It's got everything you'd expect it to have, like flame spouts, lava pits, and traditional fire-based enemies. (The fire and heat effects look fantastic, if you're curious.) What may be a little different is the industrialized look to the place. Steel platforms, rotating cranes...and magnetic walls. The iron boots you got in Ordon are perfect for sticking to special blue areas that enable Link to stand on walls, walk across the ceiling, or stick to flipping platforms. There are also special contact pads that emit magnetic fields over a distance, allowing Link to get “sucked" to their surfaces. In one such area of the dungeon, you need to jump off a platform without the boots on, put them on in mid-air, and then get pulled over to a wall that Link wouldn't be able to normally reach.
The boots have their normal uses, too. You'll still need to don them to activate large ground switches, and using them to walk underwater is essential. Death Mountain has its fair share of switches, and even a few deep pools of water to walk through, so you should definitely keep them on standby. The puzzles that use the boots aren't that complex (it's still one of the early dungeons). However, it's a hoot to attack stuff on the walls with a sword and shoot at stuff while hanging upside down from the ceiling.
The dungeon sub-boss is, in my opinion, the first real test of the game. Link is up against a huge iron-clad goron, who you encounter on a platform teetering over a lava pit. The ground is magnetic in places, which means the iron boots come into play here. The fight becomes something like the Bowser battles from Super Mario 64, where Mario needs to hurl Bowser into bombs outside the edge of the arena. Instead, Link only needs to hurl the big guy over the edge to score some lava-induced damage.
This battle is difficult for a few reasons. One, if Link and the goron are too close to an edge, it tips to a severe angle. Only the iron boots can prevent Link from falling in, but if you put them on you become too slow to escape the Goron's attacks. Like a giant sumo match, positioning is very important here. Two, if you do fall into the hot stuff, you are only revived after a steep two-heart deduction and a reset of all the damage that you've done to the sub-boss thus far. At this point in the game, you only have four total hearts to work with (and four heart pieces...it now takes five to cash in for a new heart), so you don't get many chances to mess up. I messed up a lot, and saw the Game Over screen a couple of times. Thankfully, you will restart right outside of the sub-boss door, so you don't need to spend another 30 minutes making your way back to where you died.
A change in tactics allowed me to finally get past the Ubergoron. My reward for doing so was the Hero's Bow, and a ticket to the second half of the dungeon. The level environment changes from inside the mountain to a more open, mountainous area, with a lot more industrial equipment. It's an area of the game that I remember previously playing at E3, but getting a chance to go all the way through it was a nice experience. There are more magnetic puzzles, and a lot of stuff to shoot at with the bow. You need to hit few door switches while standing upside down (try entering first-person view while on the ceiling for a thrill), and re-enter previous dungeon rooms from different locations to advance to the final door.
The dungeon's master is a super-duper big goron chained to the walls. He soon realizes someone has intruded, and breaks free. A giant, glowing spot on his forehead appears (gee, I wonder how you attack this guy?), after which you take out your bow and do what needs to be done...or so you think. Just hitting the guy in the noggin isn't enough to drop him for some sword combos to the head. You'll still need to trip him up somehow. It took me a moment to figure out what was going on, but then I noticed something odd about the arena floor. I'll leave it up to you to solve the mystery.
After felling the big guy and getting the heart container prize, Midna tells Link part of the reason why she decided to help him. A lot of speculation points to Midna being the Twilight Princess, but this is not confirmed within the span of the first two dungeons. I will end this preview with a little something for you guys to chew on: If Midna is indeed the Twilight Princess referred to in the game's title, could that mean there's more royalty on the dark side? Like a Twilight King, perhaps? And could Midna's alliance with Princess Zelda have something to do with her disapproval of said King?
November 19, 2006 is day we'll be able to find out.