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The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

by Evan Burchfield - December 7, 2006, 9:48 pm PST
Total comments: 23

9.5

The most expressive Zelda yet. This review contains spoilers.

If you've ever played a Zelda game, you need to play Twilight Princess. There is no reason not to, and you'd be depriving yourself of one of the best games Nintendo has ever made.

For those of you looking for a purchase recommendation, that was it – I don't think there's a respectable gamer out there who will regret buying it, and in a bang for buck stress test Twilight Princess holds up better than most games in the past year. Now that the recommendation is out of the way, I want to actually discuss this Zelda game in detail, which will mean minor spoilers for those who haven't played it (and to reiterate, if you haven't played it yet, go buy it immediately).

Twilight Princess, like all 3-D Zelda games, is a frustrating dichotomy of tradition and innovation. The game flits between states of compelling originality and fan-service nostalgia, a strategy that keeps the player anticipating either the next in-joke or surprise. Part-cause of this dichotomy is the status of Zelda as an ever-evolving formula. The last two console Zelda games (Majora's Mask and The Wind Waker) moved the series towards stronger story and characterization and away from the dungeon-crawling focus that defined the series in the 2-D era. Ocarina of Time, on the other hand, was nothing without its dungeons, and since Nintendo has deliberately made Twilight Princess an homage (and sequel) to Ocarina of Time it is fitting that dungeons are its strong suit.

This was not, however, my initial impression of the game. During its first half, Twilight Princess is the least predictable Zelda yet while still providing the token Forest, Death Mountain, and Zora dungeons. The weight of the characters in the still developing plot (not least of which is your yet uncontrollable wolf-form) is what compels you to complete these dungeons, along with the exciting gameplay interludes that pepper the space between them. Right on cue, it is in the second half of the game that the story takes a backseat and the dungeons, which ironically get far more unique and exciting, become rote day-job obligations that are counterbalanced by optional overworld excursions and side-quests. The cause of this lull? The Zelda tradition of collecting X Number of Special Items before story progress can continue.

This does not take away from the power of these later dungeons – in fact some of them are reminiscent of Link to the Past, the true Holy Grail for Zelda fans. This is Twilight Princess's real achievement. In the same way that Ocarina of Time transmuted the emotional effectiveness of the two dimensional Zelda dungeons, so too does Twilight Princess recall the isolated nature of Link's previous underground puzzle solving. The presence of Ooccoo to bail you out of dungeons does a disservice (as handy as she is) to their claustrophobic nature.

The first half of Twilight Princess stands on its strong story and character relationships so much that when the game resolves we expect more conclusion to the individual narratives. The game is fantastically expressive during cinema scenes, even if the story gets a bit convoluted halfway through. When the game focuses on the relationship between Link and his fellow Hylians (especially Ilia), the story is gripping. When it comes to the dynamics of the Twilight and the villains, the plot falters from inconsistency. Far too much game and story time is spent on the sorceror Zant and nearly none with Ganon – for being the true villain, it seems we're supposed to rely on our previous experiences with Ganon to understand his evil power. Likewise, the discussion of the Triforce is limited, and to a Zelda newcomer, inscrutable. Nonetheless, the cinema scenes that flesh out the oddly thin story are robust and perfect, proving Nintendo's cinematic ability is and always has been sharp.

Another reason this second half of the game stays somewhat less compelling is the absence of the Twilight, which at first seemed to promise a Dark World/Light World depth that never occurred. Although its presence is limited, when the Twilight does show up it is like stepping out of Zelda and into an abstraction that was supposedly beyond Nintendo's classical capabilities. The Twilight really does impress us graphically, in the same way Wind Waker's cel-shading impressed. Both forced us to imagine Hyrule in a new way, and both add to the mystery of the Zelda universe.

And Hyrule is what Zelda has always been about, never Link or Ganon or even Zelda herself – Link is an avatar for the player, and we play as him to explore the world. Although I dislike the bare field philosophy from Ocarina of Time, it is improved here by excessive overworld objectives and beautiful landscaping. The transition from day to night is extremely realistic, and all times and colors of the day are represented. Most of all, this overworld's ruins, bridges, rock formations, and bodies of water are all of the size and shape a Link to the Past zealot would expect – the bridge over Lake Hylia really represents a Hyrule I've always known, and I'm sure other players have similar emotions about different locations.

It is odd that a nostalgia-ride would introduce so many new features to the Zelda universe, and it is furthermore against all logic that Nintendo would decide to use this memory-trip to do away with a vast majority of the classic items that have been around since before control sticks. It may sadden your heart that there is no Mirror Shield, and that magically powered arrows appear in a limited form only, but it was time for some of these items to go and new ones to take their place. Unfortunately, these new items are amazingly fun in the dungeons they are found in, and after that never again; most of them are not well integrated into the overworld or future dungeons, making them one-hit wonders that impress and then quickly fade away. A couple of them have the potential to become Zelda staples in the future, but I don't think that will happen. Similarly, Link's transformation into a wolf appears to be underused, but Nintendo is preventing a potential abuse of the feature by making the wolf-persona a new way of looking at the normal Hyrule, not necessarily a Dark World version of himself. As a result, playing as Wolf Link is always fresh. Not quite so fresh, in fact quite unwelcome is the ever-present heart piece reward system. The only way to take the joy out of solving difficult secret dungeons is by giving the player a mere heart piece for all his work. Even worse, some secret areas in both the temples and overworld yield only rupees, which are never in short supply. Nintendo needs to be more creative in rewarding players for going out of their way, as collecting all the poes and bugs is simply not worth the effort.

If there’s one thing holding Twilight Princess back it is the Wii Remote. This game will be the first Wii experience for most gamers, which is both good and bad. Firstly, it must be said that it is far more comfortable to hold a Remote and Nunchuk than a regular gamepad, and even split in half the majority of the game’s actions are performed identically as in previous 3-D Zelda games. To handle the lack of buttons, certain features are mapped to the motion sensing on the controller, and only a few of them work. Aiming is nearly perfect if you can get your cursor to feel right, and that only takes a few seconds spent with the in-game pointer settings. Most of the sword maneuvers, however, are not as intuitive as they should be. Sword swinging requires you to excessively wiggle the controller and doesn't feel like swinging a sword at all. Nunchuk sword and shield attacks only seem to work half the time, though the concept is appreciated. Having all of these functions mapped to motion sensitivity saves buttons for item management, which is handled by a swap-to-B method that really improves the Zelda experience. Although the control scheme proves that the Wii can handle a traditional adventure game, hopefully Nintendo will re-examine their control philosophy with the next Zelda. Perhaps they will also rethink the usage of the Remote's speaker, which really does sound terrible at every volume level.

Aside from the control complaints, Twilight Princess is what you want, no matter what it is that you want. For a Zelda fan, there is no better game to get; the more Zelda games you've played the more you will understand and appreciate its majesty. Although it at times focuses too much on nostalgia and too little on advancing the formula, Twilight Princess moves Link into a world that can be understood in the context of its two-dimensional forebears. With exciting cinemas, a manly but compassionate Link, and the best Hyrule yet, Nintendo has made Twilight Princess almost definitely the game of the year, no matter which system you play it on.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
10 9 8 9.5 9 9.5
Graphics
10

One of the most beautiful games ever made in terms of art-design. From believable, fluid characters to giant vistas and lakes, this Hyrule is complete and perfected. Blotting the great art are some muddy textures and blocky environments. The Twilight, though, is perfectly imagined and seen far too little.

Sound
9

The music itself is top-notch Nintendo quality, although only some of the songs are instant classics. Many of the songs are borrowed from Ocarina of Time (or previous Zelda games) and these are typically the best. (Apparently in keeping with the Ocarina homage, the main Hyrule theme is different from the actual Zelda theme which itself doesn't show up but in extremely limited form.) The MIDI quality of the music has been mentioned a lot, and it really is a disappointment given the teaser trailer's fully orchestrated score, especially when the game attempts choral voices. The classic Zelda sound effects are back, and when they're played on your TV's speakers they sound great. When played on the Wii Remote's speaker, the sound is too low quality to work how Nintendo intended it to.

Control
8

Most of the control functions are copied directly from the GameCube setup, and as such are great. Some of the new aspects, like aiming weapons with the Remote and swapping items to the B button, are perfect and welcomed. Others, like sword-swinging, seem implemented just to save controller space. Swinging the remote is simply not an effective means to use your sword, and the sensitivity is too high. Repeated sword swings necessitate mere wiggling of the controller. The Nunchuk is used for certain sword and shield techniques, which is fine if the Nunchuk were more responsive itself. Too many times it would either misread my movements or read nothing at all – this is an across-the-board Wii problem, however, and not unique to Twilight Princess.

Gameplay
9.5

The dungeons move towards brilliance of the type seen in Majora's Mask, while the overworld is filled with objectives and secrets. In between many of the dungeons are unique battles or goals that stretch our understanding of the Zelda formula. Maneuvering as Wolf Link in the Twilight is a real joy, and not overused. The joy of exploring and adventuring is very present here, despite any qualms I may have about the game's dungeon focused structure. Less exciting are the rewards for exploring: heart pieces and excessive rupees are given out for even the most difficult tasks. The predictability of the treasure forces adventuring to be its own reward.

Lastability
9

The game is long (but not as long as Nintendo wants you to think), and there's plenty to do at all times. Deciding whether to advance the story or explore is still the main struggle, and both are great fun to do. After you've beaten the final boss, you'll want to boot up your last save to continue collecting items and seeing all the sights. Though the game's replayability is limited, it is long enough that the first half of the game is easily forgotten by the time the end credits roll.

Final
9.5

Control faults are the niggling pain here – the Wii Remote works most of the time, but feeling impotent with a sword in hand is a new and unwanted feeling for Zelda. Otherwise, every facet is an improvement of past Zelda games, and I even warmed up to features that I used to hate. I couldn't recommend it more to Zelda fans.

Summary

Pros
  • Best cinema scenes in a Zelda game yet
  • Gorgeous and gigantic overworld
  • Made for Zelda fans, every single one of you
  • Traditional gameplay occasionally shaken up by new concepts
Cons
  • Game's second half is dungeon-heavy, story-lite
  • Infrequent graphical and musical weaknesses
  • Wii control scheme not yet perfected
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

While I disagree on the sword controls (except the shield thrust) and music, I agree with many of the observations in this philisophical review regarding overall storytelling and world design.

Nick DiMolaNick DiMola, Staff AlumnusDecember 07, 2006

I like the review, but haven't really experienced the same control problems. My opinion on the controls is smack dab in the middle between love and hate. I don't love them and I think the old style of control works just as well, but at the same time it isn't bad, and like I said it works equally to the old control setup. The aiming is easier which I guess is a 1up for the Wiimote. Either way, this game is amazing and I still think any review of this game giving a score lower than a 9.0 is an abomination. This is one of the best games ever, literally.

ShyGuyDecember 07, 2006

This is not the definitive NWR Zelda review.

KlapauciusDecember 07, 2006

Quote

The predictability of the treasure forces adventuring to be its own reward.


Like Wind Waker, then. I've played it for over 60 hours and I don't care if all I get are rupees after a prolonged mini-dungeon battle against five Darknut-producing Wizrobes - the battling is damn fun and I love exploring the ocean. Every time I play I uncover something new, something that I overlooked, or just something I saw before but is still great.

I only hope Twilight Princess has as much hidden.

I DO consider adventure its own reward. Heck, I'd turn off all extra heart pieces if possible. Just give me that dark cave behind a giant rock, and two bottles full of lantern oil.

~Carmine M. Red
Kairon@aol.com

KnowsNothingDecember 07, 2006

I went back to playing Wind Waker the other day, and using a button for my sword attack just feels wrong. It's confining and claustrophobic, or something. Not cool.

Wiimote ftw, I have had no issues with it face-icon-small-smile.gif

Bill AurionDecember 07, 2006

"The predictability of the treasure forces adventuring to be its own reward."

Like it SHOULD be? Also, if the (original) music in this game wasn't classic I wouldn't find myself walking around whistling the Hyrule Field theme, etc...

(And, like others, I've found nothing wrong with the controls...)

I wonder if those of you who have no control problems have beaten the game. There's a fight very close to the end that had me swearing at the Wii because it was made so artificially hard due to the sword controls being unreliable. Obi says he blazed through it, so it may depend on your style of swinging.

CalibanDecember 08, 2006

I agree with the 9.5, TP isn't perfect.

I had no problems with controls, I guess it's a matter of adaptability, controls never enraged me at all but one single dungeon near the end did, sky temple.

I would say that my best experience in this game is the Boss battles, except for the final battle because it was boring to say the least.

AlenthroDecember 08, 2006

http://www.4colorrebellion.com/archives/2006/11/23/zelda-on-wii-shield-thrust-de-mystified/

I personally find the controls utterly intuitive and close to perfection.

ZachDecember 08, 2006

Quote

Originally posted by: Jonnyboy117
I wonder if those of you who have no control problems have beaten the game. There's a fight very close to the end that had me swearing at the Wii because it was made so artificially hard due to the sword controls being unreliable. Obi says he blazed through it, so it may depend on your style of swinging.


I know what fight you are talking about, and I did have a little trouble with it, but I only had to practice it a little, which wasnt that bad since Zelda's other attacks are pretty easy to avoid. I beat it a second time, and its now my favorite part of the final battle.

If what everyone says is true about the sheild attack, then the game probably described the move poorly. I found myself pushing the nunchuk forward, and spinning instead of bashing all the time, and it seems like an issue with most players.

CericDecember 08, 2006

Quote


...prolonged mini-dungeon battle against five Darknut-producing Wizrobes ...



Please direct me to said battle in WW. I love everything about the game that didn't have anything to do with water.

Smoke39December 08, 2006

Quote

Originally posted by: Zach
If what everyone says is true about the sheild attack, then the game probably described the move poorly. I found myself pushing the nunchuk forward, and spinning instead of bashing all the time, and it seems like an issue with most players.

Probably because moving the nunchaku forward actually, you know, makes sense.

Bill AurionDecember 08, 2006

I have had no problem using the shield bash, nor did I have a single problem with Jonny's so-called "difficulty" in the final boss battle...I declare you all just suck! face-icon-small-smile.gif

I don't know what you're talking about, Jonny. The sword swinging can be difficult on the horse, but being more deliberate with your slashes solves that problem. Like I said, the shield thrust move is the only issue I have with control responsiveness.

KnowsNothingDecember 09, 2006

Personally I've never had problems with the sword....shield-bashing, spin-attacking, horse-slashing....all of it came easily to me. I went back to WW the other day and found the sword fighting to be really frustrating.

However, my brother has problems with all of those things, especialy fighting on horseback, so I can see that some people may have trouble.

IceColdDecember 09, 2006

Quote

Originally posted by: Ceric
Quote


...prolonged mini-dungeon battle against five Darknut-producing Wizrobes ...



Please direct me to said battle in WW. I love everything about the game that didn't have anything to do with water.
That, I believe, was in one of the two temples of the awakenings - I believe it was the Earth Temple..

cubistDecember 11, 2006

I thought the classic "tennis" match at the end would be a problem, but I didn't get struck one time in that portion of the battle. The controls were dead on...

I thought I would have an issue, but my timing was never off.

Myxtika1 AznDecember 11, 2006

For those of you who are having trouble with the "tennis" fight, you can also use an empty bottle tpg.gif

IceColdDecember 11, 2006

Hahah, yeah - a friend showed that to me in OoT. Try using the Megaton hammer

IceColdDecember 11, 2006

EDIT: Sorry

Smash_BrotherDecember 12, 2006

My only issue with the game is that the bosses were weaksauce easy, especially Ganondorf, hell, at least Zant was wild and unpredictable. WW Ganondorf was actually challenging whereas this time he was immensely easy.

BloodworthDaniel Bloodworth, Staff AlumnusDecember 17, 2006

Yeah I find that most people complaining about controls in Wii take to wildly shaking the controllers rather than actually making deliberate motions. Getting the rhythm down for sword swings was not a problem for me.

As for the nunchuk, I'm starting to think that it responds fine, it's just that the shape allows you to comfortably hold it in a less than optimum position for the discreet directions. I even found myself pushing sideways on the analog stick when I thought I was pushing up.

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The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Box Art

Genre Adventure
Developer Nintendo
Players1

Worldwide Releases

na: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Release Nov 19, 2006
PublisherNintendo
RatingTeen
jpn: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Release Dec 02, 2006
PublisherNintendo
Rating12+
eu: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Release Dec 08, 2007
PublisherNintendo
Rating12+
aus: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Release Dec 07, 2007
PublisherNintendo
RatingMature
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