Monday, August 3, 2009

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii, GCN) Review

When the Wii launched, I started a data of Twilight Princess. I finished the second dungeon, and then I just stopped. Other games came out, I got sidetracked, etc. This July, I started the game again, and I completed it to perfection. I finally have a belated review to share!

A Legend in Its Time

The Legend of Zelda is one of most universally-revered franchises in gaming, and for good reason. It's been around for twenty years, and the series consistently brings an A-game experience through each of its dozen or so installments. It's time for another Zelda with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, a game that feels like a beefed up Ocarina of Time, and considering Ocarina of Time is one of the best games in the history of gaming, that's high-praise. Does The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess live up to that feeling, or is this game a legendary disappointment?

The land of Hyrule is once again in trouble. The twilight is slowly taking over the lands, causing the citizens to be enveloped in a nightmarish dark world where evil twilight monsters roam. You start out a Link, an innocent farmhand with a big destiny as the hero of legend. Link's main nemesis this time is the twilit king Zant, who wishes to engulf the world in twilight. Link's not alone though this time-- he has a strange creature named Midna to assist him much like Navi did in Ocarina of Time. Midna offers hints when needed, helps Link across huge gaps, and helps move along the story. As with past Zelda games, there's no voice acting, but at the same time the story's dialogue and cinematics are so moving that you'll forget it's even a problem. There seems to be more story and cinematics in Twilight Princess than any other Zelda title.

Link and Midna sittin' in a tree~

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a mammoth-sized game, taking anywhere from 30-50 hours to complete depending on the player. Hyrule Field is much larger this time around than Ocarina of Time with multiple pathways leading to various plateaus to explore, but thanks to Epona the horse and the ability to warp, traveling seldom feels tedious.

The formula of the Zelda franchise remains the same. Link begins with a modest arsenal of items. As he visits dungeons, solves puzzles, obtains new equipment, defeats large bosses, and collects special piece to advance the story, he'll grow stronger and earn fame all around Hyrule. It's a simple formula that's been around since the beginning of the franchise, and with Twilight Princess it still feels fresh after all of these years. With new weapons like the devastating stone-destroying ball and chain, wall-riding spinner, and clawshot along with old favorites with new twists like bombs, the bow and arrow, twister-producing gale boomerang, there's plenty of firepower in Link's arsenal this time around, and unlike previous Zelda games, most items you acquire have multiple uses throughout the game instead of "collect dungeon weapon and only use it in this dungeon and one other time outside the dungeon".

Not only do the Iron Boots help you sink in water,
they also allow you to walk on magnetized surfaces.

In dungeons, which there are more than seven of, the goal is to solve puzzles to gain keys to unlock doors to find the dungeon's special item to find the boss key to unlock the door to face the boss to defeat the boss to proceed the story. Dungeon progression is marked by how many doors are unlocked in a given dungeon. Usually the dungeon's special item such as the bow and arrow is guarded by the dungeon's mid-boss. Puzzles are much more difficult to solve than in past Zelda titles and especially from 2D Zeldas. You'll need to think three-dimensionally, scan entire rooms, walls and ceilings, and test out your inventory in order to get through them.

There's a larger gap between dungeons in Twilight Princess due to story elements such as taking on a group of ogres via horseback and fetch quests. In fact the first three hours of the game Link will not have even entered the first dungeon due to all the extended tutorials in the early part of the game that may put off some players. There's also some times where you won't know where to go via the game not being clear of what Link needs to do next. This doesn't happen often, but when it does, it becomes quite vexing.

Link's trusty steed, Epona, returns.

When Link enters the twilight realm, he turns into a wolf, so Twilight Princess feels like two games. One is with normal Link in the normal world, while the other is the wolf in the twilight relam. Both worlds use the same land, except the people of Hyrule are spirits in the twilight realm. As wolf form, a lot of times you'll be collecting several tears in order to take away the twilight covering an area of Hyrule. This gets tedious after the second time you're forced to do so, and sort of ruins any pacing there is. Regardless, collecting tears is just a three time deal which is relieving. By the halfway point of the game, Link is able to freely change between wolf-form and human-form at will which really opens up some cleverness in the level design where certain dungeons require the player to have a handle on switching between both forms.

These twilight creatures pack a serious punch.

There's plenty to do in Twilight Princess. Mini-games are abound such as Goron sumo wrestling, an extensive fishing game, a full-fledged flight and snowboard mini-game, and much more. The amount of side quests are exhausting including bug-collecting, poe soul-snatching, and the Zelda staple, the quest for hidden heart containers. This time, collecting five will add another heart to Link's life. There's a massive forty-five to collect this time around. A lot of times in dungeons, chests will reward rupees, the Zelda franchise's currency. There's so many of these chests that oftentimes you won't have room in your wallet for them which makes finding rupees less of a bonus and more of a chore.

Fishing is just one of the many
mini-games in Twilight Princess.

The differences between the Wii and Gamecube versions is that: 1) the worlds are mirrored so that Link remains left-handed in both games, and 2) the controls. It doesn't matter which way you move the Wii remote, Link will slice in a canned animation. It can get annoying waggling the Wii remote constantly to attack, but your arm won't get tired unless you REALLY get into it. A way the Wii remote benefits the game comes when using the slingshot, bow and arrow, clawshot, and ball and chain. You use the Wii remote's pointer functionality to point at the screen where you want to shoot. This feels so much better and more precise than just using an analog stick, and it was difficult going back to the Gamecube controller after being spoiled. Combat uses the z-targeting which locks onto a foe, allowing Link to circle around and attack with ease.

There's no graphical difference between the Gamecube and Wii versions, but that really doesn't matter. Despite a barf-inducing texture here and there, the game is technically impressive. The art design is just gorgeous and a lot of the locales and character models are beautiful to look at. Sound-wise the MIDI music isn't that bad of an attraction this time around, but here's hoping that the next Zelda for Wii uses an orchestral score much like Mario Galaxy has.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess takes everything players love about the Zelda franchise, and adds some new content to the mix. While some of the wolf gameplay falls short of excellence, the traditional Zelda gameplay remains intact and is superb. There's an overwhelming amount of things to do, areas to explore, and bad guys to beat, and it all feels fun and seldom frustrating. What your brawn won't feel challenged to, your brain definitely will by all the game's devious puzzles. Good luck getting through the game without a guide as this Zelda's brain busters are certainly challenging this installment. No matter if you prefer full camera control (Gamecube) or full projectile control (Wii), Twilight Princess is an epic masterpiece no matter what system you play it on.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.25/10]

1 comment:

Kyle said...

Great review for a great game.

I'd forgotten how awesome this game really is. I need to go back and play it again, for when I did the first time I had to rush through the last half or so because the friend I was borrowing it from wanted it back. I really want to buy it and play through it again at my own pace.

Speaking of which I also need to do the same for Super Paper Mario, which I borrowed from the same friend (despite not being rushed through it).