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Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Review

Developer: Nintendo Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: November 19, 2006 Also On: GCN

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess has been dubbed one of the biggest launch titles in history, coming out with the Nintendo Wii on November 19th. The game’s appearance on the Nintendo Wii was confirmed by Nintendo President Satoru Iwata at E3 2005, and since then it has been a target of hype and anticipation like no other. Numerous delays including the delay of the GameCube version of the game until December 2006 have held Twilight Princess back, but rest assured that Nintendo’s flagship Wii title is for real. It’s not too bold to say that Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is the greatest Zelda game of all time, and Ocarina Of Time sits playing second fiddle.

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Twilight Princess takes our hero Link to the land of Hyrule where a mysterious and terrifying twilight has taken the land by storm. This twilight is the product of the evil twilight tyrant Zant, whose shadow creatures began wreaking havoc on the world. It’s up to the courageous Link to save the day, but of course, it’s not that simple. Early on, Link enters the darkness of the twilight and is temporarily transformed into a wolf. A strange character named Midna offers to help Link on the condition that he helps her in her path to driving the evil Zant from his power. The story delivers on all counts, gripping the player to Hyrule, Link, and almost all of the NPCs like no other Zelda game before it. It’s dark and twisted for Legend Of Zelda standards; and throughout the story you’ll question everyone’s intentions, from Link to Midna to even Zelda herself.

Zelda games are all about adventure, and Twilight Princess gives the player a massive world to do all of the adventuring one could possibly want. The world is full of caves, towns, and dungeons to explore as well as lakes, forests, deserts, and mountains. The scope of the game is huge before even considering the hefty amount of things to do. Twilight Princess follows a very familiar Zelda structure. Players are thrown into Link’s world and eventually a conflict leads him towards a region’s dungeon area, where Link will solve puzzles and defeat a boss character to restore peace throughout that region. This game does take the formula a little further; different regions throughout the world will be consumed by twilight throughout the game. Link must enter his wolf form and seek tears of the region’s inhabitants, which restores power to an overseeing guardian who drives away the twilight and restores the area. This extra factor in the gameplay really prolongs the first third of the game, but in a good way. Twilight Princess has a pace that never lets go of your attention but yields enough freedom to allow you to explore, which is the point in the first place.

Dungeons are a major highlight here, and the developers have mastered level design. Like the rest of the game, they follow a familiar pattern. Each dungeon introduces major challenges, new puzzles, and an important new item that will help you out with the former two situations. This structure has held strong since the series began in 1987, and it is rock-solid here as well. When you come across the bow in the second dungeon, for example, you’re bound to use it a lot to solve the puzzles and open up some new areas as well as defeat the boss character. Boss fights end every dungeon in an epic fashion, and rest assured that you won’t walk away from a single boss fight without being impressed with the boss design and the method of defeating each one.

Zelda is very similar to another classic Nintendo franchise, Metroid, in that finding new items can really open up a lot elsewhere in the game. Once you get bombs, the bow, the clawshot (which is a lot cooler than the hookshot, by the way), you’ll have new areas to explore that you might have never even thought about. As I mentioned, exploring the world is a big deal in this game, and finding new stuff to uncover nooks and crannies is the trick to finding even more cool stuff like pieces of heart and other collectibles as well as shortcuts to different regions in the game.

The big controversy over the Nintendo Wii version of Twilight Princess was whether or not the nunchuck and Wii remote controllers would be able to deliver familiar control mechanics so that Zelda fans wouldn’t have to adjust to a new scheme. Those in doubt can now sleep soundly at night: Twilight Princess on the Nintendo Wii controls perfectly. That’s really all there is to say about it, in general. It feels great, simply put. To go a bit more in-depth, though, you control Link’s general movement with the nunchuck’s analog stick. Unsheathing and swinging his sword is done with movements of the Wii remote, and for the spinning slash attack, the nunchuck. It’s a lot of fun to plow through a group of enemies flicking the Wii remote and throwing in the shake of the nunchuck for a spin attack every few seconds.

Before long you’ll unlock special attacks, like the Shield Attack, that utilize the nunchuck and Wii remote even further. Z-targeting is back and works as well as it always has, and items can still be used and mapped to different buttons on the Wii remote. Using projectile items is a real treat; items like the slingshot, boomerang, and bow can be fired with the Wii’s B trigger and aimed with the Wii remote’s motion sensitivity as well as a targeting reticle on the screen. After some practice, defeating enemies, solving puzzles, and simply moving around is as easy as it ever was. Twilight Princess has as much of a learning curve as Ocarina Of Time did, and anyone who’s played a Gamecube or Nintendo 64 Zelda game will have no trouble hacking and slashing through minion after minion. The controls are never difficult, and like they should be, the puzzles are the only things that will have you befuddled and scratching your head in wonder.

As I hinted earlier, there are distractions everywhere that strongly support the rumored 70 hours of gameplay. Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess breaks a traditional Zelda mold by forcing you to find 5 Heart Pieces to restore a Heart Container (normally you’d collect four), and as a result, there are 45 of these pieces scattered throughout the world. Fishing was always fun on the Nintendo 64 Zelda titles, but it’s an all-new experience here. With the Wii remote, you’ll cast the fishing rod, set the hook, and reel in a fish rather than pressing buttons and moving analog sticks. There are 60 Poe souls and 24 Golden Bugs to seek as well as other mini-games scattered throughout Hyrule. If there’s not enough for you to do here, well, I don’t know what to tell you, because this game’s loaded.

Twilight Princess is easily the best-looking Nintendo Wii title out of the gates. Hyrule has never looked so beautiful, or so…sinister? I couldn’t help but feel like the world was a daunting place, and this was clearly the intent of the visual style. When you see the high, pointed towers of Hyrule Castle far off in the distance of the grassy rolling hills of Hyrule Field, it’s hard to say the view isn’t stunning. Link’s matured character model is detailed down to the chain mail protecting him underneath his tunic. The character designs of the last few Zelda games have been superior to most games, but Twilight Princess takes it to a level so high that even those who don’t normally appreciate such a thing as art style and design will be impressed. Enemy designs are some of the best in the series, and boss characters are more fearsome than ever before. The twilight structures and enemies are very interesting, usually colored in a very dark palette with high-contrast, almost neon-colored designs covering them. They reminded me a lot of the Shin Megami Tensei series, actually.

Even the different weapons and items look interesting, and are much less conventional than those of previous games. I mentioned the clawshot earlier–it’s a big claw that acts as a grappling hook, and just the idea to make it a claw seems to fit the mature design better than the traditional hookshot ever would. The animation is smooth as silk. Link has no problem keeping up with your flinging of the Wii remote as you slash through lizardmen, goblins, and other familiar enemies. I was happy to see that some of Wind Waker’s effects, like the exploding enemies and flashes of light during battle, were kept intact despite the otherwise polar opposite art direction. It also won’t hurt to mention that the game’s cut-scenes are choreographed beautifully, making for some of the best story clips I’ve seen in video games.

The music ranges from classic and memorable to completely new and never leaves the high quality that you’d expect from a Zelda game. If there’s anything as familiar as Link’s green tunic, the Master Sword, or the Triforce, it’s the different sound effects, jingles, and tunes that series veterans could hum in their sleep. You’ll hear the familiar theme songs, that little tune that plays when you unlock a door or uncover a secret, and even the same jingle when you open up a treasure chest with an important item inside. There is still very little voice-over, with most of what’s there coming from Midna’s foreign twilight tongue. While most veterans of the Zelda franchise are happy with this, I would have liked to see other NPCs speak throughout the game. I wouldn’t mind if Link remained his voiceless, wordless self, but everyone else could and should be talking. This is 2006. Voice acting is a gaming staple these days.

After reading eleven paragraphs of gracious praise and little else, you might be wondering: Is there anything wrong with this one? Is Twilight Princess the perfect game? Truthfully, it’s close, it really is. It’s got a few very, very minor flaws that keep it at a mortal status, though none of them are detrimental to the gameplay and are very easily dealt with. First of all, the sole visual fault comes from slightly blurry textures that show that the game was intended to be a last-generation GameCube game. Second, some of the alterations to small elements of gameplay bothered me a bit. For example, Link climbs at about half the speed he used to, making those all-too-common vine or grate climbs a major chore.

Also, there are several lava, poison, and endless pits that will set you back–sometimes too far back. Early on in the game, you’re to follow a monkey holding a lantern through an area filled with poison gas. If you get even an inch too far into the poison gas and away from the safety of the lantern, Link will pass out and return to the beginning of the area. The frustrating part in this specific example is that you battle enemies and can’t control the speed of the monkey, so it’s entirely possible to return to the starting point multiple times. These trial-and-error bits are probably the only parts of the game that I can admit to not enjoying, but they’re very rare. I already mentioned the lack of voice acting, which obviously can easily be dealt with–unless you’re blind and can’t read, which is a moot point, because you probably wouldn’t be playing video games.

Some might wonder just how long this Zelda thing can last; after all, it’s been had same gameplay design for eight years, since Ocarina of Time came out. The fact that the level designers can keep coming up with worlds that are so loaded with secrets just blows my mind. The dungeons, the towns, the entire map itself–it’s the best it’s ever been. While the core gameplay mechanics might be very familiar, the creativity that pours out of the level design is extremely impressive. The new weapons also help; I had a lot of fun figuring out the different mechanics of each one, since they’re much less traditional than other Zelda games. Though it seems to have been the black sheep of recent Zelda games, Majora’s Mask is the only one I can think of that was more fun to tinker with, with its dozens of masks.

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess tells a story that can’t be missed. It’s easily the most gripping story in recent years. Most importantly, though, Twilight Princess is a blast to play. It’s tough to creatively elaborate on that; it’s just fun, and that is the most important purpose of video games. Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is an epic game, and nothing less. It’s a game that will test anyone, whether the player controlling Link with the Wii remote is a series veteran or a true beginner. There is so much to do and so much to see that only the definition of time and meaning of life is more perplexing to think about. As I played through the game I wondered, “Man, am I even putting a dent into this?” Nintendo couldn’t have kicked off the Wii launch in a better way, but more importantly, they’ve one-upped a game that is considered by most as the greatest of all time. Ocarina of Time, eat your heart out. There’s a new legend, and it’s Twilight Princess.

Graphics: 9.5
Sound: 9.5
Gameplay: 10
Creativity: 10
Replay Value/Game Length: 10
Final: 9.8
Written by Cliff Review Guide