The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
November 19, 2006 (NA)
December 2, 2006 (JP)
December 7, 2006 (AU)
December 8, 2006 (EU)
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was perhaps one of the most anticipated games in gaming history. It might not be the best Zelda ever – not having the same polish as the rest of the series and feeling a bit rushed – but it’s still one of the better games in the series and one of the best games on Wii, taking the tried and true Zelda gameplay mechanics and expanding upon them. Nintendo has succeeded in creating a lengthy and epic adventure that makes it a solid addition to the series, even with its faults.
The game certainly plays homage to Ocarina of Time, and there are many references to the N64 game – some more subtle than others. You’ll find yourself visiting such familiar venues as Lake Hylia, Zora’s Domain, and Death Mountain; yet, for all its nostalgia, Twilight Princess seldom feels like a rehash of Ocarina. While it’s fun to notice all the little references, Twilight Princess stands on its own with excellent dungeon design, a great story, and truly epic (if pathetically easy) boss fights.
Twilight Princess is the best-looking game out of all the Wii launch titles, supporting both 480p and widescreen. Technically, the graphics are late-GCN-era graphics (not surprising, considering they are identical to the graphics in the GCN version of Twilight Princess), but the game’s real strong point is the artistic value of the graphics. The attention to detail is astounding. Characters are extremely expressive, and the environments are truly massive and detailed. The Twilight Realm sequences in particular offer a more washed out and faded look compared to normal environments. You’ll truly feel as if you’re in a different world – one where something’s not quite right. The game is a bit heavy on the grays and browns and dark greens in the overworld, but even still, the other environments are varied enough that this rarely becomes an issue.
The Wii version of Twilight Princess makes use of the Wii’s unique controller. You’ll swing your Wii remote to swing your sword, and although the control doesn’t actually correspond one-on-one to your movements and isn’t quite as responsive as a button press, it’s very easy to adapt to the motion and get into the hang of using the Wii remote. Moving Link is done with the analog stick on the nunchuck controller, and the Z button on the nunchuck is used for targeting. Spin attacks are done by shaking the nunchuck side-to-side, while thrusting the nunchuck forward results in a shield bash. The game sometimes seems to have a hard time differentiating the shield bash from the spin attack, however, resulting in frustration when you simply want to knock an enemy back with your shield.
Another (slightly nitpicky) disadvantage of the Wii version is that it is the mirror of the Gamecube version. This was a last-minute change that was done to match the Wii controls – which most people would play right-handed. While it doesn’t really change the gameplay, there are a few continuity problems that are created by the mirroring. The Gamecube version’s world more closely resembles Ocarina’s, while everything is on the opposite side of Hyrule in the Wii version. Perhaps more disturbing, especially considering the game’s normal attention to detail, is the fact that the sun rises in the west and sets in the east in the Wii version. It’s unfortunate that the developers lacked the time to properly invert Link’s character model and had to resort to botching the minute details like this by inverting the entire game. The presence of a few game-ending glitches in early copies of the Wii version is extremely concerning as well.
The Wii version also lacks free camera control. Although it could come in handy at times, you’ll soon learn to live without it. There are a few times where you’ll have to fight the camera (the second dungeon comes to mind), but overall it’s not something you’ll think about too often, and the automatic camera does an adequate job.
The absolute selling point of the Wii version though is the use of the pointer to aim. The Wii remote aiming offers much more precision and control over where you shoot arrows, your clawshot, or any other projectile weapon. Those with unsteady hands might have a little bit of a problem, but if they simply can’t keep their hand steady enough to aim precisely, there is an option to disable the pointer and use analog aiming. But most people will find the Wii remote aiming to be much better than analog.
The gameplay is the same classic Zelda gameplay that we’ve grown to love throughout the years. You’ll explore dungeons in an attempt to collect pieces of an ancient relic in order to rid the world of a great evil. While the dungeon designs are excellent, and they feature some challenging puzzles, some parts of the gameplay can’t help but feel a bit dated. However, it works and still manages to separate itself from past Zelda games. The game could be more difficult though – you may die a few times in the very beginning of the game, but soon you’ll be finding it harder to die against the enemies and even the bosses. While the boss fights are more epic and fun than in any other Zelda game, they’re also pathetically easy. Even the final boss only does one heart of damage with each attack. The game manages to be barely more difficult than The Wind Waker, and doesn’t come close to the difficulty of past Zelda games such as the NES games, A Link to the Past, or even Ocarina of Time.
The story is a bit different from past Zelda games, but some portions of it feel extremely tacked on, especially toward the end – namely the return of a certain major character. The story focuses more on the Twilight Realm rather than the traditional “Hyrule is in trouble, go save Zelda” storyline of previous games. The last half of the game, actually, feels incredibly rushed (which is near-inexcusable after all the delays and development time), since the last few dungeons don’t have anywhere near the length or polish of the first-half dungeons. While the first part of the game focuses on advancing the plot although it has its fair share of dungeons as well, this plot development is almost abandoned after the fourth dungeon, sending the game delving into a big fetch quest and dungeon crawl until the end.
The sound is traditional Zelda fare. You’ll hear many classic Zelda tunes as you traverse Hyrule, as well as some new ones. Sounds such as the slash of your sword and the “thwack” of your bow shooting an arrow, as well as Midna’s slightly creepy laugh, come from the speaker built in the Wii remote. The speaker, however, is extremely tinny, and the sounds that come from it are of pretty poor quality. You’ll find yourself wishing that you could set the sounds to come from the television speakers instead. The MIDI music also feels a bit dated, although it allows for it to be more dynamic and change based on what’s going on in the game. Still, it would be nice to hear a fully orchestrated epic Zelda soundtrack.
The main storyline of Twilight Princess is a lengthy game – longer than any Zelda game yet. Those who play through just the storyline will have anywhere from 35-40 hours logged by the time they beat the game. Those who go for 100% completion will probably have closer to 50-60 hours. Unfortunately, Twilight Princess lacks the minigames and sidequests of previous Zeldas, and while there are a few minigames and collecting quests (such as golden bugs and Poe souls), the number of sidequests doesn’t even come close to that of Ocarina or especially Majora’s Mask.
Overall, Twilight Princess is a great game that doesn’t quite live up to the hype and expectations placed upon it before release. It’s upsetting to see the lack of attention to certain details, when the Zelda series as a whole is noted for its incredible attention to detail. Still, while some parts feel tacked on, and the game could be a lot more difficult, it’s a solid title and one of the better games in the series. Maybe someday Nintendo will give us a Zelda game that truly surpasses Ocarina, but until then, Twilight Princess is a very solid option for those craving a Zelda game.
Tried-and-true Zelda gameplay.
Great pointer-based aiming controls.
Somewhat lacking in Zelda charm.