The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Preview - Starting the Adventure

We begin our first of three looks at the final version of Twilight Princess. With the wait nearly over, does the Wii game live up to our expectations?

What's left to say about Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess? The upcoming epic is the latest installment in the beloved RPG franchise that started out as a modest but addictive collection of sprites being pumped out of the original NES. Originally slated to hit the GameCube--until Nintendo decided to share the love with the Wii--the game stands as one of the most hotly anticipated releases for both platforms. The leap to the Wii has seen the game expanded and tweaked for the upcoming system, resulting in a new control scheme for this promising title.

In the months since we first saw the game running on the Wii at this year's E3, we've had the opportunity to try out various sections of the game to get a feel for how you'll use the Wii remote to control Link on his latest adventure. But these brief looks at the game didn't really sate our curiosity about Zelda's control or its mysterious story, so we've been left nursing a hefty number of questions. With its ship date fast approaching, Nintendo invited fortunate members of the media up to check out a nearly final version of the game at their Redmond, Washington headquarters and spend a good chunk of time playing from the start. The play session let us finally get a proper feel for what the experience is going to be like on the Wii and also get a good taste of the game's epic story.

Before we dive in, we should cover the basics for anyone who's not been following this anticipated game. Twilight Princess is the seventh console adventure in the Zelda series (or eighth if you count the multiplayer Four Swords Adventures on the GameCube). The game marks a departure from the stunning cel-shaded art style seen in The Wind Waker and offers up a more realistic aesthetic that evolved from the more traditional style used in the Nintendo 64 games. More significantly, Twilight Princess' story is a darker, more mature tale that promises surprises for seasoned players of the series and a very cool "in" for newcomers to the franchise. Despite all this new business, the game's core remains the same as it's always been--a green tunic-wearing hero gets sucked up into an epic adventure to save the land of Hyrule and its princess, Zelda, from certain doom.

Our last bit of housekeeping is a disclaimer/explanation about our impressions. The time we spent with the game included a look at a fair amount of content that could be defined as spoilers, ranging from major to minor. We'll confine that stuff to the third page of the preview, allowing those of you trying to stay pure for the final game to hang on to your unspoiled state.

Now to the first order of business: control. Twilight Princess' now-mandatory use of the Wii remote has been the subject of much "love it/hate it" talk online, and we'll admit to mixed emotions ourselves after having played it the first times, but after spending a longer period with it, we have to say that we're still on the fence but leaning towards being cool with it--with some reservations. As you've read and seen, you'll use the Wii remote and nunchuk to control Link. The basic controls have been split up logically, so you'll move Link with the analog attachment and rely on the buttons on the Wii remote to use items, access your inventory, and check out your map. The d-pad offers you three slots to assign items from your inventory, left, right and down. Pushing up on the d-pad will bring out a new helper character named Midna, who'll offer words of wisdom, if she's got 'em to share.

The pointer comes into play when making menu selections--if you're so inclined to use it--or you can rely on the d-pad to highlight your menu selections. Jumping is automatic, as it has been in the previous games. Attacking gets you into the literal swing of things as your attacks are all tied to the Wii remote's movement. Z-targeting is, as always, the order of the day. When you start the game you'll rely mainly on the remote to perform single and combo slashes with your sword. The analog attachment will let you perform Link's patented radial power slash by either shaking it side to side or moving it in a circular motion. As you progress through the game you'll pick up other abilities that will require you to use the shoulder buttons on the analog attachment in conjunction with movement. For example, the boomerang will let you lock on to several targets at once by hitting the Z button. The other aspect of attacking that relies on the Wii remote is shooting projectiles, which will rely on using the pointer to target your foes and the B button to fire. If you're not a fan of manually targeting you can use the Z-target system to lock on and then use B to automatically shoot whatever you've targeted.

The above system is modified a bit when Link is wolfed out. You'll obviously be limited when it comes to your abilities, but there are some nice tradeoffs. The d-pad functionality changes up some. You'll still be able to talk to Midna by press up, but left or right switches to your view to take advantage of your enhanced senses while in wolf form (allowing you to see beyond the normal visual spectrum and chat with spirits). Pushing down will let you dig in certain patches of earth and either dig up items such as rupees or squeeze under fences. Additionally, we came across a segment where we picked up someone's scent and were then able to follow the trail by using our enhanced senses.

Attacking in wolf form relies on your actions with the Wii remote. You'll essentially have pooch-style attacks that can be combined in sequence like your sword attacks in human form. This includes a radial attack. One funny bit is the audio cue to let you know you can perform the spin attack. With the sword equipped, when the ability is ready to use again, you'll notice a subtle glow work its way to the end of your sword and give off a metallic "ching" when it's ready. This same system is in place when playing as the wolf, but the audio and visual cues are centered around your tail. When you face specific types of twilight enemies, you'll need to use a special attack that radiates an energy field around you by holding down the B button. You'll want to make sure they're caught as when you release the button you'll take out anything in the field in a flurry of teeth and paws. This is an essential tactic, as certain enemies will revive their fallen comrades if given a chance. Another non-combat related perk to being a wolf is the ability to talk to animals, which comes in handy for obvious reasons.

The system works well for the most part, and, most significantly, the game features a decent amount of options to tweak stuff by letting you calibrate the pointer movement, clean up the HUD by removing the pointing cursor, and invert your look. One thing that stood out was how you'll adjust your play style. Once you get over the natural inclination to overcompensate with your motions with the remote, you'll likely loosen your grip. The setup where we were playing wasn't quite the average living room setup--we basically sat in front of a large flat screen TV on a high chair carefully positioned a set distance from the sensor bar--but when we started messing around with our positioning and movement intensity, the game handled well. As far as the exhaustion factor goes, if you grip the remote like a real sword and go about your business like you're actually performing the actions in real life, then yes, you're going to be winded and maybe a little sore. However, like any new system's controller, once you get the hang of it, figure out the nuances of how it handles, how the sensor bar reads your inputs and whatnot, it all seems very manageable.

With control out of the way, let's tread gingerly around Twilight Princess' story, which has all the earmarks of being one of the series' richest yarns. As always, you'll set out to save Hyrule from trouble--in this case, discovering the nature of the unsettling twilight that's warping the land. As with all the Zelda games that have come before, young Link has no clue what's in store for him. The game starts out with a somewhat melancholic chat between Link and an elder in the village that, now that we've spent some time with the game, serves as a good tone-setter for what's to come in the adventure.

The action starts out slowly enough in the town of Ordona. You'll follow Link on his daily activities, which are tailor-made to familiarize you with the different gameplay mechanics, like using grass to summon different animals to help you (such as Epona and a hawk), fishing, and the basics of combat. One of the first items you'll spend your rupees on is your trusty slingshot. The early part of the game also introduces you to a variety of different villagers, ranging in age. The ones that stand out are several different children and a girl your age who's protective of your trusty steed and has all the earmarks of a love interest.

Trouble kicks off fairly quickly once the game gets going, and you'll find Link sucked up into an escalating series of events that send him on his date with destiny. These events soon lead him to the forest temple and the first steps to becoming a green tunic-wearing adventurer. This time out, matters are complicated by Link's reaction to the twilight. Turns out that this bizarre force is showing up and blanketing chunks of the land in darkness. When he's caught in it, Link goes all wolfy. Though lycanthropy isn't the most convenient thing for a prospective hero, it beats the alternative, as all normal humans caught in the twilight are reduced to ghostly forms that are unaware of your presence and are more concerned with the darkness around them that impairs their senses.

When Link is in the twilight, you'll meet Midna, essentially Twilight Princess' version of Ocarina of Time's Navi. The twist here is that Midna's kind of a punk, and though she does help you, she's more about her own agenda than any real altruism. As such, she packs some 'tude that's edgier than any helper you've had in a previous Zelda game. Though she'll ride you when you're in wolf form in the twilight, Midna will also be available to dispense advice when you're adventuring in twilight-free locales in human form. What stands out about the diminutive character is that she obviously knows a lot more than she's telling--she coughs up just enough info to get you to do what she needs. She also has a relationship of some kind with Zelda, but what that is remains one of the game's mysteries.

Mystery plays a large part in Twilight Princess. You do start to go through the traditional Legend of Zelda motions of saving the world, by performing all manner of tasks to collect the items needed to restore order. But you're still not entirely clear on the twilight's origin or who the mysterious ruler of it all is. You get bits and pieces but not the whole story in this early part, which is a change of pace from previous games, which for the most part gave you a pretty clear goal to work towards even if you've had to take some side trips along the way. The centerpiece to the early part of the game we played revolved around the monkey-filled Forest Temple, which we've played before. As such, we're not going into too much detail on that one. Given the plot's pacing and the interesting twists it's taken, we've got to say this is definitely a game whose story will grab and hold your attention.

NOTE: If you're looking for spoilers, hop on over to the next page. If not, stay away.

Achtung! Spoilers follow!

The Story

Twilight Princess's story plays with the standard Zelda conventions, though it appears all the expected pieces and players are back. The biggie so far is the revelation that Zelda hasn't been kidnapped, per se, but is rather hanging out in a tower in Hyrule which is currently engulfed in twilight. She wound up in her current situation when she actually surrendered to the leader of the twilight forces rather than risk the death of all her subjects. As anyone who's tried to deal with dark forces can tell you, once you let those people in, they're just going to set up shop and be all kinds of trouble. Link discovers the hard way that while he's in the twilight-covered areas his birthmark goes all funny and he turns into a wolf (as opposed to the other Hyrulians, who go all spectral).

Wait, what birthmark? In keeping with what was laid out in The Wind Waker, the Link in the game is actually another seemingly random kid the gods have chosen to essentially draft into the battle against evil. This Link stands out from his predecessors as he sports a Tri-Force shaped birthmark on the top of this right hand.

Link doesn't wind up in his trademark tunic until a good ways into the game after he's wolfed out and made his way back from the twilight. You start out with quite a few hunt and fetch quests as you'll have to kill specific bugs that have leeched the energy from spirit guardians who have kept their respective 'hoods twilight-free. At this point in the game, what you're doing has you running around a very tiny portion of what appears to be a large map that has yet to open up to us.

Random Notes

* The Wii version won't support a GameCube controller.

* Though containing identical content, the GameCube version of the game is actually a mirrored version of the Wii, minus 16:9 support. This means right turns are left turns on the GameCube.

* There's a lot to do when you're not fighting and puzzle-solving, thanks to needy NPCs in and out of town. What's stood out has been how dense the game is. The downside to our play session was that we had to power through the game to see everything, as we could tell we were missing out on going through at a slightly more mellow pace to interact with everyone in town and just explore. The game seems to be pretty dense when it comes to content outside of the main quest.

* Of course, you'll find all the Zelda staples such as your trusty sword, shield, and magical items you'll collect on your adventures. There's some all-new stuff as well, such as a friendly bird-like creature who'll port you out of dungeons if you need a breather. She apparently has a son who'll also figure into your later dungeon crawling.

* Dispatching specific twilight enemies will let Midna create warps to those locations which will let you hop around as needed.

Here ends the spoilers. Read on for final thoughts on the game's presentation.

A lot has been said about Twilight Princess' visuals since it first appeared on the scene. In some respects, there isn't a lot to add, as the game we played was in line with the level of quality seen in past media released on the game. The art direction has more edge to it and reimagines Hyrule in a richly detailed fashion that plays with light and color warmth to set the ambience for each locale.

Would this thing just come out already?

There isn't much in the way of dramatic visual upgrades from the GameCube game, aside from the 16:9 presentation, so anyone expecting a crazy photorealistic experience with bump mapping and all the crazy next-gen bells and whistles should manage their expectations. That said, the game purrs along perfectly fine at 480p, and looks gorgeous doing it. While the Wii may not be taking the graphical steroids its peers are on, Twilight Princess makes a strong case for the virtues of style and gameplay holding up against superior technology.

Twilight Princess' audio is kind of in the same camp as it visuals but for slightly different reasons. Though we've heard some pretty fantastic music tracks in our time with the game, it's also walking a fine line between nostalgia and recycling. There are a number of old school effects in Twilight Princess which do a fine job of summoning that familiar Zelda vibe, and there are obviously a ton of new ones as well. The bummer is that the game still follows the sparse approach to audio we've seen in the last few games in the series. So far, we've just heard the usual run of sound samples when you interact with people and the traditional roars and screeches from enemies, especially bosses. There's also a host of interactive audio cues as you go about your business. What we played so far painted a solid portrait for the game's sound offerings, but nothing's jumped out and grabbed us yet.

So there you have it: our experience with Twilight Princess up through the first dungeon. Our initial impression of this first section of the game is a very good one. The control has come to feel pretty natural, though we'll admit it still trips us up on occasion, and we could see ourselves hunkering down and playing through the game like we would any other Zelda title for several hours on end. Anyone sweating how their arms are going to hold up should just make sure to stretch up and watch how they hold the Wii remote. But otherwise, just suck it up people, it's a Zelda so it's worth some muscle tone. In the next week, we'll follow up with what happens after the Forest Temple, and then finally end it all with our final review of the game for the Wii launch.

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Discussion

445 comments
linkman3
linkman3

Ive played it twice now its old but you should buy it as your first game for the wii or game cube

pyromofo
pyromofo

This game is freakin awesome. what will those smart creaotors think of next

mokhe_pc
mokhe_pc

this game... so cool !!!

pdo4545
pdo4545

IT LOOKS EPIC! I WANT IT.... NOW!!!

Ferto_89
Ferto_89

is there day and night like ocarina of time??

MarkoWii
MarkoWii

I Cannot believe you lot at gamespot are giving this game a beating. Zelda is one of the Best titles ever made it will still be amazing whatever you say do you think any other console has this big a title on launch day to sell. What the 360 had Perfect dark yea that really sold like hot cakes and the PS3 well that is still waiting till March so stop hating and start loving this game P.S Sorry for dissing the 360 it is still a good console.

Squall69r
Squall69r

oh shut up all you haters. its not about the items, its the game, the story and the legend. if zelda fusing with midna is a weak story line,.. then your screwballed. and stop ruining the story line for everyone who hasn't gotten it yet.. considering you yank bastards are getting it before everywhere else.. which is a poor decision in my opinion.. it should've stuck to a world wide release on the 7th of december...

The_Legend501
The_Legend501

all the hype for this game and theres only 3 new items... the ball and chain, dominion rod.. and the clippers... or whatever that is. i knew this game would flop hardcore.... o well.

The_Legend501
The_Legend501

after you beat Zant, you goto hyrule castle and fight GANONDARF and zelda fuses with MIDNA.... typical weak zelda storyline....

erikymartinez
erikymartinez

yeah the reason for wii =p i cant wait this.. when its coming to brazil?!? =/

NIZZLE_GAMER
NIZZLE_GAMER

THIS GAME IS ONE OF THE REASONS WHY IM GETTING THE WII

scionwolf321
scionwolf321

I am a legend of Zelda fan. So I will always get and play nintendo because of that game. For I AM LINK lol.

Da-mentia
Da-mentia

This Game is the reason im getting the WII

racerx737
racerx737

The way this game has shaped up is seriously making me consider gettin a Wii possibly by next summer

LucasAW
LucasAW

This 1 single game (personally) makes the Wii better than any other console could ever dream of being. Finally, the LOZ continues... I seriously CANNOT WAIT!!! :D Screw it.. *Goes to complete OOT... just once more..*

MasterLink31
MasterLink31

hey does anyone know if Best Buy in St. Louis is selling the Wii?? or any other Best Buys around the St. Louis area?? I searched Best Buy's website and i couldn't find anything about them selling the Wii there.........

Link-08
Link-08

Finally after the 3 years waiting its only 38 hours 22 minutes and 10 seconds left

ibewood
ibewood

Wasn't this supposed to be a three part thing? It's been two weeks and the "follow up with what happens after the Forest Temple" hasn't come out yet.

redeyes_basic
redeyes_basic

Ok guys. This game is goign to own. Hard. Check out http://www.gamerankings.com/htmlpages4/928519.asp. 98% average!! And I heard from pretty much all the reviews that the wii controller is no problem, and eventually, you'll never wanna go back to analog. This is THE game to get for the wii. I'm gonna line up early for it. Good luck to all in getting a wii.

xion2k4
xion2k4

wouldn't it be eaiser to go to a smaller game retail insted of all these big ones then you woulnd't have to line up for stupid amounts of time

Fuzzy_Birds
Fuzzy_Birds

Well I'm pretty lucky insofar as gaming over here in the Netherlands is not exactly a big thing. I'll be able to choose from everything Wii related, and will more than likely be able to stroll into my local media emporium on launch day and pick this up with a console.

sobejoe33
sobejoe33

so basially there are over 50 people waiting for the PS3 at Bestbuy in my home town and that was 40 hours befor launch...so ok yeah so what...well please please dont tell me Wii is not going to be that bad cause the earliest i can start my wait is 26 hours.... i really really want a TP so what do you guys think about the Wii launch compared to PS3

kavadias1981
kavadias1981

I have read on both IGN and Gamespot how some Wii games are having trouble sensing motions. I have the horrible feeling i'm going to be disappointed when I get mine. I hope this title holds up or it will be a huge letdown for all.

zux2000
zux2000

I will get this game.... But to GC. (First Zelda game I will play by the way)

-Napoleon-
-Napoleon-

This game lookes like its worth picking up a wii for alone.

NND1
NND1

The game plus the motion control will be HOT

bforbosker
bforbosker

Bosker's log - additional, for all Zelda friends or foes; GS provides a handy dandy spell checker to prevent ones eyes from bleeding due to unnecessary spelling. Helped be bad unfortunately cannot grammar.

bforbosker
bforbosker

TP is an installment in the adventures of Link which will ferry those who are willing into a world crafted for the pure pleasure of exploration and action. Its a matter of choice how you embark, as the vessel matters not - the heart of this game remains the same and I sit for the day, hateshiganai omowaku machiwahimasu! Comparison of this to other games solicits a simple "Whu..?". I realise, however, comments such as those are made by the pubeless and therefore they are sore at not being allowed to play the big kids games; for it is rated higher than its predecessors as is Gears of War and other titles which your parents should be keeping a better eye on, but I understand completely that people such as yourself are so annoying that they deserve a break even if you don't deserve having their hard earned cash spent on you! For others who indulge (c'mon, put 'em up, put 'em up - I'll splat 'em) in this sort of jiggery pokery, above a certain age of course, should get off the net and walk blinking into the sunlight and develop other skills beyond hand to eye co-ordination. I am bforbosker.... hear me mew!

khamsaiumn
khamsaiumn

This game will score atleast a 9.6.

fon1988
fon1988

God, I hate the morons on here who post that "Gears of War" will be "better." It's just an opinion and if you have nothing better to do with your life than post about some game in a comment about the TWILIGHT PRINCESS than you are pathetic. Anyway, on to my message about TLOZTP. Whether or not the game scores a perfect 10 wont change the fact that its gonna be a great game, if not the best Zelda game ever to come out. It's got HUGE shoes to fill and wont be accepted in the gaming community as highly as the Ocarina of time due to the Wii-mote. Face it, people are afraid of change and it's no suprise that the Wii and this game wont be a major success to everyone instantly. Nintendo is making a blind jump and yes so far I am looking forward to the more interactive style of gameplay but I can garuntee the most common complaint for the system that will aslo affect the rating and sales of this game will be the controller. Im guessing that the gamecube version will get criticized for being less than superior compared to the its wii counterpart and the wii version will get looked down on for the controller.(Thats just what I am assuming.) As a long time Nintendo fan, I have no doubt in my mind that the Wii will be as revoloutionary as their amazing N64 system but all I can hope for is that people will learn to accept change instead of bash it before they even try it out or take the time to learn it.

AFWorm
AFWorm

This could be the best ever- or the anti-climatic installment.

wii60man
wii60man

this zelda game will beat all the other nex gen titels

sobejoe33
sobejoe33

yeah im waitin outside of walmart... so hey oofeorgeoo what time you goin to start your wait...im thinkin about 10am on the 18th

o0George0o
o0George0o

it better get a 10 saying that one of the few games that got a ten was tony hawks pro skater 3! i just don't understand it. but waterver it'll be a good game and i am waiting a day early for the wii and zelda out side of best buy!

ayafujimiya19
ayafujimiya19

I've had this game preordered for 2 years now. My reciept doesn't even have writing on it anymore, it's just a white piece of paper with a faded barcode from EB games! And ater much consideration, I think I'm just going to buy it for my GC, after all it's the same game ... the Wii is cool though.

birdcrap
birdcrap

I WANT IT XD! I say that the Twilight Princess will get atleast a 9.5 on Gamespot. Good luck trying to pre-order this game, practicly all are sold out pre-orderly.

Truthofme
Truthofme

It is regardless wether or not it gains a perfect 10. It would set a record on the site. All we can really hope is another epic that was as big and beautiful as the Ocarina of TIme was. We have been waitng for years for Link to show his colors again in his adult form. Who cares about score? All you should care about is the dedication that was put into this game, and how you should apprciate that the Zelda series has kept on so strong. It is difficult to maintain so many game with the same characters without it getting stale. Which I think that the team behind Zelda should have a pat on the back for.

m0zart
m0zart

Alex, what did you mean by "invert your look" in the last paragraph of the first page? That piqued my curiosity.

_Sam_
_Sam_

I'm sure I've love it :D

taytizzle
taytizzle

I think that it will get a 9.7-9.9 maybe (EXTREMELY) a 10.0. I doubt it though because Ocarina of Time was not only a good game, but it revolutionized the franchise.

tradint2000
tradint2000

I think the GS score will be lower than other gaming sites, these guys are the only ones with some negativity towards it, yet again it always seems like the GS staff doesnt share much love for the big N.

gubbins3103
gubbins3103

despite never having much experience of the Zelda games, i think this one looks pretty good. i quite like the sound of the controls, though i can see why they might prove a bit problematic. it'll be interesting to see what score it gets in the end.

kaSource
kaSource

Just by seeing the opening theme promises us a superb game, what's the big deal if it does or doesn't achieve a 10.0 score? :/

jingwa
jingwa

They dont seem to positive on the Wii remote, they say they like it but always have a negative coment to match, almost sounds like someone who hates learning new things. Also how does one get tired? even if they actually waved a piece of lightweight plastic around is beyond me, sit down chuck it on your arm rest or leg and just play. People have played standing for over a hour on redsteel and didnt complain one bit, I think we got some lazy buggers in gamespot. Besides that I think graphically they could have done alot better, but since it was orginally meant for the Gc and moved to the Wii, I cant say im to surprised, still looks good though and im looking forward to giving it a try.

ryuthekaizer1
ryuthekaizer1

zelda tp is 10.0 100% or 10/10 nuff said peops i played it at the events!!!!

pathock3
pathock3

The Zelda series already got their 10.0 from Gamespot. What's wrong with just getting superb?

xack10
xack10

ya cause Gears of War and Zelda can be compared.....