LoZ: TP's beautiful story and superb gameplay unite, giving birth to a masterpiece.
I remember the hype this game spawned. Lines that stretched to insane lengths, just to get a few precious seconds of playing The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. It'd been three years since Zelda fans had gotten their hands on a new 3D, console Zelda title. And if that wasn't enough, this game was a on a new console called "Wii," that supposedly gave players the ability to wield Link's sword through the motion-based Wii Remote. I'm about four years late, but this is Zelda. I have high expectations.
Link is a teenage boy who lives peacefully among his friends in the village of Ordon. He works as a ranch hand, and in his free time refines his swordsmanship, and spends time with his friends; especially his best friend, a girI Link's age named Ilia. One day, while Link is preparing to journey to Hyrule Castle, to deliver a special gift on behalf on Ordon, there is a terrible occurrence. Link, Ilia, and a shy, young boy name Colin are speaking at a spring just outside the village. Suddenly, some evil creatures riding on hog-like steeds emerge from the brush. Link, with no weapon, is unable to fight as he sees Ilia fall after being hit by an arrow, and Colin get swooped up onto a hog. The doppelgangers pick up both and ride off. Before Link can chase after them, he receives a blow to the back of the head, and sees no more.
The story of Twilight Princess is a masterpiece. As far as I can tell, it's the best of any Zelda title yet, and is much, much darker than all the others as well. I can't give anymore than the prologue away, of course, but allow me to begin this review by stating that TP's story is a huge element of the game, and is a beautiful one of love and hate, light and darkness; as well as joyfulness and grieving. Prepare for quite a journey.
On to the gameplay. TP has very interesting gameplay, indeed. The series' core remains. Progress through an overworld to a dungeon; conquer dungeon, repeat. It's the core style that the Zelda series has used for years, and it's still here. Here, and better than ever. Twilight Princess brings three huge new features to the table. The first is the Wii Remote.
In TP, you'll be ditching a traditional controller for a Wii Remote. Some players have opted to the GCN version just so they can use a Gamecube controller. I strongly advise against this, as the Wii remote brings a new level of enjoyment to the series' hack 'n slash style of combat. Now, obviously, this is a Wii launch title, so you're not dealing with controls that behave like swordplay in Wii Sports Resort. In other words, when you swing the Wii remote, Link swings his sword. You can't raise the Wiimote and twirl it above your head to do the Cloud salute, or stab yourself, etc. The sword doesn't behave to the exact movements of the Wiimote, but this isn't a big issue. You still feel like a swordsman, and combat still feels great. The Wiimote works well, and really gets you into moments of combat. There are certain epic battles in the game, that wouldn't be nearly as breath taking if you were mashing B. You can use A to perform defensive feats such as rolls, flips, and sidesteps adding strategy to battles, and also learn new moves from an old sword master within the game. These Wiimote controls do have one fault, however. It's one of those things where you ask, "Why?" because this could have been solved so simply. The fault is this. The game uses the Wii Remote pointer to control crosshairs for tools such as the slingshot and bow. Great right? Well yes, it would be. If it weren't for the fairy pointer. You see, if you want to use the Wii Remote for pointing your projectile weapons, you have to enable it from the options menu. Problem is, if you do this then you will get an unwanted surprise. A pointer that looks like a fairy will appear on-screen, and will go wherever the Wiimote is pointed. Have the Wii Remote pointed at the middle of the screen? You have a fairy in your face. Swinging your sword? You have a fairy dashing crazily back and forth on the screen. And if that wasn't enough, this pointer makes an annoying "tinkle" sound whenever it moves the slightest little bit. It's Navi on steroids people, and if you turn it off, you have to use the analog stick for aiming. I choose the analog stick. So, for most of you I imagine, you won't be pointing the Wiimote for your projectiles, and it's really a shame, too. But, swordplay remains intact, and life moves on.
Now on to the second big item that TP offers. Every Zelda game has a large world to explore-The world of Twilight Princess is huge. Huge, with lots to do. Now, I'm more of the type who likes things to be linear, but I was majorly impressed with TP's sheer world size. The best part is, if you're like me, you can travel from objective to objective, maybe exploring secrets you come across here and there. Or if you're a big explorer, you can traverse Hyrule as long as you like between objectives; barring, of course, you have the right items to access certain areas. There are two big side-goals in the game as well. Fish and bugs. You can go fishing at any body of water you come across, and there are bugs scattered all across the land. Tons of other miscellaneous goals dot the game. Finding all the heart containers and exploring all the secondary areas among other things will keep players busy. Many, I'm sure, will enjoy trying to find everything. Also, you won't be running slowly and painfully across the landscape. Link can mount his horse, Epona, to greatly speed up the time it takes to get from one place to another. Also, as you progress through the game, you'll unlock "portals" in different areas, which allow you to warp to the location they represent instantaneously.
Thirdly, we have the wolf sections of the game. These sections could also be called the Twilight sections of the game. Soon after the prologue, Link is dragged into an odd dimension called Twilight. Most people simply vanish away in "spirit" form, but Link is stronger than most, and takes the form of a wolf in Twilight. Much of the first half of the game is spent playing a large section in human form, then a large section in wolf form; alternating between the normal realm and Twilight. Playing as a wolf brings a different style of play. Wolves aren't as tall as humans and teeth aren't as powerful as a blade. On the flipside, wolves are fast, and they have keen senses of sight and smell. Progressing through areas with the limitations of being a wolf are clever puzzles in and of themselves, and, as said before are necessary to progression. As a wolf, you can uses your "senses" to see humans that are caught in Twilight and have taken their spirit form. Additionally, you can learn different scents and follow them to track down what or whoever it is your looking for. Personally, I prefer the human sections of the game to the wolf sections, but the wolf sections are fun nonetheless, and serve as refreshers once in a while. I think the developers knew this too, as you'll spent much more time in human form than in wolf form. Moderation at it's finest.
Finally in the realm of gameplay there's dungeons. Every gamer knows what they are. Large areas, usually with multiple floors, that require combat and much puzzle solving to advance through. As Zelda fans know, Zelda dungeons always have an item hidden inside them that they must use to progress through certain parts of the dungeon, beat the boss, and then keep for further use throughout the game. TP's dungeons are extremely well done, making the puzzles bend your mind a bit, but never snap it. The boss battles are also a blast; basically living, breathing puzzles. Rest assured that these dungeons will be a highlight in the experience.
Items play a big part in TP. There are many, many items within the game. Old favorites like the boomerang, bow, and grappling hook return, and new, interesting ones take the scene. There are many items to obtain, all clever and fun to use. The interface for items is well done. You can map one item to B for instant use, but you can also map three other items to the D-pad. Upon hitting the respective D-pad button an item is assigned to, that item will instantly get mapped to B, and the item that was previously set to B will be assigned to the empty D-pad button. It's a spiffy interface that allows for quick switching when needed.
In the music and sound department, TP delivers. Three composers took part in the score of the game. Namely, Toru Minegishi, Asuka Ota, and Koji Kondo. Kondo is the most recognizable, famous for composing for most Mario games. TP's score is an excellent one. Intense moments are made all the more intense, sad moments all the sadder, and serene moments all the more serene. The sound of TP is great too. Some people complained about noises such as Link sword, the draw of the bow, and the snarl of the wolf coming through the Wiimote's internal speaker. I disagree. I liked the sounds coming through the speaker. It brings you closer to the action. The quality may not be great, but it's good enough that it's not annoying or corny. Other sounds such as battle grunts, the comical noises NPCs make when they talk, and whatever else are all well done. It's a shame I don't have a surround sound system to blast this game on.
It's kind of difficult to talk about the visuals of TP. The reason for this is that the game is technically a GameCube game transferred to the Wii. Because of this, the visuals are, of course, GameCube graphics. On one hand, the graphics are great as far as GameCube visuals go, but for the Wii it's a bit under-par. Actually, the environments and such look great. You won't really notice anything wonky unless you get close to objects and reveal grainy textures. I think where the GCN graphics most show up is in the characters. Facial expressions are difficult to pull off in games, and Nintendo has done well with these GCN visuals. It's still apparent, though, that the characters are done with last-gen technology, and it's kind of a shame. Since the story is so beautiful, current-gen visuals would've been nice to have. Still though, considering what Nintendo was working with, they've pushed the visuals of this game to the limit.
With a great story, usually comes great dialogue. Ranging from casual to serious, laugh-out-loud to tear-jerking, TP's dialogue keeps things real. One thing I couldn't help but wish for, though, is the lack of voice acting. Zelda has never had voice acting, and some may like it that way. Also, Link is a silent protagonist, and I'm not asking for him to talk. All other Zelda characters talk, and in this game that's very important. Giving voices to the characters would have made the story even more epic than it is already. Of course, we all know that voice acting is risky and can turn out very wrong, but some good VA would have been much-appreciated in TP; at least for me.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is truly a masterpiece; debatably the best game for Wii. Mixing a beautiful story with superb gameplay, you just can't go wrong. It'll last you a while, too. It took me about forty hours to beat the game, and that was just doing side-quests in passing, if it was convenient to where I was going or what I was doing. Beating this game one-hundred percent, finding and doing everything, might take fifty, possibly even sixty hours. The difficulty of combat might be a bit easy, but then again-- isn't it always in Zelda games? As said before, the real challenge will come from solving the well-crafted dungeons, which will bend your mind. If you're looking for a new Wii game, or a game for any console in general, you can't do much better than this.