Reviews: The Legend Of Zelda Twilight Princess
A Day in the Life
With all that's been said about Twilight Princess, there's one thing I've never seen anyone touch on - which is the purpose of this review. Because I feel it's something that's just as important as Link's journey, or the gameplay we've come to love and expect from the series: for the first time ever, Link had a life. I know, I know, "But what about Wind Waker?" You barely got to spend anytime on Outset Island before Aryll was whisked away and ya had to go sailing all over the Great Sea to find her again. Prior to that, Link was just some kid in a forest until the Great Deku Tree sent Navi to wake him up and tell him to get his butt in gear. And prior to that game, you saw his uncle for all of two seconds before he was dead, two minutes later. And therein, lies the problem. In previous games in the series, we never really got to know Link, because only minutes after you've started (sometimes seconds), he's faced with some sort of crisis and gets sent on his way to fix it. Almost as if he's a tool, with no life and no purpose other than to save Hyrule. We're supposd to care, but it's kinda hard to if we're not given a reason. Twilight Princess changed that. When we're introduced to Link, this time 'round, he's an upstanding member of his village, he's got a nice place, a steady job at the ranch, a big brother figure who's been teaching him swordplay, and... he's even got a girl. The best part being, the game doesn't tell us all of this, instead, we actually get to live a few days in the life of Link. And it's about time. It allowed us, as the gamer, to connect with Link and the people who were important to him. That way, when disaster inevitably struck, we now had a personal understanding of why it mattered to him that he find those missing kids and Mayor Bo's daughter. Because he liked his life the way it was and he wanted it back. That's the kind of quest I can get behind, because it creates empathy to go along with the motivation.
Of all the Zelda games, Twilight Princess is probably one I'll never replay again despite being by most standards an exceptionally made game. Link in this game isn't his own character with his own story like in Ocarina of Time/Majora's Mask/Wind Waker but a supporting player for Midna and her tragic heroic quest. The graphics are incredible and some of the Zelda wit is there, it also has some really creepy sequences. The dungeons especially towards the end were a chore to complete but some of them, especially the Sky City, the Temple of Time and Twilight Palace were pretty fun. For me the part of the game that worked best is the opening sections where you shift between wolf and human and then ride a horse. To me defeating King Bulbin the first three times, and clearing a village of his minions with a little bow and arrow was way more fun than all of the boss fights. The map and sense of distance and space of Hyrule Field was jawdropping but also pretty empty. The side missions or the things between dungeons were often more fun than the full levels, defending a covered wagon from Bulbin riders and fighting on horseback was incredible. But after featuring heavily in the first parts of the game, it disappears completely. I wish we had one dungeon where we were fully wolf or one that was just for horseback since the new gameplay hardly had much to shine. The Wind Waker is the greatest Zelda game and one of the greatest and Twilight Princess is not up there, but this is still amazing work by most standards even if there's little replay value.
Honestly after Wind Waker, (and GameCube in general) I was disappointed. It wasn't a terrible game, immature cel-shading subjective art choices aside, but it certainly felt rushed. Both the story and the game-play fell apart in the game's second half. Perhaps I was naive, but I certainly had hope. I was of the opinion that Nintendo, being a huge, experienced, multi-national corporation had the finance, personnel and manpower to learn from its mistakes. It understood that being innovative for innovation's sake is a BAD thing, and you shouldn't fix what ain't broken. Twilight Princess proved me wrong. I never wanted a more "maturer" more "adult" Zelda to appeal to American audiences with a wild-west theme, but that's this game: fan-service. The franchise already had those themes in a happy balance. Hell, Link's Awakening has Dream Apocalypse themes and Majora's Mask is easily the darkest game in the series. The fact that this title was released for two different consoles never sat well with me. The control is unpredictable and glitchy (as if it were developed for two different systems!). Its arguably Wind Waker with grimier and gritter graphics. Its trying to rip off Tolkien's work with orcs and nonsense. Zelda has many monsters unique within its own fantasy setting, it doesn't need to imitate any other IP. My first woe is how dull and uninteresting this overall setting is. Kakariko Village is insultingly empty. The "Shadow of the Colossus-esque" over-world is, apart from monotonous monster encounters, dull and lifeless. Like Ocarina of Time, its just too vast guys! Poor Epona can only do so much by herself. Hyrule town feels empty and the citizens alarmingly apathetic to what's going on around them. They even brought that whole Pit of 100 Trials/Cave of Ordeals rubbish back! Lessons were clearly not learned from Wind Waker. The story is (cries) just...crap. Just crap. It makes no sense! How does mixing Light and Shadow make darkness!? How!?! EXPLAIN!?! The characters? The adults are all incompetent or lazy. The kids, Midna and especially Colin, are annoying. Ganon has no purpose, he's as disappointing as General Grievous, showing up in the end. Zelda is, egregiously, a flat character, out-staged by Midna. The Borg Queen has more personality than her in this game! The only things that stand out are Epona and Darknuts.
A Series that Ages Like Fine Wine
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was, as of 2006, the best game ever released in the Zelda series. It is largely an amalgamation of many of the defining features of past Zelda games; the light/dark world of ALTTP, the epic story of OOT, the darkness of MM, and the deeper combat of WW, but each aspect is so well refined, often beyond their original applications, that it is more than just a 'best of Zelda' compillation. The classic overworld/dungeon design has never been better, and the game is so huge it takes many dozens of hours to beat. There are standout dungeons, such as the Yeti's house, that are among the best in the series. There are also more epic gameplay moments (they are not setpieces because they are fully playable) outside of the dungeons, such as the battle on the bridge, that give the game a cinematic feel, almost as if you are playing Lord of the Rings. The biggest additions to the game, outside of the control scheme for the Wii version, are the wolf form and the combat on horseback. The wolf mostly controls the same as normal Link, and where their controls are analogous is inferior to his two-legged counterpart. But the wolf-specific controls, such as the energy field that allows Link to attack multiple enemies at once, are a lot of fun. The combat on horseback is perfect. The biggest contoversy lies with the Wii controls. While they are now outdated thanks to Skyward Sword's incredible use of motionplus, I find the Wii controls of TP to be a big improvement over the Gamecube controls. Swinging the remote to use the sword, even though it isn't 1:1, is responsive and feels better than pressing a button. And using the pointer to aim is perfect, better than any early Wii FPS. TP is not perfect, however. The first hour of the game is too slow. The graphics, while having a great art style and still good for 2006, have not aged well. And while the composition of the music is up to Zelda's high standards, the use of midi stunts its impact greatly. It was only with the Zelda 25th anniversary dc's orchestral version that I truly appreciated the new Hyrule Field theme. But even with those few problems, TP remains one of the best games ever made, and in the Zelda series is second only to Skyward Sword.
One of the most boring games I've ever had the misfortune of playing
The Zelda franchise is, quite frankly, something I don't really understand the popularity of, other than its importance as video game history. None of the games ever looked too interesting to me (save those with toon Link), but one day, I decided to give this one a shot since someone else bought it. I regret that decision. Maybe I've just been spoiled by games like Okami or almost anything in the Metroid franchise, but when I approach an exploration-based game such as this, I expect certain things, such as a quick pace, lots of useful collectibles, and interesting environments/setpieces. Twilight Princess fails to deliver on any of these except for an instance or two of unique dungeon design (such as the yeti manor). Link moves irritatingly slowly throughout vast and barren environments that offer me very little incentive to explore them, thus completely wasting my time. I understand that this is a common theme in the 3D games in the franchise, which raises the question as to why people still tolerate it. Perhaps it would have been easier for me if this game was presented better. But this has to be one of the worst presented games I've ever seen, barring something like Shadow The Hedgehog. The grimdark High Fantasy-ish graphics don't mesh well at all with a game that's scope basically amounts to nothing more than a series of fetch quests for MacGuffins that no one has any attachment to, and I can't remember a single musical track from the game (though I used to be able to recall "Hyrule Field"). Music is a very important element of exploration games to me, being a tonesetter and whatnot, and it's a bad sign when I don't even remember most areas even having music. Lastly, the whole "Wolf Link" gimmick really felt tacked-on. After one gets the ability to change from one form to the other, there are very few instances in which you'd want to use Wolf Link for any reason, since it has almost no abilities. It seemed to me like it was only there for a trailer feature. So yeah, this is another game I couldn't finish. I got as far as the Temple of Time, which I felt was enough to make a judgment. Perhaps I would have done better had Wind Waker been my entry point, but still, my tolerance level for padding is quite low. I can't recommend this to anyone but a fan of the series.
One of my favorites.
Twilight Princess is quite possibly my favorite Legend of Zelda yet. Sure, the Wii controls seem kind of clunky, as if they just ported it from the Gamecube along with motion controls, but the gameplay itself was phenomenal. Being able to perform such beautiful acrobatic sword skills as well as riding Epona blew my mind. However, where this game really scores is the plot: More in-depth than Ocarina Of Time, yet coherent enough to follow. Despite the Tear Jerker ending, I loved fighting Ganondorf. They seemed to have given him a bit of an Ass Pull in regards to the plot and somewhat shoved him in just to shove him in, but that just made it all the more satisfying to kill him... again. The music was beautifully composed, and Midna's Leitmotif nearly brings tears to my eyes when I hear it. Long story short, this game was an epic triumph.
Twilight Princess is nothing short of amazing. Admittedly, this is my first foray into the Zelda franchise, but still. When I finished it, I had absolutely no wish to replay it, because it would totally ruin my awesome memories of the first playthrough. The plot starts with Link trying to get his friends back, but soon spirals into an adventure to save two linked worlds from a common evil (which doesn’t start off as Ganon, but eventually turns out to be, obviously). What makes the game different, and better than it sounds, is the fact that, after a certain point, you can switch between the forms of a human and a wolf. Unfortunately, despite being far cooler in theory, the latter’s only main advantage (besides advancing in dungeons and whatnot) is that it moves faster; you can’t use items or talk to people. Sure, you can turn on “scent vision”, but it’s hard to see, and you can dig places, but the human form is far more versatile. What makes it brilliant, though, is the plot and the unique elements that come with it. Morphing into a wolf is just one of these; others include moving between two worlds (the real one and the Twilight), and the shadow-powers of your companion Midna (such as creating awesome, green-glowing portals). Speaking of Midna, she manages to be a useful companion without being too irritating. (I’ve only heard bad things about Navi from Ocarina of Time, for example. “Hey, listen! Over here!”) That said, though, her giggle eventually began to drive me utterly insane. And fighting the final boss (*cough* Ganon *cough*) felt suitably epic - from the music alone. And when you also take into account the fact that he is far and away the hardest boss yet, who goes through four different phases, it only gets better. Also, there’s a freaking thunderstorm going on. And I’ve always been a sucker for rain. The cutscenes were really well crafted. The second-to-last one, just before the credits, was crazily heartwarming. And the last one, about halfway through the final credits, genuinely made me sad. These two moments were on my mind for hours afterwards. (Yes, fiction can move me in a way that real life never can.) It's also inspired me to blog my way through the entire franchise... which I think is a good thing. And it's sure set a high standard!