The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Game title: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Genre: Action Adventure
Platform: Gamecube and Wii
ESRB Rating: Teen
Release date: November 19, 2006
Overall rating: 9.0/10
I started playing the Legend of Zelda series before the everyone hopped onto the band wagon with the Nintendo 64 iteration, Ocarina of Time. The first game in the series that I ever plaved was Links Awakening for the Gameboy, a copy of the game I still hold onto and cherish to this day. It is a very nostalgic series for me. For this reason, I might be a little biased, but I am just going to come out and say it. This is the best of the 3D Zelda games. It is better than Wind Waker and yes. It is better than Ocarina of Time. It's more serious, darker and mature approach to the series gives the series a fresh feel as well as a more in depth story and set of characters than ever before. If you call yourself a Zelda fan, there is no reason why you should miss out on this masterpiece. That being said, not all is well within the land of Hyrule. This game is not perfect. It has some glaring flaws, some of which will annoy you throughout the entire lengthy game.
Gameplay - 9.0
If you have played a Legend of Zelda game before, you know exactly what to expect from this series. You travel from one dungeon to the next, solve puzzles and defeat mini bosses and bosses. Each dungeon contains one unique item that you obtain after the dungeon's mini boss that you need to progress any further in the game. Between each dungeon, you travel a large overworld with a variety of different methods of travel, such as on foot, on horseback and in a boat. In the overworld you will spend your time doing a variety of thing such as visiting characters at different locations spread out across the largest version of Hyrule yet and searching out pieces of heart. Everything that you know and love about Zelda's gameplay is here with some very cool new items to throw a wrench into things and make it interesting.
In Twilight Princess, you start off as a humble teen from a small village. You help the local goat rancher out each day with rounding up his goats in the evening as your daily job. When your friends wonder off into the dangerous woods, you chase after them with wooden sword in hand, thus begins another epic quest for the ever vigilant Link. This game has the standard array of items such as the boomerang, the arrows and bombs. It also throws a few new items into the mix. The most notable of these is the Spinner. The Spinner is a top that Link rides on to grind grooves in the walls. It resembles a gear and is used for one of the games cooler boss fights. The unfortunate thing about the Spinner is that it is not put to much good use after it's initial dungeon. This game also gives you dual claw shots, which is a lot cooler than it sounds. You are bound to have a lot of fun slinging yourself around from one claw shot target to the next without ever touching the ground, thanks to these things. They are an absolute blast to use.
Easily the biggest and most significant change in this games gameplay is when Link transforms into a wolf. When in wolf form, Link loses his ability to use items and runs on all fours. Midna rides on his back. When in wolf form. Link travels faster than he can in human form. This makes travel much less of a pain in the ass once you gain the ability to transform at will. You are also given access to portals when in wolf form that let you easily transport yourself from one area to another instantly. It is a blessing and really cuts down on travel time in this game. You will be wondering why this is the first game that uses this long before this game ends. When you are a wolf, you can also use your wolf senses to see things that cannot be seen as a human. You will be able to hone on the scent of various characters throughout the game and follow their trail after doing so. You will also be able to listen to people react to things happening in the twilight world and get information from them in this manner. Finally, Wolf Link has a very useful spin attack where a sphere spreads out underneath you, and you can attack anything within the sphere. It allows you to attack multiple targets at once, a skill that will come in extremely useful over the course of this game.
The game does have one major and glaring flaw. As with every Legend of Zelda game, rupees are the currency. Enemies drop them when you defeat them. You can find them when you cut down thick patches of tall grass. You can dig them up as a wolf, and you can break various pots throughout the game to find them. You can also get them as rewards for quests and as items in chests. This game features no shortage or rupees, and that, usually, isn't a bad thing. This game, however, makes a habit of reminding you of the type of rupee you pick up every single time you load the game. This means that every time you boot up the game to continue playing, you will have to sit through the animation for the blue rupee (worth 5 rupees), the yellow rupee (worth 10 rupees), the red rupee (worth 20 rupees) and so on the first time you pick one up every single time you load up the game. By the end of the game, you will be more than sick of seeing this animation. Was it necessary to do this every single time that the game loads up? It's incredibly annoying, especially considering that this is the longest Zelda game of all time.
Graphics - 8.5
How good this game is graphically depends largely on which system you are playing it on. Ones expectations for graphics will, naturally, be better on more powerful hardware. This means that the Wii version should come across as looking better than the Gamecube version. The Gamecube's hardware is inferior to that of the Wii, and you expect less from it, graphically. This isn't a bad looking game on the Gamecube, but it is not quite up to par on the Wii. It does not live up to some of the other fantastic looking titles on the console such as Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption or Mad World. On the Gamecube, however, it looks pretty good. It still does not look absolutely stellar. It does not look as good as Resident Evil 4 or Metroid Prime 2, for example, but it does look pretty good.
I have said it before, and I will say it again. There is a lot to be said for the art style of a game. A good art style can keep a game looking good no matter how old it gets. Take Chrono Trigger, for example. Even today, it remains a beautiful game. Shadow of the Colossus and Okami on the Playstation 2 are also prime examples of art that makes the game stand out when the technology has gotten old. They are gorgeous games now, and they always will be. Twilight Princess features a lot of beautiful art in it. A lot of care went into crafting this world and each one of it's dungeons. Every one of them has a unique look and feel and some of them, such as the Arbiter's Grounds, will stick with you long after the game is done. Despite fading technology, they manage to stand out as this games highest points, and it is not because of the games technical details. The art design in this game is truly beautiful, as is fitting with a Zelda game.
It is not all perfect, however. This game does suffer a number of low resolution textures that are just fuzzy. Maybe playing this game in progressive scan would fix this and give a cleaner picture, but I do not have component cables for my Gamecube, and I do not own a Wii. I cannot comment on this. I am sure that it does improve the overall look of the game but, when viewed through composite cables, it certainly has it's fair share of fuzzy textures. It also has a lot of blocky textures that further drag the game down on a technical level. These are rampant throughout the world and are far more common than the fuzzy textures. The art design takes care of a lot of this, leaving most of the game beautiful to look at, but I would be lying if I said that this game is not full of ugly people. It is. There are numerous characters throughout this massive adventure with very strange hair styles, blockly looks to them and massive foreheads that border on being downright creepy. Maybe that is just being nit picky, but it did drag the graphics of the game down as a whole for me.
Sound - 8.5
Just like every other Zelda game in the series, this one has beautiful music. All of the traditional Zelda themes are back in this game, and it brings back quite a few themes from previous games by way of a duet of howling wolves at howling stones. That should be a real nostalgic treat for fans and may serve to be some of the more memorable moments in the game. The game also features a number of original tracks that are just as beautiful and as memorable. One fan favorite is sure to be the Ballad of Twilight, which you will play when you reach the final Howling Stone of the game. It is an adaption of the games main theme. Another one that will stick with you long after you hear it (partly because of the part of the story that happens when you hear it) is Midna's Theme. It is one of the best pieces of music that this series has ever had in my opinion. It is simply beautiful, and it is a shame that nearing enemies starts up the battle music in place of it. It makes you want to do wide arcs around them just to get the theme uninterrupted.
This being said, there is one major flaw with this game's music. As beautiful as the music is, it is very understated because Nintendo is still using the midi format for Zelda music. It had it's place in the 16 bit era, but it is very out of place two full generations later. It is about time that Nintendo moved away from the midi format of music and on to fully orchestrated music. Midi just doesn't hold the power of a full orchestra with expertly balanced highs and lows, and this game deserves a sound track with the driving power of a game like God of War or Shadow of the Colossus. The music could be so much more beautiful than it is if it was fully orchestrated. It, ultimately, makes it almost feeling like a wasted effor, especially in light of games such as Metal Gear Solid being able to drive a lot more emotion into it's scenes with music alone. It is time to move on Nintendo. For the betterment of your franchise, move on from midi sound tracks. They had their place, but their time is in the past.
The other thing Nintendo needs to do with the Zelda franchise is give it voice acting. We live in a world where most of the other popular franchises have voice work now days. Mega Man has voice acting. Sonic has voice acting. Final Fantasy has voice acting. Why is Nintendo so slow to adapt to this? When it is well done, it gives the characters in the game more life and more personality. It makes them more easily identifiable and can drive home personality quirks such as various types of accents or different colloquialisms. It also adds more emotion to the characters because you can hear it in the characters voice. Nintendo should be able to be trusted to do voice work that isn't embarrassing to the video game such as the acting in the original Resident Evil. They should be able to give their games voice work that add to it instead of taking away from it, so what is stopping them from advancing? It is time to bring Zelda more into the modern world with this.
Story - 10
Zelda is not a series that is known for having stellar stories. Ever since day one, it has followed the number one rule of gaming to a T. It places gameplay well before story. The story to previous Zelda games have been forgettable as a result of this, but it has never mattered because the quest you undertake in the game has always been long, epic and a whole lot of fun. The gameplay in the Zelda series has always been stellar. This has not changed here. The gameplay is still top notch, but The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess has a lot more story than any previous Zelda game, and you will take note of it. The story told here still arrives at the same three people as every other Zelda game for it's finale, but how it gets there is a cut above. It presents, easily, the best story in the entire series and gives you moments you will remember long after the games credits have begun to role.
As with every other Zelda game, you play a Link. This time, he is a humble ranch hand. He helps the local goat herder round up his goats at the end of each day as his daily job. Your friends wonder into the woods and you go chasing after them with wooden sword in hand. You eventually run into them, only to find that they have been kidnapped by moblins. After helping them out, the world becomes bathed in twilight, and you are dragged into the realm of Twilight, where you are transformed into a wolf. While in the Twilight Realm, you meet this games helper NCP character that sticks with you for the rest of the game. Her name is Midna. You find yourself locked up on a jail cell in a dungeon and chained down. With the help of Midna, you escape the prison, and she hops onto your back. Despite Link being against the notion of traveling with her at first, she persists and sticks with you for the rest of the game. Thus begins another epic Zelda adventure where you uncover many secrets and plot twists in a truly fantastic story.
What makes this game so great is the characterization. Midna, in particular, is an extremely well developed character. She is, also, the only character in the game to have anything resembling voice acting throughout the entire game. Learn from this Nintendo. The most memorable Zelda character is the one with some sort of voice. Over the course of the game, Midna will change, grow and mature. Her true intentions will be revealed. You will laugh with her and feel sad for her as the story progresses. She is one of the most expressive characters in Zelda history and there will be scenes where you will genuinely feel very sorry for her. Her facial expressions are extremely well done, as are Link's. This really helps the relationship between the two grow as the game moves on despite the fact that Link, once again, never utters a single word. The relationship between these two characters is extremely well represented in this game. Midna starts off being rude to Link, but changes over the course of the game. You will like her a lot before it is all said and done and hope to see her return in some way in a future Zelda game. I know I would not complain about getting more Midna.
Replay Value - 9.0
Twilight Princess is a long game, even for it being a Zelda game. It is, easily, the longest in the series, and will probably take the average player at least 40 hours to complete on their first time through. It will be spinning in your Gamecube or Wii for some time. As with every other Zelda game, there are a number of extra things that you can do outside of the main quest. As is standard for the series, you can hunt throughout the world and the dungeons for pieces of heart. There are 45 in total in this game, allowing for 9 extra heart containers, totalling 20. It takes 5 pieces to get a full container in this game, as opposed to the standard 4. You can also spend your time hunting poe souls in this game. There are 60 of those spread throughout the games world, though you are only forced to gather 5 of them to finish the game. Finding all of them is quite a challenge. There is also bug collecting and a massive battle arena dungeon called the Cave of Ordeals that will challenge even the most advanced Zelda swordsman. It is worth noting that you do need to complete the Cave of Ordeals to be able to collect all of the Poe Souls. Once you find the poe souls in the Cave of Ordeals, they do not reappear on that level of it, making for easier running if you have to exit out of it and go back to the start or if you die.
Final Thoughts -
If you call yourself a fan of The Legend of Zelda series, you should not miss out on Twilight Princess. It is a long and epic journey that presents you with a fantastic story, a million things to do and some of the most memorable dungeons in The Legend of Zelda history. Even this games water temple isn't that bad. In fact, it is not the most annoying temple in the game. Wrap your head around that one! This is the best of the 3D Zelda games, despite having some persistently annoying flaws. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is one of the best games for the Gamecube or for the Wii. If you own either of these two systems, there is no reason why it should not be in your collection. It gives the series a new and fresh feel with it's gameplay as a wolf, and some of the newer items in it are very cool. Fans are bound to love both the dual hook shots and the spinner. Hopefully these two items will be seen again in future Zelda games. Midna is also bound to be a fan favorite character. She represents a side kick character that is, not only not annoying, but the most well developed character in the history of the series. She doesn't scream "Hey. Listen." into your ear every 30 seconds, and that is always a plus!
Gameplay - 9.0
Playing as a wolf adds a new twist to it. Dual claw shots are awesome and the spinner is cool too
Graphics - 8.5
Low resolution textures and blocky characters, but the art is beautiful
Sound - 8.5
Beautiful music that badly needs to be orchastrated. Where is the voice acting?
Story - 10
The best story in the series and Midna is a fantastic character
Replay Value - 9.0
This game is crammed with extra stuff to do. Expect more than 50 hours on a 100% run