My Review: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

So that’s it then. All complete. It took me around 45 hours. That was with 19 full hearts and 3 heart pieces, all 24 golden bugs, all items of clothing, 29 poes, the full 100 arrow quiver, maximum 1000 rupee wallet and 3 bomb bags, not to mention 3 bottles. So you can assume that I’ve completed the game pretty much and in a not too shabby time either.

What do I think of it then? Well, I would liken it to how Casino Royale is to the James Bond series. It took an already well defined formula and put a new spin on it. Not so much that it feels like an incredibly different game (don’t get me wrong, it does feel like a different sort of game – in a different way), but just enough to make you wonder where certain things were, for example, the lack of magic meter which has been a staple part of Zelda games.

The newest welcomed additions to the game series that I believe made it all that more special were Wii Remote and Nunchuck related. The swordplay is an unparallelled brand new technique that has set a standard in interactivity. If you thought that Wind Waker’s swordplay techniques were intuitive, not to mention looking cool, then Twilight Princess takes it to an all new level. There is nothing cooler than rolling around an enemy and slashing their back to watch their armour fall off, or punching them with your shield and slicing their helmet, or even waiting just that little bit longer to dish out a mortal blow. Combat felt like literal combat, and you felt in control. When you killed something, it was because of your skill. You were Link.

The other best new feeling in the world was riding horseback and weilding a sword. Players were able to slash beasts in the field or riding up alongside huge hogs and kill their riders. A gameplay technique I’ve not played so well in a game since Ocarina, and Shadow of the Collosus. This was partly helped by the huge expanse of Hyrule field which gives players a playground where they are free to do whatever they please and for me heightened the experience of the adventure (setting up the monsterous scale of the game), and made me connect more with Link.

Nine dungeons/temples in all made for a very satisfying 45 hours of gameplay which is nothing to complain about considering that not at one point in playing the game did I find myself bored or had nothing to do. The game was linear, but there was plenty of other stuff to do around the field and neighbouring towns. The linearity of the game is something I do have a quarm with, however. Wind Waker was not as linear (you could choose the Wind Temple or the Earth Temple, Ice Cave or Fire Cave, for example) but for Twilight Princess you had to go wherever the storyline made you. I’m a firm believer in linear game storylines because you need it to be strong enough to tell the story well, but for the sake of it being interactive, a little bit of leeway here and there would have been welcomed.

There were some other things about Wind Waker that I loved more than in Twilight Princess, such as the artistic style used in the game. Fans of the series cried out when they found out that Wind Waker was to be Cel-Shaded, but it was such a fresh break from the conventional style of games it has made itself distinctive amongst others and historic for that fact. Don’t get me wrong either, Twilight Princess looks incredible, and for a “real style graphics” game, it looks the bees-knees, but Wind Waker is more unique. The music for Wind Waker I also found to suit it much more than some bits of Twilight Princess whose mix of orchestrated score and MIDI soundtrack seemed too messy.

The Wind Waker also had more sense of go-whereever-the-hell-you-want to it. Think about it, they set you off on a boat with a blank map and a massive ocean. The world is your oyster – you go searching where-ever you want. The sense of scale was right enough to make you believe the diversity between races, islands and characters. Exploration was much better in Wind Waker than Twilight Princess. It took absolutely hours to find all of the heart pieces, even with a guide, just because it takes so long to sail everywhere. However, in Twilight Princess, the addition of the fortune teller in Hyrule Castle Town made finding the heart pieces so much easier, actually aquiring the heart pieces wasn’t a challenge.

My final point between the two games that I wish to make is probably as important if not more important than gameplay; story. The Wind Waker was a game for all – new players to the Zelda franchise and old fans. It had full explaination of the history before the game, of the land, of the tri-force, and the origins of Ganondorf, Zelda and the King of Hyrule. By the time you had finished the game and defeated Ganondorf, you felt like you were defeating evil that had stricken the land and freed the people of Hyrule. You felt like a Hero, because rightfully you were. Twilight Princess didn’t have the back story, about Ganondorf, the tri-force (was mentioned a little bit), the origin of Zelda. The story focused heavily on the two realms (the shadow and the light), however the very end of the game made sense, but it relied on the player having played a Zelda title before. Zant was a well thought out evil-doer, whose back story was built up a lot more than Ganondorf, and the battle felt more satisfying because it meant more to the gamer and the story. But Ganondorf shows up at the end asking for a fight, and hasn’t even been in half the story. It felt empty. Not to say that it wasn’t an awesome battle and final boss – it was incredible, invigorating and ingenuitive, and I’ve not played a boss like it.

Midna’s addition was also a plus point for Twilight Princess. I don’t think I’ve felt closer to a character who you play with through the story, and it has to take some beating when considering the likes of Alyx from Half Life 2, Courtana from Halo, or even Meryl from Metal Gear Solid. I take my hat off to the creators, Midna was neither annoying or irritating like Navi, but more insightful and modestly appropriate.

Overall, I felt that Twilight Princess was anti-climatic and the story was empty towards the end. It is the spiritual sequal to Ocarina of Time, and couldn’t be the caliber of game that it is today without Ocarina of Time. The same can be said about Wind Waker – it owes a lot to Ocarina of Time. It’s a shame that I played Ocarina of Time after Wind Waker, else I probably would have had different opinions of them both, but for me Wind Waker is a stronger game. And I am also afraid, overall I believe it’s a stronger game than Twilight Princess. Twilight Princess is a mammoth of a game, and has created new things in games that I am sure we’ll all see again, and it is worth playing by everyone. But it was too much of the same, and didn’t have enough different to the series to make it stand out as a game on its own.

~ by shepherdnick on October 1, 2007.

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