Since the first time Link circled the lands of Hyrule on his epic quest to save the Princess Zelda and set right the evils of Ganon, his and her names have been synonymous with brilliant game making. The first mention of Twilight Princess some three years ago was met with as much excitement and hoopla as any Zelda game in development. But then they showed us a video of the gameplay. There in full glory was the grown Link of Ocarina of Time fame slashing away with the Master Sword. The vision was beautiful and after the cel shaded diversions of Wind Waker, nearly brought tears to fanboys the world over.
The Legend of Zelda was back, and with a vengeance. The name of Link would filter between avid Nintendo fans for months and years to come until it finally saw the light of day. It took a long time for Link’s newest adventure to finally show up on the shelves, and a good part of that delay was announcement and late 2006 release of Nintendo’s newest console, the Wii. The Big N held back their biggest game of the year to retool and revamp it for their next gen console entry.
But was it worth it. The controls, the gameplay, the little changes made – were any of them worth the wait and the dual release of the game on two consoles? The answer to that question is the simplest thing I get to say to you here. Absolutely.
The newest Zelda adventure, Twilight Princess, is by far the best reason to own a Nintendo Wii. The game is a masterpiece on almost every level, to the point I’m almost willing to call it the greatest game ever made. We’ve heard this a lot, that this game is the greatest. That it surpasses what Ocarina accomplished 8 years ago. And as my own favorite game, it’s hard to ever put anything above Ocarina in terms of scope, depth, and innovation. But we’re going to try.
The first thing you notice when you boot up the game is the scope. You’ll notice it even more later, but even right off the bat, at the title screen, Link sits atop Epona looking up at the great ruins before him and his quest. The ambience is darker, matching the game’s title, and by far more adult. Everything is drowned in sepias, browns, and grays. The vibrant yellows and greens of Wind Waker are gone in favor of something more earthly and grittier.
And then there’s Link. Full grown and already a local hero to the children of his village, this is the first game in which Link spends his entire adventure as an adult, with fully realized emotional range and involvement with the other characters. Whereas some other Links are detached from their surroundings by his age and the lack of voice acting, this Link is as carefully entwined with these characters as any Square Enix game.
And the world. Well, this is Hyrule as it oughta be. It’s huge. And by huge, I mean massive. And by massive, I mean incredibly large, beyond even the earliest visions of previous games. Imagine the Hyrule Field of Ocarina of Time and that’s one screen in Twilight Princess. Now multiple that tenfold and you have a rough idea of how big this game is.
Quests are still formulated in the basic dungeon crawling formula, but this time around Nintendo throws in a few twists, all the while creating something much more seamless and organic in terms of storytelling than any of their earlier entries.
The story picks up our young hero in his village in the farthest corner of the map, a wrangler on a ranch and the hero to the village children. One day, without notice he’s taken from his home and transported across a strange black frontier into a Twilight world. In this twilight world he encounters Midna, a strange creature of the twilight who will help guide him through his upcoming journey. More importantly, we find our favorite green clad hero transformed into a wolf.
It might remind you of Clover’s recent Okami, and it should, because the two characters are similar in their execution, but Link’s is different. This is temporary. You’ll change back into Link, don’t worry. But for now, have fun with your wolf version. Midna sure does.
You’ll meet the Princess and then it’s off to battle, as Link attempts to unwrap the folds of Twilight from Hyrule and defeat the dark thief who unleashed it. This is a darker story than the previous games. All throughout, as you fight and defeat the denizens of twilight you find yourself engaged in epic battles with hoards of enemies and included are some of the greatest cinematics in any game so far. The eye for drama here could craft a beautiful film with the same energies.
Link’s quest lead him to save the children from his village, then the entire world, and all the while you’re as entangled in his quest as any game on the market, or any novel in the book store, or film in the theater. This is epic with a capital E, and there’s messing around with that statement.
The gameplay is probably the one thing most of the new Wii owners out there were worried about. For a game designed for the Gamecube, how does the Wii remote handle? Beautifully. Honestly, I can’t imagine playing this game any other way. The precision gained while shooting an arrow or swinging the sword, or fishing is incredible and makes the entire process that much more enjoyable, because instead of worrying about the accuracy of your left thumb, you can focus on how incredibly cool it is to shoot a shadow beast down from half a mile while on horse back.
And that’s where this game grows so well on its predecessors. It strives in every instance to think of a new and exciting way to craft a scene. From jousting sequences to rail shooters, to scavenger hunts in the dark Twilight Princess again and again displays its innovations with a big smile and a sweeping gesture.
And the dungeons? Dungeons are the key to any Zelda game. They make up over three quarters of the game and the difficulty combined with the methods in which one solves them makes the game fun or not (Wind Waker…I’m looking at you). Well, first off the dungeons don’t take up quite the volume of gameplay here as they did in the past. Wait, don’t gasp yet. This game is long. Very long, the longest one by far, and the dungeons are just as long, and full of innovative puzzles and solutions, each of them unique and fun in its own way. However, the rest of the game is so packed with content that it balances out better than any past Zelda game.
The Ocarina of Time’s themed dungeon format returns here, with battles in the trees with monkeys, Goron wrestling matches in the bowels of a volcano, and underwater antics with the Zoras. And they’re even more fun this time around.
It’s not perfect. I’m sorry, I feel bad about it, but I have to tell you that this game has a few flaws. They’re small, but they’re there and they do detract a bit from the game. The music first off is still stuck in the midi formats from the cartridge days. You’ve moved to DVDs Nintendo. Full orchestration is not a reality you can ignore forever in your games, and it would have made those epic scenes that much more jaw dropping. The game also skews away from voice acting in the same mannerism of its predecessors, but this isn’t necessarily a flaw as hearing Zelda speak might only detract more than it would add. But, the orchestra would have been great.
It’s epic, it’s amazing. It’s one of the best games of all time. Is it the best? I still won’t give it that title, withholding my supreme adulation for its Nintendo 64 forefather, but it’s mighty close, and the best reason around to buy a Nintendo Wii right now. Call it an even 9.5 out of 10. Genius.