The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Reader Review
Chances are this review is lip service to most. You'll scoot down, ignore the large reader review, see the score (here's a clue to save you time, it's a 10) and wander off. But don't, bear with me as I go through this review and tell you, while it's certainly the best game to come out in many years... it's perhaps not the be-all that people have assumed. And this is coming from an unashamed Zelda fanboy. So be afraid.
As launch titles go, or end-of-cycle titles dependant on which way you slice the cookie here, Twilight Princess is something exceptional, and oozes the magic that we've come to expect from Nintendo and, moreover, the Zelda series in general. But to put this into context, we need to look back to Mario 64, and to Ocarina of Time, games which broke boundaries and scoured new territory. These games are memorable not just because they were great, but they were so new and so... for lack of better wording, revolutionary. The worlds were large and imaginative, the controls refined and honed, the difficulty curves sometime a little wonky but mostly spot on. Twilight Princess on the other hand doesn't really push the envelope, but it fits inside so snugly that most people won't care. I'm just saying, in context, that it's not QUITE there with Ocarina of Time. Hiss and boo all you want. It's not going to change anything.
Still, there is no getting away from the importance of Twilight Princess for Nintendo, and from the very opening sequence you just know that what you have put in your machine - Wii or Gamecube - is something else. The game is much darker than past titles, it's evident very early on that this title is a relation to the past few Wind Waker titles in name only. Orcs daubed in blood (Yes, BLOOD! Red crimson stuff on their big horns. Blood. In a Zelda game. Ooh-err!), the undead brought to unlife in incredible detail, the mood of the Twilight. It's safe to say that those who were embarrassed to like Wind Waker because of it's Powerpuff-stylings will have no shame in admitting their love of this game. It's a direction that Nintendo have always seemed reluctant to take, and you can still see that in some of the control used with this dark edge - but that is fine too, because it won't offend younger audiences watching as you play it over the Christmas period and beyond.
The plot, too, has evolved - grabbing you, throttling you and never letting go for one second. The problem for many in past Zelda titles is that the plot was a bit on the thin side. But since Zelda could hold you by gameplay alone the plot did sometimes feel a bit of a distraction. Here in Twilight Princess, it's an epic storyline - Hollywood blockbuster epic. As things develop and Link finds himself traversing the dark worlds, transforming into his bestial Wolf form and howling musically, the story packs drama, romance, comedy and action all into one package, never fumbling the ball. All of this accompanied by one of the most sumptuous soundtracks I've heard in years... since Symphony of the Night, actually. I want the music of this game on CD. Now.
Graphically, Twilight Princess is a corker. Okay, it's certainly not as polished as some X-Box 360 titles and not quite as shiny as many PS3 screenshots. But it's the artistic direction and the execution that beggars all kinds of belief, with a very realistic-looking world and the usual large eyes and pointy ears. The Goron are looking... err... a bit stoned (I'll get my coat in a bit) but the Zora are simply majestic in their appearance. And even the NPCs of the world have had a lot of effort put into them, Hyrule now not just with a noisy town centre backing but plenty of people in the town square to back up that promise.
But enter the Twilight and things get decidedly more cartoon-like. This is no bad thing at all however, I'm not talking kids cartoons here, more anime-inspired. It's a lovely twist because it puts a very distinct emphasis on the two different worlds you get to explore. It's a very creative use of clashing styles, but there is no way you can criticise it here. The game lives in harmony with its two selves.
However, while Twilight Princess forges ahead in creating a new style of world to explore, the format is decidedly predictable. The first temple, the forest, going through Kakakiro Village to Death Mountain, the Graveyard, Lake Hylia and Zora's Domain and then reminding yourself that hang on... three dungeons and then... it all harks back to Ocarina of Time. A little too much. It's like Miyamoto-san and Aonuma-san are looking over each of your shoulders like those guys in the Fast Show, saying, "Do you remember this? Do you sir? Do you like it sir? Do you want to relive those days sir?" And yes, I do, but there's not really any need to make it so blatant as it is here. Fans who have played Ocarina of Time will definitely get a retro kick but it's still cheating in a sense when they could have done so much more. Fanservice is all well and good, but there should be some lines drawn around here...
The control methods of the Wii and the Gamecube are excellent, I like the Wii controls however, they are nothing that a standard controller couldn't do perfectly fine on its own. The major difference is with the Wii, you get to map three items, with a controller in the Gamecube version, just the two. Not that it makes much difference however, because both control methods work. It does demonstrate the Wiimote can be used for this kind of game without ruining things. But there is no case made by it to recommend it over a standard control pad.
Gameplay wise, it's what you expect. Compelling, dramatic and exciting. Unlike past Zelda titles, there is so much more to Twilight Princess, whether you kick back and enjoy the fishing or you enjoy the dramatic duelling or even get a kick from the main storyline events like escorting from Hyrule Castle to Kakakiro. There's a huge amount of diversity in here and it makes the world FEEL bigger, as does the huge Hyrule Field map, which you most certainly will be using Epona to get around on.
But it's in Link's wolf form that I feel a little bit too much restraint being used. The gameplay for Human Link is sharp, crisp. Midna and Wolf Link don't seem to have gotten quite the same loving though, and whilst the wolf form for me adds so much to the new styling and deepens and enriches the plot - it's pretty evident early on that the developers seem to prefer you getting back to your Link form and chopping things up. Talking to animals is great... when you can find them, that is. It's not that Wolf form is bad, there's still an awful lot to do and its still done with excellence. You just at times do get the impression that the guys at work on this game didn't quite get some things they were asked to do.
So, yes. Twilight Princess is an incredible, fantastic and enjoyable game. One which does dwarf all others in the series in terms of its size, and stands alone in a Christmas market vying for attention. It's a powerful epic of a game that demonstrates that when they can do it, boy can Nintendo do it. There are many unanswered questions, of course. Why have two versions with so little difference? Was it worth it? Should they have released it sooner? These questions I cannot answer, but I can say that here, now, I don't think it matters. We now have it and whilst it's not a hundred percent perfection, it's as close as you'll get for quite some time.
Twilight Princess then is a game that no-one should be without. It is, without question on whatever platform you choose, the best adventure game since Ocarina of Time and you'll not regret getting a copy and playing it.
But then, we all knew that was coming. Right?
10 / 10