Review by Tithenion

"Another great entry to the series, but not without a few flaws."

Many people eagerly awaited Twilight Princess, claiming that it would be at least as good as Ocarina of Time (hereafter referred to as OoT), if not better. Just as with that, this game's release date had been pushed back many times. Then of course Nintendo announced that this game would also be released on the Wii, so they held off. And then finally, one last time they moved the date back so that the Wii version would be released about a month before, even though it was originally only intended for the Game Cube. So, after about three years of turning this into one of the most anticipated games in awhile, you can imagine the high (and most likely unrealistic) expectations of fans. So do we have a Zelda game that rivals all others, or not?

The story of this game follows the basic idea from past Zelda games, a great evil is trying to take over the land and the simple boy, Link, must set out to save it. There are, or course, a few new twists to keep the game's story fresh, but it's still fairly simple in this age of gaming. Link starts out in a small town called Ordon living a simple farm life. All of that changes though when strange things start happening. As it so happens, a mysterious Twilight is slowly spreading across Hyrule. When Link discovers this by being pulled into it, he transforms into a wolf. Soon after, he meets Midna; a little impish creature with magical powers. What are her intentions? Is she on your side, or is she just using you? She is quite easily one of the best characters to be added into a Zelda game. She's got a different, interesting personality, and her character develops well throughout the game. Some of the other characters though, after a certain point in the game, almost fall out of the story altogether and are ignored for awhile, taking away from what character development they had going for them. I'll explain more on why this is later on, but before we get to that I'll explain a little about the actual game play.

This game is very much crafted after OoT's style, though it throws in some things of it's own. Hyrule is also modeled slightly after the Hyrule from OoT and there are many references that give off a nostalgic feel. The game also has similar parts to A Link to the Past, and the reason I say that is because the Twilight Realm is very similar to the whole Dark World idea. That brings up one thing that was disappointing, which was the lack of variety in the Twilight enemies. There were only a few and most were basically clones of the Light World versions with close to none that were completely unique to the Twilight. As for the bosses, most were huge and there were some fun fights that were cool, memorable, and gave off a nice epic feel. Really, the only thing to complain about with them was the lack of difficulty.

Speaking of difficulty, that's one of the biggest problems with the game. None of the 3D Zelda games have been hard, but they've still relaxed the difficulty since the N64 games. People complained that Wind Waker was way too easy, and in fact many were able to beat the game without dying even once. Nintendo had claimed they would fix this problem with Twilight Princess, but it seems as though they did virtually nothing to try and add even a little more difficulty to the game. There are a very few select enemies in the game that pose a threat, and even then those fights are rare. The enemy AI needs to really be worked on so that they will actually try to attack more instead of just standing there half the time. It also doesn't help that Link is so maneuverable while most enemies aren't which makes it that much easier. I'm not saying they need to make him less agile, just make the enemies better and smarter.

The other thing has to do with the second portion of the game. For the first part of it there is quite a bit more stuff to do in between dungeons, such as helping people, retrieving certain items, etc... Now while there are nine dungeons (including the final one), it feels like more than half of the game is made up from the first three alone. After that, things really speed up and they don't give you as much to do in the over world. Sure there are some side quests and mini-games you can do (and even those are few), but the central things in the first half of the game that were required to allow you to advance are drastically lowered. I mean, with Hyrule Field being as huge as it is, you'd think there'd be TONS to do. At least they did bring back the fishing from OoT, which is one of the only good mini-games. Due to the lack of these, it takes away from some of the replayability. On top of all of that, the final two dungeons are very short compared to the rest. If they had given some more length to those final two and not have made the second half of the game feel so rushed, then that would have helped immensely. Even though these are some problems, there are still plenty of qualities that help the game out.

One thing is that this game gives off a very strong OoT vibe, which is a major plus for many fans. There are numerous times that you'll receive a burst of nostalgia that takes you back to those N64 days, if you've played that game that is. The main game play itself follows the formula that has become a staple to the series and the controls are basically the same as other 3D Zelda games. There is one little flaw that stuck out and that was when beginning to ascend a climbable surface, such as vines, Link tends to move to the side even when you're holding up on the control stick. Annoying, but only a minor problem. As for the wolf controls, they're done well and give a fresh way to play, even if only for awhile. You can bite, leap and latch onto an enemy to continually bite them, or use Midna for a dark energy attack which is somewhat similar to Link's spin attack, though much more effective since it allows you to instantly kill most enemies that are within it's range. In addition to that, you will have the ability to dig, and also use your enhanced smelling to track down people/creatures by sniffing a personal item of theirs that still has their scent fresh on them.

As for the graphics, they are nothing short of brilliant. After much controversy over Wind Waker's cel-shaded graphics which were called too "kiddie" by many, the fans finally get what they asked for with an OoT look. The enemies are well designed and given plenty of detail, just as with the rest of the game. As for the scenery, they did an amazing job. In addition to the beauty of the normal world, you also have the Twilight Realm which gives off an eerie feeling. Though with the look of, well... twilight, it actually makes it look pretty at the same time and keeps it from being somewhat bland like Dark Aether from Metroid Prime 2: Echoes for instance. Also, one of the best things about games today are noticing the many little things that add to the realism, such as dirt falling from an old, previously unopened door or water dripping from Link as he emerges from the water.

And now after about two decades of being around, a great soundtrack is another thing that has come to be expected from a Zelda game, and Koji Kondo has delivered yet again. The music fits the moods and atmosphere of the game perfectly, whether it calls for something soft and gentle or fast paced and intense. In addition to the new pieces, there are several that have become regulars in Zelda games over the years, such as the music that plays while in certain buildings or the music from the main menu. One thing that would have been would be to have had more pieces that were orchestrated. It's not that the music that wasn't was bad, I just enjoy hearing what they can do with real instruments. As another treat, they've brought back numerous ocarina songs from Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask. Though what's different here is that almost all are played not as Link in human form, but as the wolf through what are called howling stones. As for sound effects, with a lot of games anymore there isn't really much to comment on. They've gotten to the point where most can realistically recreate sound effects, or in the case of fantasy sounds such as magic, make it sound like you'd imagine. So saying that, the sound effects have nothing wrong with them, just little that stands out.

Of course now, with all of this I'm talking about the Game Cube version. I have yet to get a chance at playing a Wii, let alone that version of Twilight Princess. One of the main differences is obviously the controls with the Wii remote, but there's also the fact that they mirrored the entire game. The reason for this was because Link is a lefty, while the majority of people aren't. So since most people would want to be swinging their sword (remote) with their right hand, they needed to make Link right-handed as well. Now instead of just mirroring Link, they went ahead and did the entire game to avoid any chance of things being awkward from the switch. Now for most, the choice would be obvious to go with the Wii version, but there are still some that prefer the standard controller. There are also some that would rather have the game the way it was meant to be, instead of being mirrored. Then of course you have the people who still don't have a Wii and maybe don't even plan to, which kinda forces the choice. So those are basically your deciding factors if you have the choice on which to get.

If you think about it really, it's gotta be hard for the team at Nintendo to keep making an already great franchise better, but they still pulled off making a superb game, just with a few flaws. If some of the problems in this game had been fixed, such as the difficulty, the rushed feeling during the second half of the game, and maybe some better mini-games and side quests, then this could have been, without a doubt, the best Zelda game ever. It had the right stuff in a lot of places, it just fell short in enough of them to keep it from being quite as great as it could have been. As it stands, it's still an awesome game. It beats out several of the other Zelda titles, just not all of them. Having said that, whether you're a hardcore fan or just a casual gamer, do yourself a favor and go out and buy what is another solid Zelda game that should be in anybody's collection.

Pros:
+ Fun game play
+ Epic bosses
+ Great graphics
+ Superb soundtrack
+ Nostalgic elements

Cons:
- Too easy
- Second half is too rushed
- Lack of good mini-games/side quests

Scores:
Story: 8
Gameplay: 8
Graphics: 10
Sound: 10
Replay Value: 7

Overall: 9.0


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 09/09/07

Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (US, 12/11/06)


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