Review by TSA_ZHQ
"Spoiler-Free Twilight Princess"
This is the most important review you will ever read. Not really, but for some of the consumers out there, especially fan boys, the reviews of Twilight Princess better read as "perfect scores" across the board. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I didn't give Twilight Princess a 10 out of 10. So feel free to skip ahead to my scores and then to the comments to flame me to death. For those of you who would like to see why I didn't give Twilight Princess a perfect score, read on.
Twilight Princess is truly something special. A very ambitious project that took the greater part of three years to finish. Every fan knows the story of the development. We all lived through the delay, through the revelation Twilight Princess would be on Wii, to the new control scheme revealed in the 11th hour. Fans endured droughts and information explosions; an emotional rollercoaster that some will wish never ended. But like all rides, there is an end. Twilight Princess' ride ends leaving the gamer with nothing less than pure joy and excitement, wanting to run back to the start of the line for another go.
Despite some issues with the control setup that really amount to a preference choice, Twilight Princess on Wii does actually play rather intuitively. The bottom line is quite simple; the Wii Remote and Nunchuk make playing Zelda easier than playing it on the GCN. For most, who find the older versions' game play rather good, but sometimes a bit too complex for perfection, Twilight Princess delivers a setup that is very easy to learn, and the game is setup perfectly as to take you through the motions early enough so you can tackle the later areas like a pro.
The setup does take some time to get used to, but the initial area and dungeons serve as tutorials for getting used to the basic and advanced game play mechanics. In Ordon Village, you start off with equipment that allows the player to familiarize themselves with the aiming mechanics, the swordplay, basic movements and changing between weapons. These four areas of the game play, once the player has become accustomed to, are essential to enjoying the game and really play out well as the game progresses.
The swordplay really does amount to nothing more than pressing a button at first, but as you progress through the game, Link learns new moves that require more than just the flick of the wrist. This pay-off really rewards gamers and reassures those who doubted the uniqueness of the swordplay, especially if you were expecting 1:1 controls. The aiming probably takes the longest to get used to, having to point, aim and fire weapons with sometimes relatively high-precision. There are ample situations early on that allow the player to grasp the mechanics and become relatively at ease with the functionality, so that later on in the game where there are more complicated situations, players aren't frustrated. Still, there are points where you will find yourself a bit flustered, but it's more due to the difficulty of the situation rather than the Wii's inability to give great control. In fact, on the GCN controller, these situations would be just as difficult.
Fans expecting the game to stick to the traditional dungeon setup will not be disappointed. After meager outings with The Wind Waker and The Minish Cap, Twilight Princess delivers the dungeon goods. Massive dungeons that take up to an hour each, or more, and there are lots of them. The traditional "find a weapon and use it on the boss" model is still in use, but there is something a bit different with Twilight Princess than with other Zelda games. Most of the dungeons come with some sort of "sub-quest", a bigger picture you unravel as you solve smaller puzzles and progress. The best comparison I can think of is the Fire Temple in Ocarina of time - think of having to save the Gorons in order to open up all areas of the dungeon.
Each dungeon, besides being massive, is truly unique in design and feel. Between the first two dungeons, fans will realize just how far Nintendo went to ensure this element. Dungeons are also not devoid of enemies or obstacles - each new room usually reveals more difficult puzzles and enemies get progressively harder to defeat in each dungeon. One of the best points of the game is the multi-room puzzles. This concept is not new to the Zelda series, but it is done just so damn well it has to be praised.
Of course, awaiting you in each dungeon is the boss battle, each more impressive than the last. Not only are the bosses massive in size and scope, but the tactics to defeat them are so much more involving than the previous installments. Sure, the will start off simple enough, but as you progress, they get pretty intense and much harder. Dungeons also each contain a mini-boss which provides additional challenge and depth, with most guarding one of the dungeon's items.
The dungeons are truly magnificent, and they easily overshadow anything previously done. But what really impresses is the events that transpire in-between the dungeons. The Wind Waker and The Minish Cap did fairly decent jobs at giving the player exciting and meaningful quests to complete before reaching the next dungeon, but neither come close to how well Twilight Princess delivers. Players can expect to spend up to several hours between each dungeon completing events that are required, or not required, to reach the next step in the game. Each of these events are driven by the storyline and include major plot points. But rather than seeming forced, like in Ocarina of Time, or rather uninspired, as in The Wind Waker, the Kingdom of Hyrule is brought to life in a way never seen before.
The other major component of the game play are the Wolf Link portions. While focusing on action-oriented game play, the Wolf segments are more about movement than actual attacking. Sure, pressing "A" near enemies will prompt Wolf Link to leap onto a foe and bite at their torsos, but players will quickly learn that most Twilight Realm enemies must all be defeated quickly or they can be revived. To solve this, Nintendo implemented a giant Z-targeting system, which is activated by pressing B. An energy field goes out and targets enemies in range, and then you let go to let Wolf Link auto-attack them with insta-kills most of the time. Moving is just like moving as human Link, though the speed is more like that of controlling the horse.
The main focus of the Wolf segments, though, are on other actions, such as using the new "sense" ability to focus in on certain items or beings otherwise invisible to the naked eye. The screen zooms in, and you can see invisible Hylians, scent trails, and other puzzle-solving clues. All the while Midna is at your side, offering advice when she feels it is necessary. A childish, evil laugh on your Wii remote's speaker will alert you to something Midna knows and wishes to share with you. The same occurs while as human Link, though Midna takes a different form to aid you outside the Twilight Realm.
Of course, later on, more game play mechanics open up, most of which are pleasant surprises that are best left to the player to discover on their own. But the game play in Twilight Princess really goes in great directions and the amount of expansion offered to basics such as swordplay, let alone other aspects, is amazing. So what about that musical instrument? Besides the ability to call your hawk or Epona, Wolf Link has the ability to "howl". Deriving from the time-beat model in The Wind Waker, you simply move the scales up and down at the proper time to play the songs. Who would have thought the instrument would have been the character themselves!
The last major component of the basic game play is the horseback combat, which works much like Ocarina of Time, except you can use the sword for combat. The only qualm I could find was that when you go into first person mode to aim on horseback, you're basically on rails, just like Ocarina of Time, and you have limited control of your movement. Still, due to the vast nature of the areas you are on horseback and are required to go into first person mode to use weapons, it never lead to any problems. In fact, while on horseback, you mostly use Z-targeting or your sword.
Speaking of items, Twilight Princess has a ton (once I've completed the game 100%, I could make a fairer assessment as to how it stacks up to other titles). They range from the classic to the flat out weird. There's even an item you use that reminded me of those spinning things Mega Man could ride on in one of his outings. However, each item is useful and most are required to progress through certain areas. Almost all of them take advantage of the Wii remote's unique abilities. There are also upgrades to certain items and accessories, but for the sake of spoilers, I'll leave those out.
Those expecting a story-intensive title are in for a real treat. Avoiding major spoilers, the game starts off relatively predictable, but after a certain point, turns into the realm of unexpected. Things transpire in Twilight Princess that fans would never have dreamed of before. The only mark on this otherwise golden element is the fact the game at points really feels like an Ocarina of Time fan service. But rather than turn into something that relies too heavily on Ocarina of Time, the game quickly establishes itself on its own footing. Still, Nintendo really drew heavily from the lore of Ocarina of Time to conceive the game's premise and storyline. Still, the amount of twists and surprises keep it fresh, and the story is not clichéd and has some of the best pay offs in gaming history.
The game mirrors both A Link to the Past and The Wind Waker, in which you start off on a smaller, initial quest which then leads into a bigger, more massive quest. This harkens back more to A Link to the Past than The Wind Waker, without giving away too many spoilers. The Wind Waker's "second" portion wasn't really more impressive, where you simply had two more dungeons and an annoying Triforce hunting segment leading up to the finale. In fact, The Wind Waker was more top heavy, whereas Twilight Princess is very bottom heavy - the good parts of the game begin after your initial "big" quest. Ironically, the game also appears to mirror the path of Ocarina of Time.
Twilight Princess also owes a lot to Majora's Mask, as much of the game is character driven, and the amount of NPCs and the intricacy of their arcs is astounding. Of course, what would a Zelda title be without side quests? Heart containers? Check. But those expecting the same old item gathering, especially those who took a sneak peak at the Player's Guide description and saw some of the major side quests, are in for a welcomed treat - the game has more side quests than any other title, and they easily are enjoyable and most you will want to complete as they all have extremely rewarding payoffs. Let's not forget the whole fishing concept, which goes above and beyond what many will be expecting.
One of the biggest issues concerning some are the visuals. Twilight Princess is the flagship title of Wii, a system not being touted for its next-gen graphics, but rather next-leap gaming. The title is also a converted GameCube title, and many want to know just how great Zelda really looks in action. Zelda titles have never been known for their ground-breaking visuals, but Twilight Princess is easily the most amazing looking Zelda title ever. Compared to Resistance: Fall of Man on PS3 or Gears of War on XBOX 360, though, the graphics don't quite compare, but hold their own nicely. If you're not running the title on 480p on an HDTV with component cables, you're going to get the blurriness associated with Nintendo's composite outputs. For those obsessed with graphics, the component cables are a must-have, but for those who can look past having sharper visuals, the default composite cables will suffice.
Still, the scale of Hyrule and the sheer brilliance of each new area and dungeon must not go unheralded. Nintendo did a spectacular job bringing Twilight Princess to life, and it is one of the best looking titles of 2006. Personally, for the size of this title, the visuals are impressive. I think only Oblivion outshines Twilight Princess in this area in the context of size and scale. There are some, however, who will have problems with some of the animations in the game, in particular Link's running and Epona's galloping. I never had a big issue, but it is probably one of the small things that detracts from Twilight Princess.
The game does not feature all live-recorded, orchestrated music. Not that this matters because the music is so damn good. The majority of the title is simply synthesized audio, but it is so good, only hardcore audio geeks will complain. Some parts could have benefited from the element of being recorded with live instruments, but with what Nintendo has done, the dynamic nature of the music and sound is preserved. The classic example to point out is how you are walking around in Hyrule field, with normal music playing, and then an enemy closes in and the music changes on the fly, with a smooth transition, and then quickens in pace. The music is a nice mix of really well done revamps of classic themes, and new tunes that simply will become classics in time.
The voice work, albeit limited to grunts and sounds, sounds much better than the simplistic noises found in previous installments. At parts, I almost wished Nintendo would just give in and do some true voice work. Link features a new voice actor, and the battle cries and anguishes of pain come in a much deeper tone. Midna's chatter does get a bit annoying, but it never comes close to the level of Navi. Sound effects rock, with explosions, steel clashing, and snow and rain blowing in your face. Truly spectacular, and first-rate.
Of course, the big question on many fans' minds is if the game lives up to the hype. Is the title harder than Ocarina of Time, and recent titles like The Wind Waker and The Minish Cap? It most certainly is. Does Twilight Princess have more dungeons and take longer to beat than Ocarina of Time? It's a debate if it has more dungeons, I would say "as many", but it is definitely the longest Zelda game ever, in both game play and storyline aspects. Finally, does it surpass Ocarina of Time? This question is reserved for the community and industry in the coming months and years, but all indications are this is simply the best Zelda title ever, and it dwarfs Ocarina of Time in every respect. Nintendo delivers on the goods.
So how does this title not receive a perfect score? There are small enough flaws here and there that I, in my right mind, could not award a perfect score to Twilight Princess because it is not perfect. There are some small camera issues now and then, some of the game play mechanics get a tad frustrating at certain points, especially for novices or casual gamers. The visuals are great, but aren't the best. To be blunt, if the game was strictly for GCN or for Wii, and was only developed solely for one or the other, I could see this being a perfect title. It's damn close, but it is not perfect, but it is the best Zelda title ever. Expect a solid 40-50 hour adventure for those trying to get through it without doing everything, probably 60-70 hours if you want to complete the entire game with all secrets uncovered. The game is also incredibly fun and exciting, and I see fans and consumers alike wanting to play the game over and over, which is what Ocarina of Time delivered to the world eight years ago.
Twisting Ganondorf's words from The Wind Waker a bit, one may think, "Twilight Princess is really Ocarina of Time reborn".
Rather, more along the lines of King Daphnes Nohansen Hyrule's words in The Wind Waker, "No, it will not be Ocarina of Time...it is TWILIGHT PRINCESS!"
Twilight Princess is the new standard not only in The Legend of Zelda, but the standard in Nintendo's franchises.
Game play - 9: The Wii remote surprisingly simplifies the control scheme to something rather enjoyable for all fans. Basic controls are intuitive and never detract from the experience. Aiming mechanics may frustrate some in certain situations, and the lack of camera controls leads to a few issues. Controlling Wolf Link and Link on horseback is fun and refreshing. Game follows traditional Zelda model, but strays into some new territories and throws some wrenches into the common setup, with pleasant results. Wide array of weapons and unique game play mechanics to keep the game refreshing and entertaining.
Graphics - 9: The best looking game on Wii, though it doesn't quite come in the same league as PS3's launch titles and XBOX 360's "Gears of War" or "Oblivion". Still, the game is massive in scale and the world is just so vibrant and rich. Dungeons have very unique designs, and each area is simply breathtaking. Some animation issues, though a solid frame rate throughout the game. Overall, very impressive, and if you have component cables, enjoy the sharper visuals. Composite setup has some slight blurriness, but nothing horrible.
Sound - 10: Forget the live, orchestrated argument. Sound effects really hit home and are well suited. Voice work is great and will leave many lingering for full-blown vocal work in later installments. Soundtrack is just breathtaking, with a great mix of revamped classics and truly memorable new additions. Best score in the series, period.
Story - 10: Oh man, this story kicks ass. Nintendo, thank you for growing up and giving us a story that is worthy of the game play that Zelda has boasted for over two decades. If Ocarina of Time was a revolution in Zelda game play, Twilight Princess is a revolution in Zelda storylines. Before this game is done, fan boys will be pissing their pants and message boards will be aflame with rabid fans going nuts over the plethora of twists and turns the game throws at you. Prepare to have your world of Zelda rocked.
Replay/Challenge/Fun - 10: You can't play this game just once. Alright, maybe you can, but to fully enjoy this title, you're going to need to see and do everything, probably more than one time. There are plenty of side quests and minigames to keep you addicted for a long time, including the famed fishing. The difficulty is not at an insane level, but it is more difficult than previous outings, and it progresses nicely and fairly. Bottom line, you're going to have fun, and you're gong to be wowed. Get ready to say goodbye to life for awhile.
Final Score: 9.6 out of 10
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/27/06
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