Review by Zotmaster

"Nintendo does it for the fanboys"

Zelda. It's a name that equates to greatness in the eyes of most gamers. The very first title set standards that few games have surpassed, and still remains a highly playable and enjoyable title. Even the few clunkers in the bunch are only clunkers in the eyes of some, and still worth a play at any rate.

Fast forward a bit. Ever since 1998's Ocarina of Time, Zelda titles have been hyped, and hyped some more. With Mario branching off into various games - not all of them being good - more and more burden has been placed on Link and company to deliver the Triple A experience that Nintendo so desperately needs. No Zelda title received hype like Twilight Princess. The first trailer of the movie literally moved some people to tears. As jaded as I have become over time, even I couldn't help but feel a little excited when I saw that Nintendo had moved away from the kiddy Wind Waker and skewed things to a more mature level: relatively speaking, of course. Delay after delay did nothing to ease anyone's eagerness for the game. But finally, the Wii is here, and so is this latest iteration of the Zelda series. Needless to say, the game will sell itself, but there still is the game itself to play. Nintendo promised revolutionary gameplay. Nintendo delivered the same fanboy experience you got in 1998.

The storyline is about as innovative as this title dares to get, and even that is relative. I'll say this much: the story is darker. Don't expect hours upon hours of faeries and sunny fields. What you get is a world that's pretty much plunged into darkness. Actually, that's only half true: you get a world of darkness along with the world you know. Wait...that's been done before, hasn't it? Yes, yes it has. It's fleshed out pretty well, though, and even Link gets something of a facelift: ever want to be a wolf? Of course you did! Sure, you'll still see some familiar characters - anyone want to guess who the final boss is? - but they have a bit more of a personality this time around. Even your guardian fairy has character. Actually, that was one of my favorite changes. Your new guardian, so to speak, is a Twilight dweller named Midna who manages to be much more useful and much more interesting than Navi ever was. Especially in the beginning, Midna doesn't help you so much as you "help" her. Even as her character defied my wishes, I couldn't help but smile a bit. Link may not have much of a personality, but I'm sure that won't bother very many people. As long as the rest of his world does, things will be fine. It does bother me how slowly the story develops, but it comes around in due time.

Fine, fine, you say. But how does it play? Remember how Ocarina of Time played in 1998? Hopefully you do, because you're basically playing the exact same game. The engine is exactly the same, right down to Z-Targeting. Link has a few new moves - a shield bash, among other things - but his move set will surprise no one. Of course, how you utilize those moves is a little bit different this time around. You use the Wii remote to deliver sword slashes. Don't be one of those fools who swings their arms around like a fanatic: simple movements do just fine. Aiming with projectiles is a little bit different, too. Rather than using the analog stick on the Nunchuk - sold separately, as an inconvenience - you point the remote at the screen, get a crosshair, and aim from there. I never had a problem aiming with the analog stick in previous games, but I guess the remote makes it a tad easier. It is a lot harder to keep the crosshair steady for a precise shot, though, as the human body generally has a problem with keeping an extended arm at the exact same position without twitching or shaking. Regardless, acquiring targets is a lot easier, and shooting still isn't hard, so I suppose that makes up for it.

Your item selection is both better and worse than previous titles. While you still have your bow, you no longer get a variety of arrows to choose from, which is a little bit boring. On the plus side, the boomerang is more fun than it used to be. You can even use it to lock onto five targets, then send it flying into all of them. It's actually kind of fun and elevates it above "puzzle solving tool and occasional item-grabber" it used to be. The hookshot has been upgraded into a double hookshot. Its usage is about the same, however, but at least it was always a fun tool to use.

What would a Zelda game be without puzzles? Thankfully, Twilight Princess delivers in spades. More so than any enemies you fight, the puzzles are the real enemy of most dungeons. Some of them are pretty clever tricks, but thankfully, none of them are hard enough that you can't figure them out. Most give you that wonderful feeling when you finally figure them out, and that is one of the biggest positives of this game. The boss fights are about what you'd expect. A little bit of clever thinking and the usage of whatever you got from that particular dungeon should have you beating the bosses fairly easily.

Highlighting the positives is Link's wolf form. While you do lose the usage of all your items, with the aid of Midna, Link's wolf form can really tear things up. In addition to the obvious addition of biting, Link can sense where treasure is and where hidden spirits reside, and then dig up said treasure. Midna allows for long jumps and also a lock-on attack that basically kills or maims everything around you. Far from being an annoyance, the feral form is a nice diversion.

In spite of all this, Nintendo did manage to throw in a few things that actually succeed in making the gameplay worse. While moving around the world is about as easy as it's ever been, there are problems with the Nunchuk. Both the shield bash and the spinning attack require usage of the Nunchuk, and for whatever reason, the game is really picky about how you use the Nunchuk for each move. Be prepared for a lot of frustration in trying to shield bash and instead doing a spinning attack. The remote just doesn't seem to differentiate the two well enough, though with practice it is a hurdle you can overcome. If you were hoping for more variety in terms of swords and shields, find another game. The ultimate upgrade in Link's equipment is the same generic gear he's been using forever: the Master Sword and the Hylian Shield. The biggest problem, though, is the Z-Targeting. While it still works the same way, you no longer get a crosshair when Link targets the enemy. Instead, you get a small red arrow that hangs a few feet above the enemy's head. Not only does it make it harder to pick an enemy out in a crowd - not that it was ever necessarily easy - but if the enemy is far away or at a higher elevation than you, you may not even know what you're targeting, if anything at all. What makes this even worse is the fact that when you use the boomerang to target things, you get the crosshair on everything you target. I find such a mistake to be inexcusable given that this is the same engine as a game that came out eight years prior.

The graphics won't surprise anyone. Actually, the letdown just may surprise you. On the plus side, the art style is excellent. The worlds are rich and diverse, and there is this really cool Tron-like effect that's used mostly in transitions between the two worlds. Link, of course, just looks better as an adult, and so does Zelda. On the technical side, though, it wouldn't surprise me if you could find a few Gamecube games that look as good or better. One that immediately comes to mind is Crystal Chronicles. Jaggies and muddy graphics abound in this game. True, graphics don't a game make, but a next-gen title should be next-gen in all aspects, and visually, Twilight Princess disappoints.

What you hear is also a mixed bag. First, Nintendo still hasn't put voice acting into the game. The story is extremely text-heavy and sitting through dialogue box after dialogue box is both frustrating and boring. There is absolutely no reason why a 2006 title shouldn't have voice acting, but sorry, you won't find it here. I realize in my heart of hearts that Link will probably always remain silent - which I acknowledge, but it also doesn't help the story - but again, there's no reason why his supporting cast shouldn't. The sound effects are about what you'd expect, with one glaring disappointment: many sounds are only played through the Wii remote, perhaps in an effort to create a more interactive experience. That's fine in and of itself, but the Wii remote speaker sounds like it came from a Game Boy. It's too bad that you have to listen to it. As far as music goes, it's also about what you'd expect. All the tunes you remember are here, though some of them are remixed to a certain degree. I'll be honest: I don't care either way. The score is still great, and the music never really bothered me while I was exploring, fighting, or solving puzzles. Take what you will from that.

Nintendo promised something to the tune of 70 hours of gameplay in this title. If you keep the Wii on for about a day and a half without playing the game, you just might get 70 hours out of this. Especially since everything is the same gameplay-wise, there's no reason any Zelda player can't beat this inside 40 hours. The world is larger than you might remember it, but it's still mostly dungeon work, and it still won't take you any longer than it takes to solve the puzzles. The sidequests are both scarce and boring. Poe Ghosts and Pieces of Heart won't surprise any Zelda veteran. Speaking of the Pieces of Heart, you need five to make one Heart Container now instead of the usual four. Trying to find them all without a guide may be the only other way to hit the 70 hour mark. Only completists who go extremely slowly will need that much time.

Bottom line: Nintendo promised a revolution. They promised to change the way we play games. They promised innovation. At least with this title, it fails to deliver on all three counts. This game is Ocarina of Time, eight years later, with a better story and a fresher coat of paint. Granted, OoT is not a bad game to emulate, but with its first Triple A title, Nintendo has not delievered on any of its promises. Is it fun? Of course it is. Is it a must-buy? Absolutely! If you bought a Wii, you probably already bought it anyway. But anyone who gives this a perfect score and pitches Nintendo's "revolutionary" experience is deluding themselves. I don't know about you, but I expect more for my dollar and more from one of Nintendo's premier franchises.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 7
Innovation: 5
Gameplay: 9
Replay Value: 7
Overall: 86, rounded down to an 8


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/29/06


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