Review by German Dragon
"A Masterpiece From the Twilight"
Zelda is a franchise that has captivates fans like few, if any other series can. The very title being dropped, without any screenshots or movies, is enough to steal the floor at game expos. Originally announced at E3 in 2004, was no exception; and fans were immediately interested. The game faced delay after delay however, with promises from Nintendo that it would allow them to improve on the game. News of the delays consistently upset fans, but the delays were worth it. Nintendo's promises have been entirely fulfilled. Released along side the Wii as a launch title, Twilight Princess sets a new bar in gaming. Described in one word: Perfect.
The game starts of kind of slow. You take control of Link in the village of Ordona. You'll do some horseback riding, practice with a sword a bit, do some fishing and talk to some people. But once you get out of the town, which doesn't take too long, things quickly start to roll and they don't stop. Before you reach the first true dungeon of the game you'll have played as Link in both human and wolf form -- and both have excellent controls and are fun to play as.
The classic Z-targeting is back, and is better than ever. You'll be making use of both the nunchuk and the Wii remote in the fighting. To swing your sword, you'll have to swing the remote. You can perform spin slashes by shaking the nunchuk, and block by pressing the Z button again while locked on to an enemy. You'll also have the ever popular jump slash, as well as a variety of other helpful and fun maneuvers that you'll be taught throughout the course of the game. These include a shield bash, a rolling jumping attack, and a vicious helm splitter attack. This all works surprisingly well, giving perhaps the smoothest controls of a Zelda game to date.
Additional weapons and items will also take advantage of the features of the Wii controller, which also works well. One example of this is of course the aiming you can do using a Bow and Arrow. You aim the Wii remote at the screen, pull the string back with the B button, and then release to fire an arrow. It sounds simple and theory, and it is. It works great though, and is much more amusing than you'd first think. Hearing the sound of a string pulling back from the remote, and then the sound of it bouncing back and the arrow flying off for the very first time was really cool. And once you get used to the controls, you'll be amazed at how fun it is (and how easy it is) to hold up your shield -- maybe take cover behind a box -- while you wait for an enemy archer to drop his guard, then immediately take aim and drop him with an arrow. That's an experience that doesn't get old. Other items also take advantage of the remote in interesting ways, and you'll definitely have fun testing them out when you come across them.
Things quickly shift upside-down when you first experience playing the game as a wolf. The first time you take control of Link in this new form, you'll meet up with a strange imp-like character named Midna. She'll help you for the remainder of the game, especially while you're in your wolf form. True, you can press up on the D-pad to talk to her at any time -- like Navi or Tatl from previous Zelda games, except without the incessant whining -- but she also plays a deeper role. A special attack will allow her to bind enemies in place while you perform a combo on them. She has many other tricks that will help you progress as well, but half of the fun of Zelda games are discovering such mechanics. All of this is just the tip of the iceberg, however. As a wolf, Link can use a wolf sense that allows him to see spirits and particular scents, as well as dig in certain areas to uncover hidden passages or items. Like the controls of human-Link, these controls are smooth and responsive.
The true Zelda experience really kicks in when you reach the first dungeon. The dungeon employs many new types of puzzle elements while at the same time showcasing many classic ones. This is a theme that carries on throughout the entire game. In every new dungeon you go to you'll uncover a new item or weapon that will help you to solve puzzles and continue onward. In addition, each dungeon has it's own separate theme. As you can expect, you'll find the inevitable incarnations of the classic ones: A fire temple, a water temple, etc. However, without spoiling anything, you can also expect several completely new dungeon-types. The same can be said for the items that you'll find. Yes you can expect the bow and the bombs, but there's a huge supply of brand new weapons, and some great twists one past ones.
As fun as the dungeons are to explore though, it is perhaps even more fun to complete them. Searching out the big key in each dungeon, and seeking out the boss door is fun, but slaying the beast that you spent so much effort hunting down is even more enjoyable and satisfying. Not only that, Twilight Princess offers one of the best collection of bosses to come to mind. You'll face them in different types of environments, and you'll be required to use vastly different strategies to defeat each one. No two bosses are the same, and to beat any of them you'll have to use your wits rather than brute force.
The game is far from being a random dungeon crawler though. Between dungeons, you'll explore the vast, vast land of Hyrule, performing all sorts of events as the game calls for. These include visiting the home of both the Zoras and the Gorons (sporting brand new designs), protecting a carriage from monsters on horse back -- with the brand new spectacularly designed mounted combat system -- and exploring the Twilight Realm: a world parallel to Hyrule, shrouded in mysterious twilight. Not only do these areas hold things to do, however, they are simply wonderful to look at. While it's no secret that Twilight Princess can be easily trumped in the number of polygons it has, there's not a game out there that can touch it as far as art direction goes.
The entire game is beautiful. The first time you find yourself wandering in the twilight realm you'll be amazed. The way the sun illuminates the area in such an unnatural way makes the realm beautiful, and yet oddly perverse. As you continue you'll find that all areas of the game are able to perfectly capture your emotions in a similar way. The soundtrack is simply phenomenal, and really helps to absorb you into the game. The first area you'll experience as a wolf, near the beginning of the game, is a prison cell. The chambers seem so empty, and dreary, and the music really enforces that notion. When you first see the outside world, after leaving there, the atmosphere seems even more wrong. Sorrow is arguably the best emotion that this game portrays. However, there are many light-hearted scenes to put a smile on your face with their humor, as well as scenes which perfectly capture the feeling of accomplishment.
A game with such amazing dungeons, items, and controls seems only fit to have an amazing story as well. Twilight Princess is definitely no slouch in that department. Twilight Princess delivers what is not only the most complex story of a Zelda game to date (with no distant second in sight) but a compelling one all on its own. To say any more than that would be denying you, the reader, the joy of watching all of the events fall into place. Rest assured, however, that the adventure of Link and Midna, as it unfolds, is a masterpiece. Not only that, it is a masterpiece that culminates with one of the most satisfying and epic conclusions yet witnessed in a video game. It can also lay claim to being one of the rare games where you'll actually give any care whatsoever to what happens to the characters; and clocking in at over forty hours to beat -- without paying much focus to sidequests of any sort -- it should keep you busy for a while.
With all the praise I've preached for this game, I still feel like I haven't done it justice. The game is simply that good. If you choose to get one game this year -- if you choose only to own one game, period -- make sure it is this one. Perfect in virtually every category, this is a game that will be remembered for years to come. Many have already hailed it to be better than Ocarina of Time (an example of gaming excellence). Believe the hype.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 12/06/06
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