Review by Lord_Jimmy

"Truly one of the finest games of all time"

So how long has it been? Three years? Three years. Yes. It's been three long, agonizing years since Link jumped into a cartoon world, sailed across oceans and once again, saved Hyrule. Three years. How long has it been since Miyamoto jumped up on a stage wearing a tunic to screaming adoring fans to present a trailer for the next instalment? Two and a half years. Ever since then, it's been a big, long, anxious wait, as just about every gamer under the sun downloaded every trailer that Nintendo released over this amount of time and they waited. And waited. And waited.

The wait is over. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess has seen several delays, a jump in platform and has not only debuted as the epic death of a stumbling console, but as the first Zelda to introduce a new generation as a launch title for Nintendo's new console: The Wii. Two and a half years of some of the most incredible hype and speculation has come to an end. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is the biggest release of the decade, and easily the most hyped game of all time.

The response from fans and critics alike has been instantaneous and massive. Twilight Princess has received more than just critical acclaim. It's being touted as one of the finest games of all time by many sources. Gamespot even rated the game out of 8.8 for some reason and snubbed it from their yearly awards because it was certainly obvious it would win everything. It's incredible, but Nintendo have seemed to have done it: To have accomplished the impossible. They've lived up to some of the wildest hype the gaming world has ever seen.

So has it? Generally… yes. In some ways the hype is even surpassed… but in some of the more ridiculous speculation, not so much… but please, put down those stones and let me explain myself. No, you're not going to see an overworld five times the size of Cydrodiil from Oblivion. Nor is the game going to take 200 hours to complete. But does that really matter? This shouldn't be about what Twilight Princess doesn't have; this should be about what it does have.

So now I'm going to cut the crap and get to the point. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a masterpiece. It's Brilliant. It's Epic. It's Incredible. It's a whirlwind of everything good about Zelda merged with a tidal wave of incredible new ideas and concepts blended onto a disc. It holds the greatest dungeons, the largest overworld and the finest devolved plot in the series. I hate to sound like a raving fanboy, but seriously, it's a marvel.

So is it better than Ocarina of Time? That's a tough one. Really, it's different, rather different indeed. At first, my fears were that it would be a mindless Ocarina of Time fan service, but it certainly isn't. They've put as much charm and love into the game. It sacrifices the massive epic aspect like The Elder Scrolls to present an unprecedented amount of detail in the game world and in the gameplay. It feels like a Zelda game, it plays like a Zelda game, and contrary to what many have been saying, it certainly isn't darker than any of the other games. And like every Zelda game, it gives the formula a fresh twist in the form of so many new ideas.

I don't know where to start with this. There are so many things I want to cover. So maybe I'll start with the back-story that basically everyone knows. You are Link, or whatever you want to call him, and you live in a village outside Hyrule named Ordon as a cowboy that pretty much does basically nothing but stuff around all day. The game starts as a normal day in the life as you muck around. You help some woman get her cradle back, return a stupid cat to its owner and buy a Slingshot. The entire section lasts for the first hour or two of the game and serves mainly as a tutorial.

Anyway, Link is about to embark on a big journey to Hyrule Castle when the girl he obviously likes, implied by the music that plays around her and the rather brilliantly animated facial expressions, notices a wound on his horse and takes her away. Link almost convinces her that it wasn't his fault the horse was wounded and that she should give him the horse so he can go to Hyrule when a group of monsters charge in, knock him out and kidnap Ilia and all of the other children in the village. When Link wakes up they're all gone. In panic, he runs across the bridge to the Faron Woods, the forest between Ordon and Hyrule, and is halted by a black wall. A monster reaches through it and pulls him into the Twilight Realm.

Inside the realm, the dark power turns Link into a wolf, which is a major gameplay element that I will elaborate on later, and becomes captured by evil forces. He wakes up in a cell and is set free and befriended by strange Imp like creature named Midna, who takes him to see Princess Zelda. It turns out that a thick blanket of darkness is covering Hyrule called the Twilight Realm is slowly expanding and everyone inside it becomes an invisible spirit. For some reason, which is revealed later on, Link has simply turned into the form of what truly represents him: A wolf.

After talking to Zelda, Link leaves and is teleported back to Ordon by Midna. There, Midna tells him that if he'll help her obtain the pieces of a powerful magical artefact called the Fused Shadow, she will help him return to his true form. Link returns to Faron Woods as a Wolf and finds the light spirit of the area: Faron. Faron tells him that to return to his true form he must regain the light of the area. That's the basic gist. The Twilight Segments consist mainly of finding insects that carry the light to restore the light to the world. More on that later.

It's not until the three hour mark, after the light is restored to Faron, that the game really starts to get going, I'm seriously not spoiling anything her when I say Link returns to his human form wearing the green tunic of the hero and Faron refers to him as the Chosen One. She tells him that the first piece of the fused shadow is in a Temple in the forest. This is where I'll leave it, because this pretty much sums up the first three hours and everything else past that point is better off left for you to discover yourself.

The gameplay works on the same basic staple, except it's controlled in a radical new way (well, at least on the Wii version, and that is the version I am reviewing). The original mechanics are all there still. Locking on is done with Z and automatically shields at the same time and C can be used to look around. Once again, Link has a vast inventory of items for him to use, and these can be equipped to B. But don't panic, items can also be set to left, right and down for quick equipping to the B button. Sounds confusing, but it will be picked up easily by many.

The most radical change is the sword control. Swing the remote (or rather flick it) to attack with your sword and shake the nunchuck to do a Spin attack. It works the same way as simply pressing a button, really. But the upside of this means that all of Link's original moves, such as the stab and the jump attack, are all there. It is rather fun anyway to make over the top swings but it isn't really needed. Oh and your arms never get tired. Ever.

The other major thing you can do, and one of the best mechanics in the game, is aiming projectiles. It's fast, efficient, accurate and easy. You can use the Wiimote to aim any ranged object in the game, such as the Slingshot, the Bow or a Clawshot. One thing I have to note is the responsiveness of the Wiimote. It provides pinpoint accuracy and precision that can't be replicated. A few of you might remember when I burst out a massive rant about how it couldn't work. I take that back. I was wrong.

Foot Combat has a lot more depth to it than people are willing to credit it. Sure, Link isn't stringing together ridiculous overblown combos. But one of the best features is at some points across your quest you will encounter a past hero (likely Link from OoT) who continues to teach you new skills and sword techniques, such as parrying and shield attacks. The enemies you encounter gradually get stronger as the game progresses so these skills come in useful. The combat isn't overused so it's always a lot of fun to burst out several of these skills in succession when you encounter an enemy. There are even sword duels against stronger opponents later on in the game.

Horseback combat… not so much. I hate to say this, but I really found it boring, frustrating and repetitive. Why? Epona goes two speeds: too fast and too slow. So either way you're going to be pelted by arrows by the front or the back and the only chance you'll get to attack is at a blur whirring past at 60 miles an hour. Luckily, it's pretty underused. There are several horseback segments in the game though. In one of them you have to escort a carriage across about the entire Hyrule. The thing is: the carriage is going a bit slower than your enemies, but still to fast for you to go slowly. The entire segment was really frustrating, but it only lasted about ten minutes.

The Twilight Segments are rather interesting. Of course, inside the twilight you turn into a wolf and this can be used to your advantage. You can leap, attack, bite, dig, sense your way through each segment, trying to find the stolen light tears. When you find them all, the area is returned to light and you are returned to your true form. The Twilight segments are rather fun. Exploring the new regions and hunting down the Light with all of your abilities provides something new and refreshing to the Zelda formula. Another thing is that these parts hardly ever drag on. They're measured perfectly so as soon as you start to get bored it's all over.

Twilight combat is very interesting too. The wolf can spin attack too, and pressing A will lunge at an opponent and possibly even latch on and continuously attack them. It's rather exciting and one of the most interesting factors is when you fight twilight monsters, which travel in packs of 2 to 5, mostly 3. The thing is, if you get down to one, it will roar and revive the others. What do you do? Midna has a special attack that expands an energy field when you press B. When you let go of B, Link will simultaneously attack anything enclosed in said field, killing it. This can get very tactical, because if, say, a lone monster is by itself, you can kill it first and then wipe out the other two.

Twilight Princess contains the best dungeons the series has ever seen. Bar none. All of the dungeons, bar the 8th and 9th are enormous and can take up to three hours to complete. They contain everything associated with Zelda and more. There are puzzles of all sizes and difficulty levels, some of them are new and ingenious, and some of them are beefed up improvements of former puzzles we've already seen. There are also puzzles that have to be solved through several rooms. The third dungeon in itself is just one massive puzzle that has to be solved one room at a time. Along with this, there are obstacles, traps, enemies, boss fights and hidden treasure at every angle. The amount of intricate detail hidden in every dungeon is amazing.

All the old mechanics are there. You enter the dungeon, lurk a bit, find some keys, open some doors, solve some puzzles, fight a mini boss, get the item, use it to solve some more puzzles and find the boss key, reach the boss and defeat it with the item. Every dungeon works on that basic premise, but there's simply so much content to go through on the way. Each dungeon is unique in the way it presents this formula and each dungeon has a subplot. For example, the first dungeon is full of imprisoned monkeys. As you free them, they follow you around and give you access to more areas. As you find more of them, more areas become accessible with the monkey's help and more and more areas become open to you.

The use of dungeon items is fantastic. Every dungeon has one item and apart from one item that seemed to be thrown in there to support the main puzzle of the dungeon it was in, all of them have multiple uses. The item of the first dungeon, for example, is the gale boomerang. It has all the uses of a normal boomerang but you can lock onto up to five targets at once to hit multiple objects in one throw. It also emits wind gusts so you can blow fans around and blow out torches. A good example of how this is used is to lock on to an unreachable bomb and then a boulder to blow it up in one of the rooms in the forest temple.

The temples establish their themes and make use of their items very well. I'll use the forest temple as an example again. It's brimming with life and detail. Torches burn in dark rooms, plant life attacks you, spiders drop off the ceiling, and monkeys hop around. It really feels like you're in a grove full of life and activity. The temples also seem to establish themed puzzles throughout the game. First you'll find a simple puzzle, and a bit later on, you'll find it again with a new twist and throughout the temple, you'll continuously find this reoccurring formula as it evolves and becomes more complex, adding new elements each time you see it. The way this cycle stacks up is absolutely brilliant and there's usually more than one in each temple.

The overworld is enormous. It's not as big as, say, Oblivion, but a lot of people say it's on par with the size of Shadow of the Colossus, but I haven't played that. Hyrule field is about ten times larger than the one in OoT, and is contained in seven separate areas. The place is packed full of detail and it's swarming with enemies. The entire overworld can be passed by warping with Midna, but sometimes you'll ride across just for the sake of it. There are countless hidden areas and items in Twilight Princess. Finding them all isn't going to be easy and they will all benefit you in various ways.

The amount of side quests and activities is huge. After I finished the game I went back to find all of them and was pleasantly surprised. Want to go lure fishing? Go for it. Want to row down rapids shooting targets? Be my guest. Want to glide down into Lake Hylia on a Cuckoo? Go wild. There is simply so much stuff to do in Hyrule. Nintendo have really filled the game to the brim with content, it's delightful.

The story of Twilight Princess is also something that stands out. It blows away The Wind Waker, which previously held the title of best story in a Zelda game. It's full of twists, turns and the most memorable cast of characters in the series' history. The story is gloriously presented with professional cutscenes. Sure, you're not going to be seeing something on the scale of those interactive movies Square-Enix makes, but it's still good. It does suffer a bit from the “collect the X magic things” but I would rather a story built around gameplay rather than gameplay built around story.

In terms of visuals, the game is hard to explain. It was originally developed for the Gamecube, and it carries this across. Whilst the game has some beautiful particle effects, rich texturing, massive draw distances and high polygon counts, the Wii can obviously do more. But for what it is, the game has some stunning visuals. One of my favourite areas is the Fire Temple. It's full of lava and heat distortion with burning embers floating in the air and rich texturing on the rusty iron cages over the lave. It's a visual marvel. If the game looks this good on the Gamecube, I'm ready to tell Resident Evil 4 to move over.

Sound is a mixed bag though. The sound effects are strong, with crunchy footsteps, crisp weapon effects and the roaring and howling of helpless moblins. Mostly strong. The Music is varied, from the truly excellent themes (Lake Hylia, Final Boss, Hyrule Field, and Kakariko Village) to the downright annoying (Faron Woods, Ordon Village), Though my main complaint is that it is far too subtle, I really hoped for over dramatic epic themes but it doesn't seem to have happened. One of the most notable parts is the Twilight music. It's there, quietly screeching away on violins, it's quite and modest but at the same time so strangely beautiful. It fits the feeling of the Twilight so well, it's such a shame it's barely audible. In addition to this, many older themes are re-used and sampled, particularly in boss fights. Sometimes I'm like “Wow I remember that! It's the *X* from *X*!”

Overall, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is an excellently presented, epic adventure that can take between 30-40 hours to complete, and over 50 with sidequests. It's a worthy instalment to a timeless series that we've cherished for so long, and brings its new ideas and mechanics into the fray. Like every game, it's twisted the gameplay in its own way and breathed life into the franchise with the best dungeons the series has ever seen. It's been a long wait, but it's been worth it. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a masterpiece. It will be remembered for a long time, not because it disappointed, but because it lived up to the expectations. I really can't give it any other score.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 01/05/07


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