Review by ApolloXII
"Overhyped and underwhelming, but still a very good game"
Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. The name itself was able to incite waves of euphoria amongst Zelda fans. After all, it was hyped to be the biggest and greatest Zelda experience ever. And when that "ever" includes the masterpieces that were Ocarina of Time and A Link to the Past, that's really saying something.
So needless to say, the hype surrounding this game was enormous. Sadly though, Twilight Princess was unable to live up to that hype. It's a very good game, don't get me wrong, but it is not the greatest Zelda game of all time, let alone the greatest game of all time.
Twilight Princess is the Gamecube's swan song, and it does look the part. It is not quite on the same graphical level of Resident Evil 4, and I wouldn't say it is appreciably better looking than the Metroid Prime series games, but Twilight Princess is without a doubt one of the top-five best looking games on the 'cube. There are some technical issues such as jagged or rough textures, but the overall presentation is very well done. The art style is a perfect fit for the Zelda franchise, and the game is stylistically beautiful. This is the most realistic looking game in the series, and I commend Nintendo for their effort. Only a very discerning eye could find much fault with the graphical presentation of Twilight Princess.
If you are looking for a complex and engrossing story, then the Zelda franchise is not for you. For those familiar with this franchise, its the same basic premise where a young adventurer from humble and unlikely origins goes out to save Princess Zelda and the kingdom of Hyrule from evil and darkness (in this case Twilight). While I give Nintendo credit for creating a darker toned storyline, it is still very simple (there is a lot of ALttP involved) and the character development is lacking. Still, storytelling has never been Nintendo's strong suit so I won't hold it against them.
The music in this game is well done, by and large. While I would like more orchestrated fare for boss battles and cutscenes, there is nothing in Twilight Princess that I would consider poor. A lot of music is recycled from previous installments, but that is to be expected. Nintendo is just as nostalgic about their games as their consumers are. The new music in Twilight Princess is not as memorable as previous games, but there's nothing offensive to the ears and does not detract from the experience at all.
The sound effects are not very good, however. All the old stock-standard effects are back (treasure chest opening, rupee collecting, sword slashes, etc.), which is certainly acceptable. There's a reason why they are the standards. However, the voice aspects are horrible. Link is still as mute as ever, except for his generic battle cries. Nothing new there, that's the way it always goes. The rest of the characters are a joke in the audio department.
I understand why Nintendo chooses to convey their story through text rather than voice acting, but the effects used to imitate a character's "voice" are frankly insulting. Annoying giggles and laughs and cries and shouts are used, and they really do detract from the game's atmosphere. The postman and the minigame owner in Lake Hylia are especially bad.
Finally, the big one. I hold this aspect of the video game medium to a higher standard than any other category. Gameplay has always been the hallmark of the Zelda series, but the formula is wearing thin. Twilight Princess relies too much on the past successes of the series, and does not do enough to establish its own place in the mighty company of its predecessors. While there is some innovation, there's nothing there that would be considered revolutionary or redefining for the Zelda series or the action/adventure genre as a whole.
Controls/Combat engine: The same control setup and combat engine from Wind Waker makes a return here, with a little variation. There are a few new swordplay tricks to be discovered, and they make combat a lot more fun as a result. The very easy parrying system from Wind Waker has been toughened up as well, which is also an improvement. There are only two item slots available on the Gamecube version, which is an annoyance. I don't know why the Midna command (ever present) couldn't have been assigned to the d-pad in order to free up another item slot, but it is not that big of a deal. There isn't a lot of item switching involved in Twilight Princess in the first place, so the two slots work well enough.
Level Design: This has always been a great strength of the series, but I found the level design in Twilight Princess to be a great disappointment. Hyrule Field and the overall kingdom of Hyrule are bigger and more expansive than ever before, but I cannot help but feel that the space is wasted. There is very little to do within that open expanse, very little combat, and very few secrets to be found. The size of the world is only an obstacle when traveling from place to place, which shouldn't be the case. To help with this problem, Nintendo once again gave players an option to warp around the map. Eventually, you will warp exclusively to get around Hyrule, with the exception of opening new regions, which again brings up the question as to why the overworld is so large in the first place. Also, the overworld setup and size negatively impacts the importance of traveling by horse, since it is impractical compared to warping.
The dungeons are as good as ever, though, and this is great news. The standard concept is still there: map, compass, treasure, boss. Nintendo relied on some of the old themes early on, but the later dungeons are a nice change of pace. None of them are outrageously difficult, and none of them are ridiculously easy to complete either. You could argue that the later dungeons are easier than some of the earlier ones, but overall, a nice balance in difficulty exists as you progress through the games. The puzzles are traditional Zelda fare in terms of difficulty and variation, and are not a chore in any way. The puzzle solving and dungeon exploration aspects are the best part of Twilight Princess, and the most fun as well.
The town design in this game suffers, which I attribute to the shift in focus towards the overworld development. While Hyrule Castle Town is larger and bustling with more people than ever before, it feels like a ghost town because there is no interaction whatsoever with most of those characters. There is very little to do in that town. Kakariko Village makes its return as an actual ghost town. There aren't even a dozen people within that entire village, which again means very little for the player to do while there. Overall, you will not spend much time in the towns of Twilight Princess. And what time you do spend there will primarily focus on plot development or collection hunts. This time around the player can collect pieces of heart, poe souls, or golden insects for a spoiled, rich girl. There's little altruism in why you are collecting these things, and so there is less inititive to do so.
Innovation: A mixed bag, to say the least. But I'll talk about the good first. A good portion of the game is done in beast form, in this case a wolf. This change occurs whenever you are in the presence of the Twilight. The wolf gameplay is a great addition to the series, and it is a great change of pace compared to some of the more tired gameplay aspects. You have less control as a wolf, basically relegated to clawing and slashing and digging, but fortunately, it is not a hassle most of the time to be in this form. Unfortunately, I said most of the time. Early on in the game, in order to progress through each area, you have to do a little collection hunt to recapture the light that has been lost to the Twilight. While it gives the player familiarity to the area, it is unnecessary and contrary to the usual Zelda feel. A mini-dungeon would have been more appropriate, but there is no question it was easier to design and develop this part of the quest in the way presented in this game. Nevertheless, the wolf gameplay was a major selling point of the overall game, and not only does it not disappoint, but also feel as natural as human based gameplay.
Another new addition is horseback combat. Before, only the bow and arrow could be used while riding. Now, swordplay is an option. This aspect works very well, and the combat flows very naturally. Unfortunately, it isn't used up to its full potential because of the lack of necessity in horseback riding. There are spots where it is mandatory, but they are few and far between. It is unlikely a normal player would use this new combat form often other than in those circumstances.
There are a few new items that are introduced in Twilight Princess, as well as an old idea from Link's Awakening: item combinations. It'll be hard to go back if we can't use bomb arrows and double clawshots again, they are just that integral to the game and puzzle solving. Unfortunately, another flaw in the game design is item use and item distribution. Certain items have much more use than others, this is nothing new to the series, but there is a strong lack of balance in Twilight Princess. In most dungeons, you will acquire an item or weapon that only has use within that dungeon. Once you're done, it doesn't have anymore use, for the most case. The opposite of this are the clawshots. You will use the clawshots EVERYWHERE. It becomes natural instinct to try them first for any puzzle you come across, their use is that ubiquitous.
Overall, the new additions just do not have big enough impact on the rest of the game. Twilight Princess, for the most part, feels like any other of the 3D Zelda titles. That isn't a huge problem because those games were great gameplay-wise, but like I said before, the formula is getting tired. Nintendo had the option of mixing things up with this game. There are elements that exist here that could have produced a much different feeling Zelda game, but Nintendo played it safe and it shows. Not necessarily a bad thing yet, but something that will need to be addressed in the future.
Challenge and Replay Value: 7.5/10
The challenge level in Twilight Princess is not meant for an experienced gamer, especially one with experience in the Zelda series. Enemies rarely do any damage that would be considered life-threatening. Not even the bosses do anything really harmful. They look really cool and epic, but the actual fights don't back that up. The game is definitely on the easy side in terms of combat. The only challenge exists in the puzzle solving. In terms of replay value, this game will probably take anywhere from 30 to 50 hours to complete on the first playthrough. To get a perfect 100% completion, it could take anywhere from 40 to 60 or 70 hours depending on skill level.
Overall: 8.5/10, rounded to 8.0/10 for GameFAQs standards
Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a title of very high quality and tremendous fun. However, it was hyped to be something it is not, and that is perfect. This game has serious flaws throughout its design, flaws that must be taken into account even if the word Zelda is in the title. In fact, the high standards of the Zelda series hamper the overall feel of Twilight Princess. Its not an easy task to live up to, and this game does nothing exceptionally to separate itself from its predecessors. Twilight Princess is the spiritual sequel to Ocarina of Time, and the hype from this comparison does the game no favors. It would have been much better off as a stand-alone type of game, and not as a vehicle for nostalgia. It is time for the Zelda series to take another giant leap forward. Twilight Princess was really only a small step forward, but nevertheless, it is a very good game that any gamer would be mistaken to pass up.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 12/20/06
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