Review by anil8tion

"An exceptional game, but worth its salt as a Zelda title?"

In November of 2006, Nintendo released one of the most highly anticipated games of all time, the next installment in the Legend of Zelda series: Twilight Princess. The game has been well received by fans, critics and even people who aren't really fanatics of the series.

Of course, this game was for Nintendo's new system, the Wii. A Gamecube version was released a month later with a few differences in version, being the obvious control scheme difference, however the game worlds are also mirror images of one another, with the Gamecube having the original left-handed Link game world and the Wii having the mirror image.

Despite its generally warm reception, many fans feel as though there are a few inexplicable feelings so to speak, that the game does not truly feel like a Zelda game should, even though it follows a very classic Zelda formula of gameplay. I am one of these people, and I'm going to attempt to give an unbiased review making these points of the game many of us have been waiting over 2 years to get their hands on.

Gameplay: 8/10

The Gameplay in Twilight Princess is exceptional, and stays true to the Zelda franchise. You quest in dungeons, you defeat huge bosses, you collect odd items. The gameplay is as solid as I've ever seen it in a Zelda game, and all the dungeons and bosses have exceptional design.

Combat is the best implementation of swordplay we have seen yet in a Zelda title and Hidden Skills dotted throughout Hyrule only make it sweeter (although a slightly annoying thing about these hidden skills, it seemed like for many of them you were merely learning what you began the game with in Wind Waker)

My one complaint about combat is the implementation of Auto-Shield, whereby whilst holding L to target enemies as you have always been able to do in 3D Zelda games, Link now holds his shield up automatically, without you needing to press any additional buttons to do so. While this is helpful and you quickly forget about it, it removes a layer of depth previous Zelda combat had before.

The game's new feature, the ability for Link to become a wolf, offers a variety of new gameplay options, such as being able to use wolf senses to pick up scent trails and follow them to your next objective. While Wolf Link is a nice addition, it feels unnecessary, it doesn't feel as though Wolf Link was critical in the flow of the gameplay, but rather just tacked on as a gimmick. In the end, Wolf Link serves as not much more than a plot device, rather than a critical gameplay mechanic, and because this was the game's attempt at a gimmick, it does nothing but make the game feel even more generic.

Regarding my score for this section, despite the gameplay being exceptional, I removed some points for a couple of reasons. First off, this game is easy. Really easy. This is one of the largest complaints I have about the game, and I almost considered taking 2 points off for this. I don't mean that the game is short, but that it is difficult to find a challenge in this game. There are a few remotely challenging portions, but it does not make up for an entire playthrough of easiness. The game is beautiful, but while it has all the style, it does not have the substance to back it up. No matter how ridiculously huge that boss is, you aren't going to feel threatened by it.

The other point I removed because the dungeons, while Zelda-ish, are almost too formulaic. Every dungeon follows an identical formula, enter the dungeon, kill the miniboss, collect the dungeon's secret item, use the item to find the key to the boss, and then use the item to defeat the boss. This formula never changes, throughout the entire game. It's to the point where I believe that you could swap the layout of 2 different dungeons, change the art direction for each to match the surroundings and no one would think "this dungeon feels out of place". To this extent, it makes the game feel a bit generic.

Graphics: 9/10

The graphics in this game are without a doubt quite beautiful, giving us the most realistic interpretation of the Zelda universe yet. Many are spoiled by some of the more powerful next-gen systems, but the beauty of this game remains true, especially considering the system that it's on.

I have two complaints about the graphics in this game. First, there was no real art direction, it felt like they didn't want to particularly go anywhere with the graphics in this game, they just wanted to make it as realistic as possible. Art direction in a game can mean the difference between an average score and an excellent score, as art direction can do so much for a game. However, it feels like the graphics department of Twilight Princess did not even have a director. Realistic is nice, but it does nothing for the atmosphere of the game if you do not give it its on unique perks, so the game yet again, begins to feel generic.

Secondly, there seemed to be an overuse of bloom lighting in the game. While this is obviously intended an exaggerated in some portions of the game, If you instantly make the switch from nearly any other game with sharp graphics to this one, your eyes will bleed. A good way into the game, I was still fiddling with my graphical settings, trying to find a decent level of brightness and contrast. I also had to maximise the sharpness on my TV to make the game bearable.

So I fixed it, so why am I complaining? My question is "why?" It feels like the developers intentionally made the game as blurry as possible so as to cover up their tiny mistakes like jagged edges and make the game feel more advanced graphically than it really is. Next time, I hope the game is sharp enough that I don't have to mess around with my TV settings for hours to get it right. -0.5 of a point.

Story and Setting: 5/10

Do not misinterpret this score as a "bad score". The fact that I have given it a 5/10 means I think it is average, which it is.

The Story of Twilight Princess is a simple yet effective one, very similar to other Zelda titles. Land in peril, ultimate evil, hero sent to save the world. Pretty basic stuff. However there are a couple of things that bother me to no end about the Story and Atmosphere of the game.

Point 1. Shortly into the game you are introduced to the Twilight Realm, a dark, bloom lighting-filled and rather ominous shadow of a forgotten world that is threatening to devour Hyrule whole. People are turned into spirits, and monsters crawl all over the land. It's up to Link now turned wolf to save the people trapped in the realm (who cannot see Link and are permanently in fear of the monsters) and free Hyrule of its dark shadow.

Sounds pretty cool, right? Makes a great story, and the Twilight Realm as described above provides an excellent atmosphere for the game, you get a sense of fear and hopelessness whilst in this Realm. This would all be the case If the Twilight Realm doesn't completely disappear only a short while into the game. Wow, that was easy. So the Twilight Realm is gone, and you're now permanently in the regular overworld. How boring. What could have been an excellent atmospheric addition to the game is completely diminished only a short time into the story, bringing on a wave of, yep, you guessed it, genericalness.

What does this mean? It means the game has no atmosphere. None. Realistic graphics and night-time does not make atmosphere. You don't get a sense of anything really. In fact the world doesn't seem like it's in that much peril, yet you're still saving it.

Point 2. This one is a doozy, I better present you with a bit of background.

Every Zelda game that I've played so far has followed the story of only one character. Link. Everyone's favourite tunic-wearing, heroic elf boy. It's about Link's destiny, Link's journey and Link's struggle against evil in a bid to save the world. And you play Link. You play the hero himself, and that is the entire point of the game.

Twilight Princess creates an extra dimension. After being violently yanked into the Twilight Realm by a shadow being, Link awakes to find himself in a prison cell and a Wolf's body. Here he meets Midna, an imp-like creature who agrees to help out Link in exchange for doing exactly what she says. She promptly mounts Link's wolf body and puts him on a need-to-know basis on who she is, where they are and what is going on. Midna serves as Link's "helper", similar to Navi from OoT.

Nintendo have never put this much effort into a secondary character, and they go too far. All of a sudden it isn't Link's adventure anymore, it's Midna's, and all Link can do is bend to her every will due to his good nature. This remains true for the entire game. Midna dominates the entire plot as well as any conversation. Even when Link is in human form and Midna is hiding in his shadow, any action Link takes feels like nothing more than an extension of Midna's will. Enemies are no longer addressing Link, but Midna, leaving Link feeling almost like a lackey or even just a bodyguard.

Sure Link has his own storyline, he's the Hero after all. But what is his role as the Hero in Twilight Princess? To further the storyline of Midna and her arch-enemy, the evil Zant. This is all there is to it. Link is merely the vessel that you play as in order to follow the story of Midna. You are no longer the main character, Midna is. Twilight Princess is essentially played in Second Person.

What does this do for the game? It makes any character or significant item relating to the Zelda franchise (i.e. Link, Zelda or the Master Sword) feel almost forced into Twilight Princess for nothing more than to give the game the title of "Legend of Zelda" and subsequently make Nintendo millions of dollars.

Truthfully, the plot is pretty captivating, but the principle on which they founded this story bothers me to the point where this doesn't even feel like a real Zelda game, and rather "Action Adventure Game #32345" which just happens to include Zelda characters and items.

Who knows, you might like being cast into the background while a supposed secondary character takes the spotlight, however for a Zelda game I find it highly inappropriate, especially since I doubt that we will see the return of Midna. In the end, what does this oddball storyline and character add to the Zelda series and overall timeline? Nothing. Nothing at all.

Controls and User Interface: 9/10

There really isn't much to be said here, the controls are very similar to the other 3D Zeldas available at the moment. The main difference between this game and The Wind Waker is that the start menu has been reduced in size yet again (There were four menus in OoT) to make it a single collection Menu, showcasing all the "extra" items you get that you do not directly bind to buttons.

The items that you do bind to buttons are acquired using up on the D-pad, a feature which can take quite some time to get used to.

My only complaint is that instead of being able to bind three items to buttons (Y, X and Z) now you are only given two, Y and X, whilst Z is the "talk to Midna" button. While this slightly annoying, you realise that the ability to talk to Midna is required often, so even if that ability was given in the form of an item, it would still be bound to your buttons most of the time.

Sound and Music: 7/10

This score I'v given for the sound and music reflects the fact that the soundtrack is decent, and even pleasant to listen to. You aren't going to be turning the sound off in any way, and as far as I can remember, no music felt out of place or even bad.

However, even though I am comparing this to one of the greatest game soundtracks ever (being Ocarina of Time), this game has a distinct lack of memorable Zelda tunes we have all come to know and love so much, even despite the fact that Koji Kondo was the music director. There are a few truly memorable tracks in the game, however the majority feel like nothing more than filler in the face of pretty much every other 3D Zelda's soundtrack. Slightly disappointing, as sound can help infinitely when it comes to setting an appropriate atmosphere, which this game sorely needs.

My other problem is that a surprisingly large amount of the music in this game is either remixed or taken directly from Ocarina of Time. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, however I am disappointed at this due to the lack of effort that seemed to be put into the soundtrack. Were they trying to create feelings of nostalgia? Because it does not do that either. When I hear the re-used Goron City theme whilst walking about Death Mountain, I do not hear the familiar tune that I love, all I hear is wasted potential.

Replayability and Longevity: 7/10

I'm going to be honest with you here, you know all those guys that promised a 70-100 hour Zelda adventure with Twilight Princess? Well, they were lying.

An ordinary GameFAQs resident will probably beat this game in about 30-40 hours with no guides or walkthroughs. This is actually quite impressive for this genre of game, usually offering only 15-25 or so hours, however it is still a gigantic oversight by both developers and reviewers. When a time estimate for a game is given, one has to assume that they refer to only the main story and no additional sidequests (although doing the sidequests in this game will only net you about 10-15 additional hours), otherwise some games like Mario would have thousands of hours of gameplay because you did not collect every coin in every level.

While 35 hours is still rather healthy for a Zelda title, it's disappointing that the developers whilst estimating the length of this game, decided to give a time estimate for "players with no thumbs".

In terms of replayability, it's really entirely up to you. You may want to play the game over just to re-experience the superb dungeon design, or perhaps the story was enough for you. Nothing in this game is missable, so there is no need to play again to go for a 100% run.

Overall: 7/10

Despite all the hurtful things I have said about this game, this really is an exceptional title, my review only comes off as negative because I don't feel a need to inform about the positive parts of the game for more than a few lines of text.

In terms of raw gameplay, this is one of the best Zelda games yet, and dungeon, boss and enemy design are all superb and creative. I highly recommend you play through this game at least once, even if you only rent it, as the gameplay alone is enough to make it a classic title.

However, what this game lacks is a soul, that eerie charm you get whenever you go on a brand new adventure to save the world as the hero that transcends history. And for that, I don't think I will ever think as highly of this game as I do any other Zelda title.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 01/02/07

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