Review by Lock and Chain

"Quite possibly the best overall game in the Zelda series."

Finally, the true sequel to Ocarina of Time has arrived. Nintendo put us through a lot. We had to deal with pesky apocalypse countdown timers, repeatedly adjusting the wind for an annoying premise stolen from Waterworld, and searching for 3 willing friends who all had the money for a Gameboy Advance and a controller link cable. But after the years of wait, here it is, free of any significant handicaps to your enjoyment that were placed in the name of creativity.

Gameplay: 5 out of 5
Don't expect this game to "revolutionize" the Zelda series. If you weren't a fan of Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, or Wind Waker, you're not gonna like this one either. But the basic formula for a 3D Zelda hasn't needed fixing, and so this one is just another spin on that style. Twilight Princess, however, unarguably delivers the best 3D Zelda game to date, and even rivals many of the classic ones. This is quite possibly the best game in the series.

For those new to Zelda, the game is an action/adventure with some elements of a puzzle game mixed in. You travel from dungeon to dungeon making use of an incredibly large arsenal of weapons and tools (Twilight Princess has the most variety of items in any Zelda game yet) for defeating enemies and bosses, solving puzzles to unlock the next room, finding hidden treasure, and traveling about in unique ways.

Almost all of the classic items are still intact. You'll have your trusty bow, bombs, slingshot, hookshot (though its now called a clawshot and latches onto different surfaces), etc. But you also have a few neat new things to add to your weaponry, as well as new uses for the items that were already around before Twilight Princess. My personal favorite happens to be the ball and chain that the dungeon guards from LttP wielded. Beating up Moblins with that thing is incredibly fun.

A great new element that has been added in to the game is the system for horseback combat. You can use your bow on horseback as usual, and also get a sniper-like scope to add on to it early on. You can now draw your sword as well while on horseback, and groups of enemies riding on boars will attempt to raid you as you pass through their territory. You'll even get a few chances to joust with the Moblins' head honcho.

Swordplay is much more in-depth in Twilight Princess. You can now acquire many new swordfighting skills such as a finisher dive and a shield strike. There's a total of seven unique acquired skills, and you also have a handful of new basic attacks such as a forward strike out of a roll. Oh, and Link can taunt.

As always, a new premise has been thrown into the game. This one is will not leave you with an aneurysm, however. The idea is that Link must transform into a wolf while within the "twilight," a dark-world version of Hyrule. The wolf retains Link's L-targeting abilities and acrobatics, and uses bites rather than a sword as his weapon. You lose the ability to use any special items, but in turn gain heightened senses that allow you to see invisible enemies and secret passages. As the game progresses, you clear away the twilight and eventually gain the ability to transform between wolf and human at will.

Story: 4 out of 5
The storywriters have really outdone themselves this time. While previous Zeldas have had lame or nearly nonexistent stories, this one is actually very well done. No more just save the princess(es). Many mysteries are revealed as the game progresses and the character development is definitely noticeable.

There's a whole lot of connections to be made with the story of Ocarina of Time, as this game is set just a couple decades after the events of that game. I highly recommend that you play OoT before Twilight Princess to get the full effect of the story.

Now, this story is not the greatest ever. Twilight Princess can't hold a candle to many other games story-wise. But what it has is actually quite impressive and intricate. And of course, it's filled with a ton of memorable and unique characters.

Difficulty: 1 out of 5
Okay, this is pissing me off. One category that the Zelda series has repeatedly tripped up on, ever since every game made after Link to the Past, is the difficulty. The only actual challenges come from the puzzles, not the fighting. This game just is way too damn easy. Nintendo's just plain given up on the traditional death counter on your save file at this point. There's absolutely no penalty for dying other than the minor inconvenience of being sent back to either the dungeon entrance or the last door you walked through.

However, the truly difficult part is actually managing to die. The enemies have no resiliency whatsoever, but Link on the other hand seems capable of getting hit by a train, or taking several shotgun shells to the face. Even bosses do very little damage. You have this amazing variety of weapons and moves at your hands, but there's really no chance to use them all because almost all your enemies will be killed in one or two swings of your sword. Most combos require no talent other than repeatedly pushing the B button, and in your wolf form, you actually have an attack that instantly kills all enemies around you. In a few places, you'll get rushed by as many as 10-20 enemies at once, but even in swarms they don't stand a chance of so much as halving your energy.

Many of the bosses are just jokes. Their attacks are ridiculously easy to dodge and don't do nearly enough damage (the fairy-in-a-bottle advantage certainly doesn't help), and as soon as you discover their weak point, it only takes a few blows to take them down.

Graphics 5 out of 5
The graphics for this game are absolutely stunning. I was not even aware that the Gamecube was capable of such beautiful, detailed, and expansive environments and characters. What's amazing is that although the new Hyrule is staggeringly massive, precise attention to detail has been taken. Every room is unique, and nothing is too small for a graphics designer to half-ass it. Twilight Princess' graphics are no less impressive than most games on the 360, and the Wii has yet to produce any games as well done as this one in regards to graphics (the Wii and Gamecube versions don't look noticeably different). As for you PS3 owners...I have yet to find anyone as rich as you, so I can't make a fair comparison. For sure, though, this game is definitely a cut above most games available for its generation of systems.

The world is what stands out about this game. It's unbelievably huge, and at many times is actually somewhat overwhelming. Until you gain the ability to teleport much later on in the game, you'll be spending a whole lot of time traveling from place to place, even with a horse, or a boar that you jacked from a Moblin. There are now several Hyrule fields, each one just as big as the original field from OoT.

Replayability & Length: 4 out of 5
Twilight Princess does something totally unexpected for the action/adventure genre. It makes a game that'll last you a really, really long time. Even for a Zelda game, this is looooong. Some sources claim that the game takes between 30 and 40 hours to complete. But you'll especially be spending a whole lot more time if you plan on collecting all the hidden items and taking the time to just visit the many locales and talk to everyone there. It took me 65. The result is that this game feels less like the average action/adventure game where you're finished with it by the time your 1-week rental expires, and instead more fulfilling, more like a good RPG.

Previous Zeldas have disappointed with their lack of dungeons. I was afraid for some time that Twilight Princess was going to take a page out of Majora's Mask and give you a measly four dungeons. But then suddenly you're slapped with 7 of them, as well as an 8th optional dungeon that certainly exceeds expectations.

It's very easy to become consumed by Twilight Princess – if you take a week off of work/school and instead of having a life just play it for seven hours a day, you'll still find that there's so much to do, that you'll spend days and days in front of the TV. You don't have to be willing to waste away in front of the TV all day, though. You can save at any time and pick up right where you left off (unless you're in a dungeon, but halfway through it, you should find an item that allows you to teleport back to where you were).

You actually now need 5 pieces of heart to get a completed heart. Which means lots more heart-hunting. But to make up for this, they've actually added something that gives you hints as to where all the hearts are located.

Now as expected, once it's over, it's over. You can start a new game but it's not gonna be any different from the first one. The positive side is that the game is probably not going to be over for a really long time if you decide to accomplish every sidequest and secondary goal that it has to offer.

Control: 4 out of 5
You can expect the same controls that you had for Wind Waker and Master Quest, and if you didn't play either, you'll master it in five minutes, tops. And you won't ever fail a minigame on the first try because of the controls. You have a does-all action button, a sword button, and two, yes two, item slots. Some people hate that they've lost their precious Z button item slot, I couldn't care less. And no, there is no damn jump button. The automatic jump works perfectly fine.

The camera is fully controllable with the C-stick and never gets stuck on walls or at weird angles. It flows around you completely flawlessly and recentering it behind you is done with a tap of the L button. You'll extremely rarely, if ever, see the ugliness of the inside of an object, or a character's arm disappearing into a wall they're standing next to. I think the term for it is "collision detection." Whatever the hell it is, it's really good.

The neatest thing about the controls now is the addition of many new special moves. There's a lot more emphasis on the swordplay, which is a shame because you never face enemies that can take a beating enough for you to show it all off. Nearly every one of these new special moves has been taken from Link's cameo in Soul Calibur II, only now they're ten times easier to perform. Regardless, they look badass. If only you had more opportunities to use them...

So, why not a five? Well, because the Wii version is more fun. To fish in this version, you just hold back on the C-stick when you snag something, no work at all. And you can tell that a lot of challenges that were meant for the Wiimote are lazily transitioned into this version and made significantly easier in the process.

Sound & Music: 3 out of 5
Both the sound and the music for this game feel incredibly standard. It's not that good, but it certainly isn't bad either. A sword clank sounds like a sword clank, running water like running water. You might recognize most of the sounds as ripped straight from previous Zelda games.

The music isn't that memorable, but it always fits the ambiance and gets the job done. There's the occasional callback to a previous Zelda's music, but it's not enough, and they don't play enough or any of the songs that were really good. Some of the music is pretty well done, though. The boss music, for example, is definitely catchy and fitting. It also occasionally changes from boss to boss to fit the situation. And there's this one song that plays when you enter a store called Malo Mart after you've completed a quest for the owner...I can't get enough of that song.

And what's with the lack of voice acting? At least for the important cutscenes, they could've included something. There is absolutely no talking other than the occasional hums or yelps to help accompany the written dialogue. These character voice sounds are very unique to the Zelda series, but they're just not enough anymore. By today's standards, a complete lack of voice acting is a very weak point that results from plain laziness on the creators'. Be prepared for a whole lot of reading.

Final Recommendation: Definitely a must-buy.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 01/09/07

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