"Nintendo comes through with the Gamecube's crowning achievement."

Of Nintendo's flagship game series, perhaps the most traditional and most beloved is the Legend of Zelda. While one would be exaggerating to call the series “innovative” at this point, the combination of a strong adventure aspect and sheer technical brilliance has kept it popular. At long last, the spiritual successor to the classic Ocarina of Time is here, and it's an honest winner.

The story for Twilight Princess is one of the better ones seen in the series. Elvish hero Link, who in this game hails from the quiet Ordona Village, is just about to deliver a certain package to Hyrule Castle in the capital city when a group of mysterious monsters attacks him and kidnaps his friend. In pursuit of the attackers, he stumbles upon an area of the world covered by the Twilight, a parallel dimension that has covered most of the land and is still spreading. In this mysterious realm, he is transformed into a wolf and is soon imprisoned at Hyrule Castle. It is here that he meets an impish creature named Midna, who offers to help him escape in return for assistance. Soon after, Link and Midna inevitably get caught up in quest to restore the realm of Light and defeat whoever it was that brought the Twilight there. While the overarching story is fresh and generally entertaining, a large portion of the objectives undertaken to progress this story are practically identical to those found in Ocarina of Time. The structure of the world itself is also essentially that of OoT on a bigger scale. While this isn't really a problem if you're new to the series, fans looking for an entirely new set of tasks might find themselves disappointed.

Gameplay has always been the solid strong suit of Zelda games, and this is very evident in this game. Playing as Link, you take sword and shield in hand and cut down the motley gang of trolls, reptiles, and the variety of other dark creatures that make the mistake of crossing your path. Aside from the basic swordplay maneuvers like the spinning and jumping slice attacks, Link also gains access to some new moves as the game progresses, like a killing blow for downed foes and moves designed especially for heavily armored enemies. Beyond the sword, Link also acquires an extensive array of other tools to aid in his exploration and combat ventures, ranging from a simple bow and arrow to more exotic trinkets like a spinning top that Link uses to ride along special walls. While Link can travel on foot, the fastest method of exploration is by horseback, and Epona makes a return appearance in this game as Link's personal mount. Perhaps the most original concept seen in this game is Link's wolf form, which plays considerably differently from his human form. While you can't access anything from our inventory while this form, it is much faster and more agile, as Link uses his fangs and claws to fight rather than his sword. The wolf form also can heighten its senses to detect specific scents and normally invisible enemies within a small area around it, and can also dig the ground in certain spots. Dungeons, like the world, carry very similar themes to OoT, and the method to besting them and their guardian bosses will feel familiar (and potentially boring and easy) to those familiar with the series. As per series standards, there is also a large list of extra things to do in the world beyond the plot-required events, such as fishing, heart piece hunting (to increase Link's maximum health), item stock optimization (bigger wallet, bigger arrow quiver, etc), and several minigames. Perhaps the only flaw to in the system is the fact that the targeting system can still not quite as responsive as it could be and its range of use is extremely limited.

While TP is indeed one of the prettier games the Gamecube has seen, the heart of its visual appeal lies in its art direction. The landscape is nothing short of breathtaking, and the environments (both in the overworld and within dungeons) are incredibly diverse. An interesting little trick that the game employs to help enhance the appreciation toward the scenery of the light realm is its stark contrast to the monochrome world of Twilight, which is considerably less pleasant to look upon and subtly drives the player to want the restoration of light to a given area. Soundwise, the game is good, though nothing overly special. The lack of creativity rears its ugly head here as well, as many of the themes are either ripped directly from OoT or closely derived from it. Another nagging point for some gamers is the lack of voice acting. While this is undoubtedly done on purpose to give the game a more nostalgic feel (as if it needed more of that), I think at this point the added theatrical effect of English voiceovers outweighs nostalgia or the novelty of being able to name the main character something other than the default Link.

It may not be the most original game ever made, but when seen as its own game Twilight Princess is undoubtedly one of the most epic and well made games in recent memory, sticking with a proven formula of success that Nintendo has been so good at refining over the years. For Gamecube owners, this is the last flicker of life for a console that has had a bumpy ride, but I would be hard pressed to find a better note to go out on.

STORY – 9/10
GAMEPLAY – 10/10
VISUALS – 10/10
SOUND – 7/10
SWING – 9/10

OVERALL – 9/10

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 01/10/07

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