Review by OmegaOpt5
The Mystic Charm of Zelda
The Legend of Zelda holds a special place for this reviewer as it was the very first game that got me hooked on video games. The very first title in the series was a fixture in my life for months when I was much younger. The series has improved in various ways through each new installment, and of course has had its stumblings as have almost all series. The latest entry, Twilight Princess, had heavy expectations to carry. Has it carried the weight?
**Please note this is a Gamecube only review, though I have played both versions**
Graphics and Presentation
There is very little fault to find in the graphics and presentation of the Twilight Princess. Other than Resident Evil 4, you really won't find a more impressive looking game on the Cube. The visuals are truly at the peek of the Gamecube's faculty. The world in which Link and Minda find themselves is both effective in its absorption and impressive in surprising you now and then by another breathtaking view or interesting twist. The lighting is something that stood out remarkably. Navigating hollow caves and darkened rooms requires the use of the lantern (and oil). Gone are the old days of a surreal bubble of light around your pint sized adventurer. The organic nature of the lantern's surrounding light is beautiful. Having played and enjoyed Wind Waker, I felt that particular visual style was more suited to future Zelda titles (even if Ocarina was perfectly suited to its visual style). I was wrong on that aspect. Nintendo seems to succeed with these games regardless of the visual style. I would like to see another Wind Waker, however I will be perfectly happy to see another Twilight Princess in the future. Both styles can craft a truly beautiful visual experience and I can't really choose one over the other.
The story for the Zelda has been recycled time and again, but that is what makes the series almost timeless. Thankfully, each successive story has had its minor variations which keep things interesting enough along the way. The Twilight Princess has its moments and was definitely on par with Wind Waker in this category.
As with the story, the basic nature of the gameplay for Zelda has remained the same with moderate variations on execution. The same holds true for the Twilight Princess. Several dungeons, a boss at the end of each, a master sword thrown in there somewhere, and an excellent lock-on system are present. The combat is somewhat recycled from Wind Waker, which is a good thing, however the counter system has been almost entirely removed. Combat against heavily armored enemies and bosses still requires timing, patience, and speed, however this is perhaps the easiest of the latest Zelda games. Though you can play smart, it is really not required, as there are only a handful of moderately difficult enemies and bosses in the game. I can count the number of foes that gave me any more than a few seconds of consideration on one hand. The dungeon bosses each require the most out of your repertoire of abilities and items, but there are few that require much thought or planning. The hidden abilities found throughout the game are useful, but I feel more could have been done with each. The dungeons themselves are either midly interesting, annoying runarounds, or truly remarkable in design. It is unfortunate that the same amount of thought had not been extended to each as some are ingenious and entertaining, while others I simply wanted to finish as quickly as possible. Other dungeons, such as the Temple of Time, offer some of the best in presentation and hint at something remarkable in scope, but falter in execution. The items picked up along the way in each dungeon contribute little beyond their initial use and some almost never beyond the dungeon in which they were intented. Another unfortunate decision, as some are interesting and fresh new additions that add some variety to the old lineup.
The outside world of the Twilight Princess holds up with the best of the series, however the dungeon design falls a little flat in most cases. This was perhaps the most disappointing part of the game.
Music and Sound
Again, another category that has kept its basic flow, only changed in its variations and mixes over the years. There are some haunting little melodies here that capture the ear, as well as some very interesting alterations on past themes. The final boss battle theme is surprisingly captivating, even if the final boss is underwhelming in skill assessment. There is just not much to celebrate here though as this aspect has been done better in previous entries.
Extras and Replay
There has never been much in the way of extras for a Zelda game, but this category is important to many people. Two collecting quests make up the bulk of the extra gameplay time and offer little in return. The bug collecting quest nets you bigger wallets, which turns out to be of very little use. Perhaps if the game had been more difficult, then purchasing potions would have been more of a priority and in turn having more rupees would make much more sense. The Poe collecting quest is a little more useful as it is the only way to get one of the all important bottles. Heart collecting is a returning staple of the series, though it is of little use given the game's easy difficulty.
The fishing mini-game warrants special attention as it is arguably the most entertaining diversion and in my opinion much more entertaining than the fishing mini-games found in other Zelda titles. With a bobber rod and simple hook lure, Link can fish in any spot in Hyrule. Lake Hylia is where the real fishing action exists. The moderately sized lagoon (much larger than Ocarina's) is home to the actual fishing game in which different types of lures can be used with a reeling rod. Several different fish can be caught with either the bobber or the reel in this area (a bottle is here as well!). There is also a story quest that allows you to get a new and more useful hook for your fishing needs. There are also some hidden lures that take some time and patience to acquire as well and offer some new quirks to the game. Those with a WII will probably have the most fun at this (try to get that frog lure though, steady hands :)).
There are enough extras to keep you playing beyond the main adventure, but nothing other than the fishing game that is truly well done or addictive.
I once wrote in another review that Zelda has successfully captured what makes fantasy of this form entertaining: the sense of adventure and the alluring nature of another time and place where anything is possible. I would like to say that the Twilight Princess continues this tradition, but it falls just short. There is still magic there to make you smile every so often, but most of it is lost in the more predictable and prosaic events and tasks layed out before the player in this game. This doesn't make the Twilight Princess a game to avoid. If you have never experienced this series before or adored Wind Waker, there is a beautiful adventure awaiting here. If you are looking for the next 'Link to the Past' or 'Ocarina of Time', the Twilight Princess simply falls a bit short on mystic charm.
Final Score: 8/10 (Rounded Up from 7.5)
Rating: 4.0 - Great
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