Review by JPtheGreat

"The best game I have played in a very long time"

Twilight Princess was incredible. There, I said it. It was an incredible game. It was so incredible, in fact, that I am at a loss for words when I see negative reviews for this game. Some reviews make it seem that the flaws of this game are so great and many that they block out the sun and leave a smouldering waste of a game in its ashes.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

For me, the graphics are amazing. Absolutely amazing. When I first turned on the game and watched the intro movie, I said, ‘Wow, are those in-game graphics?' And they were. I have not seen such a richly rendered world in a long time. The water is breathtaking. You see ripples when you throw a rock in, and the sunlight bounces across the surface, sparkling ever on. Breathtaking. Grass sways in the wind, clouds cross the sky, sunsets blaze into a dark starry night. Hyrule has never looked better.

Epona is as close to a real horse as you can put in a videogame. She moves, talks and rides in perfect life-like form. The other non-NPC characters are also life-like -- with the exception of the faces. When I first gazed on ‘Collin,' I thought his face was a malformed imp. No, that was just his normal face. However, though cartoony and out of place in a realistic world, they are surprisingly appealing. It is sort of like FF7 graphics: at first, you just stare in dumbfound amazement at a group of hovering purple polygons, but as you get used to it, you see a human being. It is the same here: the longer you immerse yourself in Twilight Princess, the more at home you feel. The faces work, despite first impressions.

For comparisons sake, FF12 is considered the pinnacle of PS2 graphics by many. Twilight Princess makes FF12 look average in every respect.

Musically, the game is a mixed bag of old favourites. Indeed, it seems most of the Ocarina of Time soundtrack can be found in Twilight Princess, usually reworked in someway. This is not a bad thing (OoT had brilliant music) but it isn't a perfect solution. There are few tracks that are original and memorable, and that tarnished the game, really. Everyone knows what OoT sounds like; what does Twilight Princess sound like? That is a hard question to answer.

Of course, there is only one place that had music that I couldn't stand; the game is very pleasing to the ears.

One thing I have noticed is a complaint about voice acting: namely, there is none. Now, when a game DOES have voice acting (Final Fantasy comes to mind), there are legions of fans saying that voice acting is terrible and ruins the experience. And here, where there is no voice acting, it is said that voice acting would have improved the overall product. Besides the obvious contradiction, I will simply say that this game does not need voice acting; VA is used to improve presentation, and that is not needed.

There is, I suppose, a form of pseudo-voice acting. Twilight Princess's form of Navi the fairy speaks gibberish whenever she has something to say. This has the potential to be annoying, but I enjoyed it. Conversely, if she had a real voice, it would be horrible. Imagine if Navi physically spoke every word she ever said? It would be infuriating, and the same thing here. Nevertheless, it is a risky move, but it is not a reason to hang game if you don't like it. This reviewer found it, if not enjoyable, then easily bearable.

The last sound related ‘problem' I barely understand. You see, Link doesn't say a word. Indeed, he hasn't said word in his nearly 20 year career, with the exception of various grunts, groans and screams as he falls off a bottomless cliff. And without saying a word he has saved the world a half dozen times now. And virtually every one of those games is considered a masterpiece, or at least very, very good. But here, now, Link is seemed as ‘shallow' and ‘undeveloped' because he doesn't speak.

I shall return to this point in a second. But first, if you have ever played a Zelda game before, you are apt to know how immersive the gameplay is. You walk around in almost complete freedom, free to go anywhere and do anything. The world is in the palm of your hand, your to explore. And it feels great to uncover those hidden things, those secret canyons. The strength of The Legend of Zelda is and always will be the flawless controls and the complete, total freedom it gives. As such, you are given the impression that YOU really are Link.

This is where the ‘silent protagonist' comes in. A silent protagonist is someone like Link: a main character that is player controlled and never says a word. This is to give the impression that the Player really is that character, and it sort of does. Indeed, some of the greatest games of all-time use the silent protagonist (Zelda, Dragon Warrior/Quest, Chrono Trigger). When it is done well, it completely elevates the rest of the game. That is the case here and in every other Zelda game.

As Zelda has evolved, there was been a gradual introduction of story. But every game is essentially the same: you collect various items in various dungeons that increase in difficulty and complexity. You do this to save the world. Up to Majora's Mask, that was the story of every Zelda game. Majora's Mask introduced a whole new world and with it a multitude of short stories inside the bigger story, which was still explore the various dungeons and then save the world. Twilight Princess is an attempt to add a compelling story to the reason WHY you explore all the dungeons to save the world.

I will not pass judgement on the story, and I will not spoil anything. I will say that this was more interesting and thought-provoking that previous entries, and it was noticeable less happy-go-lucky. There was also considerably less freedom: you could not explore the entire world map in the beginning because that would not make sense story-wise. There was more linearity imposed on Link than ever before.

To make a compelling story, some freedom was sacrificed. And the great strength of Zelda is the freedom and the gameplay. This is why this game is questioned, ‘Is this Zelda?'

I will just say that I enjoyed the story. I didn't love, I didn't hate, but I enjoyed it. And it did enhance the experience of exploring Hyrule.

I feel I also should comment on the difficulty level. I am but a gamer of average skill, and I did not use a player's guide of any sort (though I plan to use one on my next playthrough, to see what I missed and to fully explore every nook and cranny). I found some battles to be quite tough. I found about half of the boss fights ridiculously easy. Especially the first boss, which seemed incapable of hurting anyone with half a brain and reflexes faster than a comatose sloth. I found other bosses ridiculous in that their weak point was obscure and required many hints and a multitude of guessing. And I found a couple that were incredibly fun to face, and I relish the chance to do it again.

In terms of dungeons, I am mildly disappointed at the ease in which I beat most of them. I beat the second dungeon in a single try. I want to say this is the easiest Zelda I have played, but I must hold my tongue. With the exception of the Water Temple, OoT was also fairly easy. In Majora's Mask, getting to the temples was harder to figure out than the temples themselves (I found the last temple in particular too easy). A Link to the Past was incredible but also offered little difficulty on the whole.

Being an older and more experience gamer now then when I played those past games, it should be no surprise that I could figure out the puzzles faster. However, I am worried: Nintendo is gaining a reputation as marketing more towards the younger audience. It would be a sad blow if that trend continued to the point where all of Nintendo's games are for young, inexperienced gamers and offer no challenge to long time veterans. I pray that I am paranoid.

If you have not played Twilight Princess, you are missing a great game, a game that I currently adore. It lasted 40 hours and I enjoyed all but one of them, in which I was in the final hall of the final dungeon and couldn't figure out how to cross a crumbling staircase and fight the boss. It took me an hour to figure that out. It didn't make me happy. But the rest of the game did. It is easily the best game I have played in a long time. The flaws that exist are so small compared to the overall package that it is absurd to dwell on them. Step into the Twilight and enjoy Zelda's newest masterpiece.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 05/21/07

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