Review by wildefoe

"Tagline, I don't need a tagline this is a Review"

This is Zelda.

You know what to expect, if not then you are basically in for a fun playable version of Joseph Campbell's Hero of a Thousand Faces personified in the digital form as Link. You have the princess to rescue or to help. There is ingenious dungeon design rich with atmosphere and clever puzzles mixed with simple yet satisfying combat. Usually entails some type of repetition, game mechanics are repeated, some puzzles and clever ideas just seem half executed or not fully formed after several hours of repetition. The controls are easy, it is a well honed franchise that has been going for decades, there is always a sense of fun in the exploration of this imaginary land.

But the question is whether this Zelda title is any different from the norm. Does Twilight Princess change anything fundamentally in the game or does it polish the developed decades old template into a shining example of all that is Zelda?

Those hoping for a massive shift change in the Zelda franchise will be distraught. At this point there is a certain layout for a Zelda game, a checklist of sorts that each game in the franchise seem to check off as reference points in the game. It is due for a massive change up, perhaps a properly developed Wii Zelda will address such concerns, but this game is not the change up.

Those wanting a traditional styled Zelda adventure will be entranced with this offering. The Gamecube has always been a quiet force in beautifully rendered gaming worlds, but the fact that the Wii version of this same game looks exactly the same boasts well to the visual design and execution of this game. There could be points raised about properly embracing next generation visual ideals, but what is here is pleasing and immersing. There are small visual flaws that can be pointed out (sometimes at laughable points), but it doesn't really diminish the visual aspect of the game.

The gameplay follows the same path, there is nothing revolutionary. It plays exactly as smooth as you expect it to, Zelda games have always been known for a flawless control system. There is a host of familiar items and some pretty impressive new items which introduce some new mechanics to the game even if they are mainly specific to the dungeon in which said items are found, but it is a creative touch. The horse and fishing have returned and control similar to previous installments, though the horseback combat has been suitably enhanced and hold some of the most striking sequences. The dungeon design is invoking genius, a mix of tightly designed rooms and creative visual flourish have made the dungeons a highpoint. The boss fights are similar to previous boss fights, incredible impressive grandiose design that is beaten with a handful of attacks, robbing much of the encounters of their threat but still breathtaking nevertheless. The same can be said for the difficulty level of the game, but the lengthy quest itself is a driving force so that a lack of difficulty, though missed, is not an issue.

The storyline is the standard Zelda fare and seems content to follow down the same template. There are some of the better characterizations in Zelda games, the world design and character design meld perfectly making a believable, livable world for the characters which only draws you in. The "Twilight" sequences are darkly re-imagined versions of existing lands (save for a dungeon proper later in the game), but are well paced and completely dependent on the wolf gameplay which is suitably developed, though unfortunately never much beyond the initial mechanics. The wolf sequences are an interesting diversion with its own creative sequences, such as following the scents of lost characters and some interesting extensions to the environments. It is never really fully developed into anything besides a side thing, the actual human Link's gameplay is there for the majority, but what is there is fun and hardly ever gets to the point where it feels repetitive or forced.

If anything, Twilight Princess shows that Nintendo has learned much by its handling in some of the previous installments of the series by removing a lot of the mind numbing fetch quests there to pad out time. Gameplay mechanics are switched around quite well so that nothing becomes boring, exciting things happen most of the time and there is quite a lot of momentum to the game. The later half of the game introduces some inspired scenarios and mechanics, yet staying comfortably in the reins of the established gameplay.

That extends to the rest of the game in that it fits comfortable in the canon of Zelda games without shaking things up. It is a remarkable game, highly polished, does exactly what you expect a Zelda game to do and that might be what may be the underlying problem with the game. There is no real sense of surprise or danger, even freshly introduced ideas are still being brought into the same fundamental template that has held the series since its beginnings. It is due to the superlative design and execution of this title that it succeeds and that niggling issues such as the thematic repetition inherent in the franchise fall to the wayside.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/16/07

Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (US, 12/11/06)

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