Review by shezamiah

"In retrospect: The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess"

(For reference I've had the GC version of the game since launch and have finished it twice)

TP includes all the classic Zelda gameplay that you've come to expect. You'll explore dungeons, solve puzzles and fight bosses as you advance through the game. At the same time there's a plethora of well developed mini-games that flesh out the world of Hyrule and serve as enjoyable distractions from the game's substantial main quest, which takes about 40 hours to complete. There are a few side-quests, but, in this respect, TP doesn't live up to the other 3D Zelda titles.

The gameplay is great. This is partly due to the simplicity of TP's combat and easy-to-use item systems. These systems, which haven't changed much since Ocarina Of Time, remain as addictive as ever. Bosses are fun to fight and equally impressive whilst puzzles can be simple or devious. TP does mix things up a bit however, by including hidden skills that advance your swordplay. These add some depth to the simple swordplay that players have come to expect from the series, but they're nothing revolutionary. Similarly, horseback combat is executed well and makes for some of the games best moments…but it's a shame that there weren't more horseback battles. At the same time TP inherits a problem that's been inherent to most Zelda titles. As you progress through the game you'll acquire new items. These items fall into one of two categories: overused or rarely used. It would've been nice if items didn't have a ‘use by' date, so it's disappointing that some do.

One of TP's main selling points is the ability to turn into a wolf. As a wolf, players can attack by biting (which works like swinging a sword). Furthermore, Midna, one of the game's main characters, allows players to create an ‘energy field' and attack multiple enemies at once. It's pretty cool but I was expecting it to be involved in solving some puzzles…I was wrong. The wolf can also ‘sense' to see things that can't normally be seen, and ‘dig' (which does what it sounds like it does). You'll also run faster as a wolf, and you gain the ability to warp. This marginalizes the horse, which is a disappointment. Additionally, being a wolf allows you to talk to animals. I really like this idea but it's a shame that it's not put to more use. Given a bit more attention this ability could have given the game a lot more depth. Being a wolf is initially forced, but you eventually gain the ability to change to and fro human and wolf forms. This means that the first half of the game is fairly linear, but it becomes more open-ended as you progress. This creates a pacing issue that may alienate some players as the game starts slow but (suddenly) gets a lot faster, contrary to other Zeldas, which typically start fast.

My main gripe with TP is its difficulty. Players only die if they try. That's right. The combat is ridiculously easy. Enemies do not put up a fight and bosses, despite fun, are too easy. For a game that advertises itself as a more ‘mature' Zelda, it's a shame that it retains The Wind Waker's difficulty level. This makes exploration of Hyrule a questionable endeavor: yes, the world is large and begs to be explored, but why bother? Why bother search for all those extra heart pieces if the game can easily be completed with the three hearts you start with (trust me, I've tried)? Furthermore, the game throws rupees (the game's currency) at you every 5 seconds. You'll almost always have a full wallet. Unfortunately, there's nothing worth spending your rupees on. Likewise, you'll never run out of arrows or bombs, because the game throws them at you every 10 seconds and has a tendency to shove them at your face whenever you need them to pass a certain puzzle. The game is overwhelmingly easy – moreso because Midna tells you what you should be doing (making the game feel more linear and less adventurous than it should). I'm willing to forgive the latter, but the former shortcomings could have…should have been avoided by the inclusion of difficulty settings. Fortunately, it is still fun to explore TP's game world but if you're not a perfectionist you'll get less fun out of it. That being said, puzzles compensate for the lack of difficulty presented by the game's enemies and bosses, though a 50-floor optional ‘mini-dungeon' (akin to the one in The Wind Waker) poses a challenge.

Talking of dungeons, TP has many. You'll have your typical forest, fire and water dungeons but TP includes some interestingly themed dungeons (I won't spoil them). These dungeons are the highlights of the game. Each dungeon will take about an hour – give or take (usually give) – to finish. Unfortunately, the last two dungeons are probably the worst. They are noticeably shorter than the others, making them feel rushed. This makes the ending somewhat anti-climactic: it should have been an uphill climb, but players sprint to the credits because the uphill climb was at the start of the game (it gets easier as you progress).

Another gripe I have is that the Zelda series has become too formulaic. There's nothing that surprises me whilst I play this game. Nothing that makes me saw ‘wow'. Sure it's a great game – on par with the rest – but the series has reached a point that, if the next game doesn't do something different, then…you understand? TP's story starts out interesting because it is different. Instead of Ganon(dorf) there's some guy called Zant that wants to cover the land of light in twilight (there's more to it). Great. Uniqueness! Sadly, the twilight concept readily becomes a rehash of the light-dark concept that Nintendo has done to death in previous games. Moreover, Zant gets marginalized in what I consider to be TP's biggest mistake. Nintendo comes up with an original and interesting villain but…BAM! The G-man shows up (not Half-Life's G-man >_>). In retrospect, yes the plot had me going for a while but when a realized it was the same plot I had sat through in almost every other Zelda game. I was disappointed. Admittedly the in-game cutscenes are more cinematic and there's some great character development, but It's still disappointing.

Being a (originally) GC-only title I wasn't expected a full orchestral score or voice acting. I agree, they would have been nice – and I expect them in the next 3D Zelda – but TP manages fine with some simple sounds to give characters life and a MIDI soundtrack. One advantage of the MIDI soundtrack is that it allows the music to change on the fly, but for a game trying (and to some extent succeeding) at being epic, a full orchestral score, or even an orchestral score for the horseback battles and final boss fights, are sorely missed. The soundtrack itself is typical Zelda, with new renditions of old themes and a few new themes as well. These are mostly forgettable but work well when they are used. One thing I did like was the orchestral score that comes up if you wait at the title screen, but it's a shame that something of the like wasn't including in the game.

TP's graphics are a lot like its sound: technically dated but artistically beautiful. The graphics in TP are…average. They haven't aged well since the game's release over a year ago. There are a lot of bad textures and muddy areas. I must admit however, that the game's water, fire and twilight effects are great. Despite it's technical shortcomings, TP is great to look at. Why? There are moments of true beauty. Each area is unique, well designed and…artistic. Nevertheless, I find it harder to look at for longer periods than the vibrant colours of The Wind Waker (which I found easier on the eyes).

Despite its shortcomings TP is a great game. It offers an accessible, enjoyable and addictive experience that most people will enjoy. There's not much replay value but with a 40 hour main quest…who needs replay value? Unfortunately, it could have been so much more – I can't help but feel that time devoted to ‘finishing' the game was devoted to bringing it to the Wii. In this respect, TP arrived late to the party: it feels nine-tenths the game it should have been. If it had come out earlier I would have given it a 9/10, but the lack of polish after years of delays, combined with the lack of evolution and innovation earns The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess an 8/10. It's great, but not excellent. That being said, it's hard to find a better action/adventure game on the market.

Buy this game if you're a fan of the series or if enjoy the action/adventure genre. If you're looking for an RPG however, look somewhere else, as this game will disappoint. Only rent TP if you know you'll have enough time to finish its meaty main quest.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 01/24/08

Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (AU, 12/19/06)

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