Review by Phediuk

"The law of diminishing returns at work."

Boring. Stale. Rehashed. What do all these words have in common? They describe the Zelda series perfectly. There was a time when I was a Zelda fan; that was when Ocarina of Time was still called Ocarina of Time. I wasn't a fan when OoT was repackaged and called Wind Waker. I wasn't a fan when OoT was repackaged again and called Twilight Princess. I wasn't a fan of Majora's Mask, either, but I respect that game for trying something new. So what's Twilight Princess' excuse? This is as dull, vapid, and tired as any video game has ever been. Not to say there isn't good points: the game is technically sound, the art direction is beautiful, and the boss battles are neat. It's like polishing a big turd: sure, you can make it look really pretty, but then you realize you've been rubbing a piece of poo for the last half hour.

Twilight Princess is largely a remake of Ocarina of Time, which was itself largely a remake of A Link to the Past. Video game “remakes”, also known as “stealth rehashes”, are just an excuse for a developer to regurgitate a game they made 10 years ago with some new graphics. Twilight Princess, of course, falls into this category. The soundtrack sounds straight out of an N64 game; approximately 75% of OoT's music is remixed. Once again, you play as Link, and to say his act is getting old would be the understatement of the century. He doesn't talk, which in Nintendo fan lingo means “Oh, but you're him, you see. If Link wasn't boring, it wouldn't be Zelda.” There is of course no voice acting, because that might make the plot more interesting.

And what a pit of nothing Twilight Princess' plot is. You start out in Link's hometown, and must make it through two to three incredibly tedious hours of drawn-out tutorials before the plot even begins. Hope you like herding goats and catching monkeys. Link eventually goes outside town, abruptly gets sucked into the Twilight Realm (yet another take on the “two worlds” mechanic seen in half the series), and is transformed into a wolf. Wolf Link is a lot like regular Link, except he breathes louder and there's more crate-pushing. Wolf Link meets up with Princess Zelda, who once again plays the role of damsel-in-distress. Hyrule has—gasp!—been taken over by bad guys, and Zant and Ganon have a competition to see who can be the more generic villain.

From there, the game degenerates into...look, do I even have to explain it? It's another gigantic fetchquest. In the first half of the game, you track down vaguely-defined shadowy artifacts, and in the second half, you put a magical mirror back together. Each thingamajig is hidden in the depths of a deep dark dungeon, and each of those dungeons is filled with abstract puzzle-solving. As usual, the dungeon architectures don't even try to make sense; everything is arbitrarily laid out, complete with designated “hookshot spots”. You know, just in case a guy with a hookshot was passing through. This nonsensical approach to puzzle design worked in 1987, but in 2006, it's just bizarre. Why couldn't Nintendo have made a Zelda game with plausibly-constructed dungeons and semi-realistic puzzles? Oh, right, that's because that would mean trying something new, and if a Zelda game tried something new, it wouldn't be Zelda.

Even the items you get are the same: sure, they renamed the hookshot the “clawshot”, but it's exactly the same thing. You get your boomerang, bombs, arrows, special tunics, the Master Sword, and even some music-playing in the form of warbled wolf howling. The only new items, such as the spinning-top-meets-skateboard Spinner, are limited in use: in the Spinner's case, you find a specially-designed groove to latch onto, you ride along the groove, and that's the end of it.

Everything about this game screams “wasted potential”. Midna is the first Zelda sidekick who's more than a bump on the log, but she's given very little to do, stuck talking to a mute guy in a bland collectathon plot. The artwork is gorgeous; all the beetle eyes from Wind Waker are gone, replaced with some awe-inspiring environments. The first view of the Twilight Realm rift high in the sky of Hyrule is a genuine wow-moment. If only there was interesting gameplay to go with those stunning images. The ending is especially disappointing, rehashing Ocarina of Time's and Wind Waker's final battles one after the other. The one new gameplay mechanic that didn't feel tired was the horseback combat, which takes up 10 minutes of this 35-hour game. The other 34+ hours are going through the same dungeons you went through in Ocarina of Time and fetch-questing with Wolf Link.

Every year, Nintendo tells us how innovative they are, and every year, they remind us of all the new Mario and Zelda games coming out. This company is allergic to new ideas. Either give this series a rest or give it a major overhaul. Bring it outside the standard-issue high fantasy setting. Get a villain other than Ganon. Give Link a personality. Think of a plot other than “collect the magical trinkets”. Compose some new music. Hand off the series to someone other than Miyamoto, because it's clear the guy's run out of ideas. Sure, it wouldn't be Zelda, but it would be better than Twilight Princess. And that's a good thing.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 02/19/08

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

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