Zelda - Twilight PrincessESRB:
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Remote and Nunchuk required
16:9 and Progressive Scan
A small warning, if you are hoping for a plot guide here, you are in the wrong place as I am only going to give the basic premise of the story. When discussing a franchise such as Zelda, the story is what draws most people in and I am not out to ruin anyone’s experience. Before I had a chance to play this game I didn’t read any articles about it and I only looked at a few screenshots. As I don’t want to ruin the game for diehards everything I mention in this review, story wise, is either on the box art, in the first trailer ever shown or will be revealed within the first couple hours of the game. One thing is for certain, it is an older Link, and a darker story, something that makes many mature Zelda fans very happy.
Link lives in the village of Ordon and is chosen to deliver a special gift crafted by the locals to Hyrule Castle. Just before Link sets out on his journey the village is attacked by monsters and the children are stolen. Upon setting out to rescue the children Link learns that the kingdom of Hyrule is being overcome by the Twilight Realm and he has been chosen by the gods to revive the Light Spirits so they can restore Hyrule. In order to allow Link ‘safe’ passage into the Twilight Realm, Link turns into a sacred wolf instead of succumbing to the effects like all the other mortals. In the Twilight Realm he comes across a small creature named Midna who seems to need him as much as he needs her and team up in order to complete their journeys together.
Upon starting up the game, you will notice that the game looks excellent for a GameCube game, but that is where a slight problem begins as it is a Wii game. How does one grade the graphics for the first major Wii release when it is a GameCube port? Although I know the mantra of the Wii is gameplay over graphics I am still hoping for a bit more to get squeezed out of the Broadway and Hollywood chips that the Wii boasts. At first I didn’t have the component cables, but I was able to secure some recently. Although I don’t have progressive scan on my TV I can assure you that the component cables do aid in making the on-screen text and HUD elements quite a bit sharper, and the crispness of the game itself gets a boost. It’s not 1080p, but for those with Progressive Scan capable televisions, it should still be eye-catching.
Even though I had to bring up the issue of the game being a GameCube port that does not hide the fact that the game still looks excellent. Although some of the textures can become a bit muddy and blurry up close, most still survive such scrutiny. On the subject of textures, the sheer variety that the game showcases not only in the different locales, but for the characters themselves, is quite remarkable. During your travels you will come across dozens of different Hylians, Zoras and Gorons, all with completely unique models and textures which is a great departure from seeing the same models over again for different characters, even in many of today’s newest titles.
One thing that will get noticed is the amazing draw distance. There are a few amazing vantage points in the game where you can see for miles upon miles, and everything still seems to be there. When the game cycles to nighttime, the game is still clear enough that you have ample time to see and react to enemies. The visual effects in the game are also executed flawlessly. Heat waves, bloom lighting, and some amazing looking water and particle effects all contribute to the most visually stunning Zelda to date.
After the original showing of Twilight Princess trailer at the E3 2004 Nintendo press conference it had me excited about the possibilities of orchestrated music for the Zelda franchise, but unfortunately those dreams have been dashed yet again. However, even though we have been deprived of that luxury, the midis that Nintendo is using are high-quality and are not the ones found on websites of the mid 1990s. If you played The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker you will recognize many of the same background songs, although a few have been tweaked and updated a bit.
The other sound effects in the game are well done as well. Sword clashes, shield clangs, arrow shots and Link’s ever present reactions are still delivered clearly. One thing I am disappointed in, and hope they rectify it soon, is the inclusion of voice acting in the Zelda series. I am a proponent of Link never talking, as most people already have ideas of his voice in their head, and he is the embodiment of the person playing the game, but I don’t see why the other non-player characters can’t have voices, bringing this game into the 21st century once and for all.
As for the new technological aspect of the Wii-mote containing a speaker, don’t expect too much from it, as it isn’t exactly Dolby Digital. It does a decent job of spreading out the auditory senses a bit, but isn’t as immersive as one would originally think. It is better suited for Wii Sports Tennis over Zelda. A small hint, which I do, is to turn the Wii-mote down to a sound level of 2 or 3 bars when playing Zelda, as it seems to reduce the crackling that can be heard at higher levels.
As a launch title for the Nintendo Wii, Zelda was given the task of proving to the masses that the Wii-mote is the future of gaming. Although it still has a learning curve attached to it, I felt that it did its job and becomes very intuitive as you progress. Many people were concerned leading up to the game’s release, that having to swing the remote around while playing would tire them out, but after a few extended playing sessions I can assure you that I never became fatigued. The motions you are required to make do not have to be very large at all, and the exaggerated motions in the commercials are just that, exaggerated. I found the Wii-mote to be very comfortable for extended periods of play, more so than a standard controller even, as it allows for your arms to be separated and resting in a more natural position than locked side-by-side with a standard controller. Upon holding the GameCube controller after playing the Wii, it almost seems restrictive now.
Zelda, being a prized franchise of Nintendo’s means that they will delay and polish it to a fine degree until they know it is ready. Twilight Princess shows no sign of abandoning this tradition. From the introduction elements in the village through to the depths of the dungeons you can tell that the planning for a game of this scale must be immense. I heard that there were some complaints of people thinking that the introduction elements of the game dragged on, but I felt that the pacing seemed pretty spot on, as they need to introduce you to many characters to help the story flow together. You wouldn’t feel any concern for your fellow villagers if you hadn’t even bothered to talk to them.
The overworld in Zelda is very expansive this time with the previously mentioned draw-distance helping to sink that feeling in. Thankfully you have your trusty steed Epona available pretty early on so that makes traversing distances pretty fast and enjoyable. The game paces you by locking out certain parts of the overworld but it expands as you progress further into the game. Similar to being able to call upon warp points in Wind Waker you are able to unlock warp points in Twilight Princess which Midna can take you between when you are in wolf form. They have also hidden rupee chests and heart pieces all over the place, so make sure you explore every nook and cranny if you want to be thorough with your collecting.
When it was announced that Link would be transforming into a wolf in this installmen, I was unsure of what gameplay elements it would offer. Thankfully playing as a wolf proves to be a very enjoyable element of the game. Being unsure of how easy it would be to include any sort of puzzle elements that would have no need of Link’s special items I was pleased that they were able to include some very unique elements that can only be accessed while you are the wolf. Early in the adventure you are locked in one form or the other dependent on if you are in the Twilight Realm or not, but later you are given the ability to switch back and forth at will, which allows for some great puzzles and design elements.
The items in this game will feel very familiar as the staples are still present. You will find the slingshot, boomerang, bow and arrow, bombs, and hookshot (which is now called the clawshot), but Nintendo has included some great new items that allow for some creative dungeon elements, however, I will leave it up to you to discover them for yourself. I would also have to say, that the greatest addition to the Zelda franchise is pointer-precision for the slingshot, boomerang, and bow and arrow. Sniping your enemies from across the room has never been so quick, easy, and satisfying and I can’t imagine being burdened with having to aim with an analog stick anymore.
The dungeon creators did an excellent job of keeping a certain familiarity throughout each one, but also adding some excellent new elements to keep the designs fresh and unique. The boss battles also employ some new techniques which made them quite intense and enjoyable. A new system of traveling to and from the depths of the dungeons was also devised in the form of small bird-like creatures called Occoco and Occoco Jr. Once you find Occoco you are able to use her take you out of the dungeon, and when you return, you can talk to Occoco Jr. and he will send you back to his mother, right where you left off. It is a nice addition as some of these dungeons can take you a few hours to explore completely.
Another nice treat in the game is the ability to just relax and take it easy in the fishing hole. Many people wanted the fishing game in Ocarina of Time to be expanded on, and Nintendo delivered. Using the Wii controls for fishing is also very intuitive and quite fun. Tilt the remote back to raise the rod, flick it forward to cast out your line, and rotate the nunchuk attachment as if you were actually reeling in the line. It’s not easy, as the fish are quite reluctant to give in, but it is a great diversion if you just want to lean back on the couch for a while.
One thing to note is that this version of Zelda, with its darker, more mature makeover, has also been given bump in difficulty as well. I encountered the ‘Game-Over’ screen on more than one occasion, and some of the new puzzles will have you scratching your head, chin, or both in frustration as you ponder how you will progress. This is a welcomed change, as it gives you more of a sense of accomplishment as opposed to the ease of Wind Waker.
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