|By Andrew Raub||Thursday, 22 Mar 2007|
Mario may be Nintendo’s mascot, but Link just might be Nintendo’s current breadwinner. As much as people complained about certain decicions about the series, it’s the last of Nintendo’s main titles that hasn’t been whored out to partying, pinball, or any other unlikely match up. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was without a doubt the best game available, and in turn the best selling game, upon the Wii’s launch. Anticipation for Twilight Princess was high as it showcased the ability of the Wii controls in terms of familiar gameplay. There was almost no doubt that it would be awesome, but how much more awesome than its GameCube counterpart? Long story short: Twilight Princess is the best Zelda game since Ocarina of Time. This isn’t hard to believe, though. The games since OOT were good, but nothing in comparison to the SNES and N64 masterpieces. Although amazingly stylish, Wind Waker just didn’t quite live up to the legend, and Majora’s Mask was more of a side story than a fresh new game. So just how good is this new entry in the classic series?
The story in Zelda games has always been vague, and this is still the case in Twilight Princess. Having no dialog and minimal interaction with other characters makes it hard to refine a story, but I don’t think it would be a real Zelda game if this changed. The real details of the story aren’t really let out until the game nears the end, but as progress is made little bits and pieces slip out. The main antagonist is a man named Zant who comes from the Twilight realm, however a familiar foe is still around. A woman named Midna recruits Link to help her defeat Zant and fix the rift between their two worlds. It’s a simple story that will take Link from Hyrule to the Twilight and from human to wolf.
The weakest part of Twilight Princess is without a doubt the graphics. Don’t take this the wrong way; the graphics are excellent, but as this was a GameCube game ported up to the Wii, the graphical power of the Wii is not fully realized. Still, for every area that Twilight Princess might look like a let down exists an area that is gorgeous. Really, the only areas that aren’t all that impressive are out in Hyrule Field. Other familiar locales such as Zora’s Domain and Death Mountain look very impressive.
The lay of the land in Twilight Princess is much larger than any other Zelda game. Hyrule Castle lies in the center of the map, with a gigantic, multi-segment Hyrule field surrounding it. Lake Hylia is massive, and running through Gerudo Desert initially feels like running through an endless sandy terrain. Thankfully the trusty steed, Epona, is back for some traveling relief.
The adventure will provide challenges through several dungeons, all of which are full of puzzles, adventure, treasure hunting, and of course lots of fighting. The dungeons aren’t overbearing, but provide enough challenge without being too easy. The boss fights are tremendously fun and require more than just finding the weak spot and slashing away.
In terms of game play, Twilight Princess sticks very close to the Ocarina of Time formula. Instead of switching between young Link and old Link, now the transformation is between Link and wolf Link. While in the wolf form, no items or weapons can be used, but what is gained is the ability to use the honed senses of the wolf, which leads to scents and hidden areas. At first the wolf is frustrating, but the game does not force the player to stick with the wolf for long periods of time, at least relative to the amount of time spent as human Link.
While in human form, Link can employ the standard tricks expected in a Zelda game. Familiar items like the boomerang, clawshot, and bow are back for more action, but with a few little surprises. There are new items as well, and while they aren’t useful all of the time, are fun to use for what they are needed for. These items, of course, help unlock access to new and hidden areas. One of the most fun of the new elements of the game is the ability to use many of the items while riding Epona. Running across Hyrule field being chased by a band of moblin riders is exhilarating.
Controlling Link is a breeze with the Wii remote. The nunchuck controls movement and Z-targeting, while the remote controls sword slashes with quick left and right swings and item usage using the B button and some pointing. Using the remote for items like the bow and clawshot is simple and refreshing; I don’t think I can easily go back to having to use an analog stick.
There is plenty to do besides stick to the main quest. Because the land is so huge, there are plenty of places to explore. Poes, ghosts that practically invisible to Link, scatter the over-world and dungeons, and collecting all of them is worthwhile. Instead of four heart pieces, Link must now acquire five to fill a new heart container, so there are plenty to find. Bugs are scattered throughout Hyrule, and of course someone is willing to pay up for doing their dirty work. At one point Link even gets into a wild west style showdown and a medieval style jousting match!
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is without a doubt the best Zelda game I have played since Ocarina of Time, and I would even argue that it is at least on par with it. There’s simply so much more to see and do. Every aspect is designed so well and there are enough new surprises that make it such a great experience without ruining anything that has classically made the series so great. It’s a bit unfortunate that this was a launch game, because I don’t think anything on the Wii will top this for a long time, if ever.