The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Review

Developer: Nintendo EAD
Platform: Wii
Also on: Gamecube
Release Date: Dec 2006

Click Here for The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess trailer 

When the Wii was released to the masses back in 2006, it came with a nice little surprise. Instead of a mediocre-to-dismal line-up of launch titles, it had a flagship, a sure-fire way to sell consoles. That flagship was Zelda, a last-minute Gamecube conversion that looked to be the game that Zelda fans had been clamoring for years. It was epic, darker than before, and had a properly realistic aesthetic. It was, in short, a modern Zelda for a modern gamer.

The Set-up:
Set in the land of Hyrule, Link is an ordinary farm boy who lives among his friends and his trusty steed, Epona. On one fateful day, Twilight covers the land. The Twili are a race from an alternative realm and are being manipulated by a dark presence to conquer the land of Hyrule. With the help of an imp call Midna (who seems to know more than she lets on), Link must go on a quest to save his town, the Princess Zelda and the entire kingdom of Hyrule.

A lot of LoZ games are forced down a more creative route to try to distinguish themselves from previous iterations. Wind Waker had Link fighting at sea, whereas the most recent entry, Skyward Sword, has its focus on the clouds. However, every now and then, the games go down the traditional route. It can be seen in Link to the Past and in Ocarina of Time, and now in Twilight Princess.

To that effect, Twilight Princess is pure fan service. Rather than risking an utterly unique approach, it essentially remakes Ocarina of Time, which is generally considered the series’ finest entry. And, luckily, this is no bad thing. Hyrule is now bigger than ever, even more expansive than the Great Sea from Wind Waker. Link is reunited with Epona, one of the best things about OoT, which is lucky considering how long it takes to travel from one place to another.

And that is the main thing to be considered about Twilight Princess, the sheer epic scale of everything. Hyrule is about 4 times the size of its N64 counterpart and it does a good job of making your character feel small and alone. This is also aided by the notably darker tone of the game, probably the darkest entry into the entire series. Monsters are much scarier and death is more graphic than in earlier games, though still not to an extent that it is unsuitable for kids.

The formula for the game remains the same and is as good as ever. You go from dungeon to dungeon collecting certain artifacts and, when you think you’ve gotten them all, a whole new section of the game opens up to you. To this day, this formula is incredibly effective, always deceiving the player into thinking they’re further than they actually are. It really should feel like a cheap move, but knowing there is more Hyrule to be explored has never been a bad thing.

The dungeons are a collection of imaginative labyrinths of the high quality we’ve come to expect in Zelda games. One of the reasons the franchise has enjoyed such success is the perfectly balanced difficulty of these dungeons. Puzzles can, on the odd occasion, completely stump a player. But so often it happens that the solution is looking right at them, and it never feels unfair. And all that you learn is put to the test in some truly epic boss battles.

While not every boss battle is memorable, there are moments of true brilliance. A stand-off against a giant skeleton in the Gerudo desert temple is particularly intense, with Link flying at high speeds in a chase to catch him. And another dungeon sees you facing off against a terrifying dragon in one of the most atmospheric battles in Zelda history. There’s thunder, there’s lightning, and come on, it’s a dragon! These battles, again, can be tricky, but never unfair.

The reason for this is the amount of inventory items that Link is given. Some staples are ever-present, such as the boomerang and the slingshot. However, there have been some new, particularly interesting additions with Twilight Princess. There is now a device called a spinner, a gadget that lets you zoom across quicksand and along railings. As well as this, there is the ball and chain. Similar to the hammer in many ways, it takes the concept of smashing things to a whole new level of fun.

This brings us to the issue of controls. As one of the very first games to be released for the Wii, one might expect the controls to be a little dodgy. However, they function surprisingly well. Despite what advertisements would have you believe, swinging your sword doesn’t require waving the Wii remote like some kind of deranged magician. A simple wiggle does the job. This means the player doesn’t get too tired, allowing for extended play. Some objects, such as the bow and arrow, require you to aim at the screen, and this can get a little tiresome. This is only a small complaint however, because it still allows for greater accuracy.

As well of this, Link can gain extra sword abilities. In Wind Waker, he was given the ability to dodge then slash, which makes a return here. He is also given a shield bash, a quick draw and many more sword techniques. These abilities must be learnt through side quests, which give the game some added longevity.

All of what has been described so far is fairly standard Zelda, but the biggest change comes in the form of Link’s new transformation ability. Now, in certain situations, Link can transform into a wolf, with some interesting feral moves. In a clever move, the control system barely changes at all when this happens, making it an easy transition. A wiggle of the Wii remote will cause Wolf Link to attack in a similar way to Human Link. There is most definitely an Okami vibe there, which is hardly surprising.

Added abilities to Link’s lupine form include digging, which is a handy way to gain access to extra rupees or hidden areas. As well as this, you can also use your heightened senses, particularly sense of smell, to track down certain items or enemies. The ability to catch frisbees or command an army of fleas is sadly absent.

For the first section of the game, you will often get forced into this form when sections of the world are covered in Twilight. This is a concept that should be familiar with long time Zelda fans, as it is essentially a Dark World. Monsters roam more freely and all of it’s inhabitants are terrified. Before proceeding to dungeons, you will have to find a way to clear these sections of the Twilight. This can be done with the help of Midna.

Ahhh, Midna. Previous games have always given you a companion of some sort, someone you can ask “Where do I go now to stop the world from ending?” These companions have ranged from bland (Wind Waker) to mildly annoying (Ocarina of Time). Enter Midna, one of the greatest characters of all time to be added to the Zelda roster!

Rather than giving you another two-dimensional character whose only function is to tell you how to kill things, Midna is in fact central to the narrative. For once, it is more about her than it is about you, which makes the growing relationship between both characters that much stronger. She is both funny and a little devious, a truly compelling character. So much so that, when she and Link must inevitably part at the games end, it is more heart wrenching than you might expect.

While the narrative of the game is easily one of, if not THE best in the series, Twilight Princess still has it’s faults, albeit minor ones. For one thing, with such an enormous land, it can at times feel a little dull and empty. The developers seemed to be going for some kind of rebuilt society kind of vibe, which doesn’t quite gel. Previous games have always focused on vibrant colourful characters and settings. And while there are a number of bizarre and memorable characters (such as the postman that delivers letters in his underpants), this is by far the most radical departure from that concept.

Which isn’t to say it isn’t impressive. By the standards of any other game, it is still utterly phenomenal! It’s just, with the previous entry being Wind Waker, which was so amazingly colorful and warm, Twilight Princess feels like a colder and more unwelcome place. Kakariko town, which was a bustling area full of personality in OoT, feels like nothing more than a ghost town here, even when it becomes populated. It loses a good deal of the charm of the series in an attempt to make it darker. For once, there is actually a series that benefits from being light and cheerful.

Overall:
Despite some issues with the darker tone of the game, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a nigh on perfect adventure. The difficulty level has been tweaked since Wind Waker, meaning that there isn’t hours of frustrated searching for Triforce pieces. The game clocks in at a good 25 hours, and this is only if your aim is just to see the end credits. Side quests will add another 5-10 hours at least. Not the highest point for the franchise, but still a damn sight better than most games!

Rating: 9/10

“Shadow and Light are two sides of the same coin…One cannot exist without the other.” – Princess Zelda

Shamelessly Awful Facts:

  • The thirteenth installment in the Legend of Zelda series, Twilight Princess takes place roughly 100 years after Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, and in an alternative timeline to Wind Waker.
  • Something not many people know, a major difference between the Gamecube and Wii version of the game was that one is a mirror image of the other. Because of the motion controls implemented into the Wii, Link was made right-handed instead of left-handed. Because the developers didn’t have time to adapt the game to this change, they simply flipped the entire game world around for the Wii version.
  • There is a disturbing amount of fan fiction for this game, featuring love stories between Link and Midna…
  • Yetis are awesome in Twilight Princess
This game is kind of like:
  • The Hobbit

or

  • The first time you saw your favorite Saturday morning cartoon changed into über cool live action (except in the case of Transformers).
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