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The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Review
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The verdict  on Wii's flagship launch title awaits...

1/31/07

The history of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a frustrating one. First it's scheduled for a November 2005 worldwide release on GameCube. Then it's delayed into the second quarter of 2006 on GameCube. It's then delayed until the fall of 2006 on GameCube, and then it's delayed until the winter of 2006 on GameCube and November of 2006 on Wii. Bullshit, I know. But that's what we have to put up with to get Nintendo's orgasmic games.



Bearing all of that in mind, Twilight Princess is a masterpiece game in every sense of the word. Though it does have some very noticeable drawbacks, it is still the at the very least the finest game to be released in 2006, and certainly the best Wii launch title, by far. (The GCN review will be up in early February.)



So I'll start at the beginning, mainly because I'm a jerk. You begin the adventure as a sheep herder in a southern province of Hyrule, and, after several hours of basically walking around you get captured by Twilight beasts and thrown into one of the game's big themes, the Twilight Realm. Get used to it, the game never, ever stops talking about this place. After you first get captured, there are small breaks from being a wolf in the Twilight Realm where you're temporarily restored to your Hyrulian form and assigned to beat a total of three dungeons. Before each of these three dungeons there's at least an hour of non-stop fetch-quest drab preceding them that only gets longer, harder, and more annoying as you progress. By the time you're halfway through filling up the Vessel of Light before you reach the third dungeon you find yourself simply not enjoying yourself at all. Now, this isn't to say that looking for a dozen tiny light-bugs isn't fun, but when there is clearly not a lot of attention paid by the designers in these areas, it makes you wonder what the hell that extra year of development was for.



Let's explore the underlying design problems in these Vessel of Light "levels". First, the mini-map that is supposed to help you find the bugs a lot of the time ends up being completely unhelpful, because the mini-map doesn't show depth, so it appears on the map like you're right on top of the bug, when in reality it could be at the top of the cliff directly above you, or, sometimes, below you. Second, some of the bugs are buried underground, and since there's no way of knowing that they're buried underground, it sometimes becomes impossible to find them, forcing you to have to return later when you've calmed down a little. Third, and worst, is the blue spheres that come out of the bugs when you attack them. You're supposed to collect the blue spheres that represent Tears of Light in your Vessel, but it can be hard to do that when the spheres FLY AROUND THE ROOM because somebody thought it would be funny to give them absolutely no gravity.



Now, looking past all of that Twilight Realm nonsense, there is some damn good temple-crawling to be had. The game's very first dungeon is easily one of the game's best, and the second, a classic fire-themed dungeon, makes the third dungeon look like a steaming pile of crap. Essentially, that's exactly what the third dungeon is, crap. This is also where the Wii remote comes off the back-burner and begins to noticeably enhance the gameplay. Though I won't name the item you receive near the end of the fire dungeon, I will say that using the Wii remote to aim with it makes for some incredibly satisfying gameplay.



Now that the first part of the game is behind us, Twilight Princess gets a whole lot better. With all of the provinces of Hyrule Field now open for you to have access to go anywhere with Epona as your steed, Twilight Princess hits it's stride. This is also where you'll find the game's finest dungeon, hidden deep in the Gerudo desert. Now, I say "Gerudo" lightly, because there are no Gerudo's anywhere, at all. Also, for whatever reason, the designers once again fail to polish the gameplay in the challenges preceding the fourth dungeon. As soon as you land in the desert province, you'll immediately notice that something is very, very wrong with the sand. Not because the sand is deadly, but because the entire ground, everywhere, is one big glitch. No matter what time of day, no matter what angle you're looking from, the ground in the desert is the most glitchy crap you'll ever see. The ground just looks like a bunch of triangles that morph in and out of the ground, going from black to brown, and back again, over and over. It looks terrible, and it really brings down the overall presentation in the game that up until the desert was unscathed.



Back to the good part, the item you receive toward the end of the fourth dungeon is the finest item you'll ever lay your eyes on. It is really damn fun. There's no way any other item in the game comes close to this thing. The fact that it doesn't even utilize the capabilities of the Wii remote just proves that fact even further. Another great thing about the fourth dungeon is the boss. The boss is just awesome. It's hard, it has multiple parts that only get more fun as you progress, and it has some really awesome gameplay to go along with it. Sadly, after the fourth dungeon is over, so is the best part of the game.



The fifth "dungeon" taking place atop a snowy mountain peak, is easily one of the game's lowpoints. The fifth dungeon isn't nearly as poor as the third, but it certainly doesn't compare to the fourth. Luckily, though, there is essentially no Twilight Realm gameplay again until the eighth dungeon.



The preceding gameplay of the sixth dungeon is a treat, if only for the fact that it has blatent Ocarina of Time fan-service practically dripping from it. The sixth temple itself isn't really all that great, mostly because it's pretty much a rip-off of the Tower of the Gods from the Wind Waker. Even with the obvious inspiration aside, just knowing where the sixth temple is located brings back nostalgic memories from the games' spiritual predecessor.



The seventh dungeon, easily the strongest since the fourth, is an absolute treat. The item you get makes great use of the Wii remote, and the gameplay itself is fresh and fun. The boss, while it could have been a little harder, is easily one of the game's most memorable battles, and makes you wish Nintendo made bosses like that more often.



The eighth dungeon, and all gameplay in the Twilight Realm preceding it, will once again make you drool over thoughts of returning to human form so the game is actually fun again. The dungeon itself has some unique ideas, but they end up not being fully utilized, mainly because of the inherent limitations of having to play as a wolf instead of a capable hero. The boss battle, while fun and engaging, is a re-hash of all the boss battles from the previous seven dungeons, so I really can't give it any credit on its own merits.



The ninth dungeon, while much too short, is at least a nostalgic treat for anyone who played Ocarina of Time and beat it. The last boss, while I won't name him, is pretty obvious. The three-phase battle itself isn't anything special, and it makes you feel like it didn't really get the time and care it deserved while the game was in development.



Now that we've covered the content of the game, I can elaborate on the uses of the Wii remote and why the Wii version is truly the superior version. Casually swinging the Wiimote to swing your sword in the game and using the remote's pinpoint accuracy to aim with multiple weapons is just plain fun. So, just with that functionality alone, the Wii version is automatically superior. Also, the Wii version is the only version capable of running in 16:9 Widescreen. The GameCube version, like the Gamecube itself, is not capable of running in Widescreen (Sorry, GCN). Other than the truly great and intuitive uses of the Wii remote in the Wii version, the only other difference aside from that and Widescreen is that the Wii version is flipped so that Link (and you) could use your right hand to swing the sword instead of your left (because 90% of us are right-handed). You'll only notice this difference if you're like me and you've played both versions. Content-wise, obviously, the games are identical. Graphically (and unfortunately), once again, the two versions are identical.



As far as sound goes, this game feels like a classic first-party Nintendo game. No live orchestra, canned voice sounds, lots of unique blips from menus and text bubbles, and copy-cat sound effects recycled from previous Zelda games. The music composition itself has some memorable songs. A few that stand out the most are the Hyrule Field theme, a beautiful, one-time only theme right after you beat the third dungeon going from Lake Hylia to Hyrule Castle, the nighttime music in Hyrule Field, the Lake Hylia theme, the Ordon Forest theme, and most memorable, the Hyrule Castle theme from the final dungeon.



Graphically, the game is a top-tier GameCube game. It really is a shame that Nintendo didn't spend more of their time upgrading the graphics for the Wii version, but it is still a gorgeous game. The only thing that stands out the most, in a bad way, is the blurry, fugly textures from most areas of the game. And I do mean fugly. There are some really bad textures in this game. You'll know what I'm talking about when you see it. (Obscure corner in Lake Hylia canyon, I'm talking about you.)



The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is an incredible game, full of remarkable gameplay and experiences that we'll remember for years to come. On the other hand, it also has noticeable drawbacks such as obvious glitches that should easily have been fixed before shipping, extremely boring and frustrating Twilight Realm gameplay as a lame (you know it's true) wolf, multiple sub-par dungeons that are un-becoming of a $20 million Zelda game, plain-jane music in several of the dungeons, and some spotty design in some of the early parts of the game, mainly in the Twilight Realm. It doesn't seem like Twilight Princess has that extra level of polish we're all accustomed to from Nintendo's internal teams.



Now, I'm not going to take points off for no voice acting and a general feeling of the game living in the past, but next time I will. It's 2007 Nintendo, and its time for a Zelda game that can compete with today's most popular franchises. It's time for the Zelda franchise to grow up.



-SCP

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Ladies and gentlemen, he may be late to the party, but at least he came...

GameHut's score:
8.9
Out of 10

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