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Platform

Wii

 

Genre

Action / Adventure

 

Publisher

Nintendo

 

Developer

Nintendo

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

November 2006

 

 

- The nunchaku controls are very intuitive, and feel "right", ie. not gimmicky

- Looks pretty darn good for being on what is being considered an "underpowered console"

- Boss fights!

- The audio adds a lot to the experience

 

 

- Some camera issues

- Difficult to hit hotspots (doors, ladders, etc.)

- A tad formulaic, clinging to many of the same Zelda conventions that have been around for over 20 years

 

 

Review: The Legend of Zelda - The Wind Waker (GC)

Review: The Legend of Zelda - Link to the Past (GBA)

 

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The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Score: 9.0 / 10

 

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So, here we are.  Twilight Princess is finally out, and it has the new control scheme that a lot of people have been eager to try.  Along for the ride is a new, more realistic aesthetic that drastically departs from the more cartoon-like aesthetic that the Zelda franchise has been favoring as of late.  There have been a lot of expectations heaped on all of this; by and large, Twilight Princess meets or exceeds these.  The controls feel “right” and not at all contrived with the Wii’s nunchakus, and the visuals are quite easy on the eyes.  All the while, Twilight Princess provides all of the adventuring that fans have come to expect from the series.

 

From the start of the game, the aesthetic is quite pleasing.  For all of the griping some have had about the underpowered hardware of the Wii, what there is to see in Twilight Princess is still quite nice.  No, the game doesn’t look as good as the crisp, clear imagery one might find on the 360 or PS3, but it does a very good job of creating an appealing feel while exploring a fantasy world.  Those who were turned off by the graphic style of Wind Waker with its more cartoon-like motif will like what there is to see in Twilight Princess.  Interestingly, despite the graphics going in a more “realistic” direction, the character design still has a sensibility more attune with what one may find in a cartoon.  All one needs to do is walk the streets around Hyrule Castle, and this becomes quite apparent.  Where the visuals excel in giving a more realistic feel is in the landscapes, and bosses.  In these cases, the game tries to create a sense of grandeur.  There are fields and deserts that seem to go on forever, and feel very alive with rustling wild grass, or sand getting blown about in the wind.  It feels almost like being there, and gives an amazing sense of scale.  In terms of the bosses, they are very impressive to behold.  Just like many past Zelda titles, these gatekeepers to magical delights are gigantic.  When fighting these creatures, the battles are epic in stature, and it feels like a real victory defeating them based on their size alone.  Despite how nice things are to look at, though, players will find themselves fighting with the camera from time to time in order to actually see what’s going on.  Camera issues largely manifest themselves in confined areas, swinging into incomprehensibly inconvenient nooks right when a couple of monsters pounce on Link.  Additionally, the game would have been well served by a better lock-on system when fighting bosses, as players will sometimes have to wrestle with the camera in order to keep track of where the boss is during end-of-dungeon battles.

 

One aesthetic theme that players will quickly pick up on while playing through Twilight Princess is a constant shift between darkness and light, as players contend with the denizens of the twilight world.  This plays into the overall storyline of the game, as Hyrule is plunged into darkness, and it is up to Link to find out who is behind this and put a stop to them.  Unlike other installments of Zelda, in this game Link has a sidekick in the form of Midna, a tiny, magical creature from the twilight world whose motivations for helping Link remains a mystery for much of the game.  The narrative moves along at a good pace, and succeeds in keeping one’s interest.  There is a lot of charm in much of the cast that makes the story enjoyable despite having a number of underlying themes that have been present in the Zelda franchise for years now.

 

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Of course, what makes Twilight Princess so unique is how the game makes use of the Wii’s motion-sensitive controller.  It was a welcome relief when it became obvious that this control set up actually worked quite well.  The moves felt natural, and not at all gimmicky.  Moreover, there are actually quite a few varying moves that players will learn over 

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the course of the game, which is impressive considering the nunchaku controllers are basically two hand pieces and a few buttons.  The sword swinging and shield smashing feel natural, and if you don’t feel like doing huge sweeping movements, little wrist jiggles will usually suffice.  The only exception is the shield bash, which does require slightly more methodical movement on the player’s part.

 

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As delightful as the overall concept of this motion-sensitive control is in the game, there are a couple of more traditional game control issues that crop up in Twilight Princess.  Firstly, it can be very difficult to line Link up with important hotspots like doorways, and ladders.  It’s not uncommon to find one’s self struggling with the controls as Link constantly overshoots these things.  Second, Epona handles like a Cadillac.  Yes, she’s a horse, and horses are big, but getting her to turn can feel cumbersome at times, especially in sequences where Link has to chase enemies on horseback while shooting arrows and swinging his sword at them.  As it stands, Epona is a bit too clunky to move around.  She doesn’t need to be a Lipizzaner Stallion, but it would be nice if she was a tad more agile.

 

What proved to be an interesting contrast to the innovative controls here, was the not so innovative gameplay.  Despite Link being able to transform into a wolf, and the contrasting worlds of light and dark, Twilight Princess boils down to being very much like what previous Zelda games have been: traveling from dungeons A to B to C, collecting a piece of a magical item that can save the world, and a nifty new gadget of some sort at every stop.  While you’re at it you may pick up one or two heart pieces as well.  It’s a very linear march.  However, the process is still very entertaining, as the dungeons are well laid out, the puzzles are doable without feeling overly esoteric, and the boss fights are intense, requiring a fair bit of thinking (but not too much, or the boss might squish Link!).  This traditional approach manages to remain very fun, but will likely appeal more to long-time, purist fans.  Others may find it to be a bit of a slog, especially after 30 hours or so.

 

Before signing off, Twilight Princess’ audio needs to be discussed.  More so than in many other recent games, the sound in this title does a very good job of being an aural anchor for what is happening on-screen.  Everything sounds amazingly good, be it sword swings, rushing water, screaming monsters, or rustling foliage.  The sound effects in this game are in every way as important as the visuals in creating the fantastical world of Twilight Princess.  The music is just as good, with some very memorable themes that will get players humming along.  Like other recent installments of Zelda, Twilight Princess has opted to forego voice acting.  Instead, there is a voice for each character that spews out a few lines of gibberish while players read on-screen text for dialogue.  Given the touch and go nature of voice acting in this industry, going this route was a good idea.  On top of this, most of us have preconceived notions of what many characters in Hyrule “should” sound like, so why mess with it now after all these years?

 

In the end, Twilight Princess plays very well.  It is a perfect example of the potential that the Wii’s controller has in creating a new way to play games without feeling gimmicky.  At the same time, it manages to bring a visual and aural presentation that draws players into the game world, making the immersion much more compelling.  Interestingly, it’s the game’s inability to escape certain problems of previous games, like cameras and finding hotspots, as well as clinging onto the standard Zelda formula of traveling from dungeon to dungeon on a grandiose collectation that holds the game back.  Despite this, it is still a must-have for anyone who owns, or is thinking of picking up a Wii.

 

Mr. Nash

(December 8, 2006)

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