Posted February 24th 2007 by J. Edison Thomas.
Page 2Twilight Princess has a focus on the core missions of the game, which themselves can occupy forty or more hours of gametime and will satisfy anyone suffering from a lack of action in Wii's post-launch lineup. And while Link's wolf form doesn't differ so much from his human self that gameplay alters drastically, it does add variety, depth, and mood to the title. It makes for one last option when all others are exhausted to revert to wolf form and sniff around for clues, and many of the gameplay elements associated with Link's canine abilities world are made to emphasize the experience. Prowling through villages, hunting enemies, and tracking scents are all engaging in a way that Link trotting around on a horse couldn't be.
For his human form, Link's items aren't quite as fun to use as they are in the Wii version, but there's still a lot of fun to be had for anyone who isn't overly concerned with challenge. Despite what detractors say, there's a definite evolution in the way Link plays, and his interactions with his assortment of weapons is smarter this time around, feeling smoother and at times tweaked.
With no magic meter at all, Link's typical cache of weapons is thankfully a touch different than it's been since Ocarina made them standard. Some weapons that it seemed Link couldn't survive without are absent, others are evolved for better and more creative uses: for instance, the Hookshot has changed to a Clawshot, which acts as a true grappling hook and allows Link to remain fixed on a wall or moving object after latching on. Add to this that Link has several new sword techniques to unleash on enemies and a more immersive horseback gameplay experience, and it's almost puzzling why enemies in the game are so weak, because Link is easily equipped to punish much tougher foes.
Unfortunately, the side-effect to Twilight Princess' focus on the main quest is that this is one of the most linear games in Zelda's history, and thus the game feels more segmented than previous titles. There are fewer of the series-staple side-quests to distract Link from his task at hand, and the game feels built to ignore them, as gamers interested in exploring will have to carefully stake out time for idle exploration between tackling the storyline adventure, which is often a "no going back" scenario. Even so, oftentimes exploration will accidentally lead the game to lock Link into a course of action and he has no choice but to follow through. Entering the Twilight Realm transforms Link into a wolf and there's no way to do much of anything until he hunts and destroys enough insects of the Twilight to break the spell. Other times, Link might find himself crossing a bridge to search a new area, and then by virtue of a plot-twisting cinema, forced to follow a linear set of plot requirements before he's able to do anything, much less advance the storyline further.
All this makes the game feel decidedly non-Zelda. That excitement after leaving a dungeon with a new weapon, eager to try it out in the overworld and see the results? Lacking. There's certainly more to do in the vast breadth of Hyrule Field than gallop across it, but comparative to its size it's not very full of secrets, which means exploration is less often rewarded and is thus less compelling. Side-quests like catching bugs or fishing are welcome, but they're more like hobbies because they're so self-contained. There are no times when exploration yields results important to the plot, so gamers will feel a very definite divide in their mind: they're either moving along the plot or just goofing around gathering rupees and heart pieces, neither of which are worth the time what with the simple difficulty level.
Even the Zelda theme, the core of the series' soundtrack since its conception, is almost entirely lacking in Twilight Princess. The game abandons several of its older themes and draws upon new ones that capture and define the moods of Hyrule's various areas, such as Lake Hylia and Gerudo Desert. Older ocarina songs such as Epona's Song and Zelda's Lullaby return, and others such as the Oath to Order and Song of Healing cameo in scenes where Wolf Link must howl along with a spirit wolf to gain new techniques. Again, though, the musical aspect is a mixed bag, and as often as it blows you away it's likely to bum you out or simply go by unnoticed.
By the end of the adventure it becomes clear that Twilight Princess is like that effeminate friend who defies everyone's ability to tell if they're just eccentric or legitimately homosexual. It's an epic adventure that never comes out of the closet, and instead we get an above-average adventure game that acts like an epic. It sets up the chess pieces elaborately and intricately, yet fails to achieve a climactic checkmate in either the gameplay or the storyline. Again and again the game hints at chillling or surprising plot twists, but then altogether abandons the idea as if it's content to merely mention the possibility of such a twist.
Of course, it's understandable that fans expected more than Twilight Princess ultimately delivered, because every trailer for the game is filled with a wide range of crazy-epic looking scenes that one would assume, when connected, would produce a work that would shame all previous Zelda works as well as the entire Star Wars saga and Homer's Illiad-Odyssey Duology. Due largely to a weak narrative and perhaps a lack of focus on what makes Zelda fun, it ends up feeling more like a tribute to the franchise that goes through the motions than an important new step in Hyrule's legacy.
Steady Beat - It's not the best Zelda ever made,
but I think we can all live with that.
When weighed against the factors of all other video games, Twilight Princess impresses and astounds in various ways. There's polish here, ingenuity, and a balance in gameplay and atmosphere between novel adventure and classic Zelda charm. At the same time, its construction from the finest ingredients hand-picked from past adventures leaves it lacking its own unique soul; the game represents a product that is less than the sum of its parts. Of course, factoring in that those parts are Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, and The Wind Waker -- three of the greatest adventure games of all time -- it's easy to see past most of Twilight Princess' problems. But it's just as easy to look forward to the series finally taking a new turn and releasing the next Ocarina of Time rather than simply trying to remake the last one.
A particular note should be made: if you can manage to snag a Wii, or manage to wait until they're available, get the Wii version of Twilight Princess. It is possibly the only Wii launch port with forced motion control that actually surpasses its button-input equivalent. You'll never want to fire an arrow with an analog stick again after trying the Wii Remote.
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A lot of work was put into making Link's wolf form act like a real dog that you might want to take home
Most of the more dynamic battles in the game result from an ongoing feud with this Goblin Chief
Updated weapons such as the new Gale Boomerang help distance the game from predecessors
Making your way by lantern light helps elevate the mood of traversing Hyrule at night
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