The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii) – Review

Twilight Princess - Cover

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (TP) for the Nintendo Wii is the only one of Nintendo’s primary game franchises to be available as a launch title for the Wii; while there are Mario and Metroid titles in the works, Zelda is the first big game for the system, and the game does not really disappoint, for the most part. TP does an excellent job of embracing every aspect of the Wii including in controls, graphics, and sound, while still delivering the gameplay that all Zelda players have known and loved. The only notch against TP is the difficulty -while still an engaging long quest, it’s rather simple to defeat foes and work your way through dungeons, and thus may be the challenge that long-time Zelda players expect.

Story: A

TP starts with young Link getting ready to leave his remote village to deliver a gift from the village to Princess Zelda. However, before he can leave, orcs attack and kidnap the village’s children, and before Link can react, a strange portal to another dimension opens in the sky and a shadowy creature emerges from it, knocking Link out and taking him through the portal. When Link recovers, he finds his body transformed into a wolf, and that he appears to be in a shadow version of the real world. A strange creature named Medna befriends Link for what it appears to be her own benefit and to further this Twilight world, but Link soon learns what has happened: Zant, a power-hungry being from the Twilight dimension has attempted to take the Spirits of Light from Link’s, covering the real world in Twilight, which no human can live in and have been turned to spirits, and has changed the creatures into nastier versions infused with shadow energy. Princess Zelda, who remains free of the Twilight, asks Link and Medna to restore their world and to defeat Zant to save her people. Link is able to restore the light spirits and regain his normal form, but there seems to be more to Zant’s evil plan than they could originally have thought.

Gameplay: A-

Predicating that this is a Zelda game, most of the gameplay is unsurprising and very familiar, though this game plays closer in style to Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask than Wind Waker. There’s an overworld that connects to various dungeons and other sections of the game, with wide rolling expansions and some extraordinary construction. Dungeons, which become assessable in a fixed order, have the usual styles of being a series of rooms with monsters, items, new tools, mini-bosses, and final bosses. Outside of the main quest, there’s a number of side quests and dungeons, usually hinted through by talking with the residences of the area. Several usual Zelda themes make their appearance; dungeons that are centered around the various elements, tools like the boomerang, bow and arrow, bombs, and clawshot, getting around large distances with your horse Epona, and so on, though a few typical elements are there in the game, but not heavily mentioned (such as the Tri-Force concept).

Twilight Princess - Wolf combat

There’s probably two major departures for TP from the other Zelda games that are of note. The first is the ability to transform into a wolf. Initially, you have no control over this transformation (it occurs at fixed points), but about half-way through the game, you are able to do this (mostly) freely. As a wolf, you don’t have ability to use tools, but you aren’t defenseless as most of the same moves for combat when human and with sword and shield can be applied as a wolf. There are three key abilities you do gain as a wolf. First, you gain a special attack move that allows you to charge a small area and then simultaneously inflict damage on all creatures that fall within it; this is necessary to kill some groups of enemies that can regenerate themselves if even one is left standing. You can also dig in various spots, sometimes to reveal a few rupees or a treasure chest, other times to dig underneath a barrier. The most useful ability by far, however, is the animal sense ability. While this restricts your vision to a small area around you, it can be used to see spirits (either the spirits of the humans in the twilight-infected areas, or ghost creatures that may attack you), special places to dig, and a selected scent. This last bit is used, for example, to get the scent of one of the kidnapped children and track them down by following the scent trail across the large landscape. Also, while a wolf, you’re accompanied by Medna who rides you like a horse (an interesting role reversal from Link riding Epona), but can aid in being your hands to open chests and doors, grabbing handles, and to also guide you along long jumping paths to get to special areas only Link the wolf can go. There are several points in the game (after you gain the ability to control this yourself) that you need to jump back and forth between human and wolf form to get past puzzles and monsters. Also, your wolf form can find special listening posts across the land, which you attempt to howl with the wind (in a manner like Wind Waker’s ‘conducting’), as to unlock the chance to learn special sword attacks, some which are vital to completing the game.

The other aspect that’s new in TP, at least with the Wii version, is the control scheme, which uses the Wiimote and nunchuck. Movement and Z-targeting are handled by the Nunchuck, while your map, inventory management, tool use, and sword play (primarily) are handled by the Wiimote. The sword moves are dependant on how you swing the Wiimote as to mimic vertical and horizontal slashes as well as forward thrusts. Spin attacks are done by wiggling the nunchuck back and forth. The special moves you learn through your wolf form are based on a combination of these attacks; for example, the classic back slash is accomplished by Z-targetting, jumping to one side, starting a roll and then slashing at your foe when behind him. You can set up to 4 items (3 on the d-pad buttons, with one of these reserved for Medna, and a 4th on the B button) at a time, which helps a bit more compared to the previous Zelda games where you were limited to only 3 such items. Most of your tools are activated on the B button, and those that require aiming let you aim directly by guiding the Wiimote to where you want to shoot. To help make sure your Wiimote is actually pointed at the screen, a ever-persistent fairy shows up on the screen that shows where the Wiimote is pointed, and even if you try to aim without it on the screen, a quick message tells you that you need to aim back at the screen before you can use the tool. Of course, some of these tools include the ability to Z-target monsters or active points if they’re close enough as well. However, here’s the only point where I found the Wiimote to fail: in the heat of some battles, particularly one foe that you need to shoot first with an arrow and then claw him to get him over to you, it was too easy between Z-targeting and tool switching to mess up and perform the wrong action, and you’d find yourself shooting the wrong thing, or in some cases you’d find yourself turned around and Z-targeting wouldn’t work, ending up on the aiming screen while in the midst of combat. Additionally, if you are moving the Wiimote too much while not aiming, the game may mistake it for a sword slash and you may be performing an action you weren’t expecting. Fortunately, these were only against the common creatures of the game as opposed to any boss, and thus while you may take some damage from the foe, it’s easy to recover this health, compared to some of the attacks the bosses can unleash on you. Similar problems arose with getting the actions for the special attacks down right. Save for the very final boss battle, these problems weren’t annoying since they were easy to recover from.

There’s a few new tools introduced in TP. A ball and chain, while heavy and slows you down, can be used to deliver a massive blow to some foes when thrown. A spinner disk allows Link to activate some mechanisms in dungeons while also being able to ride special rails to cross dangerous stretches. Also, some of the tools are variations on versions from previous games. The boomerang doesn’t damage foes, but can now bring them right to your feet so you can finish them off with your sword. A dominion rod allows you to control statues, but more so that they follow your footsteps as you move as opposed to actually possessing them as from Wind Waker. However, most of the rest of the tools are comfortable friends that experienced Zelda players will know right away.

Twilight Princess - Battle ScreenshotHowever, despite all these great gameplay and controls the game offers, the difficulty of the game is my largest disappointment with it, in that it is really not all that difficult. The main plot is very linear, and as noted, dungeons only open up in a certain order, and except for one part of the game where you have to check several points on the map for a brief bit of info, there’s no points of branching or options outside of performing side quests. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem except that in addition to the linear plot, a lot of hints about where you have to go next are dropped throughout the story, and there was only a couple points that I felt a bit confused as to what I needed to do next. The problem is even made worse that the dungeons themselves, while a criss-cross pattern of rooms, tended to be linear as well, with a clear path of where you go next simply due to the lack of ability to go to other locations, either due to locked doors, or lack of a tool to exploit to get to another location. Furthermore, once you got the item that you would need to proceed back in the main room, it was more common that there was a door right there that dropped you back to that room to open the next section, as opposed to having to work your way back though several rooms. Only in one dungeon (late in the game) did I get confused about where I was and needed to aim for, mostly because this dungeon was emphasized on a vertical structure than horizontal. Maybe part of this was the fact that I knew how some tools could be used from earlier Zelda games (for example, using the bow to take out the laser eye statues), but even then, as usual in a Zelda game, you usually have a few hints of what needs to be done with a new tool and several chances to try that out. I would also postulate that having just played Okami (an excellent Zelda-like game for the PS2) prepared me to think along the right lines to easily work out the puzzles in TP. All the weaker foes in the game were easy to defeat, and didn’t pose a significant challenge, while I remember struggling with even trying to release back slashes on armies of knights in Wind Waker. Even the bosses tended to be rather easy because they all nearly relied on a tool that you just found to use to beat them, and it was just a matter of figuring out the pattern. It’s not a walk in a park, of course, but it is just a tad too easy for what I was expecting, and definitely not the challenge I remember Ocarina of Time or Wind Waker to be.

Value/Replayability: B+

The game is about right for a Zelda game, taking me about 35 hrs to complete the main plot and a few side parts. Of course, there’s several more side quests (collecting all the heart pieces, getting upgrades for some weapons and armor), and the like if you are that type of person. However, surprisingly, when you finish off the last boss, that’s the end of the game, and you’ve no option to start from a completed game for a second go-through with special extras, as you could with Wind Waker or Okami; once you beat the game, that’s the point of no return (related to the post-game events), and the only way to explore more is to start back at the last save or to start the game over completely fresh. This may be attributed to the fact that this Zelda is, for the most part, very serious, while Wind Waker had a nice chuck of humor to go with it, and thus easter eggs made more sense for that style of presentation than it does for the serious approach that TP makes. But because of this, it’s hard to replay this game without waiting for some time to forget the solutions to the game as so it is fresh when you play it again, which is somewhat unfortunate.

Twilight Princess - EnvironmentGraphics: A+

The graphics in TP are amazing. Mind you, the game isn’t pushing millions of polygons at you, and some of the structures and landscape may seem childish compared to high end games on the other next-generation systems, but the key to why TP’s graphics look good is that it does an excellent job, probably not seen since games like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus at capturing the overall size of the environment by using a combination of large viewing distances and appropriate blur filters to help with depth and perception in addition to excellent sound effects to help out. The large outdoor expanses feel like large outdoor areas, while dungeons vary from looking narrow and cramped to large and airy. There’s a good combination of making the natural part feel very organic and applying that to dungeons where appropriate, while constructed dungeons themselves seem to have some logic behind them as why they are dungeons in the first place (including one that’s based on the floor plan of a mansion built high on snow-packed mountains). Yet the necessary visuals one needs to see (clawshot targets in particular) are usually very easy to spot, so it’s easy to determine form from function. The main characters are rather well done; again, not the most computationally difficult characters that have been used in video games, but the detail used is very appropriate for the abilities of the Wii, and I particularly like how well they get some facial expressions across with only little changes in parts of the face. There’s still parts of the game that reminded me of Wind Waker’s cel-graphics (the smoke and explosions, while not using the cartoon images, still seem generated in the same manner) and of Ocarina’s landscape approach. What’s also nice is that some of the architecture of various parts hints at references from the previous Zelda games, which helps to place this game along the Zelda timeline. The Twilight/Shadow effects may put an odd look at times, but it reminds me of getting used to the look of Okami at the start until you got away from the cursed areas.

Sound: A

The sound is furthermore well done. As mentioned, with the graphics, the game uses sound effects well to help convey the environmental feel to the player. Battle sound effects reuse most of the same effects from previous Zelda games, and the game effectively uses the speaker in the Wiimote to notify the player when Medna needs to speak to Link, when to trigger a sword attack, or to award the player for completing a goal in a dungeon. The music also continues the tradition of Zelda tones, with the familiar pieces used throughout the orchestrated track, but never overwhelming the rest of the game. There’s no true voice acting; characters that speak use a brief, nonsense language to mimic speech with most of the story told through text dialog, and there’s a few sounds of characters in the heat of battle as well.

Overall: A-

I believe Nintendo did right in pushing Twilight Princess back from it’s original anticipated release to become a release title for the Wii. I think without the added power that the Wii has for graphics and the uniqueness of the Wiimote, Twilight Princess would have been much less steller if it were only a GameCube game (though I wonder how the GC version will fare when put side by side against the Wii version). While Twilight Princess is definitely not a bad entry into the Zelda series and still much better than many of the other games out there right now, it’s not necessarily the best entry in the series, pretty much hampered by being, for the most part, too easy. Arguably, this may have been done as to promote sales of the family-friendly Wii and Twilight Princess and thus the gameplay was aimed at being doable by a larger portion of the target market, particularly those that may never have played a Zelda game before. Alternatively, it could have been made somewhat easier as to allow people to get used to the Wiimote control of the game; maybe in a few years we’ll see another Zelda game, but with the difficulty raised up several notches. That said, if you have a Wii (to date), you owe it to yourself to get Twilight Princess; the game shows all the love and care that Nintendo’s developers tend to put into their star titles.

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4 Responses

  1. Very nice =) Zelda for the Wii is one the best launch titles, and definitely a must get for any Wii owner. I know people that bought the game without the console – afraid that the stock runs out =)

    Cheers!

  2. fry’s are good but zelda is better

  3. Twilight is probably one of the greatest first person RPG games ever created. It has an extremly good story line, good fighting, 7 the levels are awesome. I love how they represent the five elements. I like how the story is set in a reverse dimension from the dimension of light and how you think that the leader of the game is the king of twilight and then you find out…..well I dont want to spoil it πŸ˜›

    Great review πŸ™‚

  4. The ideal answer

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