|Publisher & Designer:||Nintendo|
|Release Date:||November 2006 (December 2006 on the Nintendo GameCube)|
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is truly another notch in the belt of what has become one of the finest franchises in the world of video gaming. Along with Ocarina of Time 3D and Skyward Sword, Twilight Princess continues to re-define the adventure genre and, although it took me nearly seven years to finally get to this memorable gem, the wait was certainly worth it! With its outstanding gameplay, memorable story, seemingly infinitesimal supply of secret items/treasure, and superb graphics and music, this game has it all!
Overview: If you have delved into any of my other Zelda reviews, you know that I am a fan of Nintendo's timeless adventure series. I do consider myself to be more of an objective fan of the series, however, which I hope helps to come across in the form of more insightful and honest reviews. Don't get me wrong...I am a big fan of the Zelda series. I do not consider myself to be a "fanboy" that gushes over every little thing without keeping things real, however. The reason I mention this is that, for some odd reason, the game I am about to review does not seem to garner much attention despite being a Zelda game. The reviews seem to be rather positive and glowing for the most part but, for some reason, Twilight Princess doesn't seem to receive the same attention/accolades that Ocarina of Time (widely regarded as the greatest game of all-time), A Link to the Past, and/or The Wind Waker receives on a regular basis. I found this very curious indeed which made me want to play Twilight Princess just to see how good (or not so good) it was.
In any case, let me briefly discuss my history with the Zelda series. Like most kids who grew up in the 80s, I got to experience the classic gold cartridge goodness known as The Legend of Zelda for the NES and would eventually tackle Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. It wasn't until around 2000 or so that I got to play Zelda III: A Link to the Past for the Super NES and it took even longer for me to make the transition to the 3D games in the series. That probably explains why I am so objective when it comes to anything after Zelda II. I do have to say that the Zelda series is at its best in an open 3D world. Over the past two years or so, I have had the pleasure of playing the Ocarina of Time 3D remake for the Nintendo 3DS along with the newer Skyward Sword installment on the Nintendo Wii. If you have read my reviews of those two games, you know that they were probably my two favorite Zelda games going into my Twilight Princess experience. With their enormous open worlds, unreal amount of secret areas, fun mini-games, and outstanding battle/gameplay elements (e.g. the Z-targeting system), both games really seemed to hit the nail on the head in terms of bringing the Zelda series to the next level.
Enter Twilight Princess. I honestly have no idea why it took me a whopping seven years to finally get to this game but I can say for a fact that my younger brother Nathan has literally tried everything possible to get me to play this game. Over the past couple of years he has encouraged me time and time again to just play the danged game! Our mutual friend Josh B. is also a big supporter of this particular game and, in a more gentle manner, told me to play this game. :) Since I was already a veteran of the series and since we had played literally hundreds of battles at the Bridge of Eldin (courtesy of Super Smash Bros. Brawl), it was only a matter of time until I played this game.
Well, 85+ hours of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess gameplay later, I can now understand why they were so adamant about me playing (and reviewing!) this game. Twilight Princess truly is yet another amazing romp in a series already overflowing with "epicness." It borrows some of the best elements from Ocarina of Time and feels a lot like Skyward Sword (or should I say Skyward Sword feels a lot like Twilight Princess since Skyward Sword was released nearly five years after Twilight Princess?) in terms of the motion controls and general gameplay.
More importantly, however, Twilight Princess brings its own set of gadgets and original elements to the table as well. While most of the game is spent fighting as Link, what makes Twilight Princess unique is that, in the Twilight Realm (or areas taken over by the Twilight), Link essentially morphs into a wolf form and has to fight and function as a wolf until...certain things happen. The cool thing is that, in wolf form, Link can actually sense phantom friends/enemies, dig for rupees/secret tunnels in sparkling spots (look for areas where grass/rocks are laid out in a circle pattern), and can even pick up various scents and follow them! This element of Twilight Princess is key because it is what gives this game originality and its unique atmosphere/feel.
In addition to Link going "werewolf" on us, Zelda: Twilight Princess is also unique in that it features a mysterious companion known as Midna. Like Fi from Skyward Sword, Midna teams up with Link and functions as a guide so to speak. She is much more than just that though and truly becomes an integral and memorable part of the whole Twilight Princess experience by the end. She is a fun character to have along for the ride and gives plenty of advice in addition to adding some light-hearted humor at times. Her goals and ambitions seem ambiguous throughout much of the journey which keeps things interesting for sure. All I can say is that, without Midna's presence, Twilight Princess just wouldn't be the same.
As far as the core gameplay goes, if you have any experience playing a 3D Zelda game coming into Twilight Princess, you will feel right at home. The learning curve, other than getting the feel of the motion controls/zooming/menu aspects, is nothing you haven't seen before. I should probably mention that this does depend on which version of Twilight Princess you choose to play. I personally have only played the Nintendo Wii version but I imagine that the GameCube version of Twilight Princess would feel a little different. Whatever the case, veterans of the Zelda series shouldn't have any trouble jumping right into this game. For additional details, check out my Ocarina of Time 3D and/or Skyward Sword reviews. I don't feel like repeating myself all over again. :)
Graphics: All additional gameplay elements being equal, the visual style of the graphics found in the Zelda series has become a real hotbed for debate ever since The Wind Waker was released back in 2003. While most fans up to that point loved the crisp, detailed, somewhat realistic graphics found in Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask (I say "somewhat" because Nintendo 64 games do not age well visually!), The Wind Waker took a lot of heat for deviating from the path and having cartoony, cel-shaded visuals. Some fans liked it while others wrote it off as being too "childish" and "kiddy." I will have to play The Wind Waker myself before conjuring up my personal opinion but I can honestly understand both points on this. As I touched on in my review of Skyward Sword, the graphics in that game seemed to be a mixture of Wind Waker elements along with some elements from the game I am reviewing right now.
Which brings us back to Twilight Princess. This game visually is absolutely stunning and features a much more realistic feel than The Wind Waker or even Ocarina of Time (the original Nintendo 64 release...compare the graphics if you doubt me). Along with Xenoblade Chronicles, Zelda: Twilight Princess proves that beautiful, realistic graphics are in fact possible in a Nintendo Wii game. And you have to remember that this game was released back in 2006 as well!
Anyway, Twilight Princess truly impressed me throughout and I really do prefer this style of graphics in a Zelda game. As much as I enjoyed Skyward Sword, I think that this game actually has better visuals overall. Everything is just so crisp and the attention to detail is outstanding like usual. Just watching Link and Epona ride off into the...twilight is a sight to see! Hyrule Field (i.e. the overworld) looks amazing and the whole Day/Night aspect of this game was pulled off beautifully. It reminded me a lot of Dragon Quest VIII actually and this element of the Zelda series has truly been a treat since Ocarina of Time. Why mess with a good thing, right?
Before moving on, I just have to mention that the diversity of Twilight Princess' graphics is very impressive too. While the game does have locations similar to previous installments (Faron Woods, Death Mountain, and Zora's Domain all return in this game.), there are some new areas to explore as well! Snowpeak with its blustery winds and winter wonderland feel looks very...chilly while the City in the Sky makes me think of Skyward Sword's airborne world (perhaps the City in the Sky was a catalyst for Skyward Sword's world?). And the Twilight Realm itself, without giving anything away, looks astounding! As far as atmosphere goes, that particular world really impressed me. So while there is a lot of familiarity in Twilight Princess (nearly all Zelda games take place in Hyrule after all), at least there are some new elements to keep things fresh.
Music: If there is a game in the Zelda series that does not feature enchanting, ethereal music, please let me know because I have not found one yet. :) Twilight Princess contains yet another epic, memorable soundtrack that incorporates classic themes from previous installments along with some solid original content as well. This game can't even wait until you start playing to impress either because one of the finest tracks in the game plays during the title screen! This wonderful remixed title theme from The Legend of Zelda for the NES fits perfectly with the scene of Link majestically riding Epona on Hyrule Field. With an intro like that, how can you lose?
Thankfully, there are plenty of memorable themes that play within the game itself as well. The Hyrule Field track evokes feelings of adventure and grandeur and is an excellent track for the game's overworld. The darker tune that plays at night is very good too and is a welcome contrast to the more robust daytime tune. Another track that I enjoyed was the mysterious, ambient piece that plays when you are in wolf form early in the game. It gave the game a somewhat dark feel and was very appropriate for this section of the game. I can still visualize climbing on the towers of Hyrule Castle with Midna. The music definitely helped to make this part of the game epic and timeless! With all that being said, however, the best completely original track found in Twilight Princess might be Midna's Lament. This is a gorgeous piano-driven piece that plays during one of the more heart-wrenching moments in the game.
There are plenty of additional tracks that I enjoyed in Twilight Princess as well. The Castle Town tune was nice and pleasant and brought back memories of Kingdom Hearts for some reason. A few Ocarina of Time ditties such as the Secret Room/Skulltula theme along with the basic track that plays when you enter someone's home were welcome return tracks too. I did enjoy the relaxing Faron Woods theme as well as the classic tune that plays deep in the forest near the Master Sword. And a real surprise track is the western-styled tune that plays when you have a "showdown" with those twenty enemies in the "Forgotten Town." That track really took me by surprise and is a fantastic piece of music!
Now while most of the music in Twilight Princess is amazing stuff like what I touched on above, I have to be honest and mention that there was still a decent amount of music in the game that I found to be rather pedestrian. This would involve most of the music that plays throughout the game's many temples/dungeons. While nothing really struck me as being bad per se, I have noticed that, throughout the Zelda series, the dungeon tracks are almost always my least favorite ones in the game. Maybe the composers decided that ambience was the way to go since any normal gamer will spend hours upon hours in these particular places. I understand that but, at the same time, I personally have a preference for melodies and catchy, adrenaline-pumping tunes that go somewhere. So it could just be a matter of taste.
Lastly, I just wanted to say that the sound effects throughout this game are very Zelda-esque and by that I mean they are top-notch! From bombs exploding to arrows hitting their mark, everything in Twilight Princess just sounds right. I absolutely love the sound of Epona galloping as well as that "shiny" sound that you hear in wolf form when using the "sense" command (as well as when you are near a golden bug). Some of the voices you hear are pretty funny too and admit it...running through Castle Town in wolf form is hilarious! Cruel yes but gut-busting none the less. The little things are what separate the Zelda series from most games and Twilight Princess is no exception from an auditory standpoint.
Play Control: Overall, the motion controls and execution are pretty spot-on in Twilight Princess. This game feels so much like Skyward Sword in terms of the control scheme that a detailed discussion probably isn't necessary. There are a few minor elements worth mentioning though.
First, controlling Link in wolf form is easy and a lot of fun to boot! You naturally move with the analog stick on the Nunchuk with the Wiimote functioning as your eyes (this is the case with Link in his natural form as well). By pressing left or right on the Wiimote's D-pad, you can use the sense command which comes in handy when searching for treasure, tracking a scent (you will have to do this many times throughout the course of the game) and/or locating otherwise invisible poe ghosts!
Fighting as Link is pretty straightforward as well. The Z-targeting system is back so definitely try to get a good feel for holding Z while fighting enemies. You can execute sidesteps and backflips like in Ocarina of Time and there are a plethora of Hidden Skills in Twilight Princess that add some really fun new elements to the battle system as well! If you are able to find the hero of old (this can be done by howling the right melodies near those statues with a hole in the center then returning to the Golden Wolf's location with Link), you can learn a whole myriad of powerful new attacks. Some of these moves are immensely fun to execute too so try to find them all!
Considering that these are indeed motion controls, I feel that Twilight Princess does about as well as you could expect. There are times when you will attack without wanting to and might fire a bomb arrow without meaning to but that comes with the territory. I was very pleased overall and I feel that the controls are pretty much spot-on with Skyward Sword in terms of execution and feel.
Challenge: I simply have to get this off my chest. Many of the puzzles found within Twilight Princess are HARD!! And by hard I mean old-school 1980s beat you up then slap you silly hard! Seriously, how in the world is a kid supposed to make any progress let alone beat a game like this? Darn freaking rackin' frackin' smackin' tackin'...ARRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!
...okay...I feel a whole lot better now that I got that out of the way! Seriously, some of the puzzles found within this game are insanely hard to figure out. And by insane I mean hours upon hours of stumbling around like a drunken sailor trying to find out where to go hard. There has to be some sort of a connection between the Zelda series and the Professor Layton series on the DS/3DS (great series btw...I hope to review those games someday!) because both series of games contain puzzles that only a member of Mensa could conjure up. Seriously!
In any case, my above statements probably make you think that The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a modern day Battletoads but, to be perfectly candid, the overall challenge level in Twilight Princess is sort of all over the place. The reason I say this is that, while some of the puzzles found within the game are very difficult to crack, fighting enemies and taking on the main bosses really isn't all that daunting. The trick in any boss battle is to figure out how to damage your foe(s) and once you manage to do that, the rest of the battle is fairly easy. By the game's end, I had three bottles with Blue Potion, Rare Chu Potion, and a Fairy and I hardly had to tap into any of them...even in the game's final battle! I was certainly proud of my accomplishments and yet, I kind of wished that some of the boss battles had been a little more difficult with the puzzles being more...reasonable. That's just my personal opinion though.
Despite my ranting and raving, I actually do respect the fact that the Zelda series has never given in to the "Modern Game Syndrome" which involves making games much easier and holding your hand throughout. Look at the games today and how easy they are! If you doubt me, play a few newer games on the market then tackle behemoths such as Battletoads, Adventure Island, Mega Man, and Ninja Gaiden and then we'll talk. ;) Anyway, that is one thing that I truly respect about the Zelda series because, from the original NES classic all the way to Skyward Sword and beyond, this series is tough! I can't even begin to tell you how many times I felt an incredible wave of relief when I solved a mind-numbing puzzle or defeated a difficult boss (Despite what I just said, there are at least a couple of difficult bosses to be found in Twilight Princess). Most modern games just don't give you that feeling of satisfaction anymore but Zelda certainly does so in spades!
On a somewhat related note, it goes without saying that Twilight Princess, like virtually every Zelda game in existence, has nearly endless replay value. I am an incredibly thorough gamer and there are still some bugs and poe's souls and pieces of heart that I have not yet been able to obtain. It drives me crazy too! That's one of the best aspects of the Zelda series though. There are simply so many secrets and the game has such a huge world to explore that you never truly feel like you are "done" with the game.
Storyline: Twilight Princess once again delivers a memorable, epic story to the Zelda universe. This time around, the kingdom of Hyrule is threatened by a mysterious force from the otherworldly Twilight Realm. Like the Light and Dark worlds found in A Link to the Past, Twilight Princess involves a clash between the world of Light and the unknown Twilight Realm and as twilight begins to descent on the far reaches of the kingdom (and even grows thick near Link's home village of Ordon), Link quickly finds himself swept up into yet another struggle between the forces of good and evil. With his friends in danger and the dark Twilight force threatening to take over, the urgency to visit Hyrule Castle and meet with Zelda herself becomes paramount. Without giving too much away, let me just say that it is around this time that you begin to understand the true nature of the Twilight Realm and, with Zelda (and Midna's!) help, you discover a way to possibly quell the Twilight's influence as well as a way to defeat the main source of its power. Naturally, there are plenty of twists and turns, a few surprises, and a myriad of important tasks that you will have to complete in order to defeat the ultimate source of evil. Like with all Zelda games, it isn't about the destination...it's the journey that makes this game (and series!) so epic and memorable from a story standpoint.
Overall, I do feel that Twilight Princess features one of the better plots in the series. This game actually feels somewhat dark at times due to the presence of the mysterious Twilight Realm along with Link transforming into a ferocious wolf. The main story really begins to heat up near the end of the game too and the final few areas with their intense battles make for quite the epic finale. This game truly leaves you satisfied at journey's end and makes you thirsty for more...like any great game would!
Funfactor: Although Twilight Princess truly ticked me off and frustrated the daylights out of me at times, at the end of the day, with all of the chips on the line, this game is still immensely enjoyable and is yet another top-tier Zelda game. Although the main story is very good and tackling the game's dungeons was fun (when it wasn't making me want to throw something anyway!), I think that I might have had the most fun when I simply explored Hyrule Field and searched for secret caves and underground passages and those elusive Pieces of Heart! I have always loved how Zelda games gradually open up and, as your repertoire of special items (e.g. Clawshot, Spinner, etc.) increases, so too do the areas you can explore! Twilight Princess is an adventure game in every sense of the word and I personally found it to be most enjoyable when I was just relaxing and searching for treasure. This certainly is not a game you want to rush through. Otherwise, you just might miss out on the whole point of playing it: to have fun!
In addition to its adventure elements, I absolutely loved fighting enemies in Twilight Princess. The Z-targeting system was superbly crafted and the Hidden Skills found within the game added a lot to this game's battle engine that wasn't necessarily found in other Zelda games. I promise you that if you take the time to go through the process of learning all of the Hidden Skills, you will enjoy this game even more! Speaking of which, the "howling" concept was very enjoyable and brought back good memories of playing your ocarina in Ocarina of Time. It felt so epic finding the Golden Wolf then meeting up with him again as Link.
Also, I know that I haven't touched on it very much at all but some of the special weapons/items you obtain in Twilight Princess are so much fun to use! Despite its limited usage potential, the Spinner is a lot of fun and is the closest thing to a roller coaster experience in a Zelda game. The Ball and Chain is bulky but is so satisfying as it can tear frozen ice blocks and boulders to shreds. The Clawshot (and Double-Clawshot!) is another amazing item and just adds a whole new element to this game.
As a whole, I honestly see no reason why The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess should not be considered as the greatest game in the series. It takes some of the best elements from Ocarina of Time and adds its own flair and seems to improve on everything! The atmosphere is incredible, visually this game is stunning, the music incorporates classic themes from Ocarina of Time as well as the NES and SNES Zelda games all while adding its own memorable melodies, the battle system is probably the best in the series, the story is captivating and dark enough to where it made me raise an eyebrow (or two), and it has to be one of the largest games in the Zelda universe. Naturally, I will probably have a better feeling about its place once I give it a second playthrough (the same goes for OOT and Skyward Sword). I still need to play The Wind Waker and Majora's Mask at some point but, as things stand, Twilight Princess is an amazing, epic Zelda game that is as good as any other game in the series. All I can say is thank you bro (Nathan!) for finally getting me to play this game! It was every bit as fun and enjoyable as you said.
Negatives: I already covered this in depth but, if there was anything about Twilight Princess that really got under my skin, it was the incredible difficulty found in many of the game's puzzles. Granted, I love puzzles but geez...it literally took me hours to figure out some of the puzzles in the Lakeside Temple and City in the Sky in particular. It was so frustrating! Now, to be fair, this is not exclusive to Twilight Princess as virtually every Zelda game in existence is guilty of frustrating the heck out of me at some point. But man oh man...Twilight Princess really pushed me to the brink! Still, it's not the game's fault. It's just the nature of the series I suppose.
Also, while Twilight Princess was amazing in the music department as a whole, I just wish that the dungeon themes in the game (and in the rest of the series too!) had been more memorable. Ambient music just isn't my thing with the exception of a game like Shadow Hearts for the PS2 which pulls it off so well. I prefer memorable melodies and adrenaline-pumping tunes but I guess you can't please everyone, eh? Zelda games seem to accomplish this about 75-80% of the time but the dungeon tracks just don't work for me. Just a minor gripe really but I have to complain about something, right? ;)
Ratings: Graphics: 4.9 Music: 4.5 Play Control: 4.6 Challenge: 4.5 Storyline: 4.6 Funfactor: 4.7 Overall Score: 27.8 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Golden Classic!!
Back to Wii WondersLast Updated: November 7, 2013