Hey all, this is my first post, so I'm going to do a little introduction. I used to run a small Zelda site a few years back called City of Clocktown, and have been a Zelda gamer since A Link to the Past. I lost interest, so to speak, after Wind Waker. I found that game to be... inadequate, I guess. I've just finished Twilight Princess on my first run-through, and I think I hit around 35 hours. I did some item collecting to make things in the game go smoother (wallet, some heart pieces, etc.), but by and large this was a minimum run. I used no help, so I feel good about that, haha.
Also, keep in mind that I'm reviewing this from a hardcore/otaku/fanboy perspective.
Oh, and if you don't want red, yellow, and green spoilers, don't read any further.
Without further ado, here goes:
That's the first thing that came to mind after I finished the game. Twilight Princess is an amazing game, and well-deserved of all the hype it got. It is the game that was supposed to happen to the Gamecube/Wii. While Wind Waker was fun, and a solid game in its own right, there was something that was lacking. I'm thinking it was the presentation. Cel-shading, while being beautiful and serving a great purpose for the kind of game Wind Waker was, just doesn't convey the sinister parts a Zelda story. Twilight Princess does just that.
I have to hand it to Nintendo. 3 years with all of this pressure on their shoulders. This Zelda game HAD to be it. There might be mass retaliation if this isn't a PERFECT game. If it doesn't meet our expectations, then what's going to happen?
So... did it?
Yes and no.
I say yes, because this game gave us all what we wanted. Remember back in 2000? When we saw the technical demo that showed off some of the Gamecube's capabilities? Do you remember dreaming, daydreaming during class/work, and being excited? Do you remember the initial disappointment and/or shock you felt when Wind Waker was unveiled? Twilight Princess satisfies that.
But it also doesn't quite deliver all the way. For me at least. I've a whole laundry list of things, but I'll try and get them down to what I think is most important.
Let's face the facts. Nintendo loves to recycle ideas. Especially those ideas that work great. Twilight Princess does not bring fresh ideas to the board in Zelda. The two worlds? Started in A Link to the Past, expanded upon in Ocarina of Time, and was also seen in The Wind Waker. Transforming into an animal the first time Link enters this different world? A Link to the Past. Transforming your shape at will? Majora's Mask.
Now, even though Twilight Princess borrows heavily (and how) from previous Zelda games, I believe that this game takes those ideas to near perfection. The spread of the Twilight and it's miasma-like qualities was well done.
Puzzles and dungeons were well done, but are easy for veteran players. Why? Because we've seen them before. I admit, some puzzles had me stumped for longer than I like to admit, and some were real brain twisters. But for the most part, the dungeons have been seen before, and therefore, are not as challenging as I'd like.
Forget what you've read about the naysayers. This is best in-game story of a Zelda game. Period. But there are chinks. I would have loved to see more "stories within a story" in this game. I liked the whole idea of having to purge the Twilight in order to find more about the kidnapped children. Rescuing Colin from the Goblin Rider, while making me cheer for the darker quality of the game, also was a brilliant way of achieving this.
But... who is Zelda? Who is Ganon? I think I can count the number of lines Zelda spoke on both my hands. They were almost nonexistent. Oh boy, Zelda fading from existence during the game was a huge shocker for me. There were moments where I was at an utter loss for words about the story of the game, but some things just don't click. Even though this game draws heavily on Ocarina of Time's story, I felt that it didn't really connect to it, and I sure as hell feel that this leaves way too many loose ends in regards to later (chronologically) games. I'll say it right now, I think the Split Timeline is the best way to go about the Zelda timeline. But if Nintendo and all of us knew that this took place in between Wind Waker and Ocarina of Time, don't you think this game would have connected better?
And Ooccaa? They created the Hylians (which I think is an in-game myth)? What does that mean for the chosen race of the Goddesses? Speaking of the Hylians, what happened to them? I know in Ocarina of Time they were becoming less pronounced, but what happened to them in Twilight Princess? Am I right in saying that Hylian is still spoken and that there are some Hylians still alive (indicated by the shopkeeper addressing Link in Hylian and him understanding... and the ears)? Or have they faded and Humans are now the predominate species?
I also would have liked some explanation as to why the Sages were banishing Gannondorf. Maybe I missed something, but I don't know how he got free of his seal from Ocarina of Time, and why the Triforce was not mentioned virtually at all. Did I miss something during the explanation of what happened after Ocarina of Time, or did the Twili not even try and use the Triforce? Hell, what happened to the Triforce after Ocarina of Time? It was split, right?
The story of the game itself is brilliant. This game is a darker story. Hyrule is falling apart. You can see that in the crumbling buildings, the talk of the soldiers, and the storyline premise itself. Yet, it's not as dark as it was touted to be. I was fully expecting a tragic ending, leading up to the flood. We can't always get what we speculate on, and nonetheless, the in-game story is amazing. But as for it connecting to the game it pays homage to, it falters. Hard.
Twilight Princess is easily the best looking Zelda game yet, and the best looking game on the Gamecube and currently, the Wii. I found myself marveling at the fact that these graphics came from a Gamecube port. Whoever did the artwork and art direction for the game needs a big thumbs up and lots of drinks on the house for their excellent work.
Hyrule is huge. I was very happy. This is how I envisioned Hyrule to be. I appreciate the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings style epic-ness and scope that was brought into the game. I had always thought that the two were very similar, and I'm very happy to see that the directors thought so too. And it's still hard to believe the game looks so good when it is so huge.
Characters, I felt, for the most part were well-developed. Again, I wish there was some more story within a story, but the NPCs in this game are simply wonderful. Link being a member of a group trying to save Hyrule. A shaman who oversees Kakariko. Midna. But then again, Zelda, Ganon, and Link are poorly developed in this game. I did feel more immersed thanks to great direction in the cut-scenes and the ranges of emotion displayed through facial features.
Sound-wise, though, I think the game could have done more. I know the limitations of the Gamecube, but it is time for Zelda to have voice acting and orchestrated music. Link is a mute, but he should also have text. But the time for voice acting has already passed. Don't get me wrong, the sound is great, and the music is breathtaking. It's easily the best score of any Zelda game. But there are some pieces that should have been orchestrated, and you know what they are. Also, Link sounds at his best in this game, and he also sounds more realistic, too.
I'm a bit mixed on here. The Wii controls do feel tacked on. And this is understandable since it is, after all, a Gamecube port. I found myself frustrated at times with the controls (swordplay comes to mind the most), but overall the Wii controls make playing Zelda a better experience.
I was disappointed with the difficulty of this game. I am glad they made it harder for players to completely recover (fairies and potions are now limited), but they still make it far too easy to find health. All you need to so is smash barrels or cut grass. Enemies don't take off enough health for the blows to seem realistic. I did die in this game, several times. And it's been the first time I've died in about 5 Zelda games. But what really disappoints me the most are the boss battles. They are far too easy. Epic, oh hell yes. Brilliant, yes. But they are too easy.
Take, for instance, the boss fight with Zant. He's easy. Ganondorf? Very easy. But this fight with Ganondorf is easily the best Zelda boss battle ever. Especially the very end where you can engage in a struggle of will and might when Link and Ganondorf clash swords, and it's up to the player to have Link overpower Ganondorf.
The mechanics with Link's wolf form are very well-done, and Midna for the most part does not give baby-level advice. She is not Navi. But she does make it easier and also makes the game linear. But, nevermind that the game is also linear. Ocarina of Time was linear, even more so, but this game also gives a healthy level of exploration. It's nowhere near the level of say, Metroid Prime or the older Zelda games, but Link is not always bound to do everything in exact order.
In my opinion, this is easily the best Zelda that has been made so far in many respects. But we as fans expected too much out of this. I am very guilty of this, if my review doesn't scream this loud and clear. It will not have the impact or revolution that Ocarina of Time did. It does raise the bar and gives us indications of what we should expect. Twilight Princess has perfected the game engine introduced in Ocarina of Time and has taken the ideas of previous Zelda games to their satisfying limits.
We can hopefully look forward to fresh ideas in the next major Zelda game, and hopefully, either a story that connects loose ends, explains things, or even rectcons older stories. Zelda games do connect; they are not stand-alone stories like Final Fantasy. It's time we actually know how they connect, and hopefully the next game will tell us.
Gameplay will remain largely the same. The Zelda formula is gold. But we can expect new puzzles. New ideas and innovations, and hopefully new items.
I see Twilight Princess as the start of the next generation of Zelda games, and the springboard of what we can base later games on.
Thanks, Nintendo, for making a satisfying and truly wonderful game for us very impatient fans.