The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Twilight Princess may be all the reason you need to buy a Wii, but it actually started life on the Cube, and the "lesser” version is just as good as its waggle-licious counterpart. The controls are old-fashioned, sure, and the game world is flipped (what was east is west now) and stripped of widescreen. But the gameplay is spot-on, and that’s what counts.
We lavished all 10s on the Wii Princess last issue and, aside from some small technical details, this version is identical. If you haven’t been able to snag a Wii, here’s your chance to try this masterpiece.
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Each new chapter in Nintendo's most revered franchise tackles the same concept--heroic elf boy battles monsters, saves chick, saves world--in a brave new way. Twilight Princess pulls a complete 180 from the last GameCube iteration, The Wind Waker, shirking off that game's kiddified visual trappings and waterlogged nautical gameplay in favor of a return to the realistic environments, darker themes, and horseback action of 1998's Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 64).
In fact, the story line takes place a few decades after Ocarina's, although the Link that you control is, in the words of Director Eiji Aonuma, "a new Link." This Link must contend with a creepy, otherworldly menace known as simply "the twilight" that threatens to envelop the entire realm of Hyrule, transforming it into a barren, dark wasteland. This twilight holds bizarre mysteries: When Link steps into it, he transforms into a wolf, handing players an all-new array of attacks and special abilities to master.
Sadly, the version I played did not feature any sections in which Link became his lupine alter ego, but luckily, I still witnessed plenty of gameplay variety.
In the game's initial village, I wasted plenty of time messing around as "Cowboy Link," herding goats on my trusty horse, canoeing downstream, tracking down lost puppies, gliding around with chickens, summoning my pet hawk to knock down a beehive, practicing my swordplay on a dummy, and exploring hidden nooks and crannies in the peaceful hamlet. I'm always amazed by how much enjoyment Nintendo can pack into a tiny, tranquil little town.
Next up, I tackled a horseback combat section on a vast, rolling plain. The sheer size of this location astounded me--it offered an even greater sense of scale than Hyrule Field (the central hub in Ocarina of Time), but with nonstop action, as I fended off attackers from every side. This battle segued into a thrilling (and surprisingly tough) duel on horseback, as I jousted with the enemy leader who rode a hideous boar. Dramatic stuff, indeed.
All of that felt like a warm-up for the true meat of a Zelda experience--a complex, engaging dungeon. Spelunking through this Forest Temple reminded me of what's so amazing about the series' labyrinths: Each one offers a cleverly designed location, plenty of enemies to smite, tricky puzzles to solve, and well-hidden secrets to uncover. This one adds two extra elements to further deepen the fun: First, Link recruits a band of helpful monkeys to swing him across expansive pits, and second, he also discovers a new toy, the Gale Boomerang, that can hit multiple targets with tiny whirlwinds. You'll have to master these new techniques to reach the dungeon's boss, a colossal, man-eating plant that, in proper Zelda tradition, requires a fair amount of mental prowess to defeat. Now, the hardest part will be waiting until November to reenter this enchanting world....
This little Link has legs, and we're not talking about the ones wearing the booties--Nintendo's tales of elfin heroism in the face of unspeakable evil just never seem to get old. When we first heard that an upcoming Zelda adventure would star a young, cartoony-looking Link, we grumbled with the worst of them. Then Wind Waker came out. Aside from some boring moments piloting a dinghy, it is nearly perfect. Seeing as how the Zelda series ran away with the popular vote and Link's cameo in the Cube version of Soul Calibur II helped make that game a best-seller, we're apparently not the only ones in touch with our inner elf. Ultimate moment: In Wind Waker, it has to be your first visit to Hyrule Castle, which is on the ocean floor, frozen in time. Everything is black and white, with statue-like guards caught in midarmpit scratch. It's one of the eeriest moments in any game we've ever played. And then you pull the Master Sword from the stone, time starts ticking again, and all hell breaks loose....
Expect 2004 to be a monumental year for the pointy-eared lad in green tights. First up, two oddball Zelda spin-offs--Four Swords and Tetra's Trackers--land on GameCube in the next few months. They're both GBA-connectivity minigames, of sorts, that Nintendo will probably sell for cheap. A full-fledged sequel to Wind Waker and an all-new Game Boy Advance Zelda title are also en route in 2004; both should debut at May's colossal E3 game expo in Los Angeles.
Expectations don't get much higher then they do for a newgame on a new console, especially one as unique as the Wii. If you were expecting a fundamentally different Zelda game based on the unique opportunities of the Wii, you might be a little disappointed. If however you were expecting another excellent Zelda game that doesn't stray far from the series' conventions then you'll be more then happy with Twilight Princess.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess like most of the installments in the series recounts the tale of a young boy who through a twist of fate becomes involved with a Princess named Zelda and tasked with saving the land of Hyrule. This time Link has to thwart calamity in the form of an encroaching darkness that is slowly pulling Hyrule into the twilight realm. To accomplish this goal you'll delve into elemental temples, solve a myriad of cleverly designed puzzles, engage in exciting combat and traverse the shadow realm in the form of a blue eyed wolf. Its familiar territory, yet there are enough interesting twists to keep the game fresh for the 40 or so hours it'll take to finish.
The Wii remote definitely changes the way Zelda plays, but not in so fundamental a way that it feels like an evolution beyond traditional adventure game standards. You'll control Link's movements with the analog stick on the nunchuk controller while the Wiimote acts as your sword. As such, swinging the Wiimote causes Link to attack, which sounds more immersive then it is since Link's moves are canned and don't resemble yours to any degree. Overall it works pretty well, and the fact that you can fire all the ranged weapons in the game by pointing the Wiimote feels quite intuitive.
Twilight Princess from an artistic standpoint is a beautiful game to look at. The vibrant land of Hyrule stands in stark contrast to the dark and very cool shadow realm. From a technical standpoint however, Twilight Princess isn't quite as stunning as some of the other next gen titles currently out. Similarly while the music is as excellent as it's ever been in the series, it lacks some of the orchestral umph that games like Final Fantasy XII possess, not to mention the voice acting.
Largely, these are split hairs. Taken as the sum of its parts The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, is another excellent game in an excellent series. It's hard to fault it for not moving beyond its tried and true formula when that formula has produced so many good games. This is definitely a game that new Wii owners should think about picking up.