The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Game Description: The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess brings you back to the land of Hyrule, as you uncover the mystery behind its plunge into darkness. Link, a young man raised as a wrangler in a rural village, is ordered by the mayor to attend the Hyrule Summit. He sets off, oblivious to the dark fate that has descended upon the kingdom. When he enters the Twilight Realm that has covered Hyrule, he transforms into a wolf and is captured. A mysterious figure helps him break free, and with the aid of her magic, they set off to free the land from the shadows. Link must explore the vast land of Hyrule and As he does, he'll have to enlist the aid of friendly folk, solve puzzles and battle his way through dangerous dungeons. In the Twilight Realm, he'll have to use his wolf abilities and Midna's magic to bring light to the land. Revisit classic and new characters—Link, Zelda, Midna and many others.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Review

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Screenshot

Even before a new installment in Nintendo's fabled The Legend of Zelda series hits shelves, it has the uncanny ability to ignite heated, passionate discussion on its untested merits. At the same time, it often summons cool, breezy reflections on the overall series and its special qualities. And what happens afterward? More of the same thing really. But there was one significant outcome after the release GameCube's Wind Waker and the Nintendo 64's Majora's MaskTwilight Princess.

After a two-game hiatus of aesthetic and structural experiments, public opinion has yielded a return to 1998's seminal The Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64. It features a mature-looking protagonist with more lifelike graphics, which fans pleaded for, but otherwise the song remains the same, which fans also pleaded for. It is a huge compliment toward the series' power and craftsmanship when what is old remains a highlight of an industry's entire creative year. But it also becomes the game's most glaring disappointment: the realization of too many stalwart expectations set by the audience, and the failure to exceed most of them.

The legend itself has become pigeonholed, its enemies and its precious Princess Zelda becoming overstated personas never emerging as more than bones in the skeletal frame of the plot. The game begins as a story of remorse and duality, telling of a Twilight Realm that threatens to overtake the land after years of segregation.

It eventually collapses into formula without the charm or sympathy of the previous games, including series oddity Majora's Mask. The main villain's motivation, so full of history, regret and deep-seated passion in previous games, has disappeared here. It is unreasonable for the player to fill such large gaps of logic and characterization by culling the previous games and stories, especially if the player isn't familiar with previous reiterations of the legend. The rich history and tales spun so laboriously in previous games is barely found here. It reaps little reward for longtime fans of the series, and causes only confusion and plotholes to newcomers.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Screenshot

None of these problems remove the game's ability to astound, bewilder and engage. Even when its dungeons border on routine, their designs are still effortlessly clever where in games like Sony's God of War, some designs lack purpose or a unifying vision. And coming from a series known for tight gameplay, Twilight Princess moves at the most brisk pace of them all, with little time for hang-ups. The game also reeks of nostalgia, and old time fans of the series will find that the game still pulls the right heartstrings, despite its vague acknowledgment of others in the series.

It would be unfair to saddle next-generation expectations for this game, because it was developed initially for the GameCube. Therefore it remains the perfect send-off for the last generation of gaming: Tight, classy and thoroughly enjoyable. But it would be criminal for me not to point out how the rest of the adventuring genre is advancing. Fumito Ueda's epics like Shadow of the Colossus mine new ways of motivating players through story, and even the childish God of War is able to grip hearts and imagination through its more cathartic action. By sticking with public opinion, Nintendo has developed a game that feels like it's eight years behind.

The Zelda audience also kept the game's controls under a microscope, and the upstart control scheme of Nintendo's new Wii console is weaved effortlessly into the play style. The Zelda series's 3-D control scheme has not been historically complicated, but it isn't as easy as Katamari Damacy requiring only two analog sticks. Yet the game eases the player into the controls, which include aiming with the remote and jiggling it for sword strikes. Although swordplay seems tacked on (jiggling a remote is not more functional than pressing a button), the controls never feel unnatural. This game is a good primer for developers and players alike to familiarize themselves with the controls.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Screenshot

But the new wolf mechanic fails to be anything more than yet another way of getting around. Expectation might have it closer to Link to the Past's spatial relationship with its Dark Realm, or the causalities that came with The Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask. Using the wolf's sense to see the Twilight Realm is a ghastly, beautiful effect to be sure, but contributes little to the player's sense of discovery, save for a few holes to dig or making a few jumps that would otherwise be impossible.

Any Zelda player will expect the first temple to be a forest-like temple, and that's when I started to get the nagging sense that the game's overall temple and item-hunting structure was going to creak like an antiquated boat. Never mind the silly logic in having god-like enemies and daunting temples being host to the only means of toppling both. Most of the game's famed items, some new and some old, are rarely used outside of the context of the respective temples they are found in. They are used occasionally in the vast overworld map, but only in cases where they are so obvious, so transparent, that spelunking a cave suddenly doesn't feel like exploring anything. Instead, the game mechanic of using items to unlock special treasures becomes transparent. It then becomes easy to see, for example, that using a hookshot to cross gaps isn't discovering treasure, it's merely using a glorified key.

The Legend of Zelda series will soon enter a new era, and there's little doubt Nintendo will introduce its next installment as the game to beat for the new generation. Twilight Princess isn't it, but for anyone to expect much more out of it would be unreasonable. It's what's been asked for, and for the time being, the best thing any of us can do is embrace it and celebrate it for all that it is. After all, it is the most traditional of Zelda games, housing some of the series's most magnificent flourishes of design. But in an industry this fickle, its audience can be so lovingly patient only for so long before legends turn into boring stories of glory days. Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

According to ESRB, this game contains: Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence

Parents may already be familiar with the Zelda series, and have found it to be relatively tame compared to most games. Even still, some of Link's attacks in this latest installment are designed to look a little more brutal. Although it says animated blood, there is no real crimson blood shed in the game. The game does have some dark imagery that may be scary, but no scarier than a Disney villain.

Zelda fans for the most part won't be disappointed. This is easily the largest Zelda adventure yet, with a decent amount of temples, several new items and a very engaging combat system. Fans who have been waiting for the return of a grown-up Link will find much cause to celebrate.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing gamers will have little trouble. All of the text is subtitled, as there is no voice acting in the game. There are several audio cues, but pretty much all of them are signaled at the same time as a very visible visual cue.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Second Opinion

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Screenshot

While thoroughly engaging and lore-filled, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is not the "tight and classy" Wii primer that Gene Park implies. Poor presentation and technical flaws mar this latest addition to the Zelda family. Forbearance and sentimentality from the entire gaming community has made gamers soft to the faults of Twilight Princess, and not many have paused to wonder what the game will do to the future of the Zelda series.

To be blunt, the game is broken. 30 hours into gameplay, I fell victim to the infamous "cannon room" bug whereby Link becomes stuck in a room with no way to leave—a classic example of a "show stopper" in game development. In disgust, I did not play Twilight Princess for an entire month before finally working up enough enthusiasm (born of my love for the series rather than for Twilight Princess) to start over and beat the game. Though fixed in the GameCube and European Wii releases, this serious bug counts as a strike against the overall experience of Twilight Princess; if Nintendo was more concerned with getting the game on the shelves than with the quality of the game, what am I as a consumer to expect for future Zelda games? PC games might benefit from downloadable fixes and patches, but I when I buy a console game, I trust that I am buying the whole product in its entirety as it was meant to be seen by the public. And despite the Wii's internet-savvy set-up that could lend itself to downloadable fixes, I don't want to pay for broken games.

The way in which the game was released contributed to its failings. Between being pushed back repeatedly, and "updated" to accommodate the Wii controls, the game lost some of its originality and "fresh" appeal. Twilight Princess released late as part of a marketing strategy to bolster the Wii. Normally, missing a ship date only costs the publisher a pretty penny; in Zelda's case this allowed Capcom's Okami to debut first using the wolf gameplay mechanic. There are only so many ways to be a wolf in an adventure game; after having been a god in Okami, the wolf gameplay in Twilight Princess feels stale and under-developed. Worse still, the wolf gameplay in Zelda starts to feel tacked-on when Link is required to be a wolf so he can tightrope walk through a single portion of dungeon. Art direction and plotline aside, this key features of Twilight Princess are anything but "tight."

Twilight Princess is not without its own merit. The plot, for one, is a main selling point. The story echoes the Ocarina of Time: a young boy from an isolated village goes to meet the legendary princess of Hyrule and gets caught up in an epic battle of good and evil. Things become more complicated when our hero shape-shifts into a wolf when entering the mysterious world of Twilight. The fairy Navi is replaced with the Twilight creature Midna, and a whole string of second-tier characters pad out the plot from start to finish, complete with heart-rending reunion scenes and the odd surprising plot twist.

Thanks to art direction and excellent game design, the land of Hyrule has never looked this good. The world is wide and diverse, leaving plenty of places to explore. There are many people to talk to, various interactive objects to mess with, rivers to fish in, hot springs to swim in, and a myriad of details that flesh out Link's adventure into something more personal and less scripted. The lavishly rich settings make for the widest version of Hyrule next to Wind Waker, with sweeping vistas, carved stone bridges, and imposing canyons that carve out landscape both rolling and rugged. Link can venture into towns and examine the wares sold by different vendors, talk to just about any NPC, and even pay to have his shoes shined in Castle Town's market square. Mini-games and side-quests abound, and the payoffs are worth (most of) the agony Link goes through to complete them.

This second opinion is not meant to paint a bleak picture of an otherwise decent game. Twilight Princess debuted to rave reviews and fair showings with many informed game critics. Gene Park's review offers a fairly objective assessment of the game's worth in terms of the rest of the series: a true follow-up to Ocarina of Time, even if it is formulaic. And regardless of rough graphics and the "cannon room" bug killing my 30+ hour save, the final battle felt as gratifying as the first time I beat Gannon way, way back in 9th grade. But ultimately, Twilight Princess is not the game of the year and, for me at least, was not worth the over-long wait.