Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 11/19/06 | Genre: Action/RPG
I may generate a lot of hate mail for this, but Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess isn’t … No, let me start over. After numerous trips to, around and outside of Hyrule, Link has become … No, that’s not it either. See, this is tough, because while a solid game, and a very good game to launch the Wii, the latest Zelda game just leaves me with a feeling that something else should have been done with the franchise.
There isn’t anything wrong with the game, but there isn’t much done at all. Allow me to start with the graphics. While the GameCube has a certain limitation on what can be done graphically, and we are not expecting a huge leap with the Wii, LoZ:TP looks like it should have been released on the GameCube a couple of years ago. There are obvious flairs done in porting it to the Wii (don’t kid yourself – this is a port of the upcoming GameCube version) such as grass and special effects, but overall the world looks flat, the characters angular and clunky, and some of the animations stilted.
While this may sound as if LoZ:TP is a horrible game to look at, it isn’t. We just know that a lot better could (and should) have been done. As far as the direction the artistic style took with this game over Wind Waker, well, many heralded the “return” to a more mature and realistic Link. Sadly, this just doesn’t feel like a complete follow through in that regards. Generally speaking the world falls into the “mature” Link but there is still a very heavy cartoonish edge surrounding things.
When Link transforms into the wolf, there is a different style – almost, but not quite cel-shaded. The twilight realms and enemies also have a look to them that might evoke that same style, along with a computer generated feel. This was done obviously for contrast, and it works very well.
The graphics are a mixed bag (with a bit more of a lean towards not as good as they should be) but the audio is quite well done – at least what there is of it. Again, showing signs that this is a GameCube port, there is no voice acting, and no real cut scenes. Instead every couple of lines of dialogue require a press of the “A” button to progress. For particularly lengthy sequences this gets very tiring. There is no reason voice actors couldn’t have been included in the budget. Musically, LoZ:TP is stellar. Plenty of familiar tunes and themes play. The sound effects are good too.
Let’s take a look at the story. Link’s beloved land of Hyrule is transformed (for the most part) into a world of twilight. Being “different” he doesn’t get switched into spirit form like the rest of the residents, but instead is transformed into a wolf. There is an element alternate dimension/reality/time travel that the series has explored in past titles, but for the most part LoZ:TP is fairly straightforward. Vanquish the ne’er do wells, restore light to the land, save the kingdom. All in a day’s work for young Link
While in wolf form, Link is given a sidekick to help with exposition and such. (You can head over to my Okami review for further reading on this matter.) The transformation actually works well, highlighting the differences between the “light” and “twilight” – sadly the exploration of the “inner self” isn’t to be found here in any great depth. About halfway through the game players earn the ability to go back and forth between the two forms, which works well for many of the puzzles. Link’s human form can use items while wolf-Link can use his animal sense to find hidden areas as well as access places with the help of the spirit sidekick.
It should be noted that the game is very slow and boring in the first couple of hours. It really isn’t until after Link has been a wolf and meets up with Zelda (oh give over, that’s not much of a spoiler, really) that things start to pick up. While slow to start, the game does a decent job of pacing by not forcing players to continually back track on endless item quests that seem like padding.
As a matter of fact, the game does take between 40 – 45 hours (give or take). What makes this more interesting is that LoZ:TP isn’t an overly challenging game. The length comes from the actual story. The puzzles and bosses are fairly easy enough to deal with, especially for those familiar with the Zelda gameplay or adventure games in general. Many of the puzzles are well thought out though a few will make you wonder why you couldn’t see the solution even though it was right in front of you the whole time.
Ah, the controls.
I mentioned previously that this is a port of the upcoming GameCube version. It is a good port, but still a port. As a port the controls for the Wii version of LoZ:TP at times feel tacked on. That isn’t to say there are some good controls, because there are (such as using the Remote to draw your sword) but they come at a price. Moving the Nunchuk from side to side is supposed to unleash the Spin Attack – in both human and dog form. Most of the time it works, at times it doesn’t. Using the Remote for slashing with the sword is fun the first few times, but then it gets to be a chore. Why isn’t there a “jump” command?
For the game the controls work fine, but hopefully the next Zelda title will have some refinement and be build from the ground up for the platform. As it stands, the Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a good launch title for the Wii. Had it not been about Link, most people would overlook this game. Simply because the original Legend of Zelda and LoZ:Ocarina of Time were great games doesn’t mean that every game in the series is. The story is very good, but the gameplay execution leaves me wanting. A solid adventure game, but it seems to be coasting on the strength of its star.