The Legend of Zelda: a franchise that, when mentioned, will make any Nintendo fan froth at the mouth like a rabid wolf. Games in this series are among the most precious early gaming memories for a couple of generations of gamers now. Each time a game is released in the series, the game is expected to be one of the defining games for that generation of console. NZGamer are no exception to this train of thought; we even labelled Twighlight Princess as the best game of 2006. The question is, now that we have had a chance to digest the experience, did we get caught in the hype or is our praise rightly placed?
As many will know, Twilight Princess is essentially a GameCube title. A version of the game was released for the Wii as a launch title, but is identical to the Cube version apart from a couple of small differences such as more traditional controls, a lack of widescreen mode and an adjustable camera mapped to the c-stick. What this of course means is that this is not a title to show off what is possible on your latest and greatest toy. The graphics are fantastic for a GameCube game, but when put next to a game such as Gears of War, it falls somewhat flat.
So how do the controls work in the Wii version? They work well. Nothing special, but perfectly usable. You swing the controller to swing Link's sword, but unfortunately it doesn’t differentiate different swinging motions, so you really don’t have any more control of the fights than in previous Zelda games. My only real gripe is that the shield attack always seemed clumsy to pull off and I often ended up doing a spin attack instead. Camera controls would have been nice too, but usually the camera was pretty good.
Wind Waker for the GameCube was a brilliant game. Many disliked the sailing, and just as many would have preferred a darker and more realistic look. If this sounds like you, Twighlight Princess is the game you were waiting for. The easiest way to describe this title for anyone that played on a Nintendo 64 is a more detailed and darker Ocarina of Time. In fact that last statement doesn’t just apply to the graphics.
As someone who has played pretty much every Zelda game released, I was hoping for - but not expecting - major game play differences to Link's other 3D outings. Sure, the ability to change into a wolf is nice, but it hardly one-ups the ability to transform, especially into a Goron in Majora’s Mask. Even as a Zelda veteran though, there were some fresh puzzles for me to solve here, as well as a few similar ones. Just thankfully I didn’t have to whip out the Ocarina every five minutes to play Zelda’s damn lullaby like in OoT.
The dungeons may contain some excellent puzzle solving, even for Zelda masters, but unfortunately I found some of the dungeon designs more interesting than others, and as a whole their design didn’t seem as natural or detailed as they could have been. Their themes were not taken advantage of as much as I feel they were in Ocarina of Time. Likewise I feel that the game outside of the dungeons could have been better brought to life too. In my opinion the ‘Hyrule’ area was a bit flat, empty and repetitive. I would have liked to have seen some better secrets and puzzles that were optional, especially in the town centres. Majora’s Mask for example brought the town to life with the player having to learn characters' routines to solve many puzzles for little extras, some vital to the game, some completely optional. Most of the optional quests here are just treasure hunts. I would have also loved to see more mini-games included too.
That said, this is of course a Zelda game, so it does have a host of weird and wonderful characters, a range of interesting and varied locations, and that powerful urge that you have to see what is around the next corner before turning the machine off. Whole days will disappear as you play the game, and you will feel rewarded each time you figure out a puzzle that has been stumping you. You will also be chuffed with each new weapon you equip to your arsenal, especially if you have already seen a place where it might come in handy.
So after all that, is the game actually any good? Of course it is! It’s a Zelda game and if you liked the games in the series so far, this delivers more Zelda goodness to your system. It’s also a good place for people that have never played a Zelda game before to start, as long as they give it a good go, as in typical Zelda fashion, it does take a few hours to up the pace.
Twilight Princess though, at the end of the day doesn’t revolutionise videogames in ways some previous Zelda games have; hell, it doesn’t even move the series forward very much at all. You’ll live with these facts though as it’s still an engrossing adventure that clashes blades with the best of them. We just can’t wait to see the next Zelda game, a game that is built ground up for the Wii console and its unique control scheme.