Review: More like The Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Zone.
You are a lone figure- a bit of an everyman. You slowly enter the town, and realize that something is horribly wrong. Instead of happy pedestrians, you find only empty desolation and remnants of a happier time, torn away in mere moments. A dark, cloudy sky looms above your head as though it could fall at any moment. The only residents of the town are faceless monsters, wandering aimlessly. Welcome to town. Welcome to Silent Hyrule.
Wait a second? This isn't a Silent Hill game? You almost could have fooled me. Okay, so while The Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess may not be a survival horror game, it definitely takes everything you knew about Ocarina of Time and gives it a good dose of moody presentation. For people who were upset with the overly cartooney flair of the Wind Waker, this game presents a very pleasant surprise. While it doesn't have the same level of innovation that Ocarina of Time did, Twilight Princess definitely ranks up there with the best the Zelda series has to offer.
The Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess follows the story of a young man (we'll just call him Link) and his struggles against a brutal and faceless force known as the Twilight. What are the Twilight and where did they come from? Who is their leader and what does he want? What does any of this have to do with the ongoing tale of Hyrule? Just some of those issues will be dealt with in the game's narrative. As usual Link will have to do his hero thing and save the land from the dark ravages of evil. Of course that won't be so easy. It turns out the world outside of his peaceful village has been completely ravaged by the Twilight. Not only is the land in dire trouble, but Link also finds himself transformed into a wolf. Luckily he's got help in the form of the mysterious shadowy being known as Midna who seems to know her way through the twisted version of Hyrule. Before long the story twists and turns into something much larger that, for the sake of spoilers, I won't reveal. While the story has some amazing twists, I must admit it got very confusing as it moved along. I also was a little concerned that the game was taking on too big of a scope for its own good. When all is said and done, though, the game can be completed in an average of 30 to 40 hours.
While Twilight Princess doesn't necessarily add anything radically new to the series, the game takes ideas from many different sources and puts them together in a phenomenal way. The game shares a similar feel to Okami during the wolf portions. As previously mentioned, it's got a lot of the strangeness of Silent Hill during the Twilight segments. Of course, there's the strong influence of The Ocarina of Time permeating throughout the entire game. As always there's an abundance of items- many of which appeared in previous Zelda games such as the bow, bombs, and boomerang. There are a few new items as well, but I'd hardly want to spoil what they are. Let's just say you probably won't be able to imagine the nature of half of them.
Not only does the game feel like a mix of many different games and genres, but the whole experience keeps changing and evolving as the story continues. At first, players will be doing plenty of traveling between the light and dark versions of Hyrule. When it comes to this dimensional travel, the game feels an awful lot like A Link to the Past and Silent Hill. While in the Twilight, players will have to fight much more menacing enemies in very depressing, ravaged areas. The Twilight portions give the game a very unnerving feeling. Unlike A Link to the Past, though, each area's layout remains the same in Twilight as it does in light. I did expect a little better puzzle design using the dimensions, but I suppose due to the nature of the game's narrative, there isn't much they could have done about it.
As I mentioned before, the game feels very similar to Okami (or perhaps Okami feels similar to Twilight Princess) when playing as the wolf version of Link for obvious reasons. Wolf Link controls a lot like normal Link except he can't use normal Link's items. Wolf Link also has a few special abilities such as his sense. When using the wolf's sense, the screen changes to a dark shade and players are able to see ghosts, buried item spots, and scent trails. Wolf Link is also much more agile and can bound up to areas normal Link couldn't even imagine reaching without a hookshot. Likewise, Wolf Link can run pretty fast. He doesn't necessarily move as quickly as Link's horse Epona, but traveling as the wolf is definitely a step above footing it around Hyrule in human form. Later on, players will get to switch between both the human and wolf versions of Link. This of course will help players find hidden areas and heart pieces.
Hyrule is huge this time around. Where Ocarina of Time had one Hyrule field that served as the hub for the whole world, Twilight Princess features at least one Hyrule field per area. This means that there is roughly five times the world space in Twilight Princess as there is in The Ocarina of Time. Traversing such a large world map takes quite a long time, even on horseback. Luckily players will find a number of warp points between areas. Unfortunately these aren't always in the best locations, so there will be quite a bit of walking to do. One other minor issue is that there is no ocarina in this game. Because of this, the only way to summon Epona is by finding a special type of grass that is only located in certain hotspots. Sometimes these hotspots can be very far away from warp points, which means Epona is virtually useless for the majority of the game. Much later on players will gain an item that will summon Epona anywhere, but by that point there isn't much use for her.
One thing I found a little odd about the environment of Hyrule is its Old West influences. Kakariko Village especially has a rustic Western feel to it, even featuring Native American inspired rhythms to its music. Mixing the Wild West with Zelda's Swords and Sorcery just seems like a strange idea. There's even a portion of the game where Link takes part in a Wild West style shoot out with goblins. I don't know who told the guys at Nintendo to mix in elements of Red Dead Revolver, but despite it's weirdness factor, these parts don't hurt the game at all, they just feel very out of place.
Another odd break from the normal Zelda tradition is the number of heart pieces needed to make a full heart container. Players must now find five, as opposed to four. This makes gaining heart containers a little more difficult. While there may be more pieces around, they are still pretty tricky to find and collect. Again, I can't explain why they changed this aspect of the game. It certainly wasn't a necessary fix.
In place of Ocarina of Time's fairy helper Navi, players will have to talk to the Twilight's shadow being Midna. Fortunately Midna isn't half as annoying as Navi was. For instance, Midna doesn't shout ?hey!? every five seconds. Midna aids Link in several ways. These include pointing out areas where Wolf Link can jump and offering valuable hints during boss fights. Unfortunately Midna isn't much help during the dungeon portions as she often gives the same general information between rooms.
Fighting is a little more complicated this time around. While players could perform some awesome acrobatics in Wind Waker with relative ease through the reaction system, the very same moves are more complex in Twilight Princess. As players progress through the game, they will learn special moves. These range from back attacks to defensive pushes. All of these moves can be performed at any time, but they do involve a little more button work. Also where Wind Waker gave players many different options for defeating enemies, Twilight Princess expects players to use their sword for the majority of fighting. This isn't to say Twilight Princess has a flawed battle system, but I felt it was a bit of a step back from the very fun battle system of its predecessor.
When it comes to using the Wii controller successfully, Twilight Princess has a few hits and misses. Under the options players are given the chance to turn the pointer on or off. The pointer basically gives players the ability to aim all projectile weapons using the Wii remote's pointing capabilities. While that sounds cool, it's not very useful since players can just use the nunchuck's analog stick instead. I personally found that the analog stick gives better accuracy for shooting projectiles, especially considering that with the Wii remote even the slightest jerk of the hand could send a well aimed arrow off its mark. I really preferred using the analogue stick for aiming, after all this is Zelda, not Duck Hunt. Another huge issue with the pointer is that when not firing projectiles, the pointer shows up as Navi. There is nothing more annoying than going into battle swinging the remote and seeing Navi fly sporadically all over the screen. If the visual annoyance wasn't enough, Navi also makes a little tinkling noise with every movement. It's all just too irritating for its own good. I can't imagine anyone willingly leaving the pointer on for longer than a few minutes at a time. It was clearly something the developers threw in at the last second just to make use of the hardware.
This also brings me to the issues with using the sword. In order to perform regular attacks, players will need to flick the controller. The player performs a spin cut with a flick of the nunchuck attachment. This leads to a lot of controller flicking over a matter of hours. I will admit that all of the flicking didn't tire me out even after a five-plus hour session. The trouble is that flicking the controller is much more inaccurate than simply pressing a button. While this control method usually works, there were many times that my movements just didn't register. Also it leads to a lot more frantic hand-work than is necessary. Swinging the sword definitely takes some serious getting used to. If you find yourself tired of flicking the controller to attack, just keep playing for another hour or two, and you will get used to it.
One other flaw I noticed with the remote is that there just aren't enough buttons or gestures available to control the camera. As in The Ocarina of Time, players are limited only to the Z targeting system to reposition the camera. Surprisingly this wasn't that much of an issue during gameplay, but it could get annoying if I was surrounded by enemies and the only way to reposition the camera was to lock on to each individual enemy until I found one that put the camera where I needed it.
Despite its downfalls with the Wii controls, Twilight Princess does feature some fun control features. Fishing is just awesome using the Wii remote. To cast the line, players will need to flick the controller. Players can also wiggle the hook by moving the remote. To reel a fish in, players will need to hold the remote and nunchuck like a fishing pole and rotate the nunchuck as though they were really fishing. It does tire the arms out quickly, but I just found it really fun none the less.
Also, there is at least one fun hidden game I found that uses the controller's tilt function. It is basically a miniature version of Super Monkey Ball where players will have to keep a ball from falling off a very narrow track. I won't spoil its location, but it was another fun pastime, and another good use of the controller.
While Twilight Princess doesn't support many of the HD features that most next gen games feature, the art style completely makes up for its technical faults. The game ultimately looks like a Gamecube game with slightly better detail work, but this is understandable since it is a port. Despite this handicap, Twilight Princess still looks beautiful with nice water effects and good texture work as well as overall fantastic level design. Character design is also well done. Enemies such as the poes and the faceless Twilight creatures actually look very creepy and the bosses very intimidating. The folks at Nintendo gave this game a gritty realistic style unseen in any of the previous games, and it works fantastically.
When it comes to audio, Zelda isn't much to brag about. The game still features a lot of the same tunes from Ocarina of Time and the other games. All of the music is still midi, so don't expect any rousing orchestral themes. It may be digital, but the synthesizers still don't sound bad. There are also a few odd pieces played here and there. The music underscoring the Twilight portions of the game is slightly reminiscent of Silent Hill, featuring some strange echo effects and ambient noises along with heavy systemization. The music works well to convey what is happening on screen.
Voices are nonexistent in the game. Despite Links grunts and moans as well as a few stray words thrown around here and there by NPCs, virtually everyone is mute. Midna is the only character who appears to talk, but her speech sounds like The Sims, meaning that she doesn't speak real words, but only makes noises that sound like words. I suppose this could be considered a good and a bad thing. On one hand the fact that no one speaks means there can't be any bad voice acting. At the same time, it's easy to miss-read lines, and with all the dialogue in the game, the talking portions get boring pretty quickly. General consensus is that Nintendo needs to hop on the bandwagon and start adding voices to games. Don't know what they're waiting for.