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The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii)

February 9, 2007 By D. Riley

Twilight Princess is gonna to be a tough one. In our 2006 retrospective I kind of gave it to Okami, and, since I caught a lot less flak than I expected, I figured giving Zelda the what-for should be next on my agenda. What you readers don't realize is that I'm trying to ostracize myself from the gaming community as fast as possible, and nay-saying their beloved games is just one of many steps towards infamy and stardom.

So I bought a Wii. It always happens that I try to convince myself I don't need a console until good games come out, or there's a price drop, and it usually works until the moment my less-than-rational brain takes over and provides this counterargument: "You DO need a console, because you WANT a console," which is sort of circular logic, but I'm not one to argue with my brain. I can discuss a thousand reasons with my friends why HD-DVD is a ridiculous excess, but when I was in Circuit City over the weekend, watching Vin Diesel kill bad guys in 1080p and thinking about my cheesy $70 DVD player with the component cables that barely even does progressive scan, I have to say it was tough to avoid dropping $400 on the counter right then and there. I resisted, and I think my HDTV set-up hates me for it, but my iron will wasn't so strong when I went to Toys R' Us a few weeks ago and put my grubby paws on the Wii.

I bought it because my Gamecube was dying and I wanted a console to play Resident Evil on; I bought it because the Virtual Console (which seems to be three quarters made up of classic shooters like Gradius and R-Type) beckons me with its siren call; heck, I bought it because I wanted a party system to play games on. Lord knows it's fun to play Parasite Eve 2 regardless of whether the twelve people you're having over are bored out of their skulls, but sometimes it's not about what YOU want.

Basically, I -didn't- buy a Wii for Zelda, but I picked it up anyway, mostly because I have such fond memories of Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time that I'd feel remiss if I didn't at least give it a shot. However, I gave Link's previous adventure, The Wind Waker, a shot and that ended in sheer disaster. While I can't say Twilight Princess repeated that trend (there's no interminable fishing voyages to get from place to place), it's my opinion that the game as a whole is a pretty lackluster experience.

Zelda 1
Walking on walls: fun, but it doesn't make your game.

There are brief moments of brilliance in it, like there would be in any other Zelda game. For example, wandering through the water dungeon you see all these strange little protrusions on the walls that you can't get to, strange little protrusions that should suggest but one thing to any seasoned Zelda player: hookshot. And when you get the hookshot it really is a glorious feeling of accomplishment, but these glorious feelings of accomplishment are few and far between, and often feel like they're more fueled by nostalgia for past Zelda games than they are because of the difficult task you just completed.

Zelda has the same problems I said Okami did: it's too long. It's not nearly as long as the eighty hours some people were speculating about on the internet, but thirty-some hours is still a whole hell of a lot of time to sink into a game like this. After you beat the third dungeon and reveal, like in every other game since Link to the Past, that there are a whole lot MORE dungeons out there, you might think you've got a whole game experience under your belt. "Restoring the Light" to the trio of spirits is going to take a good ten or fifteen hours. At the end of this, instead of a credit roll, you're sent into a cutscene where you take on the fake last boss and the greater plot is revealed to you. This game is long in a way that games like Zelda should not be long. Heck, it takes two or three hours just to get to the -first- dungeon, which is a far cry from walking three screens up like you did in the original Zelda.

It's this focus on length over quality that really bogs Zelda down. It's so convinced that it has to give you side quest on top of side quest that the actual gameplay seems to fall by the wayside. Ordinarily this wouldn't be a complete disaster, if it weren't for the fact that the rewards for these side quests usually suck. Remember how disappointing it was to turn in that final, 100th, Golden Skulltula in Ocarina of Time and to be rewarded with a stupid gold rupee, money you could've gained anywhere else in the world? Well get used it, because the BEST you can expect out of most of the side quests in the game is a piece of a heart, the requirements of which have now been increased. You now have to collect five of them to get a full heart container, equaling out to an intimidating forty five pieces over the course of the game. Needless to say, I didn't collect a whole lot of hearts.

Zelda 2
The eponymous Princess Zelda: now totally hot, but not really IN the game.

This trend continues throughout the game, with the rewards for your efforts becoming progressively more and more lackluster, until it culminates in the game's "ultimate side quest", as I like to call it. The quest, which culminates in Link donning a rather spiffy looking set of magical armor, involves helping a shopkeeper in the small Kakariko Village move up to the big time in Hyrule's Castle Town.

Zelda games have never really gotten down how money should work. Except for scrounging and saving to purchase the Blue Ring in the original Zelda, you almost -never- feel like you're hurting for rupees. Why should you? It's a rare occurrence to come out of a dungeon without a full wallet and nothing to spend it on because it often seems like the only thing you can buy in the whole dang game is a shield from the general store in the first two hours.

So Twilight Princess has this "quest" where you have to give a thousand bucks to a guy to repair a bridge, and then you have to give additional money (two hundred or two thousand, depending on another side quest) to the same guy, and when all's said and done and you've gotten the shop set up, you have to give ANOTHER six hundred rupees. Once that's accomplished, and it's gonna take awhile, you get the AMAZINGLY useless magical armor. I guess the developers decided it wouldn't be fair to the people who didn't waste hours of their life scrounging every rupee they could get. Please note that, other than the magical armor side quest, rupees are so useless that their existence in the game at all is hard to justify... except as a power source for your newly acquired magical armor, which constantly drains them when equipped.

In the midst of these side quests, which are so prevalent that 'side quest' hardly seems the adequate term for them, Twilight Princess acts like it has a really deep and important story, which is hard to believe when the game asks you to chase down sixty (SIXTY!) silly looking ghosts to restore the soul of a pint sized midget who's been turned into a golden statue. The story is so vapid and nonexistent that it might as well not even be there in the first place. Every once in awhile, usually at the conclusion of a dungeon, you're blasted with a three minute cut scene that describes some facet of the plot that will probably never be touched on again. It's especially irritating to see all the characters in the world acting like it's business as usual when the castle that's twenty feet away has just been encased in a golden barrier of pure magic. It's become commonplace in role playing games for characters to act like the sky isn't falling when it clearly is, but Zelda takes this to a whole new level. You spend somuch time outside of the cut scenes running around with flamboyant mini game operators and wasting time on fishing (which, as far as I can tell, serves no practical purpose) that they should have just included the story and the gameplay on separate discs. That's the only way they could've been more disparate from each other.

Like the polar opposite of Okami, it's not Zelda's slavish attention to telling a drawn out fable that kills the game, it's the utter lack of attention to the story, or even the actual gameplay, that really takes the wind out of this otherwise good game's sails. When the sword fighting and puzzle solving is really firing on all cylinders (and there are times when the game is so fun it's unreal) Twilight Princess really feels like it could be a masterpiece, but often these moments are too few and too far between, few enough that I'll tell you this: I'm glad I bought the console for things like Wii Sports and Gradius and not Zelda. Zelda is a game that's at its best when it's providing crazy platforming puzzles through crazy enviornments. When you discover you can use the Iron Boots to walk upside down on ceilings of magnetic rock, that's really cool. When you're approached by a talking bird and asked to pop fruit balloons in his new river riding mini-game it doesn't seem so exciting, and eventually you're going to reach a point where you're tired of hitting moblins and tektites with your sword for little or no reward. When that happens you wonder if there's really enough in this game to keep you going. When you're asked, close to the climax, to scour the world for eight annoying Owl Statues and their associated runes you're going to wonder if life would be better were you to put the controller down right then and there.

Zelda 3
Also you can be a wolf. I'm not really sure why.

Twilight Princess obviously wants you to take it seriously, but this franchise is never going to be deep until they stop interrupting your quest to save the world with the opportunity to ride a flying chicken around a lake, and it's not going to be fun again until they stuff cut off some of the fat that's bogging it down. Zelda's a great franchise with a lot going for it, but I'm pretty convinced I would've had more fun spending $5 on the Virtual Console to play the original game again.

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2 comments for ‘The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii)’

#1 Anonymous Aug 30, 2008 10:54pm

amazing.. you just summed up my thoughts about this game. I think this review is more accurate than the oft blind fanaticism and worship of all things zelda. great game but really, I think this should be the last in the series

#2 Gustavo Oct 3, 2009 09:47pm

Twilight Princess is a nefarious letdown. It tried to become the largest game in the series, but it missed too many opportunities. Unlike The Wind Waker, which had a fantastic atmosphere and well-writen storyline, Twilight Princess tries to do everything realistic, only to lose much of the Zelda spirit in the process; unlike Majora's Mask, a genuinely darker and scarier game, Twilight Princess is actually childish because its "Twilight" concept is by no means as mature or adult as the Armaggedon-based concept of MM.

Unlike both MM and WW, which offered interesting gameplay ideas that adhered to the Ocarina-based core mechanic, TP merely limits itself to imitate the 1998 classic; TP also pales in the sidequest department: I hate that most of the 45 Heart Pieces were in dungeons and random caves, instead of being in Castle Town (you barely help anyone in there). And finally, unlike Ocarina of Time, TP is by no means the "best game ever" that most people foresaw. END OF STORY.