The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is probably the 3D Zelda game I am the least familiar with. Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker are two of my favorite games of all time, and I have spent a lot of time with them. I've played through Skyward Sword a couple of times. I have only played through Majora's Mask one time, but it is still relatively fresh on my mind.
I've played through Twilight Princess twice before in my life. One time when the game first came out, for the GameCube. A couple of years later I played through it after I traded my GameCube copy in for the Wii version. My reasoning for doing that was because the Wii version probably had better graphics, plus I liked the fact that motion controls were involved with the swinging of the sword. Motion controls were big and his was something that appealed to me back then.
Both times I played through the game, I liked it, but I didn't completely lose my mind over it. This has always been a very middle of the road Zelda game in my opinion. Not quite up there with the greats, but not bad enough to be considered a lower echelon entry to the series.
How would I feel about it now, in the year 2023? Let's dive in, shall we?
The game begins in a time of peace. Link lives in a small village, helping herd goats at a local farm. The local kids all look up to him. He's crushing on a girl named Ilia. Life is good.
In typical Zelda fashion, the peace doesn't last long. Link is dragged away on a journey to save Hyrule from the dark world, which has begun to encroach on the world of light. Link turns into a wolf while visiting the dark world and teams up with Midna to gather the Mirror Shards and defeat the evil sorcerer Zant. Spoiler alert: Zant is revealed to be the underling of the one and only Ganon - who is the true villain of the game.
I am no expert as far as Zelda canon goes, but I think this is supposed to be a distant sequel to Ocarina of Time. Link is the hero reborn. The Ganon in the game is the same one from Ocarina of Time, free from his prison. Link learns battle tactics from a mysterious skeleton warrior, which I've heard rumors is the spirit of adult Link from Ocarina of Time.
Zelda games are never known for deep or emotionally gripping storylines. While this game's story is decent while the game lasts, it is never something I'm going to look back on and be like "yeah! Such a memorable story that I'll remember forever!"
I played this game on the Wii, so I am going to do all my complaining about the motion controls right away. They're annoying. I know that it seemed like a good idea when the game first came out. Motion controls were new and exciting. I even traded in my GameCube copy of the game for this version because of the motion controls. But they are a pain in the butt.
The GameCube controller works much better. I don't like having to shake the controller to do an attack, or thrust the nunchuk forward to do a shield attack. Those were so hard to pull off, for me. I also don't like having to point the controller at the TV when going into first person mode to use items, like the bow and arrow. I'd much rather use the regular controller for that. And the fishing. Ugh, I hated the fishing. The game does not explain how to use the pole or what you are supposed to do. I was shaking and jerking the pole all over the place whenever I would get a bite. I wasted hours on an early part in the game where you need to catch fish in order to collect a missing cat. Turns out you are just supposed to hold the pole still vertically to reel in the fish. Why couldn't they have told me that!
This game does get off to a very slow and tedious start. That is probably one of the most common complaints you'll hear about the game. Not only does the fishing suck, you have to partake in goat herding missions that are on a timer. I didn't fail when playing the game this time around, but I remember when I first played this game it took me soooo long to get through this part. Questions of its difficulty aside - it is time consuming and completely unnecessary. Between the goat herding, the fishing, the weird bird-controlling thing that you never do at any other point in the game, and the mindless wandering around and aimlessly talking to townfolk, the beginning of this game has absolutely no forward momentum whatsoever.
It isn't until several hours into the game that it picks up. Probably around the time that Link is turned into a wolf. The rest of the game feels more like a standard Zelda game, probably most comparable to Ocarina of Time. Same look, same feel, but not as fun. Ocarina of Time is nearly flawless from beginning to end. This game trips and stumbles many times along the way. Not to say this a bad game. Far from it. I just feel that it often comes across as a cheap imitation of Ocarina of Time meant only to appease the fair weather Zelda fans that moaned and complained about the cartoonish look of Wind Waker.
The dungeons aren't as good as Ocarina. The world design isn't as good as Ocarina. It is missing the personality of Ocarina, along with the iconic storytelling and visual setting. The controls are similar, the combat is similar, and you actually have a lot more weapons and items at your display this time around. Some of them are quite unique, like the giant ball and chain, or the giant spinning disc. Like I said, however, this game often comes across as a cheap imitation, and I definitely noticed how it lacked the magic and the charm of Ocarina of Time.
What this game does well is how big everything is. The Lake Hylia area is huge. Hyrule Field is massive. Castle Town is bustling and full of interesting characters and shops. There are lots of things to do, like hunt for hidden treasure chests and heart pieces, collect insects, fish, play gambling minigames, and collect Poe spirits. You don't always have to focus on simply the task at hand.
Like most Zelda games, you move from dungeon to dungeon, collecting new items that allow you to backtrack and access areas you couldn't before. The main plot is moved along in a linear fashion, but it is up to you what you want to do in between dungeons. Exploring and talking to everyone will prove beneficial, as the areas in between dungeons are almost like dungeons themselves. I remember Majora's Mask being very similar, in the sense that you often have to solve puzzles or accomplish certain tasks before you're allowed to move to the next area of the game. Some of these are fun and quick to complete. Others are frustrating and annoying. An example of annoying is when you have to restore Ilia's memory before you can access the Sky Temple. If you didn't have a strategy guide or an online walkthrough handy you'd have no idea what to do next. You'd literally have to go everywhere on the map and hope you just blindly stumble into what you are looking for. I didn't have the internet when I first played this game back in what, 2006? But my goal was to 100% the game and see everything and do every sidequest and catch every bug. I didn't notice how annoying this was back then. Playing it now in my old age - I found myself getting stuck left and right. Maybe a little patience and some added exploration would have done me good, but I quickly and shamelessly turned to internet guides and walkthroughs to get me through these tough spots.
The dungeons are fun, but again - not as good as Ocarina's. Not as good as Wind Waker or even some of Skyward Sword's either. The Water Temple is the worst. The gimmick of how you have to slant the water down is annoying to me and never seems to make any sense. Many of the dungeons "click" and are really fun to play through, however. They may lack that iconic flair of other Zelda games, but they are still fun and engaging. There are times I was playing this where I was able to zone out and get out into that special Zelda-playing groove.
One thing I have to touch on before we move on is the gimmick of how you can turn into a wolf in this game. In the early-goings, wolf and human exploits are separate. As the game progresses, you can switch between them at will. Why would you want to play as the wolf? He's faster and better in battle, he can cross ropes, and he has a team-up move with Midna where he can teleport across long distances. He can also switch to the dark world at will, where he can find hidden items and dig spots or fight enemies that normal Link can't even see. You often have to use the wolf form to follow scent trails that tell you where you need to go next.
I have always liked the wolf twist in this game. It definitely sets Twilight Princess apart from the other Zeldas. I'm sure it gets referred to as "the one with the wolf" quite often.
Back in 2006, this was the Zelda game everyone was waiting for. They wanted to see Ocarina of Time with the graphics of present day. Many people were disappointed in the cartoonish look of Wind Waker. Twilight Princess always felt like an attempt to right that wrong.
The game does look good. Basically anything ugly or unappealing about Ocarina has been cleaned up to perfection. The characters, environments, and special effects are amazing. Some of the cutscenes have a cinematic flair to them. I played a good portion of the game in the dark with headphones, and I have to say that this is the way to go. Very atmospheric and engaging at times.
I have to give a shoutout to the "dark world" graphics with the neon red and blue lines with the black backdrops. Very reminiscent of the Tron area in Kingdom Hearts 2. I've always loved that.
As much as I've praised this game, I do say that it could have used some more color. I don't know if it is because it is a Wii game but everything seemed a bit muted and "grey."
It's rare you find a Zelda game with bad sound quality, and this game is no exception. Everything sounds amazing, from the music to the sound effects. All the classic Zelda sounds are present as you play through this game. The chest opening music, the little jingle that plays when you uncover a secret. Iconic. Shoutout to the sound the game makes when you teleport somewhere. It fits right in with all the other classic Zelda sound effects.
As far as original music goes, I don't think this game contains anything too earth shattering. Nothing is standing out in my mind, except for the eerie dark world music. It's not even that this music is catchy or anything. It's just very atmospheric and gives the whole game kind of a dire feel to it.
If Ocarina of Time did not exist, I'd probably think more highly of this game. I like the environments, the music, the graphics, the fun items, all that good stuff. The wolf twist gives the game its own unique entity. That said, the game is still missing that "special something" that would cement it in my mind as an all-time classic. It is almost there, but not quite. I don't know if it is because it is sitting in Ocarina's shadow, or what. But even after playing through this game three times now in my life, I still haven't made any kind of connection to it whatsoever. It's a good game, but not a special game in my opinion.
As far as all-time Zelda games go, I'd probably rank it somewhere below Majora's Mask and above Skyward Sword.
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