The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Review

The verdict is in: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is most certainly a GameCube game. A more manageable control scheme and camera system, combined with equivalent audio and visuals make the GameCube edition of Twilight Princess the definitive version to buy. While the Wii version offers a variety of ways to interrupt the action, this release is smooth-sailing. It is entirely more enjoyable despite (and partially the result of) the lack of the Wii remote, and undoubtedly represents the the greatness of the series.

The control system is the biggest difference between the two games, as the GCN version of Twilight Princess reverts to the familiar scheme found in previous Zelda games, with a few minor tweaks. Link wields his sword with the B button, performing special maneuvers like jumps, rolls, and spin attacks using the A button in conjunction with the control stick. Combat feels very responsive and is satisfying throughout, making the gamer really WANT to engage the game’s many enemies.

When it comes to secondary weapons, the loss of direct aiming is unfortunate, but not detrimental to the experience. In fact, Link’s weapon of choice now shows up on screen while aiming, using the tool itself as a guide in place of the default Wii crosshair. The control stick does its job, and saves the player the trouble of raising his hand to point at the screen. As a result, the "please point remote at the screen" message that was so persistent in the Wii version is completely eliminated. Additionally, the mapping of Link’s items is improved upon, by allowing instant access with a single button-push. Whereas the Wii version forced players to first select the desired item with the D-pad, and THEN make use of it with the B button, the GCN Link uses it on-the-fly when X or Y is pressed. The only problem here is that there are now only two buttons available for these items, as opposed to four. In certain situations this is a hassle, and can be more annoying to some gamers than others.

The change that all will undoubtedly welcome is the immensely improved camera system. The player now takes full control of the camera with the C-stick, much like in Wind Waker. The L button still works to center the camera, but becomes relatively unnecessary for anything other than combat. This change, above all others, makes the game a pleasure to play from start to finish – even in a backwards world. The Wii game is a 100% mirror image of this version, because Nintendo thought a right-handed Link would feel more natural to gamers swinging the Wii remote. Now, he is a lefty again.

Twilight Princess is the tale of another young lad named Link, who comes from humble beginnings as a goatherd in the small village of Ordon, just south of "Hyrule Proper." An unfortunate series of events sends Link to the rescue of a few of the villagers, but before he can make it very far, he is drawn into an alternate world known as the Twilight Realm. It is here that a good portion of the game will take place, and serves as this game’s analog to the light and dark worlds from A Link to the Past, or even Link’s childhood and adulthood in The Ocarina of Time. In this digitized dark filter of Hyrule, Link is transformed into a wolf, and has a different set of abilities than while in his human form. Wolf Link is able to dig into the ground for items, and even pass under obstacles such as gates and walls.

He also possesses the "sense" ability, which reveals things that would otherwise be imperceptible, such as scents or apparitions. If these aren’t enough, a little twilight-dweller named Midna joins him on his quest, and grants him new combat techniques and the very nifty ability to make seemingly impossible leaps in rapid succession. The dichotomy of the two worlds along with Link’s two forms creates a sense of variety in gameplay, which is more fully realized as the quest wears on.

Early on, Link must venture to various portions of Hyrule, in traditional Zelda fashion, complete a series of dungeons to collect a group of items to eventually save the land of Hyrule. The difference here is that each area is initially veiled in Twilight, and Link is charged with the task of locating "tears of light" to de-twilightize it. These portions can feel slightly slow, and combined with excessive hand-holding at the outset, Twilight Princess requires a bit of patience.

Otherwise, the design of the game is very good. Hyrule is huge, roughly five times of the one in The Ocarina of Time, and it is put together such that it unfolds to the player naturally and elegantly. As Link traverses the landscape, load times are few and far between, and when they do rear their ugly heads, it is brief and relatively painless. This applies to dungeon areas as well, which, as always, are superbly conceived and executed, with very well thought-out progression and plenty of interesting new puzzle ideas. These are really the meat and potatoes of the game, and provide the essence of the Zelda experience. There is generally a point within each dungeon where the gameplay is stepped up, presenting a new set of challenges to the gamer. These points coincide with the acquisition of one of the game’s many new secondary weapons and items. Of course there are the old standbys, such as the bow, boomerang, and bombs, but Twilight Princess also incorporates a slew of new toys for Link to play with, and even adds slight tweaks and new uses for the recycled items in order to keep things fresh. Another nice alteration is that Link’s tools no longer dwell within the shadows of random treasure chests, but are acquired by defeating "minibosses" within each dungeon. The sense of achievement involved is reminiscent of the recovery of abilities in Metroid Prime. Link earns his weapons now.

Similarly, the player must also work to gain new combat skills. Gone are the days of the static move set. Twilight Princess grants seven new techniques to the player at points throughout the adventure, but only after locating special howling stones and subsequently sparring with an ancient spirit. It is possible to eschew these altogether and complete the game as an untalented swordsman, but the skills provided by this spirit add much depth to the combat system, and make swordplay much more entertaining.

One aspect of the game’s combat that is especially engaging are the boss fights. As is expected from the Zelda series, the boss battles are all excellent. Each is multifaceted, requiring a few different skills working in conjunction to succeed, and most are multi-staged. There is considerable variance between these conflicts, because each one is reliant upon the primary employment of a specific weapon, and each one makes use of an entirely different gameplay mechanic. No two bosses are the same, and that is greatly appreciated. Another addition to Twilight Princess’s combat system is the ability to fight on horseback. Link is no longer limited to using his bow, but can wield his sword and other weapons while perched atop his trusty steed. Mounted swordplay is incredibly satisfying, but unfortunately there are only a few sequences that highlight it as it should be. All other times, gamers will just have to enjoy the fact that Link can now swing his sword as he runs, without interrupting his stride. It is a small improvement, but a noticeable one.

Also very noticeable are the game’s graphics. Of course the visuals don’t stand up, technically, to HD-era games, but artistically, Twilight Princess is solid. It is one of the prettiest on the GameCube, although textures and animations (the horse and wolf running motions, in particular) can seem lacking in today’s graphical battleground. The land of Hyrule is presented as a complete world, with varying land and sea -scapes, as well as a vast desert and stormy tundra. Each dungeon carries a unique theme, which is integrated not only in the the graphical presentation but straight into gameplay. The visuals are actually functional. Beyond the familiar Hyrule horizon is the digitized Twilight Realm. This dark, computerized world is highly stylized and presents some cool effects, like the materialization of warp holes in the sky, which remain visible in the distance at all times. Everything in the Twilight Realm is composed of little black squares, in a sort of pixelated dream-world. When warping, the pieces composing Link will break apart and come together, just as the Twilight creatures do when defeated. All the models in the game are done well, and even though the game has been billed as a more mature-looking title, it maintains a cartoonish look in its characters, who are caricatured and very expressive. Polygonal graphics doesn’t mean realistic, and Twilight Princess functions as an artistic exhibition moreso than a technical display. Just don’t be disappointed with the lack of progressive scan on the GameCube version.

The audio is also presented simply, but artistically. Twilight Princess includes a wonderful score that will constantly poke gamers in the nostalgia center as it remixes tunes from the Zelda archives. The mood is set perfectly in most areas by the appropriate orchestral instrumentation and engrossing compositions. The only problem here is that the sound samples are still not produced by real orchestras, but by their synthesized counterparts. Ambient noise and sound effects are well done, reusing some old sounds to keep things very "Zelda," but adding in strange bits here and there to exemplify the very obviously different themes that are already presented visually. All of this is delivered in Dolby Pro Logic II, with good quality separation and very acceptable field of sound.

All in all, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a welcome addition to the Zelda franchise, and stands tall among its brethren. At its core, it is undoubtedly a Zelda game, and produces that magical effect that they are known for. The Cube version improves upon nearly all of the Wii’s shortcomings, and the game gets better and better as it unfolds. The bottom line is that it is a very enjoyable experience, impossible not to recommend to any gamer. If Zelda was your sole reason for purchasing a Wii, then rejoice, save yourself the $250, buy the GCN version, and rejoice again.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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